Everybody needs a hug November 27, 2018 11:34 AM   Subscribe

AskMe responses seem to be getting meaner over the years. It keeps me from posting anything but the most fact-based or unimportant questions, so I suspect it keeps other people from posting substantial questions, too. Is this the atmosphere we as a community want for AskMe?

I may have rosy-colored visions of the past, but it seems to me that there used to be much more of a feeling of "This is a community member in need; let's be nice to the asker at least" on the Green.

And I often don't disagree with the takes of the commenters who are piling on and being mean; I just think that such aggressive responses are counterproductive on a site that's supposed to be about helping each other. But maybe I'm out of step with current norms of how others see the site.
posted by lazuli to MetaFilter-Related at 11:34 AM (308 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

From my perspective I agree with this; jessamyn used to call [some of] these "JudgeMe" responses, and they're not good. It makes people not want to ask questions here, which hurts the site over the long term.

(Also thanks for lazuli for patience, since we held this MeTa for a bit.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:42 AM on November 27 [20 favorites]


I cannot claim to be perfect in this regard, but I try, because I help people learn for a living, and tough love doesn't do it. People come to us for help and information. We've got to provide it with kindness or at least, you know, dispassion if we can't/won't be kind. To riff on today's/yesterday's blue, we volunteer our emotional labour here, let's not use it for evil.
posted by wellred at 11:46 AM on November 27 [14 favorites]


And this is why I will not only not post relationship or parenting questions, but I won't even read most of them.

Though I've probably been guilty of judging once or twice myself.

But yeah, be kind to people. It doesn't hurt at all.
posted by bondcliff at 12:06 PM on November 27 [9 favorites]


Yeah, there is a LOT of agitation -- some of it warranted when someone is being outright rude or needs a wake-up call, some of it that could 100% be put into different, kinder words.

I would be totally fine with adding more specific words after "everyone needs a hug." Something like, "Everyone needs a hug -- please be as kind as possible before you respond, since kindness and respect is what makes this site worthwhile." or something.
posted by knownassociate at 12:07 PM on November 27 [16 favorites]


I agree, although I don't think it's limited to AskMe. I've decreased my participation on the site because of it. I have theories as to why it's happened, but voicing them wouldn't be constructive so I'll keep them to myself; I'll just offer anecdotally that I agree with your observation and that, for me, your hypothesis also holds. I'm less inclined to ask questions or participate in threads.
posted by cribcage at 12:10 PM on November 27 [38 favorites]


This is written under every AskMe answer box: "Note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks."
posted by bondcliff at 12:14 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


I think there are four big things that happen with a lot of AskMe questions that really lower the quality of the answers:

1) People being mean, as mentioned in this MeTa - There are definitely questions I've asked where reading the answers made me feel really, unnecessarily sad, and questions I haven't asked because I know they'll likely go badly.

2) People, often well-meaning people, answering questions when really they have no idea what they're talking about - I feel like I see so much advice that is coming from someone who clearly wants to help but isn't equipped to do so and so the answer is at best useless and at works actively harmful.

3) Question Detectives who feel a need to dig in and be like "you THINK you're asking about how to make pasta, but actually you need a divorce" - sometimes this actually is reasonable, but it feels like a lot of the time people want to figure out What's Really Going On when, e.g., someone's partner saying they like their new haircut doesn't necessarily mean they're controlling and abusive or whatever (again, sometimes they are! But I see a lot of assumptions being made about relationships, romantic and otherwise, and answerers doing stuff like diagnosing roommates with serious mental health issues or whatever)

4) Just not reading the damn question - I feel like a dick sometimes because I end so many of my questions with a disclaimer that's like "I am looking for X, please DO NOT SUGGEST Y. ONLY SUGGESTIONS THAT FIT THESE THREE QUALIFICATIONS PLEASE, DO NOT GIVE ME SUGGESTIONS THAT ARE WHAT I HAVE EXPLICITLY SAID I DON'T WANT" but I find that if I don't do this I get a zillion suggestions of stuff that isn't what I'm looking for or is really unhelpful and it makes me feel frustrated and kind of mad that people act like they're trying to help when they're ignoring what I actually need.

I think there is a lot of a positive desire to help and build community around and also a lot of crankiness and so we end up with people answering in a way that is more about them than actually being helpful and it makes AskMe both a worse resource and a less pleasant internet place to be.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:19 PM on November 27 [131 favorites]


I think the biggest problem is that we fall into the all-or-nothing-thinking trap, forgetting that people (including ourselves) are complicated, and that situations are nuanced. When someone asks if they should eat something, they are genuinely looking for the pros and cons of eating it, not just a dismissive "never eat anything, better safe than sorry." When someone asks about a relationship, saying "oh just DTMFA and all your problems will be solved" does not take into account that people's feelings (as well as money) can be complicated and sometimes (not always!), being alone is not the better option. Our answers should be thoughtful and say "here are your choices, only you can decide which one might suck more or less," and not cheerful catchphrases from our armchairs.
posted by Melismata at 12:52 PM on November 27 [21 favorites]


Also, some of the questions themselves are, um, not high-quality questions. Not that anyone deserves snark, but that there's a lack of "reading the room" sometimes. Like when it's poorly written, things are formatted similarly to an AskReddit post (or worse), and maybe there's some (unintentional) sexist/problematic language in there, too.

But even with questions we don't personally love or think are very well written, we should still be kind. IMHO this is one of the best places to get advice on anything, and we have an opportunity to help people/each other/ourselves by being here.
posted by witchen at 12:53 PM on November 27 [18 favorites]


Yeah I really agree; thanks for posting this.

In particular there are questions I basically have to nope the fuck out of, even when I may have useful advice, because the early consensus happens to be that the poster is a jerk and so users are allowed to operate at a disturbing-to-me levels of cruelty.

In a recent one I flagged at least one answer that wasn't deleted - any answer that includes the sentence "grow the fuck up" is not part of a helpful answer, full stop. And there's a small subset of users that could maybe use a note because they come into every question on certain relationship topics to tell the OP they're a horrible person.

Basically if we're looking for a consensus around heavier moderation of these spleen-venting answers, sign me up.
posted by lalex at 12:54 PM on November 27 [65 favorites]


AskMe responses seem to be getting meaner over the years.

What period are we talking about here? Because I remember some super-shitty answers that still rile me up from before 2010.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:55 PM on November 27 [29 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not really sure I agree that it's getting worse. When my son was one year old I posted an anon question about the way he was acting and one of the answers was "man, kids are straight-up bitches."

Which, I mean, totally true and all that but not exactly helpful.

I think it's always been a problem and short of an increase in moderation (which I don't think too many people want) it always will be, but it's good to review it like this once in a while because I think sometimes as users we forget that there's a human on the other end of the question.
posted by bondcliff at 1:10 PM on November 27 [8 favorites]


I’ve noticed this as well. I tend to chalk it up to the trying times we’re living in.
I always remind myself that reading a question does not commit me to replying. I can always just move on without interacting at all.
posted by bookmammal at 1:20 PM on November 27 [7 favorites]


Over the years, I have submitted a couple of anonymous questions to which I received wonderful, supportive answers that helped me change my life. I also submitted one that made me feel like a wretch over what turned out to be a symptom of depression. That was several years ago, and I don't think it would happen today. But I would advise anyone to be very wary of submitting a question in which they might possibly be construed as the Bad Guy.

I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I have piled on to people on AskMefi. I hope I have been better about this in the past few years, here and elsewhere.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:21 PM on November 27 [9 favorites]


When my son was one year old I posted an anon question about the way he was acting and one of the answers was "man, kids are straight-up bitches."

That seems like someone trying to be empathetic, not mean, but maybe there was context at the time that made it seem particularly unfriendly.

I have been trying not to pile on people but there's a fair few AskMe relationship questions that strike me as "Here is a long story about how I feel I have been wronged, please agree with me about how wrongity wrong my spouse is so I can go tell them they are wrongest wronger ever to wrong someone." Usually I just send a link to those to RainyJay and she and I mock them over Facebook Messenger rather than replying. I'm not sure that's really an improvement, but at least the Asker doesn't have to read it.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:31 PM on November 27 [30 favorites]


I don't think much has changed. Over the years I've tried to introduce friends to this site, and the harshness/judgement has chased away every single one of them for the most part. I stopped mentioning the site to people back in 2010(?) for that reason. Personally, I am guilty of harshness in the face of sexism and racism, and I cannot find it in me to be kinder about that kind of thing. I don't think it's something to coddle a person over, and I don't regret my harshness in those cases. Honestly, I don't think people want sexist/racist questions here to begin with, so I consider it a net win if people are hesitant to post such things without really thinking it through. Sidenote: I once asked for some career advice given some personal challenges, and was told by multiple people that there was basically no hope for me, and that retail or similar was probably my best bet. Yeesh. That was with an MA and an Ivy League undergrad and blah blah blah. So yeah, this place can be cruel and weirdly harsh. But some AskMes absolutely deserve a big slap of reality.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:33 PM on November 27 [13 favorites]


That seems like someone trying to be empathetic, not mean, but maybe there was context at the time that made it seem particularly unfriendly.

That was the entire answer. It's true, it wasn't mean, at least not towards me, but it was unhelpful and rather harsh. Basically a shitty answer.
posted by bondcliff at 1:39 PM on November 27


Sometimes I feel like the quality of the discourse on the rest of the site was better/nicer/more tolerant back when MeTa was where everybody went to fight and be awful to each other. Now MeTa is 90% group therapy and community-building exercises and the rest of the site feels a hell of a lot more prickly. I dunno. I guess the demise of the individual-user-callout-thread makes it worth the tradeoff.

I've been trying to make the effort to write better AskMe answers and edit the judgyness out.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:06 PM on November 27 [36 favorites]


Agreed with all of this. I think part of this stems from people reading the question, but failing to consider that there's details left unsaid, because of brevity, complexity, assumed knowledge, whatever. That's on both the OP and the answerer to correct, but something I notice frequently.

For example, I feel like if I asked "Joe and I have been best friends for 37 years and Joe likes Coke, but I like Pepsi and I just started drinking coffee too. I know this isn't a big deal, but how can I tell Joe about the coffee?"
there'd be lots of helpful comments, as well as a few less helpful ones:
"Why are you assuming Joe likes Coke?"
"You say you're best friends, but are you really?"
"Why are you rudely ignoring Dr. Pepper?"

In this hypothetical, I wish people would realize that there's a lot I didn't say about our relationship, and trust that I know Joe's preferences, our status, and that other drinks are probably out of scope for whatever reason.
posted by matrixclown at 2:16 PM on November 27 [10 favorites]


"This is a community member in need; let's be nice to the asker at least" on the Green.
I agree this is where we should start, but if someone reveals they are being abusive, sexist, or racist in a question, I don't think they should be coddled. It's my hard line and I see I am not alone.

One recent AskMe was from someone being emotionally abused and the OP needed that confirmation from others. I think that one went well, for the most part. The problem is that everyone wants to treat all situations like that one, with exactly one hero and one villain. Most are not and involve so much more nuance.
posted by soelo at 2:17 PM on November 27 [17 favorites]


My concern is that some of what's getting put in the "mean" bucket here is actually way less tolerance of Not Okay attitudes and a reduction in the gentle swaddling treatment of people who want to come in here with them*, along with what I think is a visibly reduced tolerance for people who do not want to hear answers they don't like (especially if they ask the same ones over and over). And I think it is fine for those things to happen even if they seem mean.

*MOST of the time, I do think this is happening in relative good faith, like "I don't understand why my entitlement makes me feel sad" rather than "Hey, doodz, watch me go stir up Metafilter" though there have been the occasional ones that made me cock my head, some of which have been deleted pretty quickly so I must not have been the only one.

I do think the tone to a lot of responses these days, and a lot of people's general lives, has become more frank and straightforward and tired, even when the answers are helpful or at least attempting to be helpful, and that's just...how the world is now. But I also think that some people read firmness or frankness or breaking shit down to simplest components as mean or aggressive or confrontational, seeing it as a challenge or accusation rather than an arm around the shoulder, which I think is where a lot of those answers are actually coming from. It is "I am telling you a hard thing, it sucks, but I believe that if you hear this it will help you" not "you are bad and failing and I'm telling you why".

(And how much of this circles back, yet again, to women or people perceived as women or not-men needing to wrap everything they say and do in 17 layers of bubble wrap or they are "angry" or "bitches" or "out of line"? Because that is also a thing that people are giving up, and it may be a shock.)

One of the features - at least as much so as it is a bug - to crowdsourcing advice is that answerers are going to read questions from their own personal perspectives, including completely misreading or missing critical points. I have started flagging answers that just flat out miss certain parameters in the question (like "call and ask your mom" when OP says "my parents are dead"), but I also don't think askers should expect to be able to take entire answers off the table ("don't tell me to leave the abusive relationship I have just described"). They are free to ignore the answers they are not ready to hear or that don't even apply, but I do think if you want to belly up to the bar and ask people to do work for you for free, it's fair game for them to do the work from their perspective. And that's going to mean judgement, when you're literally asking people to evaluate the information you present them in order to return a response. It may sting, especially when it hits home, but it's not necessarily a thing the world needs to have eradicated.

In part because you never know when one person's very particular take is actually going to hit the nail on the head and make the realest sense to the Asker (and when someone else's response is going to resonate with someone just reading the thread one day). If you think of these questions as something like a poll rather than every answer meant to be perfect and actionable, it may take some of the sting out of all the stuff that doesn't always work right.

It's felt to me like the worst drive-by answers are down in the past couple of years. There was a point where every post - Blue or Green - was as much fuck-around replies/jokes as actual engagement, and maybe that softened some people's perceptions of the overall tone but I found it annoying to wade through even when the jokes were funny. I feel like even when a response is harsh it's still pretty thoroughly considered; I don't think people are being mean for sport (though we may all be crankier overall) for the most part.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:48 PM on November 27 [105 favorites]


I could well be wrong, but it seems like several folks (and maybe the OP? though they can speak to this if they care to, of course) are gesturing or hinting at a specific, recent human relations AskMe that turned into / was allowed to become a pile-on. I’d personally prefer it if people were explicit about their examples where reasonable. If you’re thinking of that (or any) particular question, then please say so.

I know we don’t want to get sucked into litigating specific cases, but I feel badly for the folks who have no idea what may be going on in the background here.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 3:00 PM on November 27 [11 favorites]


lazuli can address that if she wants, but this MeTa is pretty carefully framed to not be about that specific question, and imo it would be great if we could avoid this thread (which is more general) turning into a referendum on that one thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:03 PM on November 27 [10 favorites]


One reason I've mostly stayed away from AskMe (green) is that it feels very aggressive at times. A lot of the questions posed are very personal and they impact a person's life in significant ways, so I understand that a lot of the questions and answers need to be treated with a level of seriousness. But often times the answers I'm seeing or just the general tone of the responses seem to be geared with a kind of meanness, a kind of "I'm better at this than you, how are you not able to see the error of your ways".

Maybe it's just the specific personal human-relations types of threads that I've stumbled into, but for me there is a kind of negative mood with the conversation/answers that surrounds these questions that keeps me a bit further way. Take that with a grain of salt, but that's just my impression.
posted by Fizz at 3:05 PM on November 27 [18 favorites]


what went on in that one thread is a more intense, larger-scale version of what goes on in other threads, and usually doesn't rise to the level of Michael_Jackson_eating_popcorn.gif, but still happens fairly often.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:07 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the mod response, LM. I appreciate your point and agree with you that this thread should not be a referendum on that thread. I’ll bow out.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 3:09 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


I could well be wrong, but it seems like several folks (and maybe the OP? though they can speak to this if they care to, of course) are gesturing or hinting at a specific, recent human relations AskMe that turned into / was allowed to become a pile-on.

Well I think part of the issue is that at least recently there have been some AskMe threads (I can think of a few) that spilled over into MeTa in a way that just basically doesn't happen anymore (usually), so it was interesting to see it happening (and possibly a lot less interesting if you were one of the people involved).

I was actually close to writing to mods because I've felt this too. This could possibly be my own thin skin about stuff (I am sensitive) but could also be that some of the same JudgeMe people have more free time on their hands and so are in a LOT of the threads with LONG answers that sort of border on "Your brain doesn't work right, mine does, let me explain this to you as if you were sort of not very bright" or very shrill "YOU DO THIS RIGHT NOW OR YOU ARE RISKING A TERRIBLE FATE"

Mods are good at deleting the worst of the latter type of answers. Not as quick to delete the first sort which, to be honest, maybe aren't deleteworthy but they do make AskMe feel more hostile-to-n00bs. I was in one recently (not any of the human relations ones) where people were very much like "There is ONLY ONE WAY to do a certain thing and everyone else is GROSS" and I feel like if you don't qualify something like that with "In my opinion.... which may be a little assertively stated but it's how I feel" it can really seem judgmental of other people who may not feel the same, or as strongly.

I think it's useful to understand that there are a lot of different types of people in the world and it's easy in internet-people land to feel like we've got it all figured out, but we often don't. A little more "Hey it's a big world out there" acknowledgment can go a long way.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:18 PM on November 27 [58 favorites]


My impression of Metafilter in general over the course of the last dozen years is that it does a good number of things very, very well. When it comes to compassion, it is usually the most compassionate online community I’ve encountered. When it comes to intelligence, it is by far one of the very smartest corners of the Internet. When it comes to understanding and inclusion, it has the broadest of horizons. When a person needs help, the kind of generosity I have witnessed here is truly wonderful. When it comes to gratitude, people here can be ever so thankful.

Personally, I have both laughed until it hurt and cried until my eyes were red based on things I have read here.

The problem, as I see it, is that when Metafilter wants to be mean, it can also be very mean.

I guess what I am saying is that Metafilter is as imperfectly wonderful as all of us, the people who make it what it is. I have personally been quite disappointed here from time to time, but when I am, I ask myself if the good outweighs the bad, and it does. I just think the challenge for all communications in this digital medium is always being mindful of the real flesh and blood on the other side of those pixels.
posted by 4ster at 3:18 PM on November 27 [30 favorites]


Sometimes an Asker is in serious need of having their assumptions checked, most usually IMO when those assumptions are gross and sexist. However, once an Answerer or two has taken care of that (and it usually happens pretty quickly) there's little to be gained from piling on.

I would love it if the mods would prune pile-ons much more aggressively in AskMe. Why don't they already? If the issue is a lack of flagging, I feel like asking members to do more of it would likely help some.

I get that it's cathartic to unload on some unsuspecting naif who wanders into Ask with a big ol' bucket of unexamined privilege, but once is probably enough. We don't all need to do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:22 PM on November 27 [37 favorites]


I have often thought it might be better if people were asked not to advise or comment directly, but merely relate any experiences of their own they thought might be relevant. That means the OP is somewhat protected from criticism and also that people who have no relevant experience shut up.
posted by Segundus at 3:28 PM on November 27 [5 favorites]


I am not sure how to phrase the text around the answer box so that someone who would think "yes, this thread with 100+ snarky comments definitely needs my unique contribution" decides otherwise.
posted by quaking fajita at 3:40 PM on November 27 [18 favorites]


In the first few, when ask went online got a little flippancy going but not really a place to try the collapsing hat rack. Thing is, the OP has a bit more latitude to help quell that shit .
posted by clavdivs at 3:57 PM on November 27


The pile-on one is one where I do not think the solution was for people to be substantially more polite. I don't currently flag because it seems like the general consensus at the moment is that such questions should stand, but if people aren't allowed to actually point out gross misogyny to the question asker, then I think questions like that should fall into the same category as any other question asking how to harm other people or using bigoted language, and not be considered an acceptable use of AskMe. The trouble, I realize, is that it might be hard to tell who wants to try to be a better person and who doesn't from the original text of the question, but if somebody openly describes female coworkers and making sexual overtures at said female coworkers that way, I'm not super comfortable with the idea that we need to be making them feel more welcome, here.

The fact that people reacted the way they did to that question is basically the one thing that lets me feel like posts like that being allowed to stay up is not in itself hostile to women. Start deleting them and I will be happy to flag and move on. Someone who wrote in similarly dehumanizing terms about coworkers in other marginalized groups, exactly the same deal, it's not something I want applied only to women, but I am not okay with the idea that it is the responsibility of the female users to either ignore or respond politely to women being talked about in that manner.
posted by Sequence at 4:19 PM on November 27 [84 favorites]


+1 to Sequence. I personally do not want that “should I leave my wife and infant daughter so I can hit on my stacked blonde coworker” guy, who got an account here to ask that question, taking up space in this community. I feel like the aggressive pile-on he got was basically Ask exhibiting an immune response, like white blood cells swarming a pathogen. IDK if I’m the right person to talk about this because when I first joined the site I caught a couple of heavy bans for being too aggressive in Ask, but I don’t think chasing misogynist men out of the community is a bad thing.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:27 PM on November 27 [67 favorites]


Well, I was speaking in generalities rather than about the specific thread that we're all carefully not quite mentioning, but I would say that maybe four or five witheringly potent dismantlings of that Asker's worldview (which I agree was all kinds of gross), followed by a mod note saying in effect, "Points made, if you have nothing new to contribute please move on," would probably have been sufficient, rather than one hundred and forty-three.

I still don't understand why that question was allowed to go the way it did, but it really was just one example (albeit an egregious one) of a phenomenon that happens in AskMe with some regularity, and it's not always centered around the Asker's sexism, although I agree that that's probably the most common cause.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:28 PM on November 27 [24 favorites]


I don't feel ask.me has gotten more mean. I do feel the relationship questions and the more vague general requests for advice on being human (rather than practical questions for advice on, say, replacing a leaky faucet) are more common and more dominant. This leads to not only a more conversational "well, this is how I do it" answer but also leads to a willingness to assert a belief that there is an actual correct answer. With this belief comes a certain pre-emptive denial that other approaches are valid. I think the pre-emptive denial attempts to counter the (sound) mod practice of discouraging back-and-forth between answerers or OPs & answerers--because we know we can't come back in to defend our position if challenged on it, we frontload our answers with THIS IS WHY I AM RIGHT.

But that frontloading and the part where people come in with the language to telegraph that this is One Approach to Rule Them All--I don't think that's new or on the rise. I think it's just more relentless because so many questions are "How should I feel about this?" or "How do I cope with this?" or "Do they really like me?" And we just can't answer that. All we can do is say "well, this is how I would work through such a situation."

