What are comment threads for? November 6, 2018 10:20 AM   Subscribe

What's the point of linking comment threads to a specific fpp? Is it so that we specifically discuss the links in the post? Or is it to have an open thread on the sort of general topic of the post, links be damned? Do you flag comments that don't seem to be engaging with the links in a post? Do you flag comments that comment on other comments that don't seem to be engaging with the links in a post? Both? Neither? If someone interprets a comment of yours as an uninformed spit take, how would you want your comment dealt with? By flagging? Addressed in the comment thread? If the latter, how?

I find super long posts with a ton of links, like the recent post on prison abolition and related topics, a difficult format to engage well with - the man of twists and turns crafted a helpful contextualizing narrative in the part of that post above the fold, but many of these type of long posts are just a list of links without sufficient context or concept mapping of how they are related. Sometimes such posts are on topics that I already have some knowledge about and interest in, and would like to discuss with other mefites, even though I don't have time to go through 20-50 links. I don't tend to post on such threads, but it is tempting. At the same time, though, seeing a thread start off with people not even trying to engage with the links in the post is discouraging when it's a topic of interest to oneself.

I guess I should learn to flag that and move on, but, well, in line with the topic of that particular post, I'm in the habit of attempting to resolve minor conflicts such as that in person, first, without calling in authority figures. 'Course, unlike my relative success with that approach in person, the danger here is that my comment gets flagged and deleted, and the other comments stand. Am I in the wrong here to want those posting spit takes to actually engage with the links? But if we're cool with spit takes that don't engage with the links in a post, why don't we just have threads/posts with no links, like "Proposition: puppies are slobbery and stinky and gross. Go."? Am I in the right but should just flag someone's comment when it clearly shows that they haven't read the links? But what if they also just as clearly seem to be motivated to engage in an actual discussion of the topic, albeit have started out poorly (in my personal opinion)? Metafilter does explicitly have the "flag and move on" policy, I know, but some comments seem to me to be in kind of a grey area - they seem (again, to me) not to engage with the links, but maybe it's just that they only read one link and not the rest, which is maybe sort of fair in a super long post, and wouldn't it be better to try to encourage further engagement from the other poster, while having their comment deleted might totally discourage them? In the latter case, whose role is it to do that encouraging - is that a mod's job, or is that part of what discussion threads are for? If it's part of what discussion threads are for and not the mod's job, why can't I ask them what they thought of the links, or how their comment relates to the links? It seems to have been kosher in the past to copy and paste from the text of a link relevant sections that relate directly to a poorly-informed comment... but that feels a bit passive aggressive to me. Clearly my questions felt passive aggressive or similar to someone else, though - we come from many different cultural backgrounds on here, so I know that not everyone will have the same interpretations of different types of comments as me. If you were to post a comment on a topic that you actually were interested in meaningful engagement on, buuut maybe you were rushed that day and didn't read all of the links to see that your objection or comment had already been addressed, how would you want for your comment to be treated? By the mods? By other mefites in the thread?
posted by eviemath to Etiquette/Policy at 10:20 AM (52 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry for the delay in putting this thru, it's been a busy morning.

Short answer from mod perspective:
Kneejerk responses, just to the topic rather than engaging with the actual links, are not great. It's fine to flag them. I agree with your sense that megaposts with a ton of links make those responses much more likely. But snappish responses to those kneejerk comments can be a problem too, if they focus the thread on the person who made the kneejerk comment, rather than on the links.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:26 AM on November 6 [2 favorites]


To be more meta!
posted by sammyo at 10:32 AM on November 6


We all have different levels of interest in, or engagement with, different topics. I feel that requiring someone to read all the links in a megapost before engaging with the topic is a bit of an ask. If I know that a person's take on something is addressed by link #57 below the fold, I'd encourage them to check out that particular link, maybe block quoting from it if there's a relevant short paragraph.
posted by zamboni at 10:46 AM on November 6 [10 favorites]


In many years of observing (but only recently participating), here's what I think I'm seeing; I'll save how I feel about it for the end of this comment.

