A question about mod praxis and the authorial voice of users October 29, 2018 10:08 AM   Subscribe

In this recent MetaTalk thread about an ableist slur from five days ago cortex noted that after mod discussion the ask metafilter question that provoked the thread was unilaterally edited to remove some indeed very questionable word choice, while allowing the otherwise fine question that various members had invested time into answering to remain. While I think that the previous MeTa thread functioned as an excellent forum for discussing our values with regards to abelist language, this specific solution struck me as a pretty radical departure from the core philosophy of MetaFilter with regards to both user identity and authorship as well as the public expectations laid out in the FAQ in a way that I think warrants independent discussion.

The relevant Mod notes here in Meta:
I've edited the question, with some reservations because avoiding unilateral edits has been a major point of policy over the years but deleting a question over a stumble on dialectal differences in a passing description also feels weirdly blunt in this case. I think there's a complicated line to try and draw in the space between trying to resolve high-visibility missteps in a MeFite's word choice and not getting into an expectation that we're going to routinely and unilaterally edit stuff by third party request, which is why it took some mod discussion to decide where to go on this this morning. But I'm just making a call toward flexibility on this one, and can talk it out with the original asker if they're uncomfortable with it after the fact.

All that mod praxis stuff aside: yeah, in general, folks should indeed just avoid using the word on the site. People aren't always going to know this, see the wide variety of reported experience of use and awareness above, so extending a bit of benefit of the doubt while also flagging/contact form is probably the right balance there, but it is totally fine to flag and hit up the contact form, and the occasional MetaTalk discussion about it is fine too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on October 24 [9 favorites +] [!]
and here on Ask:
[Made a small edit to the post text to sidestep an unintentionally offensive term. Carry on.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:26 PM on October 24 [2 favorites +] [!]
My understanding has been that part of the core philosophy of MetaFilter from the beginning was that comments and posts will are associated with persistent pseudonyms, and that the text and links in them will always be a reflection of the authorial voice of the user persistently represented by that pseudonym. This is not impacted by the reasons why posts and comments have long been edited by mods as detailed in the FAQ, like fixing formatting problems or adding an NSFW marker. However, while I appreciate that this does seem like a difficult edge case, I think that there is something critically different about unilaterally editing text for political content and tone (even when the politics are important and the tone is awful for reasons that are almost certainly unintentional), in a way that kind of shocked me when I saw the note. As it stands, I am concerned that by unilaterally editing noelpratt2nd's post, it becomes a reflection of both their authorship and either the mod team's or the community through the mod team, in a way that breaks some of the fundamental underlying assumptions of the site. Indeed, the question is now someone else's words being spoken through noelpratt2nd's username, which either deprives them of the chance to say what they actually mean in their own words given that they almost certainly didn't intend to use the term involved as a slur, or presents them as saying something they didn't intend to - and I'm not sure that either is a great thing for the site to do.

That there were such clear mod notes left in both threads stating what happened, and that it isn't meant to be a reflection of a routine thing, goes a long way towards addressing the concern. Also, maybe having an expectation of unambiguous transparency when these kinds of edge cases arise will work great moving forward; I'm not even sure I'd mind so much a friendly mod speaking for me should I make an embarrassing mistake like this and then for whatever reason not be in contact. However, my hope for this Meta is for us to have an open discussion about what our shared community expectations will be for the kinds of unilateral edits of user text we think are needed and/or ok, and what kinds of measures might be needed to ensure that we can all trust that our voices are our own and that we are having conversations with actual individual people who speak for themselves should we figure that this should become either a thing or a rare thing.
posted by Blasdelb to Etiquette/Policy at 10:08 AM (50 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Lemme start with the core moderation team response about this:

We don't as a rule unilaterally edit for content, and that's still the rule. The FAQ sums it up well.

I made a one-off buck-stops-here call on this the other day; I mentioned having reservations about it at the time, and I still have them (the likely eventuality of a MetaTalk thread being part of that). The more consistent move would have been to either contact the poster and wait for a response, or delete the question outright and wait for a response, and I'm taking the discussion that's come out of this among the mod team as a nudge to keep to that existing method.