And there's as many of those answers as there are individuals. But most/many/some of us are always going to answer using language that attempts to make our answer the right answer.

And every time I find myself in one of those threads, hitting "favorite" on an answer or typing and deleting an answer or (god forbid) typing and posting an answer, I am more than a little angry at myself.
posted by crush at 4:38 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


I'm side-eyeing any arguments that well, sometimes we need to pile-on some asker because they're just so objectively terrible really, really hard. If they're that bad they should be flagged and deleted. Pile-ons are fucking toxic, even when there's a genuine asshole at the bottom of the pile.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:41 PM on November 27 [57 favorites]


it really was just one example (albeit an egregious one) of a phenomenon that happens in AskMe with some regularity, and it's not always centered around the Asker's sexism

Indeed. There is a tendency in askmefi I think to assume the absolute worst when it comes to romantic and familial relationships.

I think it's good to remember, the job of ask.me is to help people. If you're posting an answer, ask the question, "is this answer going to help the person, and make them feel a bit better?" If the answer is no, think twice before posting.

It's not about being right, telling someone they're bad and should feel bad, or just having an opinion (I roll my eyes when people are like "I'm not a Blah, and have no experience with Blah, have you considered X?" Like, just accept you really should not be weighing into the question.)
posted by smoke at 4:43 PM on November 27 [12 favorites]


I think the mods do just that very well. I love to read the green and try to answer when I have an answer or suggestion. I don't think it has been getting meaner, for the record.
posted by vrakatar at 4:44 PM on November 27 [5 favorites]


There is a tendency in askmefi I think to assume the absolute worst when it comes to romantic and familial relationships.

There was an ask recently where a child had done something wrong, I don't remember what exactly, and the mother wanted to punish the child and everyone (myself included) was piling on and saying "no, the kid is just a kid!" and stuff and then the OP updated the thread and it was pretty obvious it had been posted during peak exasperation and she was tired and fed up and and soon as she posted that everyone's attitude suddenly changed and everyone was more empathetic and understanding. It didn't really change our answers, but the answers were expressed in a much nicer way afterwards.

It made me wish I had just gone and assumed that in the first place, rather than being so harsh. If this were The Wonder Years there'd be some sort of narration right about now, about how I changed a bit that day, and then we'd go to commercial.
posted by bondcliff at 4:51 PM on November 27 [55 favorites]


I guess for the record I don't think AskMe has been getting meaner either—I think pile-ons have always been a problem there, and on the Blue too for that matter. I'm not claiming to be perfect, I know I've participated in them before, but I still think they're toxic. Even when the target deserves it, I still think they're bad for the people doing the piling on. I think that much venom is just bad for the community as a whole, that it corrodes the souls of the people who engage in that kind of mob justice. Again, I'm as guilty as anyone. I think we should try to be better though, and I wish the mods felt more empowered to step in when the members succumbed to the temptation to unleash some righteous fire on a deserving target.

I've said my piece though, I guess. I understand why people would disagree with me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:52 PM on November 27 [12 favorites]


I pretty much think that since Jessamyn has left, AskMe has been different. I think, overall, since she's left, the entire site has been different. I don't think anyone of us realized what a huge impact she had on the site was, until she left, and I, for one, am very sorry she's gone as a full time moderator.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:01 PM on November 27 [85 favorites]


what went on in that one thread is a more intense, larger-scale version of what goes on in other threads, and usually doesn't rise to the level of Michael_Jackson_eating_popcorn.gif, but still happens fairly often.

And so why are the usual approaches of flagging and/or emailing the mods not working?

These days, for me, I feel like most of what I flag doesn't get removed, so I must be out of line with what the moderators want for the site. Maybe the same is true for everyone who feels AskMe is too mean.
posted by Squeak Attack at 5:18 PM on November 27 [7 favorites]


I feel like the aggressive pile-on he got was basically Ask exhibiting an immune response, like white blood cells swarming a pathogen.

I feel like at least one of the (elliptically discussed) AskMes was a deletion miss that ended up passing on the response onus to users - primarily female users in this case.

Wouldn't a deletion with a note, i.e., "Get a better handle on the guidelines for the site and have another look at your question and the misogynist language it contains and then we're happy to see you repost it," have been a better way to handle it, especially once it became apparent that people were going to react with a pile on?

If they're that bad they should be flagged and deleted.

Exactly. If the question is upsetting people so much that an epic pile-on ensues, maybe the question isn't something that needs to be there? I realize it can be a fine line, but clueless dudebros (or probable trolls) don't need the benefit of the doubt - worst case scenario is a deletion of the question with a note to reframe and repost later.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:24 PM on November 27 [20 favorites]


I'm side-eyeing any arguments that well, sometimes we need to pile-on some asker because they're just so objectively terrible really, really hard.

true in theory but when confronted, the dude "apologized" for his behavior by using ableist slurs, at which point what. do what, exactly. delete the whole question and pretend it never happened? wait til he busts out with a third gross level of bigotry?
posted by poffin boffin at 5:43 PM on November 27 [46 favorites]


I was looking at an AskMe relationship question pileup the other day, and I wondered if such questions could be closed more quickly than other AskMes, maybe in response to a flag. I understand that many people have the urge to respond to these questions, and either don't read all the previous responses or feel they have something to say, or a way to say it, that might reach the asker, but it gets to be repetitive and overbearing very quickly.
posted by Orlop at 5:48 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


I do think that closing posts before the one year might be the way to go. We have moderators because we want certain behaviors curated and curtailed here. I think r/legaladvice does good, where threads are closed but they can go have their field day at r/bestoflegaladvice. For us it would be like closing a thread on askme but letting people continue to complain here? But I guess we don't want to do that here?
posted by frecklefaerie at 5:58 PM on November 27


I may be biased, but it seems to me there were a few specific extremely patient, kind, and wise MeFites who used to be regulars on AskMe and who have, over the past few years, left the site. I know a few of them IRL and wish they'd return, because their contributions were both prolific and wonderful. Not that there aren't lots of wonderful people here now, but I'm just saying I miss a few specific people, is all.
posted by The World Famous at 6:04 PM on November 27 [20 favorites]


true in theory but when confronted, the dude "apologized" for his behavior by using ableist slurs, at which point what. do what, exactly. delete the whole question and pretend it never happened? wait til he busts out with a third gross level of bigotry?

I don't think that deleting (or closing, and leaving up, whatever) a thread is the same as pretending it never happened.

The asker might have deserved every response he got, but an anonymous pile on Ask Metafilter thread isn't justice.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:10 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


delete the whole question and pretend it never happened?

Sure. I'm not particularly attached to the site norms around when it's "too late" to delete a post.
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:20 PM on November 27 [5 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl's comment up thread neatly encapsulates how I feel about askme as well. I suspect i started adding a similar disclaimer to my infrequent questions after seeing hers. Like lalex, I usually bow out before answering questions if a thread gets too vicious.

I do feel AskMe has gotten nastier and far less forgiving. Also that more commenters are not reading questions. I don't know what the solution is, but I do think it has gotten worse since Jessamyn left. That could be a timing coincidence, projection on my part or a result of her unique moderation style. I wish nastier and less helpful comments would be deleted more often. And not just in AskMe.

Perhaps it's a reflection of a larger change in the site community as well. My own participation here has dropped precipitously for similar reasons.

Frankly, i would also like to see some super-frequent answerers use better judgement regarding whether their input is actually needed before they comment.
posted by zarq at 6:35 PM on November 27 [24 favorites]


The pile on was intense.

The original post was extremely upsetting and weird to me. I actually thought at first that it was an author workshopping a fictional character.

I was surprised by the amount of back and forth that was allowed.

All that being said, I read every single comment and through the back and forth I did learn things that influenced the answer I ultimately wrote (hopefully not an example of “you THINK you were asking Y but you were actually asking X).

One benefit of there being so many comments is that it took me a long time to read them and gave me a chance to calm down before I wrote my response.

It’s difficult for me to read “mean” in this context. I feel concerned that we are saying that it’s mean to state that something is sexist or ableist. I understand that people are distinguishing between saying that once vs over and over but I think multiple people saying it, multiple times is an expression of community norms.
posted by CMcG at 6:41 PM on November 27 [23 favorites]


Am I the only person who hasn't noticed this? I do feel like questions have to be sometimes HIGHLY tuned or else the responses will be all over the place (although this has gotten better recently for me anyway?) but "meaner" isn't something I am noticing.
posted by bleep at 8:16 PM on November 27 [15 favorites]


Year 2021:

ask.metafilter.com/XXXX
OP: My significant other is disagreeable and should be shown photos of beautlful lilies till they regret their behavior. What should I do? [Question has been edited by MF for potentially triggering content.]

Standard disclaimer: Authorized Metafilter Respondents (AR1, AR2, etc) are not physicians, legal representatives, nutritionists, counselors, or other qualified experts. No advice is given or intended. Responses are opinions only and should not be relied upon in any manner. By continuing to read this website and its subsites, you agree to this disclaimer. This disclaimer may be changed at any point, without notice, unless it concerns financial matters--which must be discussed ad infinitum with great detail being presented with a suitable level of abject prostration and groveling because all members of the site are keen financial experts of the highest caliber.

AR1: Please consider a personal or family therapist.

AR2: ARE YOU ME? I AM YOU. Do what I did . . .

AR3: Please consider consciously decoupling in as mutually agreeable a manner and time as possible. (Formerly known as DTMFA.)

AR4: If you have dependents, you probably shouldn't leave because they are the first priority.

AR5: If you have dependents, you should probably leave because they are the first priority.

AR6: Call the police.

AR mod: A jokey comment that might have been here has not been posted because it would have been deleted.

This post has been closed to further comments as the community has decided that all reasonable and allowable responses have been generated by the designated volunteer respondents.

ask.metafilter.com/XXXXX

OP#2: My significant other is sometimes irritable. What should I do?

Auto response email from Authorized Respondent:
The question has not been posted as the community has decided that your question is essentially similar to ask.metafilter.com/XXXX. Thank you for using Ask.Metafilter! We welcome your participation! Have a happy day!
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 8:55 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


I don't know that the site is meaner. But there is more push back against comments that might be too blunt or upsetting to the poster or just a random reader. Change happens and Mefi's cycles of change seem to come faster than in the past.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 9:00 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


delete the whole question and pretend it never happened?

One online community I’m part of considers this type of deletion a very serious gaslighting. If a question/comment was hurtful enough to warrant deletion, then the person(s) affected might find its absence a kind of dismissal or invalidation of their experience with it. AskMe is structured differently from Facebook and similar sites, but this might be something to consider when we suggest deletion as a panacea.

On another point, I just read the thread in question, and wowee. I already made a dig at Reddit in an earlier comment here, but this guy’s post had MGTOW all over it, and I’d be shocked if this was the first place he’s posted that question. I almost wonder if it was a troll. Or an attempt to get material for a “field report” from a site of known SJWs. In cases where it’s 50/50 whether the OP is writing in good faith, I don’t know if we should be overly concerned about being “mean.”
posted by witchen at 9:12 PM on November 27 [14 favorites]


I feel concerned that we are saying that it’s mean to state that something is sexist or ableist.

I definitely think it's ok to point out when something's sexist/ableist/etc., and in fact I think it's helpful and useful. But there's a difference between stating or explaining that and the kind of vicious comments and pile-ons I hate seeing in AskMe.

I'd loosely define the stuff I object to as being posted mainly in order to satisfy the answerer, as opposed to helping the asker.

If a question makes you feel like you cannot summon an iota of empathy of the OP...I totally get it, it's happened to me, but it's OK to skip it. I think AskMe functions best when people are treated in good faith; they're coming here for help.
posted by lalex at 9:19 PM on November 27 [13 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if there isn't an AskMe cabal that flags comments that are not part of a general pile-on.. I doubt anyone would notice a subtle effort on the part of a select group of like-minded users.
posted by some loser at 9:23 PM on November 27


. In cases where it’s 50/50 whether the OP is writing in good faith

Hmm, I think this may be an example where the norms or metafilter and the norms of the broader population may be out of step - and that doesn't mean an absence of good faith, it means people don't know better (e.g. dude seemed not to understand what the word 'stacked' meant, at all; we had a meta about use of the word 'retarded' here not so long ago and a number of mefites said they weren't aware of why that word is generally offensive, so I would be hesitant to immediately think 'troll').

I've noticed posters like this pop-up maybe once or twice a month. It may be a different norm, there was a question recently with like 800 words above the fold, the tone was very "unmefi". I observe what happens with these people is they tend to ask one question, and then leave; or maybe two or three and then fade out.

As a web community, mefi is very different from what's out there, it's understandable people take some time to learn the differences, and I think we should avoid excoriating them where we can. We tend to take for granted our familiarity with site norms (and other privileges), I'd like if we didn't scare people off. The site's declining active membership base will not correct if we continue to fade out on google and scare off potential new members.

That dude copped an absolute pasting in his ask.me. I've received far gentler responses to anon questions that hurt the shit out of me, and really made a hard time worse, and I certainly wanted to respond without a lot more vitriol than he did in his follow ups (thanks Jessamyn for telling me to get a grip that time!). I don't want to make anyone else feel like that, if I can avoid it - even if they did say a dumb sexist thing - there's enough pain to go around already.
posted by smoke at 10:05 PM on November 27 [26 favorites]


The pile-on one is one where I do not think the solution was for people to be substantially more polite.

Yeah, I think - one thing that I think does need to be said is that minority groups and women are literally under attack, in many cases physical, in an escalating way over the last two years. Anti-Semitic hate crimes in my city are up 42% over the last year. We've had a lot of physical attacks on women and POC that the city isn't even bothering to count. Nazis march through our streets yelling slurs. Like - yes, maybe the responses were not super polite to that much naked sexism, but like - a lot of us are feeling under threat for our lives right now, and I think it's worth noting that. It is a hard bar to clear to take "I directly caused harm to a woman because I don't think her life is as valuable as mine" in good faith right now. I tried really hard, but I was definitely feeling that response emotionally at least.
posted by corb at 10:21 PM on November 27 [81 favorites]


I guess I'm on the side of, some questions are a hot mess and have a lot of nastiness embedded in them and I'm not sure how they got posted and why the mods allowed so much back and forth from the OP without a more strenuous "knock it off." I haven't been here very long compared to many, but I don't find AskMe participants to be mean, necessarily; I do think that perhaps it's become more blunt (which I don't think is the same thing). Post an offensive question and offensive follow ups and people tend to be less interested in softball answers. I think it's up to the mods to intervene more quickly in many instances. I also think it's helpful when newbies lurk on Ask a bit more--you get a sense of, "oh, here's the person whose answer for everything is DMTA or a lawsuit; here are the two people on Team Eat Everything vs Team Always Toss It" etc.
posted by TwoStride at 10:26 PM on November 27 [10 favorites]


Also I think AskMe would be substantially better if you just flat-out couldn't ask questions along the lines of, "But whyyy can't I sexually harrass women I find attractive? Especially at work/on the bus/wherever?"
posted by TwoStride at 10:28 PM on November 27 [14 favorites]


That's a great point, Corb.
posted by smoke at 10:36 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


It keeps me from posting anything but the most fact-based or unimportant questions, so I suspect it keeps other people from posting substantial questions, too.

I just want to say that I've been going through some really rough life stuff based around the end of a relationship and I really could use some advice and help, but I was too afraid to post about it. I really wanted to, but I didn't, because often in relationship questions I feel like there is a weird "tough love brigade" where people answer in ways that would probably make me feel really stupid and ashamed of having the feelings I have currently (even if I know said feelings might be stupid given the circumstances). I am far, far too fragile to deal with that kind of "help" right now.

I'm not saying it's necessarily a new thing, but it has certainly kept me from trying to get help from a community I generally trust.
posted by primalux at 10:43 PM on November 27 [31 favorites]


Yeah the tough-love stuff is just outdated, authoritarian psychology and not helpful.
Related but not the same, I think it's tempting to criticize people for social justice reasons (as I am wont to do many a time), but then it's not about that individual's needs anymore. In an AskMe, it's not a helpful mode of communication. It's not like on the Blue when it's often a normal part of discussion to critique/criticize the article or the author. In contrast, AskMe is an interpersonal context and the power dynamic there is someone exposing their vulnerability and a little bit of their complex circumstance, which readers and answerers can't fully access. Unless you're intending to argue with someone, a golden rule of thumb is that people don't react well to criticism or bluntness or "being forthright" (i've seen that one before) unless they genuinely invited it, and what does seem to help is being kind and nonjudgmental.

If an AskMe question is being racist or misogynistic, then that's pretty harmful but I don't think it's within the scope of answers to fix that. To me, it's more like, the question needs to be rewritten because it violates guidelines.
posted by polymodus at 10:48 PM on November 27 [18 favorites]


is this answer going to help the person, and make them feel a bit better?

I don’t know whether I actually want sexists to feel better. Should I?
posted by greermahoney at 10:57 PM on November 27 [27 favorites]


I have no idea what AskMe thread people are referring to. That's okay; I don't want to know. I do want to make explicit that some of us aren't talking about "that thread," whatever it was. We're talking about a broad issue.

I'll offer a suggestion that may seem counterintuitive, but I think—for myself, at least—it would significantly help the problem we're talking about here: MetaFilter should have a killfile or "block" option. The idea has been suggested and rejected many times before, and I hope this comment doesn't spark a derail about it; but to the extent anyone is scratching their head wondering where this meanness is coming from, I'll chime that I see people in this very thread insisting it's okay, people who won't be convinced otherwise, and the only solution is for us to remove each other from sight. If this website offered that functionality like every other modern website does, I'd use it. (I use it on Twitter and Facebook.) Because it doesn't, I'm here less. I believe there is zero chance the meanness will go away. It's just what MetaFilter is now.
posted by cribcage at 11:17 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


I don’t know whether I actually want sexists to feel better. Should I?

That is the purpose of ask.me, yeah, to help people. If you find something offensive, flag it.
posted by smoke at 12:59 AM on November 28 [19 favorites]


The purpose of AskMe is for people to ask questions and have them answered. Not to make everyone feel better. Sometimes those answers are going to include information the OP does not want to hear. Or rejects. Sometimes, an answer -especially in a relationship question- may very well need to include a conclusion that something the OP feels or has done is sexist. The question linked above is an example of that. Pointing these things out can also fulfill the purpose of AskMe. They answer the question being asked.

Speaking more generally and not about that specific thread now:
There are no mechanisms here other than our own self control and moderator input to stop:
- pileons.
- answerers not reading questions (and revealing this in their irrelevant answers, or worse, answering in ways the OP specifically asked them not to.)
- answerers projecting their own personal issues on questions and questioners.
- answerers being nasty or cruel to an OP, or accusing an OP of things that are not in evidence.
- answerers giving the same advice in multiple threads regardless of context.

Etc., Etc.

Maybe one solution would be a flag brigade (as mentioned above). Bring more problems to the mods' attention. Because self-control doesn't seem to be working.
posted by zarq at 1:48 AM on November 28 [13 favorites]


Reading over this thread again, I am saddened to see that this is apparently a community where a lot of people are totally cool with being hateful, as long as we think the objects of our hatred deserve it. That's not what I thought this place was about, but here we are. I guess I've known for a while that that contingent existed here, but I didn't realize how much support it had until just now. More and more these days, I am feeling like I'm out of step with this community. It sucks. If I want bitterness and vitriol, there's no shortage of places to turn. I come here because I think we're smarter, kinder, braver than that. At least, I would like to think so.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:06 AM on November 28 [65 favorites]


I come here because I think we're smarter, kinder, braver than that. At least, I would like to think so.

I used to think so. Still think some people here are. Others, no. And frankly, I blame that on a moderation standard that places a higher value on second chances than divesting the site of repeated sources of hate speech.
posted by zarq at 3:48 AM on November 28 [6 favorites]


I no longer see it as limited to a small number of prolific commenters. It appears to be enshrined in site culture at this point. That's what I'm sad about.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:58 AM on November 28 [8 favorites]


Oftentimes, I'll read long-time MeFites say, gosh, they were young when they joined and WOW they've grown a lot and hoo boy what a jerk they used to be way back when and they're thankful the site is still here and that the community put up with them. I don't believe we afford that luxury of growth to people here anymore, especially if that person comes in with language we don't like.

In that Ask that went so poorly, that guy said words that I (sadly) hear on the train to work on a regular basis. He's not in the right, but I don't believe he's the worst example of scum and villiany out there, and I don't believe he came here to troll us. He came here looking for help, and maybe stories from people who made fucked up decisions in their marriages and summarized that hot awful mess (and I'm not defending his decisions) with, "But I want to do right here. " And then the pileon happened.

So do we want new people here or not? If we do, we need to realize that they're not all going to be just like the people we believe are here in our walled garden. Many of them are going to be like the people on my train. If we don't take the time to let them grow and not be assholes, our community is going to get smaller and smaller. Because like others, I'm sure not recommending this place to my friends and family at this point. They'd all run afoul one way or another.

You don't have to answer every AskMe, especially if you find that the topic, poster, or language is awful. We have plenty of people here who can answer with honesty, empathy, yet still manage to slip in the 'not cool to refer to your coworker like that' reminders.
posted by kimberussell at 4:25 AM on November 28 [99 favorites]


Thanks for writing that kimberussell. I wanted to write the exact same comment but was having a hard time putting it to words.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:27 AM on November 28 [6 favorites]


I think Segundus' idea is great. If nothing else, I would like it if the Ask comment box specifically prompted users to examine whether they have experience with the topic. Sometimes people ask serious questions with significant consequences, and I see that answerers actually typed words like "I have no idea" or "I've never heard of this" and then go on to recommend things as if they have helpful knowledge.