Once upon a time, Metafilter was The best of the web. I understand that's deprecated now. It was a community weblog, meaning a blog that the community contributed to, as opposed to a personal blog, or one with a small but well-defined number of authors. Posts were essentially the same thing as links; sometimes there would be many links of a similar nature. Long, multi-link posts back then were often considered to be stunts (stunt-post is a term I'm pretty sure I picked up here) and not the norm. There were no titles, so the content of a post was often indistinguishable from a title for that post.

People started having good discussions in the threads attached to those posts, and for a long time there was an explicit understanding that nobody should be commenting within some certain amount of time after a post goes up; I vaguely recall a MetaTalk post specifically proposing a mandatory waiting period along those lines. So, in my recollection anyway, It used to be explicitly all about the links.

Then two things happened, kind of simultaneously. One, really great discussions started happening in the comments of various posts. Due to a quirk of self-sorting and affirmative moderation, more people showed up who wanted to participate in those discussions, creating a positive feedback loop that led to some really insightful discussion happening in comment threads. For a time, there was still the underlying expectation that the discussion would refer back to the fpp and that the link(s) therein would form a base of common knowledge for that discussion.

The other thing that happened, I think around the same time, is a general shift away from having meaningful posts / links / best-of-the-web-goals. I remember when a single youtube link was a really controversial thing to post, and I'm certain there were contentious MeTas about the practice.

So you have a group of good people, having great discussions, and a site culture shifting away from meaty posts, which meant the discussions themselves became more and more of the point. Culminating in things like the current megathreads, which have a million links, none of which any particular person is expected to have read, and a discussion almost completely decoupled from the links in the post.

This isn't true for every topic, nor is it a straight line from there to here; it's just my general impression of what's happening and what has been happening. I have to admit that I have at times been part of the problem (if you see it as a problem) of emphasizing the discussion to the detriment of the links / posts.

I sure have learned a lot in all those great discussions, and a lot of what I learned about issues of gender and race has served me really well in my personal and professional life. At the same time, I feel like some essential character of MeFi may have been lost in the process. I hope it's just nostalgia-tinted glasses.
posted by dbx at 11:00 AM on November 6 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: Sorry for the delay in putting this thru, it's been a busy morning.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


As one of the resident OverPosters (in terms of content length), I'll share my motivation in writing long, link-heavy posts: here's a well rounded summary or history of a topic that hasn't been discussed on MetaFilter before, or recently, which I have been interested in (to the point of being slightly obsessed, in an odd passing sort of way).

To my eyes, comments depend on the type of the post - is it 1) general information or fun knowledge, or 2) possibly eye-opening and/or motivating, like prison abolition. Comments in fun or general information posts can highlight the best parts. Comments in the other type can be general outrage, grief or support for changes under way.

And comments in both can things people didn't know before reading the post, corrections and additions. The last two are more rare if an original post is more exhaustive, or the topic less common. Also, people share their general ideas on any post, sharing their thoughts on how things could be done and so forth.

Kind of like favorites, I think comments can be used for whatever you want them to be, within reason.

Speaking for myself, I sometimes feel like I'm selfishly using MetaFilter as a platform to share my interests and ideas, because I don't really do so anywhere else. My posts are definitely my point of view on the topic, shaped consciously or unconsciously by my biases, though I try my best to stay (relatively) neutral on topics I know to be contentious. And I realize that lengthier posts can suck the (conversational) air from the (virtual) rooms, but when I'm making a post, I feel sometimes like to include less would to present an incomplete picture, which makes me feel like I'm just rushing to post something.

These are the thoughts rattling around in my head.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:06 PM on November 6 [6 favorites]


Last bits: in response to dbx's comment, I think the history of MetaFilter, and related, the history of the internet as a platform for discussions, is really interesting.

MetaFilter is old enough that "best of the web" could be a stated without a wink -- there wasn't as much out there on the web, and there were fewer people sharing the interesting (and sometimes weird) bits. I still don't think there's a site like MetaFilter, but the OP content can be found from various avenues pretty well, it seems.

But MetaFilter changed with the internet. YouTube went from an annoying source of empty little videos (MeTa thread, March 2006), to a source for everything from abstract art, tutorials and science demonstrations, to trailers for pop culture things, all of which are part of MetaFilter now.

Also, the early days of MetaFilter were pretty fluffy on the discussion/ content, and included some jokes and memes that happily have died out. Perhaps there was a "golden age" of MetaFilter in terms of content and discussions, but we can't go back there, because we have more users now. And I don't think we want to go back there, because I feel like we're a (broadly) more enlightened, supportive community.