So: this does not herald a new era of unilaterally editing for content. If that's a concern, let's short-circuit that up front. We're not making a change there. My one-off was a one-off, in a pretty edge-case scenario.

I think having a community discussion about all the context and wrinkles and history of practice that come into this matter of practice is fine and probably even helpful, so have at it! But I'd really like that to start from a point of me being clear about the above and having that taken at face value, so that we don't end up with the sort of MetaTalk where the same "but what if the mods are going to do x now?" counterfactual keeps coming up that takes as a premise the idea that it's not clear where the mod team is going with something. I'm being as clear as possible: we're not making a change on this.

I can talk about my personal feelings in situ with that call etc. in here to provide some context, but that's subsidiary to the above.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2018 [13 favorites]


Also, and here my case of the Mondays begins to really settle in in earnest, I'm only realizing now that I'd have preferred to ping Blasdelb about changing the above-the-fold framing of this to not quote the title of that other MetaTalk for no particularly necessary reason, given the whole "could people not use this word on the site" motivation for that conversation. I'll toss off an email now asking about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:12 AM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Amended accordingly; thanks Blasdelb for the quick response on that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would not find it particularly challenging to sort out that a clearly labeled edit was an edit and not the word choice of the original poster. I understand that there are other and good reasons to hesitate to make such changes and am generally fine with the mods' discretion on that, either way. But "how will we know who is speaking?" seems like a strange way of framing it. I know the original poster used different language because the edited post says so! Probably if you're up to following discussions on Mefi, you're up to understanding that.
posted by praemunire at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


Mods have my permission to change anything I say, so long as it makes me look like a better person than I am. I don't need any help going the other direction.

So on a serious note, are there any provisions on the backend to "unpublish" a post that would have allowed for taking the post out of play until the poster could be contacted?

I don't want to relitigate the problematic language, but I am not sensitive to a lot of words that others are. I try to be somewhat accommodating to the sensibilities of others, but I also tend to not treat metafilter as formal writing, so am a bit looser with my language. If I step in it, go ahead and clean it up (or delete). This said, I don't agree with a lot of the "Can we not..." or "I thought we were better than this" posts, but I also realize that what bothers me, may not bother others, and the other way around. But in the even someone is bothered, I don't have a problem with changing the problematic language as long as the poster is notified.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


So on a serious note, are there any provisions on the backend to "unpublish" a post that would have allowed for taking the post out of play until the poster could be contacted?

Deletion is, effectively, unpublishing - we can remove the check in the "delete" box at any point and it'll come back. The only real difficulty with this is it doesn't refresh its position on the page, so it may move an Ask out of the window where people are likely to see it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2018


I think that there is something critically different about unilaterally editing text for political content and tone (even when the politics are important and the tone is awful for reasons that are almost certainly unintentional),


I don't know that I agree with your description here. Or rather, I don't know that I agree with what I'm understanding your underlying premise to be.

On the one hand, it looks like your understanding is that the reduction of slurs on the site is a "political" process, by which you mean that it an extension of a certain worldview about who is accepted and who is rejected. And that other similar decisions on staff editing of comments are not "political" because they are html fixes and the like.
On the other hand, I think that all decisions in this matter are "political" decisions, because politics is about power, and the community (including the staff) deciding what is and is not acceptable for it, moving from typos and code fixes all the way through banning spammers are "political" decisions. And I would say that this is even more incorporated in decisions or areas in which "politics" are not subsumed or hidden or disregarded - was it a "political" decision for me to have a ham sandwich? - because they are a reflection or emanation of the ways in which our societies and communities structure, and use, power.