Mrs. Pterodactyl obviously makes a lot of great points, and #3, Question Detectives, is my favorite. That is a huge problem here. It seems like some people want to be the smartest person in the thread and invalidate the question instead of answering it. Second-guessing the asker results in so many responses that are unhelpful--and (insultingly) presume that the asker is stupid, or ignorant of factors that they simply didn't mention. Over the years, I have become irritated by those types of answers. Just answer the question and help the person, or don't.
posted by heatvision at 4:37 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]

we had a meta about use of the word 'retarded' here not so long ago and a number of mefites said they weren't aware of why that word is generally offensive, so I would be hesitant to immediately think 'troll'
He knew it was offensive, because he said "I'm not socially r-worded," not "I'm not socially retarded." I understand giving people the benefit of the doubt, but I also think that some behavior is unacceptable, and I would really like to think that the phrase "socially r-worded" falls in that category. I get not wanting to pile on or be cruel, but I don't want this site to bend so far in the other direction that we make excuses for really gross site behavior. Because honestly, I can't be a member of a community where "socially retarded" flies. That phrase is also cruel.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:59 AM on November 28 [22 favorites]


Can we go ahead and just link to the Ask now, since about 2/3 of the comments here reference it in some way? I get that that's not what this MeTa was meant to be about, but it's becoming more and more awkward to see people keep talking around it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:25 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I do feel AskMe has gotten nastier and far less forgiving. Also that more commenters are not reading questions. I don't know what the solution is, but I do think it has gotten worse since Jessamyn left.

That's exactly my feeling. I only ask the most straightforward questions now, never touching the friend/relationship/complex questions that I think often about asking even anonymously.

What particularly grates for me are the passive-aggressive "What did your [therapist/doctor/vet/lawyer] say?" answers. If you feel the question is best suited for a professional, there are more kind and direct ways of saying that.

I still read AskMe daily, occasionally offer answers, and always get value out of it. But my willingness to ask questions has dropped off.
posted by dayintoday at 5:29 AM on November 28 [6 favorites]


First, I do believe in kindness and opportunities for growth and I hope my answers reflect that.

I’m struggling with this thread because I think the OP is asking us to discuss a change in tone with Ask but there is the context of a question that hurt and offended people. People are saying if a question offends you, why not just move on? But couldn’t the same be said for answers that offend you? Why not just move on from those too? The idea that askers deserve some kind of bubble of benevolence only leads me to ask, why don’t answerers deserve the same grace?

I think this might come down to different conceptions of what Ask is. I see it as fully integrated with the site. A place where communication is happening not just between askers and answers but between all community members, especially when it comes to issues of community norms.

I suppose then it comes down: how do we enforce community norms? What if we feel the mods are not doing it? I suppose in the best possible world we would do it kindly, but, personally, I don’t feel upset that people were angry and hurt and that came out. I think answerers are human too.
posted by CMcG at 5:35 AM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The, let's stick to discussing this actual post as presented which is a larger point about all of Ask Metafilter.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:39 AM on November 28


Cool, can we get a little tighter moderation on that front then, please? I thought that ship sailed like 50 comments ago.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:42 AM on November 28 [22 favorites]


So do we want new people here or not? If we do, we need to realize that they're not all going to be just like the people we believe are here in our walled garden. Many of them are going to be like the people on my train. If we don't take the time to let them grow and not be assholes, our community is going to get smaller and smaller. Because like others, I'm sure not recommending this place to my friends and family at this point. They'd all run afoul one way or another.

I'm all for welcoming new people to the community here, as well as giving members the time and space to grow out of their asshole ways. One of the ways I think people get a handle on what kind of behaviour is acceptable here is by lurking, often for months or years before signing up or even posting anything. That's a great way of becoming a trusted and valued member. Unfortunately, some people will not have had the benefit of lurking and learning time before becoming members. Many will not have read the askme comment guidelines, even if they did read the signup page information carefully.

When setting expectations of people in my profession, I don't just point at instructions and ask them to read and internalize. I give them a test so I can make damn sure they know the stuff. Call it a tutorial, whatever, but give new members a mandatory crash-course in good metafiltery, with a 5 question test at the end. Have a pool of questions. If you've lurked for a little while, it should be a breeze. If not, you'll need to read up and try again. If you pass, go ahead and post. If not, go read up and come back and try again. It wouldn't resolve all the bad behaviours of course, which is why people should flag like crazy when appropriate. Do it more, my friends. Give the mod team a clearer radar image of mefi traffic!

Although I do think the overall quality of askme answers has gone down recently (which includes people being mean), I also think the quality of questions often leaves a lot to be desired. I'm often reminded of a comment cortex made on the podcast that the answer to all human relations questions should just be "it depends" (or words to that effect). Honestly, as much as commenters need to seriously ask themselves if their comment will help, askers just as often need to do a reality check with their questions. Lately, I've started to nope out of questions a lot that fall into that category. Don't add essential information above the fold and often write it at the very end of the question? No, sorry. And, although I've historically helped with some of the travel questions, the "plan my trip for me, thanks so much" questions are also on my nope-out list now. My point here being: not commenting is often a very good response to an objectionable question, or to one you simply don't like. Flag if necessary, by all means, but do remember that commenting is a choice, not an obligation.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:06 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


I’ve noticed that instead of strictly answering the question as stated there is more tolerance for debating OP’s version of the premise. Usually I think that is Not Helpful but sometimes I am glad for this new trend such as when the premise is chock full of bigotry and the OP follow ups are all “who me?” and doubling down on the problematic talk. I think a pile on can be useful then because OP seems to respond to sheer quantity, not just quality.

However I think those types of questions are anomalies and I am taking this meta as a reminder to be more thoughtful, more helpful, less harsh, when answering asks.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:10 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I’ve noticed that instead of strictly answering the question as stated there is more tolerance for debating OP’s version of the premise.

I have felt for a few years now that there used to be much more moderation support for stricter adherence to all sorts of AskMe guidelines, both on the part of the asker and the answerers. There was an AskMe culture that was established and discussed and enforced. Now it just seems like the site approach is, "oh we have too much going on with the political threads (whatever) and AskMe isn't super important and will fend for itself."

There is terrible chat filter staying up, people arguing with the poster and each other in the comments, people not reading the question and posting "answers" that were already covered in the question, people grinding their own personal axes over and over without really engaging with the question, and just piles of people posting really low value answers like one word suggestions with question marks, where they haven't done any checking themselves, and don't even provide a link.

AskMe was how I started on Metafilter and was my favorite section for years, but I think it's really been devalued in favor of other priorities over the past 3-4 years.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:46 AM on November 28 [33 favorites]


I agree with a lot of the comments about changes in the tone/content in the AskMe section, including Squeak Attack's comment just above. It may not be true, but it feels like there is a lighter-touch moderation style in the section, combined with a shift in users and/or user norms, that results in more answers that are wanting to be helpful but clearly aren't, answers that are people flogging their predictable talking points ("DTMFA!"), and answers that are unhelpfully arguing with the premise.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:10 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I would like questions which are made with an open mind an in good faith to be responded to with kindness and generosity, because that is the best of what humanity has to offer itself. It would be nice if respondents would stop guessing when they don't know, or read the question more thoroughly, but usually I do see earnest efforts to be wise and knowledgable.

I would also like entitled jerks with bad ideas and/or bad framing and/or bad assumptions and/or bad behaviour to be brought up short, because applying course correction to this kind of nonsense is also a useful thing for humanity to do. And sometimes when "excuse me" won't be listened to, "hey asshole" will be.

I feel like there will always be some dissent about when to respond in-kind and when to say ah-hem because every question and every answer is unique. I also feel like there is some real value in calling out crap, even if you're positive the original poster is just going to shine you on.

One thing I learned in the Facebook wars is that a lot of times you're not going to make any progress in arguing with an asshole uncle or racist neighbour, but your performance and record of having argued with him matters to other people who may not have given much thought to whatever the topic is, or don't feel their own opinion is valued or empowered, or would like to see how you'd argue with that person on that topic, because that gives them tools to deal with assholes in their own life.

I am not saying every misspoken Ask needs to receive cannon fire because no one needs to live in a war zone, please to note, but I am also saying that letting questionable thoughts/comments pass without comment also does not serve the greater good.

I think perhaps if anything what would help would be for people to read previous comments before jumping in on with their own thing if their own thing has already been covered in detail. I find using the + fave really helpful in these scenarios as an endorsement of a viewpoint.

Okay thanks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:22 AM on November 28 [31 favorites]


just piles of people posting really low value answers like one word suggestions with question marks, where they haven't done any checking themselves, and don't even provide a link.

That whole comment is great but this, oh man, it is so frustrating. It's like, if we're going by Mrs. Pterodactyl's excellent comment upthread, a little bit of 2 and a little bit of 4. People who mean well but just don't think about what the asker is asking. It's kind of a bummer to ask for, say, a recipe or something concrete like that, and just get back the name of a dish with no additional detail whatsoever. It's often not very helpful, and it's the kind of thing that could be made helpful with just a tiny bit of effort. Even if you just explain why you're suggesting it, even if you haven't made it. Like, if the asker is looking for a recipe for cake...

less helpful:
Chocolate cake!

more helpful:
Here is a link to a recipe I've made, in my experience it [whatever tweaks you've made or something if applicable].
or
I had a really great cake with [whatever flavor] recently, here is a recipe that I haven't tried but seems similar.

Those are not amazing examples but like, contribute something useful! Consider what the asker is seeking, and give them something to work with.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:23 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


I agree too - there is an exhausting amount of self-righteous telling-off, premise-questioning and vague spitballing in AskMe answers, and it's hard to head it off at the pass with the kinds of instructions that Ms Pterodactyl mentions; in fact, it sometimes seems to encourage people. None of this is as bad as the pile-ons, though. They are just plain bullying. The inhumane climate created by tolerating them seeps into other interactions, I think.
posted by ogorki at 7:24 AM on November 28 [3 favorites]


For what little it's worth, I personally think that premise-questioning answers are sometimes the most helpful answers. They're tricky to get right and sometimes they're just bad, but I think they have a place. Also, they aren't always mean—sometimes the kindest possible thing to do is re-frame a situation for someone so that they can see it in a different light.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:28 AM on November 28 [20 favorites]


Now it just seems like the site approach is, "oh we have too much going on with the political threads (whatever) and AskMe isn't super important and will fend for itself."

That is extremely harsh, in my opinion.
posted by Melismata at 7:33 AM on November 28 [9 favorites]


For what little it's worth, I personally think that premise-questioning answers are sometimes the most helpful answers.

Oh, I totally agree - when they're good answers. They have a low barrier to entry, though (often you don't actually need to know about the subject the asker is asking about, just do some close reading) so they make up a fair proportion of the "low quality" answers.
posted by ogorki at 7:43 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I personally think that premise-questioning answers are sometimes the most helpful answers. They're tricky to get right and sometimes they're just bad, but I think they have a place. Also, they aren't always mean—sometimes the kindest possible thing to do is re-frame a situation for someone so that they can see it in a different light.

This, very much. Like - sometimes the Asker is not a reliable narrator of other people's emotions and feelings and actions! This doesn't make them a bad person, it just means that sometimes it's hard to get a sense of what other people are doing when you're in the middle of things. And it's one of the best parts of Ask, when people say "I know you said that this person hates you, but isn't it possible they are dealing with their own stuff and it happens to come out in X way and actually this thing can totally be fixed?" or whatever.

it feels like there is a lighter-touch moderation style in the section,

I am obviously not a mod, but my guess would be that people are flagging less in Ask, which gives less eyeballs over there - but also, probably, that mods don't have the time to squat on an Ask in real-time anymore, because they're already squatting on the megathreads in real-time. One mod covers at a time, that means that they can't really get everything in less than fifteen minutes - and an hour is enough for something that's going to draw a lot of eyeballs to irretrievably turn the thread. If you have twenty comments saying one thing that's kind of hard for mods to moderate by the time they get there.
posted by corb at 7:44 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


I do wonder just how much the attention-suck that is the megathreads has increased the mods' reliance on flagging. My gut read is that flagging is actually super important in terms of helping the mods know where they need to be looking, but that most members hardly ever do it because there's no real feedback involved and also it feels kind of officious and tattletaley. Maybe we need some kind of flagging drive to get people to go out and flag some shit, get used to doing it, and make flagging part of their SOP. There's a lot of speculation and conjecture embedded in what I just said, but… maybe?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:51 AM on November 28 [5 favorites]


I would be interested in hearing from the moderators about the level of attention they give to different threads. For example, moderators appear to pay a lot of attention to the general politics thread, and I'm very happy they do so. The signal/noise ratio there is much higher than it otherwise would be. Is there a similar level of attention to AskMe threads that are likely to raise the grar?

I want heavier moderation of both the questions and comments in AskMe.

If a question is likely to go wrong here, it seems appropriate for a moderator to delete the question with a comment like "Feel free to resubmit in a week, but please edit to eliminate XXXX." The purpose of moderation, it seems to me, is to enforce community norms, and I would much prefer that to norm-enforcing through pile-on

I also want much heavier moderation of the comments in AskMe, particularly Human Relations. It's troubling to me how many very good and very active members are recounting bad experiences in Ask and are self censoring. I agree with them. This is a place I would like to recommend to others, but can't. The contempt for the questioner in some answers is awful. Early and heavy attention from the moderators could prevent much of this, I believe.

Finally, I oppose enforcing community norms here through pile-ons. There are really two Metafilter communities: frequent commenters and frequent readers. Without strict moderation, the power of the former can overwhelm the power of the latter.
posted by ferdydurke at 7:55 AM on November 28 [16 favorites]


okay, so I wrote this about 10 comments ago, but just going to go with it...

Just as a quick interjection, I would like to emphasize flagging, because we don't read every comment, obviously. I understand that almost everyone has flagged something that has remained, but we also remove a lot, and that is maybe less memorable. But I almost always delete "doesn't answer the question" / "(unnecessarily) questions the premise" when flagged or when I see them; I, personally, always delete "insulting" (but not always "harsh," because it's a finer line); I always delete answers that were covered in the question (OP: "I already tried X" / Comment: "You should try X!") I pretty much don't ever delete "predictable talking points" if it's addressing the question.

We have slightly mixed feelings on chatfilter, but we've been leaning toward a more flexible definition of that for questions that are mostly of the "how humans do [thing]" and similar, that are more about daily curiosities that seem interesting.

I'm glad to hear about specifics, and definitely want to be responsive, but I also do want to remind folks to flag, and I also want to say that if you ever have a question why something was not removed, we never, ever mind answering an inquiry. We may not always agree, but we are totally happy to discuss it. It is not an imposition! For myself, in many cases, I have to do a very fine reading of the original question to make decisions on some things. Sometimes people are quite specific about what sorts of solutions they are looking for, and that's easier for me. Other times they are like "Any advice / suggestions appreciated, in which case, on a borderline answer, I'm more likely to leave it, as long as it's pertinent. Other hard cases include cases like when the OP says something like "am I bad / stupid for feeling like / doing this," etc., and then some people answer "you are bad / stupid." *sigh*

I think serious pile-ons are a relatively uncommon issue, but a real problem when they happen. We don't really have a clear mechanism for dealing with them (ie: "okay, no more answers agreeing with earlier answers," or closing the thread to further answers), so I discussing ideas about that would be good. Right now, I feel like our best way forward is to delete questions that include the sorts of language or assumptions that tend to spark the reaction, and discuss with OP how to reframe, and this will sometimes necessarily happen after it's been active a while, which is a bit of a complication and confusing, but still preferable.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:55 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I'd loosely define the stuff I object to as being posted mainly in order to satisfy the answerer, as opposed to helping the asker.

That is a lot of what I meant by my post. When AskMe started, the tone was markedly different from the Blue; the focus was generally on helping the asker. It feels to me like it's shifted toward an AskMe question being treated as just another version of a link in an FPP -- something to react to or opine on. There's less sense of "Here's a community member reaching out for help."

In a thread on the Blue, if someone drops in with a sexist/racist/offensive/misguided/whatever comment, I have no problem with people pushing back in whatever mode they want, as long as it falls within the general MeFi guidelines. I don't think those responses need to be "nice" or particularly helpful to the commenter.

But on AskMe, as a few others have pointed out, the asker is not exactly dropping into an ongoing conversation and disrupting it. They're asking for help. A user specifically going into the part of the site where other users are asking for help and then saying they don't want to undertake the emotional labor to help those users in ways that are useful to the user does not make sense to me. Pointing out problematic stuff can, of course, be done in ways that are useful to the asker, and I'm not saying we should never do it, but it seems like the tone is often more "I'm pointing this out to show that I'm protecting my community from the likes of you," rather than "I'm pointing this out to help you."

I almost wonder if separating "Recent Comments" by subsite might help a bit. Right now everything's all jumbled up together as if they're all the same, with the same norms, and maybe they shouldn't be.
posted by lazuli at 7:57 AM on November 28 [28 favorites]


If anybody else is finding that this thread is making them feel grouchy and sad, perhaps you might enjoy this simple, beautiful, uplifting song by the Wailin' Jennys.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:57 AM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: this will sometimes necessarily happen after it's been active a while, which is a bit of a complication and confusing, but still preferable.
posted by Melismata at 7:59 AM on November 28 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to say that this thread has been really eye opening for me and it's going to make me a lot more thoughtful about answers in the future. I think generally people posting Asks about personal problems are making themselves really vulnerable. I had a visceral "UGH!" reaction to that recent relationship Ask too, but didn't weigh in because after a certain point those kinds of threads seem to just turn into an opportunity for people to pontificate about how sexist the poster is without really offering them any help. I think there are ways to make that point that don't have to involve an echo chamber. If someone posts an Ask that you think was made in bad faith, the biggest rebuke I can imagine is for nobody to even engage with it.
posted by cakelite at 8:00 AM on November 28 [15 favorites]


Now it just seems like the site approach is, "oh we have too much going on with the political threads (whatever) and AskMe isn't super important and will fend for itself."

That is extremely harsh, in my opinion.

So, I agree that the conclusion "AskMe isn't super important and will fend for itself." is a little harsh, BUT I also agree with the initial assertion that:

I have felt for a few years now that there used to be much more moderation support for stricter adherence to all sorts of AskMe guidelines, both on the part of the asker and the answerers.


And very much with the second part of the conclusion that:

There is terrible chat filter staying up, people arguing with the poster and each other in the comments, people not reading the question and posting "answers" that were already covered in the question, people grinding their own personal axes over and over without really engaging with the question, and just piles of people posting really low value answers like one word suggestions with question marks, where they haven't done any checking themselves, and don't even provide a link.

I flag stuff, but like another commenter in this thread, I don't feel that things I flag are often deleted. I have often considered asking all my friends to flag something that I've flagged too, but that seems. . . snotty and self-important. I just go back to my place of trying not to read, trying not to answer, trying REALLY HARD not to click "favorite" and being angry at myself when I fail to do those things.
posted by crush at 8:02 AM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Can folks who are flagging but they aren't seeing stuff get deleted clarify if they are generally flagging or text box flagging?
posted by corb at 8:05 AM on November 28


We have slightly mixed feelings on chatfilter, but we've been leaning toward a more flexible definition of that for questions that are mostly of the "how humans do [thing]" and similar, that are more about daily curiosities that seem interesting.

Just wanted to say that I've been enjoying this slightly more flexible lean. I mean, not that I want things to slippery-slope down to All Chat All The Time, and I don't feel in danger of that. I just think the occasional more chatty Ask of that type in which people good-naturedly exchange opinions and observations doesn't do any harm, and I find them interesting and pleasant.
posted by theatro at 8:09 AM on November 28 [27 favorites]


I feel like even in the AskMe posts that start off well, there's inevitably a point around three page scrolls deep where a couple of people--maybe because they're mean, maybe it's deep into the page and they're going contrarian to have something different to say--chime in with some variation of Have you considered that it may be all your fault because you are awful?

In threads on parenting/kids, it is a 100% mortal lock that at some point, things will turn sour and accusatory/dismissive. Your innocent question about helping little Casey with her training wheels is mos def going to get at least two replies suggesting the problem is that you're a borderline abusive parent and that you are ruining little Casey for life, just as the poster was ruined by someone terrible like you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 AM on November 28 [13 favorites]


Can folks who are flagging but they aren't seeing stuff get deleted clarify if they are generally flagging or text box flagging?

I have been doing both.
posted by lazuli at 8:11 AM on November 28 [2 favorites]


Me: Now it just seems like the site approach is, "oh we have too much going on with the political threads (whatever) and AskMe isn't super important and will fend for itself."

Melismata: That is extremely harsh, in my opinion.


I don't feel anything about my phrasing was harsh. It's my perception. However, I will clarify that the (whatever) was not meant as a dismissive teen-style whatever, but more as a "or whatever else is taking up a huge amount of mod time."
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:17 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I flag sometimes, maybe not as often as I should. I find that many of the things I flag, though by no means all of them, end up getting moderated in some way. I assume that often I'm not the only person flagging a particular comment, and that most of the things I flag which get moderated are things that picked up more than one flag. Anyway, from my perspective the system does work. When I flag something, it often gets dealt with in short order—which suggests that all my flags are at least getting looked at, even if sometimes the mod on duty decides that no action is warranted.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:18 AM on November 28


Can folks who are flagging but they aren't seeing stuff get deleted clarify if they are generally flagging or text box flagging?

Does that make a difference to the mods? Are the text fields not actionable? I'll stop using them, if so.

The thing, for me, with flagging is that once I get to 3 or 4 things I've flagged that don't get deleted, it's a disincentive to continue. Personally. For me. I figure I'm not doing it right, and I should stop bugging people.

So asking for more flags is only useful in so far as there's a good agreement between the users and the mods on what is flaggable and deletable.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:25 AM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Oh, and yeah. Both. Though I must say I love love love free-form flagging.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:26 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I use both flags, as well. For chatfilter questions I sometimes use "breaks the guidelines" and sometime use the text box with a frustrated "COME ON this is the absolute definition of chatfilter with no possible answer being any better, more applicable or having higher utility than any other possible answer."

Clearly, questions which strike me as chatfilter are my greatest source of frustration with ask.me. Chatfilter questions really encourage people with only a vague understanding of the situation and no experience with it or expertise to answer. They also very much facilitate the snarky or rude One True Answer framing of some responses. They are a breeding ground for the "Chocolate Cake!" one word meaningless drive-by answers.

This then bleeds into the personal relationships/how to be a human questions because it creates a culture of all responses being equally valid. And if ask.me is really only as useful as we make it, we're making it less useful by encouraging and promoting spitballing and the "Well, I'm in the US and not familiar with UK law but here's what I did when something vaguely related happened to me in Omaha." answers.
posted by crush at 8:40 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Would someone be willing to define chatfilter questions? I see it come up as a critique on a fairly regular basis and I think I have an idea of what it means from context, but I would appreciate a better understanding of it.