I think MetaFilter is big enough that it can serve many purposes at the same time. I think that there are still interesting, substantive discussions going on, but that doesn't have to be every thread.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:15 PM on November 6 [9 favorites]


I'm someone who doesn't like to comment until I've at least looked at all the links and read all the comments. I'm sure there are others like me.

The only exceptions are posts with different rules, such as the politics threads. But in general I never engage with megaposts because I rarely even know where to begin with the links, and never have time to read or listen to everything, but there's plenty of other things to enjoy on MetaFilter.
posted by Kattullus at 1:46 PM on November 6 [7 favorites]


What annoyed me in the specific case was commenters who didn't seem to have read any of the links in the megapost.
posted by eviemath at 2:45 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Megaposts are different than regular posts, we've been wrestling with that for years, but I don't think its fair to compare the two.

On top of that, who is reading all 50 links at the beginning of a megapoliticspost? To gain info many of us already have?
posted by agregoli at 2:52 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


agregoli, to further differentiate types of posts, political (mega-)posts are different from other (mega-)posts, because they're the official fig leaf to corral political discussions into a few threads at a time, where the atmosphere and discussion is much different, both in action and moderation, than elsewhere on the Blue.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:00 PM on November 6 [2 favorites]


Yep, we know.
posted by agregoli at 3:01 PM on November 6


Is it so that we specifically discuss the links in the post? Or is it to have an open thread on the sort of general topic of the post, links be damned?

I don't see it as such a strictly either/or proposition. I mean, you'd have to go pretty deep into non sequitur territory for a comment on the topic to be unrelated to the links, says I.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:51 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's a single right way to engage with threads.

Different types of threads prompt different conversations and different posters choose to engage in different ways. If you like to read all the links before posting, that's great, but it doesn't mean everyone else should or that you need to flag their posts because they didn't. If you want to point out that one of the links addresses something they said, feel free, but you're not obligated to make that effort, either, if you don't want to.

The problem, of course, is that if you only want to have discussions that directly engage with the links, that's something you don't get to have, because you can't force other people to engage only in the manner you prefer. I don't think that's a solvable problem and you and the mods would both go mad trying to draw the distinctions that would be necessary.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:12 PM on November 6 [5 favorites]


metafilter is one big long-running multi-threaded conversation between all commenters on all comments. posts provide new material for commenters to chew on and a proposed temporary venue for that chewing; however, the comments on a given post are, as stated above, not a single discrete conversation but instead a small part of one vast multithreaded conversation all woven together.

Long-standing site participants come to recognize each other by their characteristic topics, writing quirks, and distinctive uses of html as a medium. if you’ve been around for a while (and you have) you tend to know who has written a comment long before you scroll down to their user name.

More than any other site I know of, metafilter is a symposium.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:03 PM on November 6 [17 favorites]


moreover, just as individual participants have distinctive writing styles/textual fingerprints that evolve over time, the site as a whole has a characteristic writing style, the details of which I can’t quite pin down, but which is immediately recognizable as distinctively the thing that it is. If I had to take a swing at defining it, I’d say that it’s highly referential, tolerant of long discursions and ornate grammatical structure, hyperliterate, in-jokey, very Internet — but Internet in a way that takes sites like The Toast as a primary inspiration, and moreover Internet in a way that reflects how many people here have been doing Internet for a very long time indeed, with pedigrees that trace back to the WELL, to old-school usenet, and in some cases to email back when we had to use bang paths to address messages.

It’s also a relentlessly polite style, except when we breathe hyperliterate fire over someone who fails to respect our norms. We spent the 2000s and 2010s learning how to not be stupid offensive children; we haven’t entirely learned, but well we’re trying.

and that’s what a metafilter comment thread is for: using that style, and appreciating that style, and helping to refine that style by introducing our own distinctive elements into it.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:11 PM on November 6 [12 favorites]


Metafilter comment threads are places to try to write like Daniel Mallory Ortberg and Alexandra Petri, even though we don’t get paid to do it.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:13 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: distinctively the thing that it is.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:58 PM on November 6 [8 favorites]


I feel like megaposts are one thing; I don't mind a million links on one subject. Megaposts about a million different things are something I've been an open critic of for years.