My main concern is that by describing this as an edit for "political content and tone" people will understand it as being about various internet groups, electoral groups, other blocs and factions, and their signifiers, and not about this community and what we choose to accept, engage in, and promote.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


My understanding of Metafilter's core moderating policy is: "We try our best to be respectful and kind, and we know that sometimes it's very hard to weigh those two values."
posted by meese at 10:43 AM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


New eras often begin with exceptions, and they're often accompanied by a plea to accept the exceptional nature at face value. At best it seems naive and/or tone-deaf to not, at minimum, acknowledge that. It seems a bit more to take the extra step in saying, "No seriously, that can't be a part of the conversation."
posted by cribcage at 11:06 AM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Mods have my permission to change anything I say, so long as it makes me look like a better person than I am. I don't need any help going the other direction.

Hear, hear. I have, at times, wished I got notification when something of mine was deleted but I actually completely understand why that's not the norm/site policy so, yea, carry on indeed.

I hope folks enjoy this conversation and that it's productive for folks that do feel the need/desire to hash this sort of thing out further. I don't, but I respect the stance of those who do.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:08 AM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

the man of twists and turns: "On the other hand, I think that all decisions in this matter are "political" decisions, because politics is about power, and the community (including the staff) deciding what is and is not acceptable for it, moving from typos and code fixes all the way through banning spammers are "political" decisions. And I would say that this is even more incorporated in decisions or areas in which "politics" are not subsumed or hidden or disregarded - was it a "political" decision for me to have a ham sandwich? - because they are a reflection or emanation of the ways in which our societies and communities structure, and use, power."
To be clear, I do not mean to call our culture of privileging the presence and inclusion of disabled people over the callousness, arrogance, or ignorance of those who would use abelist slurs in our international context a political one to dismiss its importance. On the contrary, the fact that the decisions that we as a community make around the words we allow to be used casually are fundamentally decisions about power and inclusion is only more reason to approach how we handle these conversations with care and respect.

At the same time, it is pretty self-evident that the typo and code corrections that the mods currently make are not about inclusion except in how they help the more agraphic and less tech literate among us to more fully participate, and certainly aren't about some kind of weird power play. They are also something fundamentally different from questions of what people mean to say, which I don't think can be 'corrected' like they were a typo or an html error, even when those things are certainly not great. While I am super happy about the role that the mod team plays in curating comments to exclude things like slurs, my concern is the fundamentally different dynamic that (especially unilateral) editing brings would not work for how the site works.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your clarification, I appreciate it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:19 AM on October 29, 2018

cortex: "Also, and here my case of the Mondays begins to really settle in in earnest, I'm only realizing now that I'd have preferred to ping Blasdelb about changing the above-the-fold framing of this to not quote the title of that other MetaTalk for no particularly necessary reason, given the whole "could people not use this word on the site" motivation for that conversation. I'll toss off an email now asking about it."
Thanks for this cortex, and for your clarification. I'm almost glad this could play out in the post itself because I think it does make a great illustration of the value that mod input into especially above the fold posts can have with your omnipresent second set of eyes and deep awareness of how the site works. My goal definitely wasn't to re-litigate the previous thread, or to splash the slur in front of more people, and I can see how not quoting its title definitely helps with avoiding both.

At the same time, I think I would be a bit squicked out if, hypothetically, the post had been edited in a unilateral way if I were away from my phone for longer. I think you and each of the mods know me as a poster well enough to have a pretty good idea that this is something I'd be super happy with, and besides I am convinced that any edits you might ever be tempted to make would only make me look smarter and kinder than I am. However, the lack of clear boundaries still kinda weirds me out. In that context I think I would still prefer that my words be judged to be either kind and clear enough for metafilter, or not as the case may be.

Also, while our culture of deleting posts and comments for these kinds of reasons is amazing and has been almost exclusively positive for the site, it did kind of creep up on us, and I'm not sure that especially a similar creep with regards to edits would end up similarly positive.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:35 AM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I thought that it was pretty darn clear from the outset that this was a one-off exception to normal process. The mods have always reserved the right to make occasional one-off exceptions. Maybe we can save the slippery-slope stuff for when there's any actual evidence of slippage? Right now (and since the beginning) cortex is being pretty emphatic that this was a one-off. Can we maybe take him at his word until there's some tangible reason to doubt him?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2018 [24 favorites]


While I am super happy about the role that the mod team plays in curating comments to exclude things like slurs, my concern is the fundamentally different dynamic that (especially unilateral) editing brings would not work for how the site works.