(Also, I've been on the site since 2011 and don't know what a chatfilter question is...maybe my ignorance is some kind of evidence as to why they are happening?)
posted by CMcG at 8:46 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


creates a culture of all responses being equally valid

Well, not all responses are equally useful. But if you're responding to something in good faith, having your comment deleted is likely gonna push you away from responding in future, when perhaps you have a very useful thing to say.
posted by wellred at 8:49 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I dunno, man.

I agree with some of the comments that sometimes people (including me) get a bit question-y and I know I've occasionally chimed in on questions where I don't actually know the answer, and I think having regular discussions about what kind of community we want to inculcate is a great thing.*

But I also don't feel like AskMe is a cesspool and generally I feel like when I click through to read the answers that I'm going to have a pleasant experience in my day. I appreciate the moderation generally. I think the human relations questions are the trickiest, but they are my not-secret favourites anyway. I guess I'm saying, let's discuss, but I wanted to say that generally...I like AskMe.

*I always feel like I walk away from those discussions too stumped to answer for a while, because for example, a while ago I read that people shouldn't get into their own lives but focus on the question, and I tend to be a person that tries to frame things as "this is my experience, take it or leave it," so I tried to tone that down, but then I felt like I was making all these Declarative Statements when I am just a human humaning, with a particular bent towards human relationship. I'm not a food safety expert or a general contractor.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:50 AM on November 28 [18 favorites]


crush, do you have any examples of the kinds of questions that bother you? I myself recently asked a couple of questions that don't have One True Answers and which generated a lot of answers, but which I thought were solid AskMe territory and which I thought went really well in terms of generating the information I was looking for. Do things like requests for jokes or nursery rhyme variations bother you? Do they bother other people? Should I not ask questions like those?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:51 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I don't think that AskMe has gotten meaner. I do think that after nearly 14 years on this site, I have become less patient with Askers' questions and more critical of the responses I see in the Green.

Instead of composing replies that I feel won't be appreciated, or rolling my eyes at advice that is wildly projecting or not actually relevant (my two biggest peeves), I just don't participate in AskMe as often. I think that's okay and not really a problem with the site or the culture here. There are plenty of other Mefites who are more active in the green, and I don't think that I'm so utterly unique that someone else won't provide similar advice to what I would have done.
posted by desuetude at 8:53 AM on November 28 [13 favorites]


FAQ: Chatfilter

Although it includes "what is your favorite X?" as a sample and "where eveyone's answer is equally valid" language, "please name my pet" has never been deleted as chatfilter though I flag it every single time as the ding an sich of chatfilter.

Lots of questions bother me--I'm not suggesting my standard is a good one. But name my pet or child top the list.
posted by crush at 8:54 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Chatfilter: I dislike it too!

This page on the mefiwiki spells out how I think of it:

Chatfilter or poll/survey the audience posts along the lines of "What is your favorite X?" These are different from questions like "I am looking for a good book to read. I like James Joyce and Mark Leyner. Can anyone recommend something else I might like?" Think "Is there a problem to be solved?"

I tend towards a more strict interpretation of the guidelines than most mefites, but "Is there a problem to a solved?" is a pretty good guidepost.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:54 AM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Mrs. Pterodactyl's excellent comment says everything I could have said--and better than I could have said it--on my feelings on the specific types of comments that make AskMe worse. One thing I see missing from this thread is the why, and since I joined in 2012 please correct me if I'm getting this wrong, but it seems like the nature of AskMe is very, very different from when it was created. What I've learned from a lot of reading and lurking is that when AskMe was created, the Blue was the site, and the purpose of AskMe was so that the close-knit, friendly community of MeFi at the time could ask each other questions and get answers from the people they talked to every day on the Blue.

Today, AskMe--again, if I'm remembering correctly--is the majority of site traffic. So that means that there are a lot of people who join the site just to use AskMe, who see the site from their perspective as a Quora/Yahoo Answers/etc. alternative that happens to have a community blog attached, and who never go to the Blue. The site's also just bigger than it was, even if it's declining in traffic. It means the people on AskMe aren't just a group of your internet friends who you chat with every day on MeFi, they also include complete strangers or people who never comment in the same FPPs as you. I try to be thoughtful and compassionate to everybody but I'm human and I would definitely bring a lot more background information and context to, e.g. a question from a DC MeFite (like the aforementioned Mrs. Pterodactyl) who is my IRL friend and whose family and personality and preferences I'm highly familiar with, than to a question from a day-old account.

That doesn't lead to obvious solutions (other than leaning heavily on both the "flag it" and the "move on" halves of FIAMO); I think to some extent we have to sit with that change even if it's not always comfortable or nice. It does mean we can all be a little more understanding and consider how our comments are read, especially given everyone's different backgrounds (national, language, cultural, familial, regional, educational...). I don't know if there's an easy site policy answer that fixes it and I don't claim to be able to convince thousands of people who don't even read MeTa to change their minds based on this comment. It's hard.
posted by capricorn at 8:56 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


Thank you so much for clarifying chatfilter crush & everybody has matching towels. I think I might be guilty of posting some chatfilter-y questions. And I must admit I like them. The ones that I like tend to me more like "Tell me the best thing you've ever done for your spouse" then "name my pet" though. Maybe I should check out the chat!

capricorn, thank you as well for your comment. I think I might be one of those primarily-on-the-green users. Ask and Fanfare are my favorite part of metafilter. I actually stopped going to the Blue a lot as part of an overall mental health thing where I stopped reading upsetting things (my privilege that I am able to choose to do so, I know).

There's so much I value about Ask, which is why I've been so active in this thread.

- I do value when people say, "hey have you considered X..." and it's a reframe of the question. I agree it's tricky to do right.
- I also value when people bring their real life experience to bear on the question. I find a lot of those answers to be incredibly vulnerable and moving.
- I love when someone gets to show off their expertise.
- I love when someone notes they've been following an asker for a long time and thinking about them in their answer.

It's weird because setting aside the most recent pile-on (which you know my opinions on from above), I actually find Ask to be the nicest place on the site (except for Fanfare). I also feel like I am getting to tap into creative wisdom in a way that is totally unique.

Ask has helped me when I was in some really low places within the past year. It really helped me. It's precious to me. I don't know, maybe I am naive, but I have faith that the good outweighs the bad.
posted by CMcG at 9:06 AM on November 28 [12 favorites]


name my pet or child is a problem to be solved. It is just like please give me songs about X or books like Y. Yes it is asking for opinions and brainstorming, but it is not for idle reasons. It is for the OP to solve a problem/find a solution.
posted by soelo at 9:13 AM on November 28 [18 favorites]


I've definitely noticed the tendency towards meanness in AskMe responses and I'm glad we're talking about it. I find it bleeds over into factual questions, not just the personal/relationship ones.

I asked a question a little while ago about dealing with shoddy tyre maintenance work, and it felt to me like it turned into a huge pileon about there ONLY BEING ONE TRUE WAY TO OWN AND MAINTAIN A CAR and that the issue was 100% MY FAULT and that I was DOING IT WRONG by not doing it the way other people think is proper to do it.

If I was asking the question again I would definitely frame it differently, as I don't think the way I worded some of it helped, but also car culture where I live is pretty different to what I assume was a mostly US-centric perspective. You're definitely not expected to check that your wheels are screwed on correctly as part of general maintenance, and there's much less of an expectation that the average owner is also very clued up on maintenance. People who are into cars, sure. Average people, not really. It's not a holy duty, nor are you seen as "doing it wrong" if you leave everything except tyre pressure and wiper fluid refills to a mechanic. There was no room for any of this to also be true under the pileon I felt I received and I came away feeling crappy about myself and the site in equal measure.

I say this not because I'm still sore about how that particular question went down (okay, maybe a smidge), but more as an illustrative example of the kind of response that has made me really seriously reconsider posting questions to AskMe at all if that's the baseline level of hostility towards a person not knowing a thing that they also didn't know they were supposed to know.
posted by terretu at 9:13 AM on November 28 [6 favorites]


That recent question about marriage didn't go too badly, I thought. That's largely luck; the poster stayed around and actually seemed somewhat receptive. If they'd done a flounce, I would have found it hugely frustrating and probably concluded they were a troll and everyone had been played. Some of that may still be true, but the thread was interesting to me and so are some similar ones. We meet people with those kinds of attitudes every day; rarely is it so striking or openly displayed in real life. There are lots of mefites who set an example about how to confront those attitudes, and ways to think about them.

As far as whether things have changed, I miss the influence of jessamyn. But I also remember a lot of "What? no" and "What is wrong with you?"
posted by BibiRose at 9:24 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Some thoughts on a few points of mod practice people have asked about -

Flagging -
We definitely see flags on stuff that isn't quiiiiite deletable in the circumstances, but where it's understandable why someone flagged it. I hear you on that being frustrating; as taz says, we're always happy to explain/discuss at the contact form if you're wondering about a given case. We do look at every flag, and generally within 10 or so minutes (there are exceptions, and delays will often be longer on e.g. a holiday weekend like this past weekend). Often I agree with the underlying rationale ("this IS a kinda jerkish answer") but it just doesn't quite hit my threshold of deletion once we take into account all the factors.

For setting those thresholds, it's very useful to have a thread like this where people say, basically, that they're bothered by jerkish answers even if they're letter-of-the-law acceptable. This kind of input from multiple people definitely moves my needle for where the community feels the line should be.

Deletions -
"Delete more!" - I just want to mention, the counterweight to "just delete everything borderline" is a lot of people -- especially newer or less-active members -- can experience deletions as a humiliating rebuke even when they're due to very content-neutral or procedural kinds of issues. We try to do diplomacy around this but we do have people quit the site after getting things deleted, and less dramatically, people just stop participating. Obviously we'll keep deleting stuff, and some stuff really needs to be deleted, and deletion is (almost!) never meant as any kind of judgment on the person -- but just keep in mind that there's this cost to deletions so it's a balancing act.

(And again - mean answers, or unfounded mindreading/fanfic answers, or JudgeMe answers, also make people quit or not participate. So there is definitely a case for deleting these, and people should flag them; this is the upshot I'm taking from this thread broadly.)

Chatfilter --
Here's the FAQ entry explanation, which is sort of dated now. We've loosened up a lot on chatfilter of the "name my cat" or "what's the best way to organize spices" variety, where there isn't a single right answer but it's basically pretty benign and people like answering/reading them, OPs find it helpful, and it rarely causes problems. (I do know this drives some people nuts, though.) We'll still delete stuff like that as chatfilter if the question is likely to become a problem, so this is a gray area right now -- maybe the way to think of it is, chatfilter is always liable to deletion but if it's benign it may get a reprieve.

The reason for loosening up is basically wanting to keep AskMe active -- people have said in the past "I didn't want to post my interesting question because I wasn't sure if it would be chatfilter" - and we want people to feel like they can post on AskMe in general. It keeps the site active and keeps people reading, which means more people are available to lay eyes on the more specific-knowledge-requiring questions.

In the past we were more sticklers for exact phrasing too, which can feel sort of churlish - it's a bummer for an infrequent user to have a basically-okay question deleted because of a phrasing issue ("what's your favorite soap" vs "what soap should I use for x"). Loosening up a bit on this has mostly been good I think.

But there's also chatfilter of the human-relations-processing type which, in its purest form, is a long-ass braindump and then an open-ended request like "thoughts?". These drive me up the wall, and I would love to delete them all (ALL, I say!). I think they encourage the fanfic/JudgeMe "make up a story about my question where someone is cast as a hero and someone as a villain" type of answer, and that spills out into other questions. We get mixed signals from people on whether they like these or not, OPs often find them helpful, they do get answers, and so it's a mixed bag whether they'll get deleted. More likely to get deleted if the person has asked such a question before.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:35 AM on November 28 [14 favorites]


I haven't been here for all that long, but I don't feel as though the site has gotten meaner at all. I'm not saying I haven't seen some mean comments, but then again, I'm from the blunt school of communication, so for all I know people are actually talking about my comments, which I never intend as mean. I like to think I'm direct, but not mean, and I do flag responses I think are over the line (usually with the text box).

One thing I will say: what I think is way meaner than anything I've seen in AskMe is people's comments in this very thread saying (and here I paraphrase), "The moderation really sucks since jessamyn left." No offense to Jessamyn at all, but if I were a current mod reading this, I'd be seriously hurt by that and would wonder why the fuck I even bother. People complaining about meanness while posting at the same time about how the site just isn't as good under the current mods strikes me as...ironic, shall we say. I mean, if there's a specific problem people have with the moderation, fine, but just saying, "You're not as good as X and never will" be is, frankly, something I'd usually flag for, you guessed it, meanness.
posted by holborne at 9:38 AM on November 28 [83 favorites]


Heavier moderation of allowed questions, limit number of responses people can make each week. I have never been a huge AskMe person, but when I visit, I'm struck by people either viewing responding as some sort of chatty sport or Ain't I Clever? audition.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:52 AM on November 28 [11 favorites]


There's a huge disconnect between how the Asker of a question views the answers to that question and how other people view the answers to that question. Semi-helpful "here, I googled this for you" answers that wouldn't bother me in a thread I am reading and that I might sometimes even make if I felt like there was a particular element of google-fu to finding the answer that the Asker might not be aware of can feel frustratingly condescending when I'm the Asker. Or an answer than the Answerer and those reading along might see as blunt or tough love, the Asker might feel as a stinging, embarrassing rebuke or a stunning attack on their character.

There's a case in point upthread, where terratu describes his tyre question as receiving a huge pile-on rebuking him for not conducting basic maintenance on his car. That question got a total of 6 responses. I doubt anyone in this thread would describe it as a huge pile-on. But when you're the Asker, and you're not just casually reading the answers, but keenly interested in them, keeping the thread open in your browser and clicking back in every time a new response shows in the tab, every answer is felt much more strongly, so three or four people mentioning the same thing can feel like a huge pile-on.

I will work on trying to remember the feeling of being an Asker more often when I am an Answerer. I know how I feel about answers I have received in the past, and I can use it to guide me into providing better answers or gentler answers or sometimes no answer at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:53 AM on November 28 [17 favorites]


Hear hear, holborne. I like jessamyn as much as the next MeFite, but come on people.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:58 AM on November 28 [15 favorites]


One thing I will say: what I think is way meaner than anything I've seen in AskMe is people's comments in this very thread saying (and here I paraphrase), "The moderation really sucks since jessamyn left." No offense to Jessamyn at all, but if I were a current mod reading this, I'd be seriously hurt by that and would wonder why the fuck I even bother. People complaining about meanness while posting at the same time about how the site just isn't as good under the current mods strikes me as...ironic, shall we say.

Explaining that moderation standards appear to have changed (and when you perceive that change to have occurred) can be helpful information. It is an assessment by the people who use this site, and in this thread has been accompanied by a larger discussion about whether those changes exist, why they might have happened and ways we as a community can shift things to a more ideal state.

I don't think the mods need to be coddled or prevented from hearing criticism in the one area of the site that's been set aside to discuss its issues. Treated respectfully, yes. Politely, yes. No question. But we're all adults here and shouldn't be required to hold our tongues when giving constructive criticism. And yes, a mod left whose primary focus was keeping AskMe up and running and at least to some of us myself included, the subsite feels different now.

Commenters in this thread say that the state of AskMe has discouraged them from commenting or posting. Moderation styles are the one deciding factor of which comments stay or go. If something was (or seemed to be) working at one time but isn't any longer then shouldn't that be looked at? I think it should.
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on November 28 [10 favorites]


I suspect I'm pretty far off in the minority, but I completely disagree. When I want a hug, I talk to my friends. They're obligated to hug me. Or, if not, they at least have a real incentive based on our future interactions to be nice to me. When I want an honest answer, I ask strangers on the internet. Sometimes the right answer actually is, "no, you're a selfish and deluded asshole, and your batshit crazy world view is ruining the lives of those around you. Stop being a creep."

If anything, I'd argue askme is too kind and accommodating of superstition, sexism, and soul-crushing conservative lifestyle assumptions. We could certainly be more diplomatic and avoid piling on after the first ten responses tell someone off for being a jerk. That's a good idea. But, calling assholes out when they're saying ethically bankrupt things seems entirely appropriate. Not every asker deserves the benefit of the doubt. Some of them are actually monsters.
posted by eotvos at 10:08 AM on November 28 [16 favorites]


I don't think the mods need to be coddled or prevented from hearing criticism in the one area of the site that's been set aside to discuss its issues. Treated respectfully, yes. Politely, yes. No question. But we're all adults here and shouldn't be required to hold our tongues when giving constructive criticism. And yes, a mod left whose primary focus was keeping AskMe up and running and at least to some of us myself included, the subsite feels different now.

I thought I made this clear in the post above, but apparently I didn't, so I'll be more specific: I don't have any problem with, say, "You know, in the past, mods, especially Specific Former Moderator, would delete XYZ sorts of comments, and the current mods don't do that. I participate less since the policy change, and I think it would be really helpful to the tenor of the discussions here if mods would consider deleting XYZ comments again as a matter of policy." What I do have a problem with is "The site has gone to hell since Specific Former Moderator left. I wish Specific Former Moderator hadn't left." The former is, in fact, constructive criticism. The latter isn't constructive criticism at all; it's just a value judgment that gives no guidance or information to current mods except to inform them that they're not as valuable or valued as Specific Former Moderator. That, to me, is the opposite of constructive criticism.
posted by holborne at 10:25 AM on November 28 [11 favorites]


I posted a thread recently that got WAY more heated than I ever would have expected (the cat turkey incident). I think a lot of it was on me - I thought I'd been very careful in crafting the post to be precise, but my phrasing and framing were not as exact as they should have been. So I get that people's reactions were to the words I wrote - but I hadn't expected how harsh some of the reactions would be. Not all of the answers were - I got a lot of helpful advice and perspective that wouldn't have crossed my mind - but some of the answers seemed disproportionately angry to what I'd written (or at least what I thought I'd written). I was a bit taken aback that a few people construed my exasperated reaction to a friend as vicious and portrayed my character as irredeemable.

I didn't take it THAT personally - I've been on Ask long enough to be able to take the answers that helped and set aside the ones that didn't - but if I'd been a newbie I probably would have been scared away. And while I'm not the most prolific poster and don't stand out in the crowd of more regular contributors, I guess part of me felt like hey, I've been a member for almost ten years and maybe some people could have cut me a little bit of slack and not rushed to the "you did a terrible thing and you are a terrible person" assumption.

But again, some of that is the nature of the medium. I described things the best I could but reading the reactions made me realize how much of a disconnect there is between what my experience was and what readers have to work off of. There's only so much background you can fill in and people really fill in the blanks with their own assumptions and personal history.

As uncomfortable as that thread got for me, it was a good and humbling reminder that when I answer a question, I should give the same benefit of the doubt to the poster that I would have wanted myself.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 10:28 AM on November 28 [32 favorites]


> capricorn, thank you as well for your comment. I think I might be one of those primarily-on-the-green users. Ask and Fanfare are my favorite part of metafilter. I actually stopped going to the Blue a lot as part of an overall mental health thing where I stopped reading upsetting things (my privilege that I am able to choose to do so, I know).

Oh! One thing I definitely overlooked in my previous comment is that there are certainly a lot of great things that came out of the growth of AskMe and its role in community-building. I myself only took the plunge and signed up after a year or two of lurking to ask a song identification question that had been gnawing at me for years. Just definitely a fundamentally different site culture from "everyone asking/answering tough personal questions is also someone I routinely nerd out with about cool internet stuff on the Blue". And as your comment implies, the Blue too has changed a lot.
posted by capricorn at 10:28 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


It may be useful to mention that back when I was working here, it was really before the advent of (most of) the Megathreads and well before the 2016 election. The job of moderating has changed somewhat as a result of that. My take on "this site has really changed" comments is a lot more "the world has dramatically changed and the site's made some adjustments changing along with it"

I live (and lived) in Ask MetaFilter in a way that works for me personally but I'm not sure I'd suggest for anyone who was really trying to achieve a good work/life balance. I think everyone has their own view of a perfect MetaFilter and it's unsurprising that some people's perfect view lines or lined up with mine. I'm sure each moderator has a group of users for whom their particular moderating style is exactly what they think the site needs.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:30 AM on November 28 [31 favorites]


I understand giving people the benefit of the doubt, but I also think that some behavior is unacceptable,
That may be true, but I don't think an answerer should be making that determination. That's what flags are for.

I'd argue askme is too kind and accommodating of superstition, sexism, and soul-crushing conservative lifestyle assumptions.

Did you learn this because before you knew better, people were mean to you? Even if you believe this to be the case, I don't.

Hi. I'm a psychotherapist, but not yours. I have had clients who are racist. I have had clients who are sexist. I have had clients who are superstitious and/or conservative. My job is to help them and calling them out , even if they subsequently modify their behavior, is not ultimately helpful. At best, you get someone skilled at pretending (even to themselves) that they are not racist, or whatever. I personally believe that one reason people don't think racism or sexism is a problem in our society is because they learn not to be able to see it, especially in themselves.

My experience is that AskMe, like post-Trump America, has become meaner. You can, if it's your goal, help someone see that their assumptions are part of the problem, but calling them out is just a way to feel superior.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:33 AM on November 28 [34 favorites]


Uh I am doing homework for my Master of Information degree and my mind was blown by the coincidence of reading this:

"While the day-to-day practices of asking, answering, and interacting imagined by the creators of SQA [ED: Social Q&A] sites are where these structural negotiations play out, Rosenbaum and Shachaf (2010) also mention users engaging in “meta-conversations about the community and its rules” as more explicit evidence of user agency, echoing the literature on Usenet interaction patterns. Gazan (2009) identified 177 of these meta-conversations in the Answerbag SQA site, which included rituals of indoctrination and membership, debates about normative behavior, and the formation of subcommunities of like-minded users. These expressions of community self-awareness were associated with increased levels of participation from high-ranking users, but also increased levels of conflict. The answers, comments, and conversations surrounding these meta-questions served as public spaces where competing ideas about appropriate content, rules, and behavior were debated."