This might be something for another MeTa, but I was upset that the post about the synagogue shooting turned out to be just another megapost. Above the fold, it looked like a post on that one event, but below the fold it was something else entirely. I wasn't about to read 800 comments to see if my questions had been answered. I wish more people understood how off-putting that is, especially when it's something a person might feel personally connected to beyond general politics.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:01 PM on November 6 [8 favorites]


I don't read threads that have more than perhaps 3 links, especially when it's unclear as to which one is the main link, if we're even doing main links still. This meta has made me unsure. If I don't know what the main link is, how do I know where to start?

In the past when I've made FPPs I've tried to add enough links for context, especially on somewhat niche topics. Or bonus links, for if you have extra time. However, I've mostly come to the conclusion that if threads can derail when there's one link that not everybody read or watched before commenting, I'm probably better off keeping the post to one link. That way there's a bit less in the way of russian roulette for the direction of derails. I don't like derails, but if you post to the blue you really have to accept that it happens. And sometimes derails can be fun! Though not every time.

I think this is why I like the green so much: it's answer the question or GTFO. No nonsense!
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 12:42 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I think variety is the spice of life, and I adore the different styles of posts, posters and commenters we have here. I certainly don't want, or expect everyone to post or comment like me - boooorrrring!

This said, I do get a teensy weensy bit pissy when people jump into a substantive megapost (or any substantive post, really), without reading even one single goddamn link. Like, do you really think you're so very interesting that everyone here wants to hear your generally random and uninformed opinion of zithers? Or how you feel about the general issue of blood transfusion, when this article is about a very specific aspect of it? Puh-lease (insert Star Trek, other countries, a celebrity or artist you dislike etc).

Engage with some of that shit before sounding off about it, I beg you. It's just boorish otherwise.

Thankfully, I think most people do, or just shut up and learn - which is fine! And also why megaposts may not always get as many comments, but they are still appreciated by many people here I believe.
posted by smoke at 2:41 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


There are a handful of times I don't read the main piece because a) I think the piece is bad at the level of "I don't want to unread it if I do", and b) It's an important topic that I know enough about from other sources, and c) The ongoing discussion provided enough material for me to form some thoughts on. I hate arguing with people and I've learned to try and avoid that stressful mode of conversation on here. But I do write something just to express my feelings on something that matters to me a lot. If the thread goes on long enough for an afternoon or a day, then sometimes I do decide to skim or go over the main piece before I write more comments.
posted by polymodus at 2:48 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Just for my understanding of US-English vocabulary: is it correct that the expression 'spit take' is being used here in a way that you would most often see someone use 'hot take'? I've only ever seen 'spit take' being used to mean something like 'that was so unexpected that I spit out my drink'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:26 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Too-Ticky, yes, I did mean it in the hot take sense. Apologies for the confusing, non-standard usage.
posted by eviemath at 3:39 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Zithers are awesome.
posted by flabdablet at 4:36 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I have many thoughts about this topic, but in the end my position boils down to this: if you're making substantive, on-topic comments then you're probably fine. It's not reasonable to expect people to always read every link, especially in multi-link megaposts. If you have something useful to say, go ahead and say it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:56 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


“Ye Olde Metafiltere” is a rambling, multi-floored café in an English market town, serving tea and cakes and enabling the exchange of views and information of the fancy of the day.

This notable establishment is a most conversational meeting point in nature, the main public room of which contains a large communal table. People drift in and out; some regulars, some frequent, others random. At certain times of day and night you will discover many the same people sitting at the table; one begins a conversation, others seated nearby will chip in with comments. When a particularly agreeable comment is uttered, several folk will nod and tap the table in appreciation.

Much of this conversation contains idioms, tricks and recursive in-jokes of an opaque nature to non-regulars or outsiders. This matters not to frequent patrons and seeks to bind and strengthen their communal spirit. Many others wander around the room, listening but never participating. Talk at the table sometimes die, but often sparks and evolves, occasionally to digress, and very occasionally turns uncouth in manner, at which point a member of staff oft appears to shush the offender with an appropriate degree of warning.