Talking about more personal feelings and frustrations that come into this:

For me, there's a kind of unresolvable conflict between the idea of using moderation tools to foster a better community outcome for this or that situation and adhering to consistent practice for the sake of consistency. Because consistency is good and useful for setting expectations, and that's important to community health. And, in turn, flexibility and prioritizing a good local outcome is useful for making folks not feel subject to, or being subordinated to, a strict set of rules, and that's important to community health too. Those are both good goals and they exist in tension; sometimes that tension is considerable.

Finding a compromise between those poles of tension is at the heart of a whole lot of how MetaFilter moderation and community management works. I find a lot of value in that ability to be flexible, that ability to compromise and pursue both a clear basic framework for how to interact on the site, what the expectations are etc., and an ethos of taking the situations as they come and handling each case somewhat according to the local context. I think that's MetaFilter; I think it works well for us.

But there are bits and pieces of how the site works that depend more and less on firm rules and expectations, one to the next. In the case of that Ask and MeTa the other day, I was frustrated by the confluence of a few different things and by what felt like needless distance between seeing a simple solution and actually getting that solution in place, and opted to just slice through the Gordian knot to get there promptly.

And on the one hand I can defend that specific choice in terms of valuing flexibility and local-context empathy and a reasonable assessment of how it would affect the stakeholders of that actual situation and say "this is an apt and proportional solution the only barrier to which is consistency for consistency's sake". In fact, in the headspace I was in that day, that's basically what I did say. And I like to imagine it could be as simple as that: "hey, here's an unusual but low-stakes approach to this scenario, nobody get ruffled", nobody gets ruffled, end of.

But on the other hand: it's not that simple. And consistency isn't only for consistency's sake. Because editing is a touchy subject, if more in principle than practice (which in turn partly because we've generally avoided the practice outside of some specific mechanical cases as outlined in the FAQ). Because we have other toolsets for dealing with this stuff, even if I find them somewhat frustratingly blunt at times. Because I don't want to put the mod team in the weird superposition of is-it-or-isn't-it on policy issues.

If MetaFilter were a different place—either much smaller so that the rules and expectations could circulate satisfactorily just by small-group word of mouth conversation, or a much more explicitly edited/curated space where everything was expected to be filtered through human editing and copyediting and redrafting toward a top-down editorial voice—then this wouldn't be so much of a sticking point. But MetaFilter is the place it is, and I am going to be frustrated sometimes when the various structures and expectations that make it up collide to create uncomfortable or unwieldy situations, and so it goes. I may prefer in my heart of hearts to just be able to wish Not Making A Big Deal Out Of It into existence when a scenario that suggests an unconventional solution to unclusterfucking comes along, but I don't have any wishes handy and we still don't have an API for hearts of hearts at this point and I should probably have filtered that out of my calculus the other day.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


Can we maybe take him at his word until there's some tangible reason to doubt him?

I'm not worried about cortex qua cortex, but I'm side-eyeing the "+1 to letting the mods make me seem smarter and woker at their discretion" that's already showing up here
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:59 AM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't like the hammering on "unilateral" here. It wasn't one mod saying "Oh, nope, I'm gonna edit this." It wasn't really even the mod team saying that. It was one commenter on the original AskMe question who then started a whole other MetaTalk discussion, a couple of mods weighing in to that discussion, and several people saying over and over again something to the effect of "This doesn't belong on MetaFilter, much less above the fold on AskMetaFilter, please delete it."

Calling that "unilateral" makes it sound like the only people who are allowed input in cases like this are the OP and the mod team.
posted by Etrigan at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Unilateral" in this case means "without the consent of the original poster", not merely by single-mod fiat.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Unilateral" in this case means "without the consent of the original poster", not merely by single-mod fiat.