From: Gazan, R. (2011). Social Q&A. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 62 (12): 2301–2312.doi:10.1002/asi.21562

So, subcommittees, huh? Is that what the cabal is?!
posted by CMcG at 10:36 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


OMG that is so funny because I worked with Professor Gazan when I was teaching at the University of Hawai'i over the last few years.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:39 AM on November 28 [16 favorites]


I'm sure each moderator has a group of users for whom their particular moderating style is exactly what they think the site needs.

There's also the aspect that you, Jessamyn, are a Known Real Human Being with a face and a life and all that other stuff. On a mostly-anonymous site with very few self-images, you were one person (along with Matt) whose presence carried weight just because we all know a bit about you. I would not want to have that responsibility – I made the decision fairly early on to remove my photo from my profile page, and I always think long and hard before I make remarks that could lead to my real name – but it is nice to have some idea of the actual person who's guiding the site. And while the circumstances are quite different, Jessamyn giving up her moderator role felt a lot like Victoria Taylor leaving Reddit.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:39 AM on November 28


I have been reading AskMe since its inception, pretty much, and in my opinion it's a hell of a lot nicer than it was in those bad old days in a lot of broad ways, and overall the niceness has stayed at about an even keel once you compensate for stuff like shitty user-specific belittling jokes being tamped down on, and the sexist stuff.

Mind, I mostly use AskMe to talk about pets and food and my interaction with interpersonal issues is usually limited to mental health stuff, but I read all the popcorn questions and most of the boring ones, too. Overall, I've noticed women couching their responses with less passivity, which I think is awesome. I've noticed people finally starting to get into more detail about therapy beyond just "go to therapy", (which is a mostly useless answer for a lot of people and my own personal bugbear).

The thing that I have noticed though is a loss of tolerance for poorly written English. And I think that's shitty in a way that's in opposition to other site norms of intersectionality and engaging with multiple perspectives when possible. It's mostly new users, of course, who are used to typing in one way online and do so on AskMe and get a bunch of crappy responses or none at all, when most of us here understand tone shifting and dialects and would fight to defend such things in any other context.

Yes, language is about clarity of communication, and yes, Mefi in general has a very particular bar for it and that's something that's kept me around here for years (and on into infinity), but no, I refuse to believe that so many erudite people can't spend an extra second deciphering some poor writing and instead make a bunch of assumptions about tone and true intentions. I think there's a real tendency for folks to assume disrespect or a lack of intelligence due to informal writing and let that bleed into their responses. And I feel like this has been happening more often in the past handful of years. I can understand where some of this comes from; frustrations with a wider culture of anti-intellectualism, a lack of patience with lazy language leading to misunderstandings in the outside world, maybe even assuming that the language policing that a user has witnessed or experienced should be reflected on this other person too. I don't think it's asking for kindness though, to ask potential answerers to give askers more leniency in their written dialect. Maybe it's empathy, and patience.
posted by Mizu at 10:43 AM on November 28 [24 favorites]


That, to me, is the opposite of constructive criticism.

That's fair. I appreciate your clarifying. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 10:43 AM on November 28 [2 favorites]


This is no cabal?!
posted by AugustWest at 10:43 AM on November 28


That's a good point above about Jessamyn. If all you see is 5 or 30 or 100 responses and take them all as equally valid it can be a problem. For example, in any automotive question, I automatically look for Brockles' answer because he is an expert. However, if you don't know that you might take him as just another yahoo piling on to an answer you don't really want to hear. You might take it that way even if you know who he is, but that's on you for ignoring expert advice. It's not really on you if you don't know.

Not really offering a solution here, as I don't think anybody wants verified expert checkmarks next to our names. But something to keep in mind - the asker may not have any way of qualifying the answers they are getting here.
posted by COD at 10:46 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth Neely O'Hara, I thought your cat turkey question was great and that it was written perfectly well. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving on AskMe without a question about something ridiculous that happened at someone's party, so thanks for making the holiday feel right!

I think some of the more extreme responses were probably from people who were more building off of previous answers than actually addressing the question as asked. That happens a lot in the more active Asks, and after a few iterations an Asker can easily go from being a normal but slightly exasperated MeFite to a Literal Monster Who Should Have Never Been Born. That in itself is a big part of the problem we are ostensibly discussing in this thread, if you ask me.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:52 AM on November 28 [20 favorites]


Yes, protip: in a lengthy relationship Askme, check the asker's previous questions. Corollary: if you see a reasonable relationship question that has almost no answers even though it's been a while, chances are people are fed up with that asker for Not Getting It or what have you.
posted by Melismata at 10:56 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


Sometimes the right answer actually is, "no, you're a selfish and deluded asshole, and your batshit crazy world view is ruining the lives of those around you. Stop being a creep."

This may be "right" in the sense that you (and perhaps many others, perhaps even a majority of MeFites) feel it to be capital-T True, but it is exceedingly unlikely to be "right" in the sense of "this is a way to get this person to evaluate their life-choices and stop hurting others and change for the better."
posted by halation at 10:59 AM on November 28 [17 favorites]


You could do a lot worse as an Answerer than to approach AskMe from a place of Unconditional Positive Regard.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:08 AM on November 28 [13 favorites]


Observation: Because we don't do callout threads anymore, and because mod decisions to ban people are less visible (and more likely to result from behind-the-scenes discussion than from a public shitstorm, and less likely to be monday-morning-quarterbacked in MeTa afterward), members of the site are less confident that assholes will be put on hiatus or banned. We don't see it discussed, we don't see it happening, and if someone notices it's happened they can't tell the rest of us.

Hypothesis: Because of that, we've swung back in the direction of vigilante justice. We honestly feel like "If this guy is a misogynist [or whatever], who knows if he'll be banned or talked-to? It's on us to shame him and drive him away, and we can do that by treating him harshly and uncharitably."

It's easier to live by the principle "Only comment if you're helping the OP" if you're confident your help won't enable a toxic person to stay. And I think some people, to be confident of that, need to see evidence of toxic people being made to leave.

I don't want to see callout threads come back. I just, it seems like they're related, and I feel like a solution has to address that somehow.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:13 AM on November 28 [12 favorites]


This may be "right" in the sense that you (and perhaps many others, perhaps even a majority of MeFites) feel it to be capital-T True, but it is exceedingly unlikely to be "right" in the sense of "this is a way to get this person to evaluate their life-choices and stop hurting others and change for the better."

I mean - I don't think we have enough data either way?

Like, we are now beginning to understand that passive acceptance of toxic thinking around genders, racial and religious minorities, sexuality, and other things is adding to an environment that actively harms people and increases their risk of negative outcomes. We know from data that when someone expresses these negative ideas, if they aren't countered by someone, they are more likely to stick. So we know that active harm is created by not providing at least one counterpoint.

Now whether the avoidance of that harm is increased by having ten counterpoints, I don't know. I could see it having some value - "whoa, apparently this thing I thought was no big deal is actually a HUGELY BIG DEAL". But I could also see it being a negative "no one's even trying to understand my side! I'm going to go join this nice subforum on reddit where no one ever makes me feel bad."

And then you come to yet more of the deep question, which is: how much damage should be tolerated within a community in order so that some people get those learning experiences? Like, this isn't an easy answer, this is a thing a lot of leftist communities are struggling with right now as they have their own #metoo moments, for example. It also isn't a simple answer, which isn't super comforting. But it's definitely something to at least think about.
posted by corb at 11:15 AM on November 28 [16 favorites]


I don't feel that way personally. My perception is that a while back the mods said they would start wielding the banhammer a little more freely, and Lo, there are way fewer chronic problem users now. It's been quiet but I think it's been working.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:18 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


It's on us to shame him and drive him away, and we can do that by treating him harshly and uncharitably.

my view of human nature is that we take altogether too much pleasure in driving outsiders away, and once you get a taste for it, your standards for when it becomes necessary start to creep ever lower.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:21 AM on November 28 [38 favorites]


I don't think AskMe has gotten meaner. It's certainly gotten bigger- a "pile-on" that used to be 50 comments is now 200+, which probably feels meaner. I skimmed a few Human Relationship threads from the early years (1, 2, 3) and they don't seem much different than threads now.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:22 AM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Like, we are now beginning to understand that passive acceptance of toxic thinking around genders, racial and religious minorities, sexuality, and other things is adding to an environment that actively harms people and increases their risk of negative outcomes. We know from data that when someone expresses these negative ideas, if they aren't countered by someone, they are more likely to stick. So we know that active harm is created by not providing at least one counterpoint.

I agree with that during a general discussion. I guess I'm saying that I think slightly different conditions or tone should apply when the person is actively seeking help for the situation, in a context in which asking for help is appropriate, even if they're seemingly ignorant of their own toxic thinking.
posted by lazuli at 11:23 AM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Also, it's possible to counter someone's toxic assumptions without actually attacking them directly. In fact, it's probably more effective.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:25 AM on November 28 [13 favorites]


Like, we are now beginning to understand that passive acceptance of toxic thinking around genders, racial and religious minorities, sexuality, and other things is adding to an environment that actively harms people and increases their risk of negative outcomes.

There is a great deal of distance between "passive acceptance of toxic thinking" and "maybe 'no, you're a selfish and deluded asshole, and your batshit crazy world view is ruining the lives of those around you. Stop being a creep.' is not the most constructive phrasing to use when challenging somebody's framework."
posted by halation at 11:26 AM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I posted a thread recently that got WAY more heated than I ever would have expected (the cat turkey incident).

I think that's a good example! I felt a bunch of the answers were way over the top - towards you, your guest, cats at all for existing, people for daring to put food on coffee tables. I didn't flag there, maybe I should've, but I read the answers feeling that many of the posters could've dial down their drama levels by about 70% or maybe just not chimed in at all if they were going to be shouty.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:29 AM on November 28 [24 favorites]


There *is* data that tells us that adults learn when they are treated with respect and understand that there's something in it for them. You can tell someone they're wrong constructively and let them know why behaving that way hurts people.

On preview, what halation said, with added resource.
posted by wellred at 11:29 AM on November 28 [12 favorites]


I was very anti-Neely O'Hara in the cat turkey thread and thought people were being super mean and uncharitable to her dinner guest. Then I read an update she posted to the thread and realized that much of my opinion was based on a false assumption I made. I still think people were dunking pretty hard on the guest, but I ended up a lot more sympathetic to Neely's position. I think that thread is a great example of how things can get kinda weird and heated even when there's absolutely no problematic/bigoted/etc elements.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:32 AM on November 28 [5 favorites]


I may be in the minority, but I am very much okay with pile-ons against sexist and racist AskMes. And the reason in this: those of us pointing out this kind of thing are usually totally silenced about it in other realms. On Reddit, people calling out blatant awful sexism are downvoted into oblivion (even in women's subs, which men barge into). It matters to engage, in my opinion. It matters to show that those views are bullshit, and that at least in this realm, those voices can be shared. By multiple people. Even if those people are exhausted and exasperated and not being nicey-nice. So what if one person already shared a similar viewpoint? That poster needs to know that many people are in agreement, even if they haven't heard enough of those voices in the past to be aware. It's really important. My two cents.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:52 AM on November 28 [15 favorites]


LobsterMitten: I just want to mention, the counterweight to "just delete everything borderline" is a lot of people -- especially newer or less-active members -- can experience deletions as a humiliating rebuke even when they're due to very content-neutral or procedural kinds of issues.

I probably count as a less-active member, did have a post deleted by you, and was so grateful, because it clearly was going to turn into a pile-on. I'm still around, but if that post had stayed up and kept getting the kinds of comments it did, I would not be.

(Just my counterweight to your counterweight. But thanks.)
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 11:53 AM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Because honestly, I can't be a member of a community where "socially retarded" flies.

I completely agree with you, but there's a difference between "hey that term is offensive don't use it here", and "you are a bad, hateful person". Like I said, a lot of mefites who seem perfectly fine had no idea the word "retarded" was offensive and that was only a couple of months ago.

It feels to me like some people basically want to be able to tell others off, even to shame them. It's not helpful, especially on ask.me and I do think it's a problem.
posted by smoke at 12:19 PM on November 28 [14 favorites]


Semi-serious suggestion:
- if a person is being offensive and moderating doesn’t seem to be on the scene or is keeping it up for whatever reason
- and the offense is being aimed at a party of people who have a long history of being told to “stay calm” & “be nice”

Can we have a “come be an ally” thing where people show up and take on the work of calmly and kindly reorienting the person?
posted by CMcG at 12:32 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Like I said, a lot of mefites who seem perfectly fine had no idea the word "retarded" was offensive and that was only a couple of months ago.

Some of them were even site members when the subject last came up in Meta in 2009. Fewer in 2002. It's also been mentioned as a deprecated term on Mefi since then at least once, in 2012.

It looks as if similar arguments defending the use of the term were raised in both the '02 and '09 threads.

We keep having these conversations.
posted by zarq at 12:34 PM on November 28 [6 favorites]


I'd just like to add that it's not just AskMe. I few years ago, I posted an idea on Metatalk about how I thought there could be ways to increase social activity on the site, something more attuned to contemporary social media. Not to revamp the site in any way, just to add a few features. And totally, my idea was very bad, but I was coming off a high of having just donated to the site for the first time, and I wanted to feel like I was contributing the community, and then a bunch of snarky assholes just piled on with unhelpful comments. I honestly thought of deleting my account after that because the shitty monsters who just wanted to hear themselves talk thought they could be hurtful and that they were so so funny. How about this:

Metafilter: Don't be an asshole.
posted by degoao at 12:36 PM on November 28 [12 favorites]


I honestly thought of deleting my account after that because the shitty monsters who just wanted to hear themselves talk thought they could be hurtful and that they were so so funny.

I remember that thread, or at least one like it. Am hoping I didn't make awful comments in it.

FWIW, I'm sorry it was such a shitty experience for you. And if I contributed to that, I'm sorry.
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


Am hoping I didn't make awful comments in it.

[Ctrl+F's self]

Whew!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:44 PM on November 28


Oh man, that Neely O'Hara thread. Neely, I'm almost shocked no one thought to complain that you hadn't prepared a second turkey just for your cat.

That thread has a really interesting phenomenon that happens every once in a while in ask, meta and mefi threads: someone mis-states something that happened in a link or the post, and other people pick up on it. Then suddenly you have a cat that was in actual fact merely being encouraged to eat some turkey off a platter, being described as having licked the bird or even chowed down on it. But that wasn't said in the post. People just took something another commenter said and treated it as gospel.

It can be so frustrating to watch that happen.
posted by zarq at 12:48 PM on November 28 [19 favorites]


FWIW, I think chatfilter-y questions are often the most entertaining threads, and would support looser deletion rules regarding them.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:50 PM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I just went and read degoao's MeTa, and, uh, wow. The comments are just horrible, and then people amplify the horribleness by basically calling degoao names for feeling hurt by it. It's pretty awful to read. I'm actually sort of stunned that anyone could read that thread, which from four years ago, and conclude that the site has gotten meaner.
posted by holborne at 12:54 PM on November 28 [4 favorites]


I think I may have been less than kind in some of these threads, so this is a good reminder, and I'm glad this was posted.

That said, I have occasionally wanted to post a human relationships question and have decided not to because I didn't want to deal with mean answers or people projecting their own experiences with people who are not me into the question. It's not exactly a loss to the site, but I thought I'd mention as a data point.
posted by FencingGal at 12:58 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


I'm actually sort of stunned that anyone could read that thread, which from four years ago, and conclude that the site has gotten meaner.

I don't think the site has gotten meaner. I think AskMe has gotten meaner. The conflation of all the subsites is, I believe, contributing to the issue.
posted by lazuli at 1:00 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


There is a great deal of distance between "passive acceptance of toxic thinking" and "maybe 'no, you're a selfish and deluded asshole, and your batshit crazy world view is ruining the lives of those around you. Stop being a creep.' is not the most constructive phrasing to use when challenging somebody's framework."

Sure, I definitely agree - and honestly I think that as that stands, it would be likely to be deleted by mods. But like, "You are being selfish here, and not really seeing the reality of your situation. Your perception of it is so out there that it's actually ruining the lives of those around you. Please stop embodying creepy behavior." is essentially the same thing, just phrased a bit nicer, and whereas I would be okay with the latter, I feel like maybe some people wouldn't, and thus it's important to drill down on where we disagree on these things.
posted by corb at 1:05 PM on November 28 [4 favorites]


to sort of reiterate my comment way upthread, I think MeTa has gotten way nicer, but at the possible cost of Dorian Graying the rest of the site.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:08 PM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Honestly, essentially the same thing, just phrased a bit nicer is all I'm advocating for. I get that people are tired and hurt and don't have the energy/wherewithall/desire to respond that way to something they feel is harmful, but I do believe there is something to gain if we can let people who do have the energy take on the task. If we go straight out of the gate to monster-shaming, or venting, or chasing people off, that becomes impossible.
posted by halation at 1:22 PM on November 28 [9 favorites]


This is neither here nor there but:

Sometimes there are questions that are like: I've got everything figured out for my awesome new business except: what should I name it?! Thanks!

And I am like: WhhhAAAAT RUNNING A BUSINESS IS SO HARD IT'S BASICALLY NOT GOING TO GET ANY EASIER THAN NAMING IT, NAME IT ANYTHING, HOW CAN THIS BE YOUR ONE REMAINING BUSINESS QUESTION, AAAHH!

And I never say that in the thread. So, you're welcome!
posted by Kwine at 1:23 PM on November 28 [15 favorites]


I feel you, Kwine. Naming something (baby, pet, business, etc) is always the best part; I can't believe people want to outsource that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:32 PM on November 28 [6 favorites]


Even this thread has devolved to the point where people are talking seriously about other people being "monsters." Maybe we can clear out some of the underbrush here: irrespective of whether the site has gotten meaner since whatever year 20XX, the present site is mean in ways that discourage some people from participating. Either that's a problem that the community and the mods will try to fix, or it isn't.
posted by cribcage at 2:11 PM on November 28 [12 favorites]


Huh, I thought over the past years Ask me has gotten soft and coddling. Weird to see this brought up since we're not really allowed to call out bullshit anymore.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 2:16 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


I was piled on and deserved it, AMA.

I jest. Slightly. I'm a several-year lurker who converted partly to ask a "how to human" Ask that promptly went to hell.

I can say that what's going to help the asker depends a lot on the asker. I know I'm trash; for one thing, I was lurking during the MeTa when y'all addressed that. So I appreciated people calling me an idiot. I know it's true in this case, and I have a shortage of honesty in my vicinity, so it was like coming home for folks to tell me I was bad and wrong. You get me! <3

However, I can also see Alternate Universe Me being crushed and running away. If they were not actually trash, or didn't think they were worthless going in. You never know where they're coming from.
posted by cage and aquarium at 2:26 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Jesus.

The fantasy is right-thinking bands of brave Mefites speaking with one voice to drive hate and bigotry off the site; the reality is making decent people feel like their trash/idiot status has been confirmed by their peers.

This is a good and important MeTa and we should do better in AskMe.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:34 PM on November 28 [45 favorites]


I've appreciated the pile-on when I've been the asker. There is enough passive-aggressive fake politeness in my IRL world. I come to AskMe for truth and perspective. Anecdata FWIW.

As for the thread being talked around here, sexism and racism aren't just philosophical or political or semantic points. The wife in the thread is considering in real time whether or not to go back to work in a new city without any support network, and with no idea that her husband thinks very little of her and is considering leaving her. The OP's choices once he's done with that thread could literally make the difference between self-sufficiency and poverty/dependence for both his child and another adult, who is making life decisions without knowing the truth. Not the time to put down a whole bunch of eggshells to tiptoe around to hopefully reach the OP gently with proper framing etc. etc. etc., esp. when he was already contemptuous of prior responses in his followups.
we've swung back in the direction of vigilante justice. We honestly feel like "If this guy is a misogynist [or whatever], who knows if he'll be banned or talked-to? It's on us to shame him and drive him away, and we can do that by treating him harshly and uncharitably."
Whether the OP is banned or talked to is not my concern. I am not concerned with or responding to how an OP behaves in this community. I'm concerned with and responding to how he behaves IRL. Which is what he came to AskMe to ask about. In other words, I am answering his question. And fuck if I'm going to be tone-policed about it.

Except by a mod, if needed.

And reading this thread reminds me that I did not contribute during the fund drive, so I just have now. Sorry for the delay, mods. And thank you for all you do.
posted by headnsouth at 2:55 PM on November 28 [14 favorites]


the reality is making decent people feel like their trash/idiot status has been confirmed by their peers.

I agree with you completely - perhaps we can also be less vigorous about confirming people's trash/idiot status on MetaFilter as well, by avoiding comments like "only Obama's blood oath to Centror, the God of Centrism, can explain this endorsement," "let's reel it in and stay reality-based," "imho this is the kind of message that plays really well on metafilter but not so much with fleshvoters in meatland," "the attitude you see expressed in these threads towards journalists who aren't perceived as being explicitly pro-#resistance is really, uh, something"

Or maybe these are necessary correctives, that call into question unacknowledged assumptions, blind spots, and premises, and elements of tone, especially snark and sarcasm, are hard to communicate in text?

These are matters of degree. In the past, I've seen even the most gentle, mildly-phrased and thoughtful, careful reminders about language use be interpreted, apparently in full sincerity, as vicious, froth-mouthed accusations of violent hatred, while in other circumstances a "fuck off," is delivered with and met with a grin and chuckle.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:00 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


I thought we explicitly WERE NOT talking about "that thread"? Yet it keeps coming up. I think I'm starting to understand where the problem lies now.
posted by some loser at 3:04 PM on November 28 [1 favorite]


I get that people are tired and hurt and don't have the energy/wherewithall/desire to respond that way to something they feel is harmful, but I do believe there is something to gain if we can let people who do have the energy take on the task.

I was actually personally ready to make that attempt in The Ask Which Must Not Be Named. I read the question, recognized the many problems with the Asker's premises and language, and started mentally composing an attempt at a careful, empathetic response that would show the Asker the error of his ways in a way that, hopefully, would inspire self-reflection and change.

Would it have worked? Who knows? I'm not trying to say that it was a magical, divinely-inspired answer, but I was gearing up to take a stab at it and try to bring my best self to the table. In any case we'll never find out, because when I scrolled down I saw that we were eighteen comments and counting into a nasty pile-on, and I just noped on out of there to a different Ask.