Several, sometimes many, conversations are concurrent at the table. A significant allocation seated around its perimeter are tourists from the thirteen colonies, which leads to occasional grumblings and mutterings from others that verbality is dominated by their interests and desires. In recent moons, the outposts of these wanderers have come under the control of a former merchant of considerable ill repute and disgrace. This has led to more, louder and somewhat negative introspective political conversation from these same residents of the distant western lands, resulting in frequent intervention from the increasingly weary staff of Ye Olde Metafiltere.

Admittance to the café is somewhat unusual. Anyone can enter, but the only patrons permitted to speak within are those who hand over a small one-time coinage levy based on the currency of the aforementioned thirteen colonies. However, said fees are insufficient to pay farthing and shilling to the staff, nor cover the significant maintenance costs of this old and crumbling building (made from a substance known as coldfusion which predates even wattle and daub as a construction material). Therefore, tip jars and regular notices politely requesting alms are found about the premises, by which many generous clientele regularly contribute.

Back in the main public room, a large notice on one wall sternly informs of the golden house rule, that if one starts a conversation by boasting of their own endeavours or those of a friend, then Mr Cortex Baggingshaw-Windsor will ripple bicep and tricep, pluck the miscreant from their seat, and frogmarch them out of Ye Olde Metafiltere, throwing into street and under passing hoof and wheel, barring henceforth. “Begone, ruffian, from these four walls!” he will bellow, and watch as said culprit often slinks away in the direction of Caffe-Reddit, a similar business on which I will elaborate later.

Speaking of the proprietor; Mr Cortex took over the establishment a few years ago, from Earl Matte Howie Sebastian-Sackville the Third. Mr Howie, who constructed some of the original building in bygone times remembered by a decreasing few, now works in an establishment o’er distant market town, marketing devices for long distance communications of a textual nature. There are, of course, other staff within Ye Olde Metafiltere, the most well-known of whom is the maitre d’forum Duchess Jessamyn Jemima Maple-Syrup, who developed much of the “acceptable conversation” policy wielded in practice, and still employs occasional shifts, when not formulating revolution amongst the local populance.

But, there is not just the large communal table; there are other rooms on other floors available for the exhilaration and involvement of visitors. For example, in the music room patrons are invited to play their compositions for the aural enjoyment and comment of others. In the room of puzzles, situations and traumas, citizens with an issue of vexatious nature may plead for solution from their fellow diners. (In that room alone, patrons are permitted to be in disguise should their angst be embarrassing in nature, such as a wart, or a wayward partner, or a wart caused by a wayward partner). And in the attic, where sounds from all other rooms drift upwards and into, patrons can discuss conversations they have found particularly disagreeable, and petition Mr Cortex Bagginshaw-Windsor for a change in house policy to nullify such occurrences in future.

Other competing cafes in the market town come and go, though it is rare to find one as convivial in nature as Ye Olde Metafiltere. Ye Anciente Welle is of even greater vintage, though has a costly admission fee and attracts a crowd of nostalgic verbalisers of many decades. A relatively new establishment, Costa-Twitter, is trendier in appeal but unfortunately attracts many patrons of a right-wing or misogynist nature who carry no scruples on disrupting the conversation. In addition, the management there is notorious for turn a blind eye to verbal unpleasantness. Slightly further away and owned by Count Zuckerberg who lives in the castle above the town, the ubiquitous Starbooks attracts a somewhat older, and notably sizeable, crowd. However, imbibing within these premises runs the risk of being recognised by your most disagreeable elder relative who then invites himself to the conversation, resulting in inevitable social disgrace all round. And, down a side alley in a less pleasant quarter of the town, Caffe-Reddit is similar to Costa-Twitter but even more raucous and feral in demeanour, with management who actively cajole conversation to the point of fractious incident, and beyond.

Nay; it is most prudent for a healthy demeanour to stay within these walls, peeling though they occasionally be, and less picturesque than perhaps more gaudy establishments elsewhere. Ye Olde Metafiltere: where, verily, everyone knows your pseudonym.
posted by Wordshore at 5:52 AM on November 7 [22 favorites]


eviemath: What annoyed me in the specific case was commenters who didn't seem to have read any of the links in the megapost.