Then can we come up with a different word that doesn't evoke "single-mod fiat" quite so strongly? Or just say "without the OP's consent"?
posted by Etrigan at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2018


I feel very much that the mods did the right thing here, and the issue is clouded by the fact that some Americans don't appreciate how offensive that term is in other cultures. If that question had contained a word that Americans find highly offensive (the n-word, say) posted by someone from another country who was not aware of its baggage, I firmly believe this conversation wouldn't be happening.

We talk about metafilter being more international all the time. I feel like the mods took on the feedback that this term is very offensive to English speakers from Britain and elsewhere and acted accordingly. I thank them for that.

It didn't materially change content or tone of the question. I don't really see this as a big deal. Did the poster have a problem with it?

I generally dislike slippery slope arguments, let's talk about where we are actually standing, not where we could be. Assessing this on what actually happened, I felt like it was good moderation and what I like to see from the mods: responsive, considered, minimal, and transparent. Thanks team.
posted by smoke at 1:22 PM on October 29, 2018 [22 favorites]


> smoke:
"If that question had contained a word that Americans find highly offensive (the n-word, say) , someone from another country who was not aware of its baggage, I firmly believe this conversation wouldn't be happening."

Likely in that case the Ask thread would have been full of comments taking the poster to task and the post would have been deleted. This is a pretty niche instance. I doubt there are any other words that a UK reader would find deeply offensive and most Americans understand as innocuous.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Indeed, which is why I think extrapolating it to a precedent is of limited value. This said, I think the whole brouhaha is directly because, as you say, a number of people are incapable of imagining words they find inoffensive are in fact offensive to other English speakers.
posted by smoke at 2:09 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think there's also brouhaha because, honestly, the situation is bizarre.

User A uses a word, which User B identifies as a slur in their different context.
User B makes a MeTalk thread with that word in the title. And twice in the text. And once in the tags.
MeFites galore chime in to relay their understanding of the word, most of them also using the word (43 times).
User A's post is urgently mod-edited to remove the original use.

So we're now at a net +46 on instances of the "s-word" and, honestly User A probably doesn't care a bit about the edit. After all, his question has been answered.

(Thought exercise for the reader: What if User A *had* been opposed to the edit?)

Oh, and at the same time as this is going on there is a Ask thread on gendered insults containing 22 mentions of the "c-word."

Cortex is probably right in his reply that contact/wait or delete/wait is a good practice moving forward should this ever happen again. Which is probably won't.

Anyhow, being a mod is a largely thankless job. On that note, thanks to all the mods here for their work!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 3:14 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


there was also, apparently, some hidden inflection point within the original MeTa thread after which it became improper for Mefites to continue discussing the topic of the thread or any related words
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:35 PM on October 29, 2018


Yeah, hi, inflection point here. No one asked not to discuss the topic or related words. I asked not to keep dropping words that people know are slurs into the discussion just to prove how enlightened they were and how they don’t use them anymore.
posted by Etrigan at 4:14 PM on October 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


Clearly the question as a whole should have been deleted and the OP been asked to start over.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2018


Personally, I'm increasingly of the opinion that we all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:39 PM on October 29, 2018 [18 favorites]


Oh, and at the same time as this is going on there is a Ask thread on gendered insults containing 22 mentions of the "c-word."

Right, that would be mine. My question was about "the c-word", as you call it, not about something else where I used "the c-word" to describe someone or something. Looks like everyone who responded was able to parse that difference, as well as the mods -- but you are having difficulty?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:43 PM on October 29, 2018


but I'm side-eyeing the "+1 to letting the mods make me seem smarter and woker at their discretion" that's already showing up here

Hey, I'm just aware that weird shit happens and if I'm A) ignorant that a string of characters is offensive to someone somewhere, be it England or Easter Island or B) didn't notice a pattern or typo that somehow turns parts of my comment into an anagram for genocide slogans or sexist slurs that is just plain 1 in a bazillion chance... but my question can be saved without necessitating a repost/rewrite which may lose other folk answers/work they've already put into an askme response: so be it.

This is an edge case that I don't see any problem in the way it was handled, both actually and in the meta sense of cortex's openness and stance going forward.