I probably should've flagged it on my way out the door.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:04 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Oh and y'know, I got piled on in Ask myself not too long ago! True story, I actually begged the mods to delete it as soon as I saw how it was going, it felt so bad. And it wasn't even close to the amount of fire I've seen people bring to sone other pile-ons. The mods took pity on me and granted my plea, which was embarassing and ignominous but nothing like having my good intentions ripped to shreds my my fellows. If I'd been new here, I probably would've just run away forever.

For what it's worth, if anybody remembers that question, I did take your advice. I am not my branch's diversity officer, but I have been using the channels available to me to advocate for more top-down commitment to diversifying our workforce. But hoo boy, the way those answers were written made me want to curl up into a little ball and die.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:20 PM on November 28 [10 favorites]


I'm concerned with and responding to how he behaves IRL. Which is what he came to AskMe to ask about. In other words, I am answering his question. And fuck if I'm going to be tone-policed about it.

I'm not intending this in a snarky way, but I fail to see how 20+ people, one after the other, taking a turn to chastise the OP in that thread for using the (definitely gross) term "stacked" is going to accomplish what you're saying you want to accomplish. That sort of pile-on is the issue under discussion, not just potentially-blunt or non-sugar-coated advice. I don't think anyone's necessarily arguing for "tone-policing" here.
posted by halation at 3:30 PM on November 28 [7 favorites]


QFT: This is a good and important MeTa and we should do better in AskMe. - prize bull octorok

The site used to be a village, then it became a small town, now it's a little bigger town. We don't/ can't all know each other, and lack of familiarity makes it easier to use Internet-standard disrespect and point-scoring. It's not just Ask.Me, it's the whole site. The mods can deal with explicit assholery, but we are a community and we all need to model thoughtful discussion. There have always been pile-ons, always. There has always been unkindness, probably in different ways.

Calm, well-reasoned, thoughtful exchange of ideas is a rarity. It's the very best part of MeFi, and I say this as someone who does enjoy some good snark. I've had questions go sideways, but haven't had a personal attack in ages. The site feels way safer, personally, than it did, because, Mods. Feed them flags.

Read the question.
Read the question again. It's extremely easy to miss critical details.
It's okay to pass on a question.
If you believe the question is faulty, be cautious. Which response will be heard better?
A. Hitchhiking across the Sahara sure sounds like an adventure, but I am quite worried about your safety. Here are some resources that have information about the region and recent dangers.
B. Send us a picture of your bones rotting in a sand dune. This is the worst idea ever, and I am an expert in worst ideas.
C. I work for the State Dept., in the Saharan Africa sub-dept. I sent you me-mail.
posted by theora55 at 3:52 PM on November 28 [8 favorites]


the man of twists and turns, I am now morbidly curious to see how a callout of my megathread shitposting might go, but it seems like a real derail here. I'm not sure what your point is.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:52 PM on November 28 [1 favorite]


Allow me to offer a song that's more upbeat and cathartic than the one I posted earlier. NSFW. We may debate whether it's OK to go off on someone in Ask, let alone for dozens of people tee off in rapid succession, but we've all thought about it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:01 PM on November 28


degoao, MetaTalk has often been allowed to be harsher. I'm sorry you got piled-on. You also got some defense. I'm glad you're participating here. I would kind of like some way to know if a comment of mine has been responded to; I don't generally check.
posted by theora55 at 4:02 PM on November 28


Also, I worked in bookstores for many years I once found an errata slip (rare these days, a slip of paper inserted in a book to correct an error) in the travel section. Page 123, correction, Hitchhiking is not a good way to cross the Sahara.
It was on the wall of the office for years; we figured it was a pretty good prank, but ?
posted by theora55 at 4:06 PM on November 28 [10 favorites]


Am hoping I didn't make awful comments in it.

[Ctrl+F's self]

Whew!


I finally looked. Whew is right.
posted by zarq at 4:12 PM on November 28


If you believe the question is faulty, be cautious.

Sure. And lest we think this is new, we should not forget the lessons of the past, when the philosophical question about AskMe was not so much "how can we be kind," as "how should we answer questions that are fundamentally insane?" Do not feed your pet crickets Diazinon.
posted by The Bellman at 5:15 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


I'm sincerely tired of all the man hate.
Just because a man didn't do the one thing, some answerer's feel the need to chime in and make negative comments about what a sexist jerk the guy is. The question that an asker asks is just one small part of their life and it seems some answerers make a lot of assumptions about the rest of the asker's lives to suit the answerer's agenda. Some answerer's forget that they are only reading one side of a story and there could be much more at play, but no, the guy is a sexist jerk. And you know, sometimes he is, but not all the damn time. As soon as I reach that comment in a thread, I walk away because I get so tired of it.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:20 PM on November 28 [14 favorites]


I'm sincerely tired of all the man hate.

I’m sincerely tired of the daily misogyny that I am forced to bath in every day that shapes my future and my opportunities. But yeah. Someone was mean to a man on the Internet.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:33 PM on November 28 [29 favorites]


But yeah. Someone was mean to a man on the Internet.

this kind of dismissive snark directed at a member of the community who's trying in good faith to articulate an issue is part of the problem, imo.
posted by lalex at 5:37 PM on November 28 [45 favorites]


I guess I'm not necessarily seeing it, which I fully realize could be my own biases. Other than the thread we're not supposed to discuss, can you give an example of man hate in AskMe?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:43 PM on November 28


"I'm sincerely tired of all the man hate" doesn't seem to be articulating the issue much, though, and is the kind of thing that tends to provoke more heat than light.
posted by Lexica at 5:47 PM on November 28 [12 favorites]


NoraCharles, I think there's a point in there but this is a terrible thread to be trying to make it in. If we were allowed to link to the Ask that has been the elephant in the room for this entire thread, I think you would understand why. At least, I hope so.

For what it's worth, I have on a few occasions flagged comments that were straight-up misandry and seen them get deleted. Comments that rise to that level are rare, but they happen. I'm not trying to make an equivalency here with misogyny because that's obviously a much bigger problem, but I've seen them and I've flagged them and they've been deleted. So misandry, to the extent that it is a problem, does seem like something the mods are willing to moderate.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:49 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


I'm still working on catching up with this and putting together some notes on some of the stuff folks have been talking about, but fwiw this thread's already a lot and I don't think kicking off into a sidebar of Man Hate Y/N? is gonna really help it get more productive. I'd say maybe let's table that for now?
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:49 PM on November 28 [15 favorites]


"I'm sincerely tired of all the man hate" doesn't seem to be articulating the issue much, though, and is the kind of thing that tends to provoke more heat than light.

If you know me from my posting history here, you know that the last thing I'm doing is provoking more heat - I'm tired of being afraid of posting how I feel because it isn't the most popular opinion here.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:51 PM on November 28 [9 favorites]


Should have previewed. Got it.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:52 PM on November 28


You totally are though, I mean you've already generated five counterarguments and a mod note.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:53 PM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I think man hate is coming on a bit strong and getting pretty far afield from the original post, but as a dude, asker and answerer, there certainly can be a tendency I've observed to assume really traditional and negative stereotypes about heterosexual relationships on the site, absolutely. Just look at how many people jump to abuse or infidelity based on very sparse info in questions.

I've only posted two anon questions ever, and in the first one some people made some really uncharitable assumptions about my relationship, my feelings towards my partner, what I said to her, was doing to her, my own attitudes etc. It was really hurtful and for my second one I really made an effort to obscure the genders so people didn't bring their own baggage into it. Nowadays, I just wouldn't ask questions about human relationships, here. The noise to signal is too high.

I need to caveat all this by saying:

1) I DON'T think responses in the ask.me alluded to here got anywhere close to man hate, though they were problematic for pile on reasons.

2) I DO think is all complicated by the lived experience of women which can all too often be steeped in pervasive and strong misogyny. Experiences like that certainly colour assumptions people Make. In the same way a lot of mefites bring their whiteness to bear on questions, it can be more or less appropriate.
posted by smoke at 6:00 PM on November 28 [7 favorites]


I think some of the more extreme responses were probably from people who were more building off of previous answers than actually addressing the question as asked. That happens a lot in the more active Asks, and after a few iterations an Asker can easily go from being a normal but slightly exasperated MeFite to a Literal Monster Who Should Have Never Been Born. That in itself is a big part of the problem we are ostensibly discussing in this thread, if you ask me.

...

Yes, protip: in a lengthy relationship Askme, check the asker's previous questions. Corollary: if you see a reasonable relationship question that has almost no answers even though it's been a while, chances are people are fed up with that asker for Not Getting It or what have you.



As someone who's gotten a tinge of that before on my questions, even on the second question (I got to No. 5 about the same basic subject, so sue me), I can say this kind of sucks and has discouraged me from following up with other questions I've had this year. I've been under extreme stress about the ongoing drama that I've been dealing with, to the point that as discussed previously, it's probably making me actually sick. But I feel like I now know what answer I'm going to get if I post another question about it ("Come on, we already told you this 5 times, do X or stop asking"), even if my question is about a new aspect of the problem or one of the baby steps I'm taking to deal with it.

I know asking about multiple facets of the same intractable human relations problem or set of problems is something therapists are really great for, but I already see one, and I get an hour with them every week. It would be nice to be able to ask things here in between. But I've held off, because the response I feel like I'm going to get is not a good one, precisely because people do exactly what you describe, Melismata. And all the feelings I might end up having about that may just distract me from focusing on what I need to do. So I haven't asked in a while, though I read with interest many related threads. I'm not all that interested in having someone besides my therapist hammer in how long it is that I've been dealing with the same thing without moving forward in any significant way. It hurts enough already.

So I read the responses to the particular Ask MetaFilter question we've all been talking about here with trepidation. While it seems clear enough to me that my situation is a very different one than that one, it feels like I'm really on the other end of a continuum from that, and I'm sensitive to it. I'm empathetic enough to be able to visualize how if I were to abdicate responsibility or choice in my life and primary relationship through enough iterations, I could slide right down that slippery slope to a horrible place for any human to be stuck in, regardless of how crass their wording might be. People ask questions like that one because they're miserable, regardless of how misguided they might be. His is a cautionary tale, a there-but-for-the-grace-go-I tale, a tale of purgatory—yes, largely of his own making, but still. I don't wish it on anyone.

But then, one aspect of my particular OCD-related mental quirks is that I tend to worry about what would happen if I were a person entirely unlike myself, who in all likelihood I could never become. "What if I'm really a terrible ugly person who no one likes?" is the gist. "What if someone decides I'm terrible and tells everyone and no one wants to be around me again?" So that entire thread had me overthinking and rethinking my situation, like, "Am I just like that? Am I just going through some sort of third-life or midlife crisis? Am I just selfish? Should I work on myself more before doing anything dramatic? Am I just hoping for something that doesn't exist and may never exist at my age? Am I just looking for a change in my life to avoid dealing with my own issues?"

But I've been "working on myself more" for 2 1/2 years, personally. And I've been facing my particular set of problems in my relationship for at least 4 years now, with the precursors going back a decade or more. Maybe that's exasperating. But I know that when I ask a question, I would hope that people would give me the grace to consider it in good faith. Have pity, not a pile-on.

You have to consider that people other than the original poster who might be facing similar situations to a given question are going to read the answers to these questions with some intensity of interest, and that your answers will exist basically in perpetuity, for anyone facing similar situations to read and reread long into the future (with any luck). I've personally read so many questions about my topic of interest that I can find my own favorites on the better answers going back years, when I inevitably Google a question that takes me back there. I've been dealing with my particular situation for a long time, and at this point, I can immediately identify the regulars in threads like that. Among you there are many gracious, generous souls who spend much of your time guiding people like me in a better direction, people who have been kind in your answers to my questions. But I also see a number of answers to human relations questions from people who probably should learn to be more patient or just not answer.

Knowing when to step back from a question and when to simply hit [+] or [!] is an art I myself have had to learn to cultivate. The fact that I have to go into questions about my particular relationship issues outright begging people to be kind, and bend over backwards to ensure people have context, lest I just get dismissed and piled on, well, like I said, it feeds into my existing issues and keeps me from being more candid and asking questions to which I could probably really use answers (and others might as well). This isn't a game where you get points for recognizing and calling out the real issues behind a question. I mean, I've piled on to questions before myself, so I get how satisfying it can be to feel like you're correctly reading between the lines to diagnose a problem someone didn't even know they had. But more questions would benefit from being taken at face value, even if the asker has related question history.

Everyone needs a hug—even if we don't individually want to give that hug or even the benefit of the doubt to someone with a frustrating issue.
posted by o_O at 6:00 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


turn into an opportunity for people to pontificate about how sexist the poster is without really offering them any help

but also car culture where I live is pretty different to what I assume was a mostly US-centric perspective

Both of these items are a for me what makes Ask (and in some ways the site generally) less good than it could be. I do not know if they are really fixable, or if it is even something that should be changed, because after all the non-US people are a minority here.

I want to offer my perspective, I am Canadian but have been an expat for going on 25 years now, most of my adult life, and I have gotten around. So to me, I am not some big expert, but I have seen the world, you know? Participated in a lot of different cultures. But caveat, I am also an old, and although my gender and privilege perspective has shifted I am still in some ways an old-thinking guy.

But here's the thing. I feel like a lot of Americans have a take on how social issues, gender politics, race issues, should be that they feel is the One True Way and it does not match with my lived experience. It becomes a really tricky thing to navigate, because yes, I know, there is a lot of pushback within the US from reactionary points of view that might help firm up for people that YES, we must always consider gender relations / sexism / racism / etc from THIS lens, and other opinions are old-thinking and wrong, or privileged, or...

And me, I often feel like people in the US might have a point, but they are lacking some nuance and perspective, and the world is really quite big and not everything is like it is in the US, or in big urban liberal parts of the US.
  • women (or people generally) that should break up with their partners because of (reason), this is a really individualist and US-centric POV, and it is way too frequent in advice
  • people MUST do (blah blah) because of the law, when the relation between what is legal and what is socially acceptable or expected varies wildly from place to place
  • you MUST see a (special expert), when this is not economically realistic or the social norm for many many peoples/cultures
  • you MUST get counselling, again this is not economically or socially the norm in much of the world
But like I said, this is largely a US site, for Americans and by Americans, so these things are probably unworkable and unnecessary to change.

Me, I am "meh", and I guess that there is such a thing as the passion of youth that gets dulled by perspective and age. World and people ain't the same everywhere, y'all, there is always a different way things can be done, your way is not the only way no matter how right it seems to you.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:06 PM on November 28 [26 favorites]


Something that just came up for me is the therapy/peer-support adage that we should "meet people where they are." Providing emotional support is not about berating someone until they're where we think they should be, but about focusing on the person's current situation and limitations and strengths and experiences, accepting those, and using that as our starting place. I know AskMe isn't therapy or even really peer support, but I think it's helpful to know that that's the standard we use in the trained helping professions.
posted by lazuli at 6:30 PM on November 28 [11 favorites]


I would love to see less of an emphasis on therapy and more of an emphasis on just thinking through your shit and making some changes in your life. I feel like people often recommend therapy for fairly routine issues that don't necessarily require spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a few hours with a professional, but could instead be managed through simple self-reflection by most anyone with the critical thinking and emotional intelligence of the average MeFite.

Also, even in America, a therapist is just not an option for many people, maybe most people. People don't have the time or the money for that. It would be lovely if everyone who needed a therapist could have one, but in the main they are only available to people with a fair amount of privilege.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:32 PM on November 28 [16 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised to hear that a not insignificant number of modern ASKers are front-loading their questions with "Yes, I am already in the bestest therapy, thankyouverymuch" so as to get some more engagement with the meat of their questions, when in fact they are not in the bestest therapy. Or any therapy at all. I wouldn't blame them at all for doing so either... I suspect they have learned this behavior from experience, either their own, or that of others they have witnessed.
posted by some loser at 6:46 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


Add me to the chorus of people who would never post a relationship Ask. I love reading them and I often reply to them. (I hope I give good advice, but I also find it personally helpful to think about how I would approach a given relationship situation as my Best Self and with the clarity that comes from having a bit of distance on the issue.) But I would never, ever, ever ask one of my own because I am 100% certain that I would be absolutely excoriated. I don't even know what I would want to ask. I'm not even in a relationship. But I know that the main result would be that I would come away feeling like a terrible trash person.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:06 PM on November 28 [6 favorites]


I feel like people often recommend therapy for fairly routine issues that don't necessarily require spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a few hours with a professional

This is an iffy line of thought; you're basing your perception on a few hundred words from someone you may not know well, or at all, and unless there's something I'm not aware of, you are not in any way qualified to make that call.

but could instead be managed through simple self-reflection by most anyone with the critical thinking and emotional intelligence of the average MeFite.


The average MeFite is qualified to share their opinion and, in some cases, prior relevant experience. Like all people. No more, no less. MeFites are not that exceptional - some are, and you know who you are, you lovely people - but again, that's a hinky road to travel on.

It would be lovely if everyone who needed a therapist could have one, but in the main they are only available to people with a fair amount of privilege.


It would suck if I needed dental work and couldn't afford it, but even if that was the case I wouldn't go to some rando with vice grips no matter how well-spoken or meme-savvy or woke he was; if people want to put up a shingle for tooth-pulling that's their business, but I would definitely think the flea market would be wrong to rent him a table, and this MeTa has made me pretty sure MeFi is wrong to facilitate responses to mental health, etc. questions beyond "Hey, what are some mental health resources in my city?"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:19 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: This is an iffy line of thought
posted by some loser at 7:22 PM on November 28 [4 favorites]


Wow, that cat/turkey thread is illuminating. I didn’t think so many people would so openly state that someone is a jerk who doesn’t deserve friends.

Yeah, this site can be pretty mean.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:26 PM on November 28 [11 favorites]


I feel like any given Answerer is just as qualified to say, "Consider working through your feelings around this issue theough active self-reflection; here's how I personally would approach this…" as they are to say, "Get therapy." In fact, I would even suggest that the former answer is more useful, because it is more specific and offers concrete steps that the Asker can take, rather than just pushing them in the general direction of a therapist. (Which, as noted, may be as realistic as pushing them in the general direction of the Moon.) Answers that can be boiled down to a simple "Get therapy" are basically dismissive, if you ask me. Not that all therapy-related answers are that one-dimensional, but some are.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:28 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


I joined because of AskMe and still come to the site daily, but don't go over there much anymore. So I don't know if the subsite has gotten meaner in the general sense, but I do feel that when I skim through some questions occasionally, there's a lot more clutter in them than before.

I still flag comments that pretty clearly break the guidelines, but sort of get the impression that the ones that have gathered favorites tend to remain, even if they don't add anything substantive to the question.

Something that really bugs me, probably more than is healthy, are the people who are aware that they're breaking guidelines but do it anyway, either with a disclaimer ("sorry, I just had to say it, please delete mods!") tacked on to the comment or in small type (stuff like, "we can't answer the question without pics!" in cat questions). It creates more work for the mods and clutters up the thread. I realize I'm probably coming across as a curmudgeon here but I liked the cleaner (cleaned-up) AskMe of yore and find myself sort of shaking my head disapprovingly and hitting the flag button in a half-hearted way.

And yeah, that cat turkey thread was weird and mean.
posted by misozaki at 7:32 PM on November 28 [6 favorites]


Oh and sure there are plenty of issues that clearly should involve working with a therapist if at all possible. But even something like, say, grief over the death of a beloved partner is not a situation where it would be irresponsible to recommend anything other than a professional therapist. People here have direct personal experience with things like that and can offer a wide variety of useful perspectives. Suggesting that getting A Therapist is the only responsible way to process something like that is, as Meatbomb alluded to above, a very culturally narrow outlook.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:33 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


So I mean, we're talking about how harsh we should be towards terrible people who ask questions about terrible things. And that's an interesting edge case that's worth hashing out.

But I feel like a more frequent problem is that AskMe is unnecessarily harsh towards people in odd situations — because people's imaginations run wild when asked about something they haven't personally experienced.

A while ago I asked a couple of questions about how to talk honestly at work about the boring details of my life — I'm poly and trans, I sometimes want to be like "Oh yeah, I went apple-picking with my partners" or "I'm super excited, I've got gender-affirming surgery coming up," and that's difficult in a very straight environment, so I wanted help navigating it.

The questions went startlingly badly, especially the second one. People went digging in my post and comment history to find evidence that I was crazy, lying, or both. People accused me of wanting to nonconsensually involve my coworkers in my sex life. I got lectured about the failure rate of poly relationships. There were multiple mod interventions and I think a bunch of stuff ultimately got deleted. It was a shitshow.

Charitably, I think a lot of people read a question about an unusual situation, felt like the unusualness made it a Mystery To Be Solved, imagined all sorts of horrifying details in constructing a Solution, and wrote their answers from that point of view.

I hope nobody sees me as the sort of Problematic Person who should be Driven From The Site by harsh answers. But I definitely felt badly treated, and definitely will think twice before asking anything other than purely practical questions in the future.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:53 PM on November 28 [26 favorites]


Also, I grew up with people who always said shit like “sorry, I’m just blunt,” and it’s a huge pet peeve for me. Calling yourself blunt is a great way to avoid listening to other people’s complaints about your behavior. Same goes for defenses of snark, when people complain that it feels mean — it’s not mean, it’s funny and snarky, read the room.

This site, in general, often reminds me of some of the smart but abrasive people I have known, and it can be as exhausting online as it is in person.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:54 PM on November 28 [20 favorites]

Oh and sure there are plenty of issues that clearly should involve working with a therapist if at all possible. But even something like, say, grief over the death of a beloved partner is not a situation where it would be irresponsible to recommend anything other than a professional therapist. People here have direct personal experience with things like that and can offer a wide variety of useful perspectives. Suggesting that getting A Therapist is the only responsible way to process something like that is, as Meatbomb alluded to above, a very culturally narrow outlook.
That seems like a bit of a strawman, though. I don't think that a question like that would elicit responses that suggested that therapy was the only reasonable course of action. Here's a question from last week by a young widow asking for resources to help her deal with grief. One answer mentioned that the poster had found therapy helpful, and a couple of other people mentioned support groups or other structured groups for young widows. But people also mentioned books, a podcast, and a Facebook group (which was the thing marked best answer), and a lot of people spoke from personal experience. One MeFite invited the poster to MeMail her. Unless you think that people should never mention therapy, even when speaking from personal experience about what they found helpful in a similar situation, then I don't think that what you're saying is what happened.