From my experience, it seems that it's fairly common for people to read the post text above the break, get an idea of what they want to say and open the thread to comment, not reading anything below the break. Because of this, I've made a point of avoiding ambiguity where possible, and definitely don't post mystery links.

Perhaps this is an area of significant change from days of MetaFilter past and now: patience for reading materials is broadly decreased, as there's always something else out there trying to grab your attention.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Zithers are awesome.

I had a cat who played the zither.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:06 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I had a cat who played the zither in Swedish.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this is an area of significant change from days of MetaFilter past and now: patience for reading materials is broadly decreased, as there's always something else out there trying to grab your attention.

This feels very much like a case of viewing an earlier time through rose-tinted glasses.

I don't think there's been a meaningful drop in patience for reading; I can recall heated discussions about the merits of very large, multi-link posts going back over a decade (particularly prior to the implementation of an explicit "more inside" functionality, when such posts really messed with the front page flow).

I do think that "more inside" and shifting site culture have led there to be a larger number of these very large, multi-link posts.

For me personally, while I appreciate the effort that goes into them, and while sometimes I enjoy them, I think there is a tendency for them to go too far. There's a density of links that you can reach where basically you cannot expect any coherent discussion to occur. Asking anyone (let alone everyone) to read them all is ludicrous, and so the discussions are going to be largely first impressions or disconnected sub-discussions depending on who read which part. The link density where this happens is honestly not that high.

If a topic really is that big, I would personally much rather engage with it over a series of posts that allowed room for at least some people to read and comprehend and discuss, versus the equivalent of a lengthy Wikipedia entry.
posted by tocts at 10:20 AM on November 7 [8 favorites]


wordshore, you are far and away the most delightful person who's ever said "all power to the soviets!" to me.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:25 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Megalinked megaposts I've come to interpret as an "If you're just joining us now..." preamble.
posted by rhizome at 10:36 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


it's the "previously on The Fall of Democracy in America..." clip montage at the start of the episode.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:38 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


one-time coinage levy based on the currency of the aforementioned thirteen colonies. However, said fees are insufficient to pay farthing and shilling to the staff, nor cover the significant maintenance costs of this old and crumbling

Ok ok, forget the mugs and t's and donations, pivot this site and go for online crumpet delivery!
posted by sammyo at 11:38 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


To answer the question if there is a question Mefi seems to be a big tent and although fistfights and such are forbidden who knows if it's a derail or just getting to the essence even if the initiating poster agrees. Isn't the title always a perfect summation of the true essence? Well almost. Usually. Anyone got a crumpet recipe?
posted by sammyo at 11:42 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I had Pine Mouth once. Afterwards I said 'never again'. Five years later, I'm tempted to eat a load of pine nuts, just to see. Nostalgia is a curious thing indeed.
posted by pipeski at 3:59 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


My sense is that what's held as appropriate for comments varies depending on the FPP and that the construction of the FPP's often determine the types of comments it will receive appropriate or otherwise.

A substantial amount of the links people post are nothing much more than conversation starters. Single links to some news story or to some article that says little more than the title of the post had already indicated.

Other FPPs do attempt to link to essays of substance, but choose to highlight the most contentious element of the argument as the main body of the post, ensuring people will want to respond to that before even opening the link. Often times the most contentious element isn't even directly germane to the larger point of the essay, but is chosen for highlighting anyway, likely because of it gets a reaction.

Big multi-link posts will never be about all the links. It just won't happen and most of the comments around those posts don't even pretend to do it or expect it. Some of those die a quicker death than they might have otherwise had they linked only one article when the concept under examination isn't well known or subject of substantial opinion already.

Some topics invite argument and discussion more readily than others no matter how you frame the posts for being subjects of strong opinion and known divisions. That is also why so many sites like to publish articles on those subjects and why they get made into links. It's clickbait all the way down.

Articles/essays that present more involved arguments otherwise are held to a stronger expected standard of engagement by commenters. That is where you'll most frequently find people pushing back against those who didn't read the post as not having done so is often obvious. That doesn't mean there aren't derails that sometimes get out of hand, but that the comments themselves do a pretty good job of indicating the expected engagement with the FPPs and bring pressure to those who aren't following the norms.