I dunno, maybe I view askme as fundamentally different than a post on the blue or a comment on the same. Those are folk's words placed in a certain way for a certain reason, for better or for worse, and are a bit more sacrosanct. Maybe that helps explain part of my reasoning on this culture as a good, but perhaps not inviolate unto the ends of the earth amen, sort of thing.

I mean, I was also a proponent of the edit window for users back when folks thought that would be abused to all hell and lead to chaos and the end of all good things, including a literal puppies to hitler type situation (and subsequent sockpuppet from one of you!) and we've mostly avoided that and it's been a, I think, change for the good.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:03 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm having no difficulty, so snark unwarranted, and didn't find your thread objectionable. The timing just felt comical.

I go to check if the author of the Ask thread this is all about had commented on the matter and all I can find is their replies to another simultaneous thread asking for slurs!
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:12 PM on October 29, 2018


Anyway, it's a good illustration of the difficulty of moderation. In some cases users assert that intent matters less than effect, while in others we want intent to override (often when our own intent is in question). I sense mods would rather not act unnecessarily. They're here to keep the peace, not to copy edit. How do they know when to step in? Experience and when things visibly fall apart (reports, users going at it, Talk threads).

It wasn't a given that the gendered slur thread would go well, even if the intent was academic. It largely depends on who's reading and participating. It could very well have gone off the rails. The "s-word" Ask may have passed unnoticed without the Talk thread. Other users were already answering it earnestly, as unaware as the author that any slur had been written.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:32 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with how mods edited text in this specific case, and I don't think that there's any good reason to believe that the way that mods edited text in this specific case will lead to an increase in mods editing text in general.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:43 AM on October 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was a little uncomfortable about this when it happened but I think the mods (cortex really) made the right choice. My discomfort was just in recognizing, I think, that this sort of movement really is a step towards a very slightly different MetaFilter, actually one that I like more, but one that is different from 1999 MetaFilter and I think we're all better for it. That said, some people may disagree.

In fact, this sort of thing has happened in the past but it's been a little less transparent (I can remember one AskMe where someone used a slur that we were pretty sure was inadvertent and we changed it and dropped the poster a note asking "Is this OK?" and they said "Oh yeah totally") and I think realistically what is happening is that the change happens and the OP is consulted. I guess there's some possible scenario where the OP is like "Nope, thanks, please put the slur back" but I can't see it happening.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:25 AM on October 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


What worries me about edits with a note in general is that readers who come along after the edit will know the poster said something potentially offensive, but not what it was, and will then be in a position of imagining a range of possibilities which will probably be strongly biased toward those things which are the most offensive to them personally, and that will have the net effect of damaging the reputation of the poster in the minds of those readers more than the original, unedited post would have.
posted by jamjam at 12:14 PM on October 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Or maybe we could just cut the hypothetical person a little slack rather than worrying to what level exactly we should calibrate our outrage. Everyone screws up sometimes in one way or another; a pattern of bad behavior, if there is one, will quickly become apparent to the users and hopefully the mods. Otherwise, maybe we could try to accept that whatever it was, it's been handled, and move on?

Hey, a guy can dream.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:54 PM on October 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


(That wasn't directed at you personally, jamjam. More a cry of generalized exasperation.)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:58 PM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think we've been doing pretty badly at cutting each other slack around here lately.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2018 [9 favorites]


I feel very much that the mods did the right thing here, and the issue is clouded by the fact that some Americans don't appreciate how offensive that term is in other cultures. If that question had contained a word that Americans find highly offensive (the n-word, say) posted by someone from another country who was not aware of its baggage, I firmly believe this conversation wouldn't be happening.

I would honestly rather posts with slurs in them get deleted rather than edited. The post would have probably been deleted in your hypothetical (at least I hope it would have). While I don't think it's a huge deal, I do think it's worth talking about. I don't know if you'd be able to find a post to serve as an example that doesn't end up "clouded" though, considering the reasons a mod might edit a post.