I'm also not sure what this has to do with AskMe getting meaner.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:02 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


I do not think that being blunt means that you haven't listened to someone else's complaints about your behaviour--or that it's bad thing. I think that often women (and especially WOC) who do not speak in a stereotypically feminine manner are catigated for it ("blunt" and "angry" often become conflated) and are then accused of not listening to people's complaints about their behaviour. Maybe because those complaints actually become, "why aren't you being more stereotypically feminine in your speech acts?"
posted by TwoStride at 8:11 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


I have recommended therapy here, and elsewhere (although I no longer do here because it seems to push some people's buttons) because therapy helped me immensely and sometimes I think it might've saved my life.

Despite having critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence in some areas and a fair amount of empathy, I was unable to "self-reflect" myself out of a crisis in my late 20s that was precipitated by a terrible break-up, but had deep roots in my fucked-up childhood. I was totally unable to think myself out of a very dark headspace I ended up in. I didn't have the tools to self-reflect myself better, because my family didn't do getting better, and I didn't have anyone safe to talk to. I'm actually a pretty self-sufficient person who needs very few people in their life, but at that time, I couldn't fix myself alone. I don't think there's shame in needing help, or not finding "critical thinking skills" sufficient to mindfulness myself out of dark times.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:17 PM on November 28 [8 favorites]


The flipside is that demonizing or denigrating interpersonal skills generally coded as "feminine" means that we lose a huge skillset that may be specifically suited for helping others, regardless of the gender of who's doing the helping.
posted by lazuli at 8:17 PM on November 28 [6 favorites]


What about a hard limit like “New accounts can’t ask a question until they’ve been active on the site for 3 months + posted 50 comments” or something? If the point is to weed out people whose values don’t match what Metafilter aspires to, then I don’t really see any reason to allow new users to post Ask questions at all. A lot of other communities have limits like that, and there are plenty of sites where someone can ask their (potentially sexist and dumpster-igniting) question after having just created their account. Doesn’t have to be this one.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:25 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Hey you guys are doing that thing we were just talking about. lol. Is this supposed to be satire? If so, hats off to you.

I feel like ... sometimes

response: I don't see how you get to make that call!!!

Even something like say, the death of a partner...

response: This specific AskME i just pulled up is the perfect counterexample to a fictional scenario you pulled out of your ass as a placeholder example!!! boom! truthbomb!
posted by some loser at 8:28 PM on November 28 [2 favorites]


There is a one week waiting period from account creation to be able to post an Ask question.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:32 PM on November 28 [3 favorites]


I think that often women (and especially WOC) who do not speak in a stereotypically feminine manner are catigated for it ("blunt" and "angry" often become conflated) and are then accused of not listening to people's complaints about their behaviour.

Do you think that’s what I’m doing now, though?

In my life I have been hurt by people who said “well, I’m just blunt,” and made my feeling hurt into a personal failing. Regardless of gender politics, there exists behavior that hurts people. It is very difficult to call attention to that if people doubt your good faith or sincerity in the first place. Or if they doubt that you have been genuinely hurt.

The flip side of “blunt” is being told that you’re just too thin-skinned and weak.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:04 PM on November 28 [8 favorites]


Do you think that’s what I’m doing now, though?

I mean, maybe at some point it becomes like that AskMe favorite, Ask vs Guess. Like, I am blunt because I try to be clear and brief. I'm not intending to hurt someone's feelings but it's out of my control if my answer/affect wasn't what they were looking for. Who's in the wrong?
posted by TwoStride at 9:23 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Maybe because those complaints actually become, "why aren't you being more stereotypically feminine in your speech acts?"

I feel like the point of contention here is more along the lines of "maybe people could/should consider the person whose question they are nominally 'answering' in their speech acts," though? There is often an almost-performative aspect to the pile-ons and to the "bluntness" in some Ask threads, as if the answers are for an audience of similarly critical people and not for the asker. That's not really the same thing as failure-to-nurture.
posted by halation at 9:49 PM on November 28 [5 favorites]


Well, put me in the tribe that enjoys ask.mefi regarding music suggestions, name requests and tell me about how whatever is done where you are from. Because I like the inventiveness and the brain trust nature of the community. And my not so secret shame is that I like chatfilter. I like reading people's personal perspectives on a given question. Heck, when everyone in a thread agrees it is a cataclysmic shout to the asker to do a serious re-think. I guess I like the humanity and the repartee on display.
posted by jadepearl at 11:40 PM on November 28 [10 favorites]


I do not think that being blunt means that you haven't listened to someone else's complaints about your behaviour--or that it's bad thing.

I don't see the concern as about the answerer's intentions or due diligence, or about whether some level of Big-5 disagreeableness (being "blunt", "forthright", "speaking the truth") is a bad thing. The question is in an AskMe setup, does being blunt actually work?

So on that I would point out two things. First, psychologists tend to emphasize that people don't respond well to criticism. So either culturally we try to adopt this idea a little bit, and use it as a science-based rule of thumb, or not. It's a choice.

The second is how would you know if an answering style works or not? Because I don't see much in the way of a strong feedback mechanism here. How do we know what answers are actually working and what aren't? Because marking Favorite/Best Answer (if used at all) only lets the OP give half the picture and is generally non-interactive feedback.

To that end... Suppose that AskMe Askers felt more comfortable taking problematic replys to the MeTa, as that would be one way to hold answerers more accountable for their behavior and responses. Maybe Askers shouldn't internalize their discouragement and feel free to voice when responses overall hadn't been working. But in terms of site resources and moderation effort and even the burden on the Asker, maybe that would be more an ideal system than anything feasible.

Another thought that comes to mind is last year's blue posts on Stack Exchange and similar Ask/Answer sites being too toxic because answers were being too harsh. So it's not a unique problem. So there's that to consider.
posted by polymodus at 12:44 AM on November 29


I used to pride myself on being blunt. Eventually I learned that bluntness is frequently hurtful, and worked to dial it back. It is possible, with some thought and empathy (emotional labor), to be both clear and also gentle.

You know what's blunt? A club. People don't come to AskMe to get clubbed.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:45 AM on November 29 [11 favorites]


And before anyone says, "Yeah, but sometimes they need it," I would refer you to my first sentence in my first comment in this thread. Sometimes bluntness is appropriate, I just don't think it should be the default.

I never speak in absolutes.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:05 AM on November 29 [1 favorite]


Obscure Reference said, "Hi. I'm a psychotherapist, but not yours. I have had clients who are racist. I have had clients who are sexist. I have had clients who are superstitious and/or conservative. My job is to help them and calling them out , even if they subsequently modify their behavior, is not ultimately helpful. At best, you get someone skilled at pretending (even to themselves) that they are not racist, or whatever. I personally believe that one reason people don't think racism or sexism is a problem in our society is because they learn not to be able to see it, especially in themselves.

My experience is that AskMe, like post-Trump America, has become meaner. You can, if it's your goal, help someone see that their assumptions are part of the problem, but calling them out is just a way to feel superior."


Callouts— addressing bigotry publicly rather than privately by flagging or messaging the mods— allows us to validate or discourage behavior as a community. If you think MetaFilter's gotten better at discussing and addressing sexism, that's in part because we've had long threads exploring this topic in a way that can be discovered, shared and validated by people within and outside the community.

This is also where the therapy analogy breaks down. You wouldn't conduct therapy at the town hall, would you? I don't want to belong to a community whose primary response to a nazi or a terf is "let me teach you to be a better person."
posted by yaymukund at 5:36 AM on November 29 [15 favorites]


If you think MetaFilter's gotten better at discussing and addressing sexism

Eh. Some kinds of sexism. Others get more of a pass. I can think of two recent AskMe questions where my first reaction was “fucking HELL, do you realise how this makes you sound?”, and while one of them was the pile-on that people have been obliquely discussing here, the other one got no negative answers at all. So I don’t see the existence of pileons as the price we have to pay for a blissfully sexism-free community.

There’s a definite snowball effect with AskMe pileons, where answerers #1-10 are what sets the tone for answerers #11-143 to ramp up the “AND ANOTHER THING, you terrible terrible person!” answers. And we are only human; it is satisfying to shout at people we have deemed bad, especially when we know our community’s got our backs and will shout along with us. I don’t think we help ourselves by denying that satisfaction is ever a factor, or presenting at as something that can only ever be good for the community because our basic ideology is on the side of light (as decided by, er... us). As prize bull octorok put it upthread, once you get a taste for this righteous satisfaction your standards for when it becomes necessary start to creep ever lower.

I didn’t comment in that pileon despite having plenty of very strongly-worded things to say, because while I firmly believe they were all justified, they had already been said by others and I can’t think what the asker would have got out of hearing them 23 times in a row rather than 22. It would have made me feel all righteous and satisfied, but I don’t feel that should be the main purpose of AskMe.
posted by Catseye at 6:25 AM on November 29 [12 favorites]


I'm glad for Yaymukund's comment, because it's honest: "I don't want to belong to a community whose primary response to a nazi or a terf is 'let me teach you to be a better person.'" That's the fundamental issue here (or at least one of the two) contributing to an atmosphere of meanness: MetaFilter has encouraged a culture of members who feel comfortable concluding about another human being, "Fuck that person." Yaymukund isn't the only person here who feels that way. It's rampant. That attitude is incompatible with my understanding of the purpose of AskMe.
posted by cribcage at 7:09 AM on November 29 [16 favorites]


That's the fundamental issue here (or at least one of the two) contributing to an atmosphere of meanness: MetaFilter has encouraged a culture of members who feel comfortable concluding about another human being, "Fuck that person." Yaymukund isn't the only person here who feels that way. It's rampant. That attitude is incompatible with my understanding of the purpose of AskMe.

I don't think it's just MetaFilter -- I see that tension among all my friends (and myself) right now -- but I do agree that it's incompatible with my understanding of the purpose of AskMe.
posted by lazuli at 7:17 AM on November 29


Has there been a spike in Nazis posting questions to Ask?
posted by Barack Spinoza at 7:34 AM on November 29 [11 favorites]


How did we make the jump from asking the community to be a skosh nicer to Askers to asking the community to be nice to TERFS/Nazis?

If someone posts an Ask about how to recruit more white supremacists, the question's going to get flagged and deleted.

But until the person asking how to get their spouse to contribute with chores posts a photo to imgur of their sloppy living room with Nazi propaganda on the wall, we should feel safe assuming they aren't a Nazi and "limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. "
posted by kimberussell at 7:52 AM on November 29 [10 favorites]


That's the fundamental issue here (or at least one of the two) contributing to an atmosphere of meanness: MetaFilter has encouraged a culture of members who feel comfortable concluding about another human being, "Fuck that person." Yaymukund isn't the only person here who feels that way. It's rampant. That attitude is incompatible with my understanding of the purpose of AskMe.

My gosh, won't someone think of the Nazis?

Are you kidding?

Yeah, no. Gotta draw the line somewhere. Nazis are it for me.

I mean, it's kind of a ridiculous hypothetical on its face, right? As far as I know, Nazis aren't openly posting questions. Unless questions that ask how the OP can be more racist have been so rapidly nuked from orbit that we haven't seen them. If so, well, the system works.

Regardless, Metafilter has long-standing rules against posting racist content or linking to white supremacist sites like Stormfront. People have gotten banned here for saying heinous things before.

That's not because we're sociopaths. It's because the site owners and mods don't want to be a conduit for that shit.

Personally, I'm totally okay with that.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on November 29 [13 favorites]


I mean, fuck TERF's too. They can all go to hell for all I care. But Nazis? Seriously?
posted by zarq at 7:54 AM on November 29 [6 favorites]


There’s a definite snowball effect with AskMe pileons, where answerers #1-10 are what sets the tone for answerers #11-143 to ramp up the “AND ANOTHER THING, you terrible terrible person!” answers.

I think sometimes what Answerer #113 is thinking is "Oh! I agree 100% with Answerer #8's bottom line message, but I love writing, and if I was going to flesh it out into a four-paragraph mini-essay of my own, I could do it so much more eloquently!"

Or if not "eloquently" then "poetically," "plainly," "bluntly," "kindly," "firmly," "gently," "elaborately," "modestly," or whatever quality of writing the poster most admires.

I know I've been guilty of that. "OH OH OH I HAVE JUST THE RIGHT ANALOGY that would make precisely the same point that Answerer #8 already made. I NEED TO POST THIS even though it adds no real information to the thread."

I wonder if the dynamic in some pileons is "We all agree you're mildly annoying. But as nerds who love writing, we've gotten into a competition among ourselves to see who can express that mild annoyance in the most florid and emphatic manner, and the more we one-up each other the worse it gets."
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:07 AM on November 29 [20 favorites]


Yes, Nazis (punk or otherwise) can absolutely fuck off. And TERFs have harassed members from this site multiple times, the most recent time being barely over a year ago, so I'd say any defensiveness or anger on the part of any MeFite regardless of gender identity is 100% justified.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:12 AM on November 29 [9 favorites]


I think people catastrophizing that not jumping down the throat of everyone who's not perfectly woke means that TERFs and Nazis will be running rampant on the site is also a big part of the problem here.
posted by lazuli at 8:12 AM on November 29 [31 favorites]


And again, we're not talking about the entire site, we're talking about the AskMe subsite.
posted by lazuli at 8:13 AM on November 29 [1 favorite]


The coddling of TERFs and allowing them to repeatedly break rules and site norms under the vaguest cover of civility has had huge consequences for the site as far as membership of trans people and our allies go. Since my BND I try to stay out of fights or callouts or whatever, but being too mean to nazis and TERFs has not been the problem with racism and transphobia here.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 8:28 AM on November 29 [20 favorites]


Oh and just a note about have things gotten meaner on Mefi? Back about 16 years ago one of my first conversations on the site included a well loved (still current, I think) Mefite telling me that discussing my own sexual assaults in a thread about sexual assault was manipulative and if I could argue objectively I wouldn't have to stoop to emotional blackmail. He made sure to follow this up with an email doubling down on his position. People who think the community is meaner now should just randomly hit threads from years ago and see if that impression sticks.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 8:32 AM on November 29 [29 favorites]


For the record, I'm generally in favour of being kind overall, even if I sometimes don't meet my own standards (and am fine being moderated in that case).

However, I don't think "would this be an appropriate response for a therapist" is the right bar, necessarily, for a community standard. If individual members want to hold themselves to that bar, that's fine.

But the therapeutic relationship is professional, it's a very particular area of expertise with years of training and professional standards and supports, and also...I think it's not a good way for a community to manage itself. I agree that some questioners are sometimes in a fragile place and it's good to mindful of that and being supportive overall is a good idea. However there are also boundaries needed and one boundary that seems appropriate to me is "don't expect a large group of people on the Internet to treat you like a professional with a duty of care to you."
posted by warriorqueen at 8:33 AM on November 29 [12 favorites]


I think people catastrophizing that not jumping down the throat of everyone who's not perfectly woke means that TERFs and Nazis will be running rampant on the site is also a big part of the problem here.

In the past(2012? 2010?), we did not jump down the throat of everyone who's not perfectly woke. And indeed, we saw that TERFs ran rampant on the site, attacked trans members of the site, lied to the staff in order to drive off their political enemies, and other shenanigans. And some of the people who were active then, and were banned after their tenth, or fifteenth, or twentieth second chance, have moved on to other pursuits in darker corners of the internet - redpill communities, or HBD-promoting subreddits.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:17 AM on November 29 [6 favorites]


Something else that comes to mind as I'm reading through this thread: calling out shitty behavior isn't the same thing as calling a person shitty.

Sometimes if you write a very personal ask and someone tells you, let's say, "whoa, you acted really rudely and aggressively there" it can feel to you like they're saying "you, OP, are rude and aggressive [implied: and I hate you and everyone on MeFi should hate you]", because your question is so personal, and so it might feel like the answer is a referendum on you personally. As much as we need to think about reading OPs in good faith when we comment, it's also important to read comments in good faith and not mistake criticism of behavior for meanness or personal hatred.

That isn't to say that no one ever gets called names or accused of being a bad person on AskMe, because it does happen, and usually it's not great! But I think it's easy to conflate the two.
posted by capricorn at 9:20 AM on November 29 [12 favorites]


I still think it's better to just delete offensive comments and ban members as necessary than to attack them en masse, although I understand the argument for attacking.

I remember the TERFy MeTa that INESTBHT! references like it was yesterday, ugh. I was chronically irritable for weeks after that, and I left the site for months. But I think that thread is an example of why moderation is the answer rather than pile-ons.

That thread was characterized by a failure of the site's moderators to recognize and deal with transphobia—I'm not here to relitigate it, but that's what it was. In the absence of effective moderation, the members took up arms themselves (rhetorically speaking) and attempted to mount their own defense. It didn't work—the transphobic comments persisted, giving them the appearance of being sanctioned by the mods. This was reinforced by the fact that the mods' response, when it did finally come, was bafflingly milquetoast and indecisive.

We lost at least half a dozen good members in that MeTa (not counting bannings) not all of whom have returned. A faster, stronger, more authoritative response from the mod team would have prevented that. We haven't seen an incident like that since, which I hope is a sign that some lessons were learned, but the lesson was emphatically not that offensive commenters need to be piled on by the userbase. The lesson was that offensive commenters need to be swiftly and definitively dealt with by the mod team.

What I would strongly support, and what has been asked for many times in the past (with, it should be said, some success) is for the moderators to more consistently signpost their actions when they delete offensive comments or ban bigoted members, so that the community can see that that kind of shit is officially Not Tolerated here. Offensive commenters shouldn't be allowed to get piled onto, because they should be cut off at the knees before a pile-on can get going—and when that happens, everyone in the thread should know about it.

I would still like to know why the Ask that's being elliptically discussed in this thread was allowed to go down the way it did, but short of opening a new MeTa it doesn't look like we're going to get an answer. The fact that we are now having a MeTa about meanness on AskMe and what should be done about offfensive Asks and Askers suggests to me that stronger, swifter moderation would have been beneficial. I'm very, very glad that this MeTa isn't as painful as the other one, but I feel like they belong to the same genre and that they could both have been avoided or at least mitigated if the mods had acted differently.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:23 AM on November 29 [8 favorites]


And indeed, we saw that TERFs ran rampant on the site, attacked trans members of the site, lied to the staff in order to drive off their political enemies, and other shenanigans.

By posting questions in AskMe?
posted by lazuli at 9:31 AM on November 29 [1 favorite]


cribcage said: "I'm glad for Yaymukund's comment, because it's honest: "I don't want to belong to a community whose primary response to a nazi or a terf is 'let me teach you to be a better person.'" That's the fundamental issue here (or at least one of the two) contributing to an atmosphere of meanness: MetaFilter has encouraged a culture of members who feel comfortable concluding about another human being, "Fuck that person." Yaymukund isn't the only person here who feels that way. It's rampant. That attitude is incompatible with my understanding of the purpose of AskMe."

Please don't put words in my mouth.

"I don't want to be in the same room where a bigot who uses slurs against people of my identity is getting therapy to learn why that is bad" is not the same as "fuck that person."

My point is simply that we have to consider the effects on the community in addition to the 1-1 dynamic between an asker and answerer. I brought up nazism or terfism because they're clear examples where the very process of convincing a bigot in public makes many of us uncomfortable. It's very different from paid, private therapy or you trying to convince your offensive relative at thanksgiving, where everyone in the room probably feels like they belong there.
posted by yaymukund at 9:36 AM on November 29 [11 favorites]


calling out shitty behavior isn't the same thing as calling a person shitty

Also self-quoting to say, since this conversation has veered toward talking about social justice, I also think we need as readers to be responsible for distinguishing "this is a problem thing that people with x kind of privilege do" comments from "people with x kind of privilege suck and are the worst" comments.
posted by capricorn at 9:40 AM on November 29


By posting questions in AskMe?

Haven't found one yet, but answers made in AskMe by those users were used as attacks on members of this site.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 AM on November 29 [1 favorite]


I think there are absolutely two things going on, and it benefits no one to conflate them.

First and foremost, people are fed up with the results of harm to the vulnerable they see in everyday life, that is ramping up in real life, and that is super scary. This stuff is more on display, even if unintentionally, even to a minor degree, in human relations questions. I've just looked through the human relations questions from the last few months, and I find there is indeed a great deal of sympathy and understanding to folk who have posted sensitive relationship questions.

Large 'pile-ons' happened in the most recent threads about:
(1) a man wanting to leave his wife with a new baby,
(2) a man who wanted to know how to date without getting hit for sexual harassment,
(3) the mom who wanted to know how to discipline her daughter for accidentally poisoning dogs
(4) the man who was dating a woman 18 years younger who had been his ex-wife's mentee and who she had strong concerns about introducing to the kids.
(5) the person who was upset their friend didn't give them a ride to an event

In 4/5 of these, the response of the community can be interpreted under the heading of 'defending the vulnerable'. In case (1), people were concerned for the impact on the vulnerable wife. In (2), folks were concerned for women at the Asker's workplace. In (3), people were worried about the impact on the child, and in (4), folks were worried about dynamics and the kids of the relationship. These are all both good impulses, and also things that folks are more sensitive to right now.

On (5), I think we are seeing a dynamic that is also on display with the cat/Thanksgiving question and that has probably been to a minor degree on display with others - concern about others violating the social contract. I think it's hard to separate the ways in which people, especially from the US, are worried about violations of the social contract right now in a kind of low-grade background way. I commented in the cat/Thanksgiving post that it was not proper to yell at your guest as a host, but thinking about it now, I think it's highly probable that part of the immediacy of it for me was related to my feelings about how precious friends are right now, and how trivial all annoyances that aren't related to the current existential crisis seem. I don't think I'd have commented so strongly three years ago. I think it's important to remember that a lot of us are all suffering a low-grade trauma together, and it is harder than ever to choose kindness when adrenaline is firing on all cylinders.

I don't know if we can really 'solve' the (1-4) problem - there is always going to be a tension between people asking questions that other users feel might harm the vulnerable, and the responses in those threads. But I do think we might be able to alleviate some of the (5) problem by thinking about where we're experiencing bleed over that isn't directly connected to actual problematic elements, but rather, like, collective grief over the loss of a perceived connective society.
posted by corb at 9:45 AM on November 29 [20 favorites]


By posting questions in AskMe?