When things go awry, it's the first couple posts that often seem to cause that. If the initial comments address the article, that sets the tone for the thread. If they don't, then the thread often goes badly. That's also true for tone of comment to some extent and the tone does influence how people react to and comment on the post, but there can be reason for disagreement with FPPs. So regulating that is a bit of a different matter even when it does lead the conversations away from the main links.

Some links feature cats. It is a known thing that any link featuring cats can be replied to with pictures or comments about your own cat before viewing the link. It is inevitable that the link will be viewed anyway and that any comments about cats are actually responding to the purpose of the posts. This is also broadly true for any animal posts, but none other quite so definitively as for cats.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:09 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


isn't it a polite-internet rule now to NOT dump a bunch of links and whatever on someone and say, Do Your Own Research? Not saying that's what multi-link posts are. Not at all. But insisting I read everything before I comment starts to feel like that.
posted by philip-random at 9:06 PM on November 7


But insisting I read everything before I comment starts to feel like that.

I don't know that anyone has insisted on that?
posted by smoke at 10:17 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]



isn't it a polite-internet rule now to NOT dump a bunch of links and whatever on someone and say, Do Your Own Research? Not saying that's what multi-link posts are. Not at all. But insisting I read everything before I comment starts to feel like that.


It is and it isn't. For a lot of things, the relevant rule is "I've explained me and my friends are full humans before, and I'm not doing so every time someone questions it, however mildly or politely". If they're kind enough to give you links, read them, do your own research, and come back ready to engage in a way that doesn't require everyone to explain things from point A for the umpteenth time that week.

I love the sense of knowing people on MetaFilter. Sure, on Facebook you might get more information at first, but I rarely feel I accumulate the same sort of understanding of someone else's concerns, beliefs and practices that I do here. The recognising who wrote it before you see the name, the X always posts a n inset quote with their main take-away in bold, the shared vocabulary, it's all great.

I'm sure I'll improve with time, but I feel like there's dozens of regular commenters who I have at least a rough sense of, whether that's "doctor who really loves their kids" or "expert in the history of sharpening pre-pottery Neolithic A obsidian tools with remarkable insight into the nature of gendered labour in foraging communities"
posted by AnhydrousLove at 4:18 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


But insisting I read everything before I comment starts to feel like that.

Most, but not all, of the FPPs I've constructed are multi-link. I've never expected people to follow every link in such posts, or even most or some of them. A few people who are seriously into the subject and have the time to do so probably do, but most MeFites can't, don't or won't - which is fine.

As an example, the cheese sandwich multi-link post would take a very long time to read through if every link was followed (and that's before the issue of creeping link rot in multi-link posts). With that post, I was expecting MeFites who stumbled across it to follow one or two links at the most (and often no links at all), and dive into the comments writing about their favourite or most hated cheese sandwich filling, where to get a good cheese sandwich from, or some other cheese sandwich anecdote.

It often comes down to familiarity with the subject matter of the post. For the Penis Beaker post, quite a few MeFites would have been familiar with the story through the news before coming across the post so there's no need for them to follow any the links before plunging in to the comments. Some others unfamiliar with the story would follow at least one (but probably not all) links to get an idea of the content and/or context, while some others would not follow any just riff off the comments with more comments.

Such is life and MetaFilter. Posts feel less like compulsary libraries or encyclopaedias to thoroughly study (unless you want to) but more like conversation starters/enablers (again, only if you want to comment; nothing is compulsory).

(* please do not misinterpret 'coming across the post' wrt penis beaker; not everything is innuendo)
posted by Wordshore at 5:16 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


{reads previous comment well after the edit window has closed}
{facepalms}

(That previous comment is a splendid example of grammar and spelling before consumption of the first pot of tea of the day.)
posted by Wordshore at 5:50 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I'm amused by the idea that someone would have to wait until they read all the links before responding to some of the posts here. I mean if people did that for something like this post by kliuless, there'd be no replies at all as the 30 day thread response window would close before anyone would be able to say anything. Hmm, unless that is the secret goal kliuless has in mind...