My reasoning is probably oversteeped in "this is how we do things" nostalgia, so I can appreciate that I might not have the right answer. If you go back you can probably find me on record as anti-new-stuff anytime some feature gets added to the site. I understand and accept why cortex made the call he did and I'm comforted that he says he had reservations and this isn't some new direction.

I don't think cortex's reservations or my minor concerns about edits to posts has to do with the fact that "some Americans don't appreciate how offensive that term is in other cultures". I do think that fact contributed to the situation we found ourselves in though, as the slur would probably either not have been used or would have been removed along with the question.

Reading what everyone has said above, I guess I'm not really adding anything new, but I wanted to chime in that I'm glad to see this isn't a change in policy. This doesn't mean I'm objecting to the deletion of slurs from Metafilter! I'm not making a freeze peach argument. Get that shit out of here please.
posted by ODiV at 4:06 PM on October 30, 2018


Uh, by shit I mean bigotry and slurs. Reading back it looks like I might be saying something else. Just wanted to make that clear.
posted by ODiV at 4:11 PM on October 30, 2018


anti-new-stuff

Not to call anyone out specifically, but one of the major downsides to being a site that is so cautious about change is that it attracts people who appreciate unchangingness, which can lead to people getting big feelings over changes when they do get rolled out, even though most changes end up being great and things that end up helping Metafilter as a whole. I don't think that mods are going to start editing out slurs all the time (mostly because slurs don't pop up that often around here in the grand scheme of things)- but if mods came out tomorrow and said "Hey, mods are going to start editing slurs out of stuff when they come up on the rare occasions they do", I don't think that would be the worst thing for Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:15 PM on October 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


I definitely don't think it would be the worst thing, but I also would be strongly against it. And hopefully it's clear that it's not because I'm pro-slur on Metafilter. I should probably try to be less opposed to change in general on here though.

It seems like that possibility is not something that's under consideration anyway, if I understand the conversation right.
posted by ODiV at 5:34 PM on October 30, 2018


Hope I'm not picking on you, but like, people were strongly against titles when they first showed up. It's like, there's a strong vibe here that things have to stay the same. I agree with you that the possibility isn't even under consideration, but I think mods traditionally file most things under "Not Even Under Consideration" because of how vocal the people here are who dislike change.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:45 PM on October 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


That's ok, I don't feel picked on. I think you might be begging the question there a little bit, but maybe not.

And don't get me started on titles.
posted by ODiV at 5:52 PM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Eh, just spit-balling my viewpoint because (like you said) the mods' decision in this thread is pretty clear-cut.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:54 PM on October 30, 2018


I'm still against titles.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:22 AM on October 31, 2018 [3 favorites]


IMO in this particular case the edit was fine, for the reasons given.
posted by Segundus at 6:25 AM on October 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, maybe having an expectation of unambiguous transparency when these kinds of edge cases arise will work great moving forward
I agree with the quoted point from Blasdelb's original post. For me, two things would allay any concerns and set a balance between deleting unacceptable language and over-policing the site:
1) explicit transparency about this from the mods
2) the normative expectation that edits would be discussed ex post facto with the OP and if the OP objects to the change an alternate solution, such as outright deletion, would be pursued
posted by Wretch729 at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2018


I had an ask edited for content in a similar situation (I inadvertently used an offensive word in an unrelated question; it derailed the answers; mod replaced the word with a harmless synonym and left a note to that effect) under a previous account in 2008 or so. So this pattern is not entirely new.
posted by mosst at 2:15 PM on October 31, 2018


Also, I am very glad the mods made that call - not only did I get better answers, but I never used that word in that way again.
posted by mosst at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


I guess there's some possible scenario where the OP is like "Nope, thanks, please put the slur back" but I can't see it happening.

I mean, if someone did say that I think it would be entirely reasonable to say "Fine, if I can't have your permission to edit the post then I'll delete it entirely."

My understanding is the motivation behind these kinds of edits (when, rarely, they happen) is "This is the gentle alternative; I could have deleted it." If someone nixes the gentle alternative, so be it, you know?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


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