(I'm not actually knocking those posts, I dig 'em, they're great for bookmarking and reading at one's leisure later over time. The conversations just give some further context and argument about the ideas.)
posted by gusottertrout at 7:14 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I rarely comment in mega-post threads, but, gosh, I sure do appreciate all of the information there. I selectively read to broaden my own views. And it's been very useful in finding other websites of interest that I may have never known about.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:15 AM on November 8


Counterpoint:

Mansplaining is bad for two reasons:
1. Going on about your uninformed opinion or interpretation of something to someone who has greater expertise, without first ascertaining their level of expertise relative to yours (or their interest), is rude and condescending.
2. There's a cultural pattern of men doing this to women with significantly more frequency than any other gender configuration of the roles in this type of exchange.

Not everything that men do with much greater frequency than women is not necessarily bad. Most people would probably agree that asking for a raise when you deserve one - a thing that men tend to do more frequently than women - is a good thing, for example. The gender issue with mansplaining is a problem largely because the underlying behavior is, itself, bad (rude and condescending).

Coming into a thread (especially as the very first comment) with an uninformed hot take - neither having read any of the links (note the distinction between the existential quantifier any versus a universal quantifier all), nor having signficant prior experience with or knowledge of the topic - is, similarly, rude to both the poster and other commenters who likely (given the diversity of Metafilter) include people with some expertise.
posted by eviemath at 1:13 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


My question in the post was: okay, so I'm just another commenter (not a mod), and I see something that looks like the above behavior in a thread(*). What should my response be?

Ok, now what if it's not a super clear cut case - like, maybe the commenter did read one of the main links, and the thing that their comment displays ignorance about is in one or more other of the main links in a multi-link post. Or maybe the commenter is talking about how they "always" have such-and-such a response to a topic, which theoretically implies some experience with the topic of the post, but the substance of their comment seems to indicate that their experience is certainly not at a very deep level, since they display a common misconception about the topic. Does that change what my response should be? If so, how?

(* This seems to be more common in mega threads, for admittedly understandable reasons, but that wasn't the main point of my post, thus it's being below the fold.)
posted by eviemath at 1:19 PM on November 8


I don't participate a ton on the Blue, but my response to those situations is generally a "Yes, and" type response. "Yes, the second link talks about that: [blockquote relevant bit]." Or, sometimes just, "Yes, the linked article talks about that: [blockquote]." My thought is that by responding to the comment with information from the article, it re-rails the conversation and keeps it from getting into a back-and-forth with one commenter.
posted by lazuli at 1:31 PM on November 8 [3 favorites]


In those situations, I would try to use emotional regulation techniques to take a breath to step back and observe the situation (so akin to reading the room, becoming attuned to your own mental world while the thread is open in front of you). So there's no general tactic or response, cause none of us are machines. But one that often pops up when I give myself space to reflect on a thread (like the Jordan Peterson ones I have in mind), I'll ask what is it that matters to me given that piece and the conversation? What do I want to get out of it? And usually, I decide it's not trying to specifically correct somebody or "influence" the thread, cause that's like free labor without much benefit to myself, as tempting as a sense of closure can be. I'm more interested in clarifying myself or asking clarifying questions so that's how I approach my comments. At least, that's my intention. And of course that's just me.
posted by polymodus at 1:14 AM on November 9 [1 favorite]


In cases where I've felt like people derailed things I posted or are going down very weird paths, I will often do like Lazuli and post a (sometimes pointed) quote from the link. Sometimes I'll make a small text comment pushing back on the general point of the thread. Sometimes I'll make larger text comments. I often flag. I feel OK making those nudges. Sometimes it shifts the conversation, sometimes it doesn't.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:22 AM on November 9 [1 favorite]


Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon: "wordshore, you are far and away the most delightful person who's ever said "all power to the soviets!" to me."

Jeez, just punch me in the teeth, why don't you?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:14 PM on November 11 [3 favorites]


If I post links, I've read every single one. If I'm commenting and the post has fewer than five or so links, I've read every single one and will expect that others have too, or they should be told to RTFA if they spout off on something already addressed. Over five links, I'll usually read about five. Newsfilter is often somewhat different, since specific links are usually less necessary — it's rare that there's something substantive missing from CNN that MSNBC has, especially as wire stories get republished all over.

I try to make this a habit because I can think of several times that I've posted something and had someone comment in a way that makes it clear that they haven't bothered to read the link at all, and they look like assholes. I try to limit the number of times I'm willing to look like an asshole, and not commenting when I haven't read any of the links is a low-effort strategy.
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 AM on November 13 [3 favorites]


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