Certainly by participating in transphobic ways in AskMe and/or using MeTa threads about AskMe stuff to spew their hatred, yes. Also it's not like people lack the capability to remember things. If someone is being a huge transphobe on 2 out of 3 biggest areas of the site and then give their opinions about gender in a gentler way in the other area, the blanks sorta fill themselves in. Same goes if someone argues that slaves didn't have the right to kill their captors, or that Black Lives Matters is a gang of thugs and then answers questions about living in the inner city or about judging the shopping carts of people on welfare. This isn't 4chan, people have persistent IDs and some people make themselves known by their bigotry.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 9:45 AM on November 29 [7 favorites]


Haven't found one yet, but answers made in AskMe by those users were used as attacks on members of this site.

And the point of this MeTa is that I would like answers in AskMe not to be attacks.
posted by lazuli at 9:48 AM on November 29 [6 favorites]


Something else that occurs to me as a problem in the framing of questions, particularly in the relationships Asks, is that some OPs clearly want validation for their viewpoint rather than a specific answer or even the interest in seeing a variety of perspectives. I think we all see this when there's a question and the OP best responses only the answers that are all, "you are totally in the right and your friends are being terrible" and never the "well, maybe your friends have something going on they're struggling with" or "sometimes things need to be flexible." I think then the OP can feel that some people have been mean, and other people feel that if there's such division in the answers that half of the answers are being mean/unhelpful when that's not necessarily the case. And then I think more people answer out of the very good faith of, "they're not getting it so maybe if I frame it this way..." And then there's accusations of a pileon. Answers like "fuck off and die" absolutely should be deleted, if not worse, for the commenter--and I think they usually are. But I don't think that "Real talk. You're overreacting" are actually mean, though obviously some people will not be as chill about that kind of response, either.
posted by TwoStride at 9:49 AM on November 29 [8 favorites]


But I think that thread is an example of why moderation is the answer rather than pile-ons.

A faster, stronger, more authoritative response from the mod team would have prevented that.

We haven't seen an incident like that since,

The thread you reference was one of a series that have occurred over the years that had trans members leaving in droves.

I must admit I feel weird having to say this. I am not trans or non-binary and quite frankly I'm positive you're more aware of the scope of this problem than I am. Plus, you were active in the most recent thread I posted above. But I cannot help but point out that the sockpuppet shit you mention was not the only transphobic incident and things have most certainly not been hunky-dory since then. I'm very surprised you would imply otherwise.

Transphobia has been here for years with little resolution. Transphobic comments fly under the radar on Mefi. They aren't always deleted. Worse, the way the mods have handled concerns raised by trans members in multiple meta threads about transphobia on the site has yes, been "bafflingly milquetoast and indecisive." Not just once but many times. They've since pledged to try to do better. Which is positive.

Some of the people who were actively transphobic in those threads and on mefi are still here. Some are still active. The ones who are still here were (as far as I know,) never given a time out, never told to permanently stop commenting on the subject, never banned or given a BND and barely reprimanded in public by the mod team. And lo and behold, when transphobia pops up again on mefi and meta, they don't remain silent.

We've been around and around this subject multiple times. Transphobic comments that I have flagged lately mostly get deleted, so i know the mod team is doing something.

But people who have engaged in hate speech are still here. So relying on the site's moderators is clearly not a cure-all. Do I think pile-ons are the answer? No. But the userbase has been increasingly vocal about the problem for some time now.

which I hope is a sign that some lessons were learned, but the lesson was emphatically not that offensive commenters need to be piled on by the userbase.

The lesson wasn't learned at all, apparently, since it keeps happening. And recently. Since the mods have chosen to let transphobes remain part of the userbase, expecting different outcomes in the future is... unwise.

The lesson was that offensive commenters need to be swiftly and definitively dealt with by the mod team.

I'd truly love to see that happen. Haven't yet, but maybe next time. Not being sarcastic. Just depressingly realistic.
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on November 29 [10 favorites]


There’s something that just keeps coming up for me:
If there was a post where someone dehumanizes women, in their quest for information on their job and marriage or car or whatever, and every answer just absolutely ignored that part and straightforwardly and helpfully answerered their question, that would presumably be a “nice” Ask metafilter post?

That doesn’t feel nice (or even non-mean) to me.

I do understand that we’ve moved on to saying that it’s not that people are wrong to criticize, it’s the way that they do it...but it does seem like some of us at least are saying that Ask is a part of the site where we don’t express community norms but just answer the question.
posted by CMcG at 9:58 AM on November 29 [19 favorites]


is that some OPs clearly want validation for their viewpoint

This also strikes me as true but not occasion for a pileon. We can't force people to open their mind or repent for their stubbornness, and we shouldn't set out to punish people for asking self-serving questions.

I'd love it if the collective response to this sort of question was, like, "ten of us are gently explaining what's wrong with your point of view (and the rest are agreeing by means of likes)," not "a hundred of us are disgusted by you and everything you stand for (and are each writing five meaty paragraphs denouncing you)"
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:59 AM on November 29 [8 favorites]


And the point of this MeTa is that I would like answers in AskMe not to be attacks.

I apologize - I read this MeTa as asking if this was occurring, and asking if this was what people wanted.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:02 AM on November 29


Like. When the OP's problem is just smugness or stubbornness or validation-seeking, it's okay to think they're a jerk and walk away saying "Jeez, what a jerk" without needing to inflict any of that annoyance back on them.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:04 AM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I think this is also true for repeat posters who ask for help with the same problem every two weeks. They're annoying! It sucks! But I would love it if the social punishment they received was "We're bored and we mostly ignore their latest question," not "We're outraged, and we yell and pontificate, and we dig up old dirt to throw in their face."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:06 AM on November 29 [14 favorites]


I don't want to belong to a community whose primary response to a nazi or a terf is "let me teach you to be a better person." yaymukund
There are some hot-button issues where people can be very quick to judge. Nah, not going to give examples because I've been singed before. The quickness to call people out, judge them, label them, flame them, is, I think, a major problem, here on the Filters, on social media, in life. Murdering a protester with your car, wearing a swastika or confederate flag, being hateful to people who are trans, executing Black people in traffic stops, are obvious. But there are a lot of areas where I think it's okay for people to ask questions or express opinions that don't toe the line of popular opinion.

I avoided the trainwreck ask.me because it was already so toxic and lengthy. But the guy came in to ask a question, and I think it's a good thing to say, as some answers did, There are some assumptions here and some beliefs that are unhealthy and sexist. Here are some things for you to look at in yourself, and ways to move forward in your life that are healthier and will result in a better outcome for you. And, quite honestly, your beliefs are a crappy way to treat others, and here's why. If those assumptions and beliefs surfaced in a MeFi post discussion, okay fair game. But if you just answer an ask.me with You are a sexist jerk and should just get off the planet, I think that's unacceptable in that space. Teaching people to be a better person is a useful approach on ask.me. I'm fine with it on other subsites, but I am more tolerant of harsh opinion away from ask.me.
posted by theora55 at 10:09 AM on November 29 [12 favorites]


The reason I think some of these recent comments are valuable is that they move the ball forward. Earlier I said, "the present site is mean in ways that discourage some people from participating." Now some folks have openly admitted that's their goal, to drive people away from the site. That gives us at least some baseline of agreement about what's happening.

The question is what to do about it. I described it as a "problem" that's incompatible with the purpose of Askme, and clearly others disagree. I think it's time for the mods to weigh in.
posted by cribcage at 10:36 AM on November 29 [3 favorites]


The site has always been...something...in ways that discourage "some people" from participating. For instance, I think it's awesome that the guy who explicitly said he was going to work to harm trans rights through voting and other actions bc he perceived trans people on Mefi as being "too mean" being gone is a good thing. I don't think he would have been banned if people didn't push back at the significant shittiness he put forward before that. In other cases that type of shittiness going unchecked has run off lots of people I miss terribly.

Do you think we should just open the floodgates and let every terrible question and opinion from r/relationships or whatever alone just in case 5 answers is cool and 7 answers is a pile on? That people can't express "that's a bigoted thing to say because..."?
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 10:50 AM on November 29 [8 favorites]


OK, sorry, I've got one more thing to say because terfs keep getting mentioned.

I'm trans, and (speaking just for myself, not for the community) watching terfs get mobbed and dunked on doesn't actually make me feel safer. Because my experience is, it doesn't actually drive them away — the people who say terfy shit on the open internet are contrarians who thrive on that sort of confrontation. It just fans the flames.

I remember the fights over transphobia 4 or 5 years ago, and I feel like that was the outcome there too. Yelling at the people who were doing unacceptable shit didn't help. Dozens of us yelling at them didn't help. What helped was the mods taking action.

(On twitter, you see lots of people yelling at terfs. But it's not because that's at all effective! It's just because twitter is completely unmoderated, so the only thing that would be effective is off the table, and people are venting their frustration in ineffective ways. I feel like a lot of online leftists have gotten accustomed to twitter-style discourse, where moderation is nonexistent and mob action is the consolation prize, and have carried it over to well-moderated sites where there are much better options.)

I don't want to relitigate those fights from 4 or 5 years ago. The mods have done the right thing, the amount of transphobia on the site has gone down by a stunning amount, and things are really good.

I just think that using those fights as a justification for AskMe pileons is missing the point. What we learned in those fights is that pileons feel cathartic but don't change bigots' opinions or behavior.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:52 AM on November 29 [26 favorites]


That people can't express "that's a bigoted thing to say because..."?

Is anyone saying people can't say this? In fact many people are saying that taking the time to explain why something is bigoted or comes from a sexist worldview is good and useful.

My understanding is that what's being expressed here is discomfort with viciousness, personal attacks, pile-ons, answers that don't help the asker but do satisfy the answerer, etc. in AskMe specifically.
posted by lalex at 11:00 AM on November 29 [6 favorites]


nebulawindphone - I honestly agree with all of that (Ii think a lot of "group X is MEAN" is allies being meaner out of what they view is support combined with dominate groups classifying disagreement as violence). The problem I find on Metafilter specifically is that without that significant push back the mods don't tend to take action unless it is miles over the line. There is a sense here to "let the conversation go and correct itself" which is something that can lead to pile ons as it's easy to read the mod stance about it as being that we're supposed to help "light the way" (although again I agree it doesn't do that). That's more of a blue thing, but again, memory happens.

I do think some of this got afield of the narrow point of pile ons on AskMe though and I apologize for participating in the most recent derail. I just think it's entirely fair play to say "some viewpoints will not be tolerated [in whatever way the community comes together to deal with that, which hopefully won't be pile ons]". To me it seemed like some were suggesting that was mean or unfair or wrong in and of itself.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:06 AM on November 29 [6 favorites]


lalex - I was responding to cribcage who is saying we're actively trying to drive people off the site through mean pile ons.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:08 AM on November 29


The mods have done the right thing, the amount of transphobia on the site has gone down by a stunning amount, and things are really good.

I just want to say that I hope this is true and, if it is, that's great! I know a lot of trans people have said that Metafilter has felt hostile to them and it is really really excellent news if progress has been made on that. Yay!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:08 AM on November 29 [2 favorites]


(I mean, again, just me, not speaking for the community, and different people are upset by different things. But yeah, no, my experience is that there's been a huge improvement.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:11 AM on November 29 [5 favorites]


(Oh yeah, that's why I put "I hope this is true", not because I distrust your reporting of your experience but because I know that this could vary a lot from person to person, and I don't want to derail this thread into "has MeFi gotten better for trans people?" but I'm so so glad that you feel like it has gotten better and, during a time when we're talking about meanness and a lot of us are feeling bad on a lot of fronts, I think it's great to acknowledge something good so yay (: )
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:15 AM on November 29 [5 favorites]


(On twitter, you see lots of people yelling at terfs. But it's not because that's at all effective! It's just because twitter is completely unmoderated, so the only thing that would be effective is off the table, and people are venting their frustration in ineffective ways. I feel like a lot of online leftists have gotten accustomed to twitter-style discourse, where moderation is nonexistent and mob action is the consolation prize, and have carried it over to well-moderated sites where there are much better options.)

i wish i could favourite this harder.

as an nb person who is making a little home on MeFi (and probably being annoyingly voluble in Ask) after previously only lurking here and then a many-years absence: this dynamic is what drove me from my previous internet home. we had moderation, but people brought their life-stresses and that unmoderated-social-media dynamic with them into our moderated, closed, non-social-media forum. and over time, that dynamic took over, with pile-ons happening more and more frequently, with mods unable or unwilling to intervene because they'd get piled-on if they tried.

i am DEFINITELY NOT saying that is happening here! but wow, even a little bit of that pile-on dynamic gets me nervous now, as a result, because i saw how quickly it escalated, how quickly it took down a place that really did try to do a good job of caring for its members. it may have started out of a belief people brought with them from elsewhere that they needed to defend themselves to stay safe, but ultimately, it became a form of cruel sport. certainly moderation always entails delays or compromises, but compared to pile-on-style 'moderation' it feels a lot safer, to me.
posted by halation at 11:33 AM on November 29 [13 favorites]


Hey there zarq, I think you were mischaracterizing my argument. Just because I didn't recount the entire history of transphobia on MeFi doesn't mean I deny it exists. Just because I said I hope the lack of nuclear-grade incidents in the last year means some lessons have been learned doesn't mean I think Transphobia On MetaFilter Is Solved. Thank you.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:33 AM on November 29 [3 favorites]


But yeah, I do think there have been improvements or I wouldn't even be here. Still plenty of room for further improvements. Better doesn't mean fixed, or even good enough. But I do think things have improved at least somewhat or I would never have come back.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:37 AM on November 29 [1 favorite]


Do you think we should just open the floodgates and let every terrible question and opinion from r/relationships or whatever alone just in case 5 answers is cool and 7 answers is a pile on? That people can't express "that's a bigoted thing to say because..."?

There is a middle ground between 'leave it alone' and a 'no holds barred, drive that sort of person from the site, in fact the mods should just boot them anyway, trying to correct them is like debating with Nazis' approach.

For example: the fedora guy Ask of many years ago. The answers there are far from praising the guy, probably he found them pretty brutal, but they are nevertheless attempting to answer his question and there's one "a few comments removed, if your only response is YOU SUCK, take it to metatalk" comment from Jessamyn.
posted by Catseye at 12:21 PM on November 29 [5 favorites]


One thing I will say: what I think is way meaner than anything I've seen in AskMe is people's comments in this very thread saying (and here I paraphrase), "The moderation really sucks since jessamyn left."

When paraphrasing, please don't put things in quotes, because no one said that. The first person (after LobsterMitten) to mention jessamyn said:
"I pretty much think that since Jessamyn has left, AskMe has been different. I think, overall, since she's left, the entire site has been different. I don't think anyone of us realized what a huge impact she had on the site was, until she left, and I, for one, am very sorry she's gone as a full time moderator."
Emphasis mine. Note, no one word about sucking.

jessamyn is a librarian and was/is an avid participant in the AskMe threads -- 15728 answers! Not just to moderate them when that was her job, but to participate. The mods here are super awesome, and work hard herding the cats, etc, but it is a BIG ASK to expect them to be able to fill those very big shoes.

Thanks mods for all you do.

Everyone else, please do try to be helpful in Ask or move on. Thanks!
posted by terrapin at 1:18 PM on November 29 [6 favorites]


So, trying to digest and collate a lot of stuff from in here. I'm gonna post a couple separate comments because I've been drafting bits and pieces of different lines of thought as I read through this the last couple days and I don't want to post an entire book at once.

Overview thoughts:

I don't have a clear sense of Ask having gotten meaner per se, but I think we'd be better off if we did find a way as a community and a mod team to push back on some of the elements of rhetorical escalation and judgement and piling-on that does show up in Ask MeFi commenting dynamics.

I don't think folks are coming to their answers in bad faith or with ill intent. I do think that folks sometimes come in with expectations or assumptions about what will be a useful or helpful answer that are off target, in a way that can be self- and group-reinforcing in bad ways.

And that mix of basically reasonable intentions and not-great rhetorical choices can lead to folks doing stuff like:
- finding their own objection already in the thread and, rather than just nodding or adding a flat reiteration/elaboration, turning up the heat to make their own voice heard by contrast
- welding an otherwise constructive or reasonably critical answer to some unnecessarily high-heat packaging or more personal-feeling criticism or speculation
- treating an answer that disagrees on a point of opinion as a challenge that has to be addressed and sort of drawing a line in the sand as a result rather then just...letting it be a point of disagreement
- attempting to shock sense into or table-flip the asker through blunt or unusually strongly critical language or personal jabs/deconstructions/etc

Again, that's stuff that comes out of the normal flow of answering in Ask sometimes; this isn't the stuff that random exceptional jerks are getting up to on a crusade through Ask, because those folks are relatively straightforward to deal with. This is stuff that non-jerks who are otherwise good contributors will sometimes end up getting up to anyway, sometimes en masse.

And any and all of that will sometimes get a comment nixed but often it's minor shades or degrees of language where as mods we'll make a call based on the specific text, maybe not have the full context, maybe not recognize a budding bad dynamic until its in full bloom. These are systemic, emergent effects and they're hard to track and hard to find the right balance point on.

But like other mods have said above, hearing feedback like this is useful and is a good push for us to reassess where that balance is. Because some of these worries do resonate with me a lot and it's something we can be more aggressive about shutting down and about talking to people directly if it's more of an ongoing issue in their answering style.

Flagging promptly, with or without notes (with is espeically good when it's complicated/contextual, for sure), and using the contact form as well for complicated/brewing/subtle stuff, will help us a lot with that. Please do do that, please keep it up and maybe do more if you don't so much. I know it's a bit of a black box and that's unsatisfying, but believe me that it's a tremendously useful black box. Everytime we remind folks, we seem to see a helpful uptick, and end up getting "hey, you...took care of that thing! thanks!" messages from a few people who I wish didn't sound so surprised even if I don't blame them for it. We want to take care of the thing. It's at the absolute core of the job. We have the tools but we need the material to work with.

But I don't think a mods-only solution is going to fundamentally change things; this is in part a community problem, and community reinforcement and modeling of good behavior is gonna be a key thing. And I do really think that making that work involves in part folks keeping themselves self-aware about the impact their choices in answering have.

- Choosing not to add to a pile-on.
- Choosing to excise the unkind characterizations or speculations about an asker.
- Choosing to pass on a question if it's making you (for probably really understandable reasons!) too angry to respond civilly.
- Choosing to be kinder than you particularly feel someone has earned.

None of that comes free, none of that is necessarily easy when something feels off or dumb or angry-making. I don't list those choices as some "hey, it's easy, just turn the ol' cheek whydoncha" dismissal. The whole point is that it is an effort. Because that's part of why Ask, even with whatever problems it has, is and has been a remarkable thing. Because people do make an effort, on an internet where so much of the time making an effort isn't regarded as a priority.

It's important stuff to do. There's balances and compromises to manage there; I'm not suggesting some seismic shift in how Ask operates and I don't think there isn't room for critical responses to problem questions, etc. But I think us making a collective effort—as community members in shifting these choices a bit toward kindness and restraint in responding to askers, even ones we're not impressed by, and as mods in helping steer that shift through some more active enforcement of those kinds of things—can really make a difference in the overall feel of Ask without getting in the way of its fundamental utility.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:28 PM on November 29 [19 favorites]


I feel pretty on board with all that.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:09 PM on November 29


I'm coming to this discussion very late but wanted to add my experience. Nebulawindphone's comment above regarding how the community sometimes responds to unusual situations chimed with me, although my unusual situation was different to theirs. When my boyfriend asked me to marry him, part of the deal was that his mother lived with us. I said yes and then went through an agonising few months in the run up to the wedding where I didn't know whether I was doing the right thing. I thought very hard about bringing my uncertainty to AskMefi (I drafted the question more than once) but in the end decided not to because I was fairly certain that pretty much every answer would be a variation of DTMFA and/or "if your prospective husband won't put your needs above his family's needs, don't marry him". And, you know, that is a perfectly valid perspective and it was one that was running round and round in my head constantly at that time. But I felt that if I had posted that question to AskMefi, that would've been virtually the only perspective I got in response, no matter how I presented the question, and I felt that a bunch of comments all reinforcing one viewpoint would have been less useful to me than having a space to work through the potential consequences of the several courses of action I could've taken.

I never posted the question so there's no way to know for sure, but I wanted to offer a specific example of a time when the perceived culture of AskMefi stopped someone - me - from bringing a question to the community.

(For the curious: we got married, his mother lives with us, and it generally works -- better than I could've hoped most of the time, tbh).
posted by meronym at 2:37 PM on November 29 [17 favorites]


Hey there zarq, I think you were mischaracterizing my argument.

Apologies. To be honest, I'm relieved. I did not understand why you were making the argument I thought you were. I appreciate your clarifying and explaining that I was misreading. Thank you.

But yeah, I do think there have been improvements or I wouldn't even be here. Still plenty of room for further improvements. Better doesn't mean fixed, or even good enough. But I do think things have improved at least somewhat or I would never have come back.

That's good! I'm very glad. Both for the improvements and that you are back.
posted by zarq at 2:37 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


But I don't think a mods-only solution is going to fundamentally change things; this is in part a community problem, and community reinforcement and modeling of good behavior is gonna be a key thing. And I do really think that making that work involves in part folks keeping themselves self-aware about the impact their choices in answering have.

I like this idea, but I'm puzzled about how to participate in it.

When I see someone being a jerk, ok, yes, I flag them, but what can I as a community member do to reinforce "don't do that," given that we don't allow in-thread metadiscussion and we (thankfully) no longer do callout threads?

Can you give an example of what community reinforcement of those ideals would look like?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:41 PM on November 29


That's the "modeling of good behavior" part, I think. A lot of folks aren't necessarily the harshest or most knee-jerk of answerers, but they're willing enough to increase the heat a little bit and match their tone to the thread instead of working to keep things civil and constructive. Paying attention to your own tone (you-general, not you-specific) and managing it in a way that makes the norm less aggressive is probably the best action you can take.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:54 PM on November 29 [7 favorites]


When paraphrasing, please don't put things in quotes, because no one said that. The first person (after LobsterMitten) to mention jessamyn said:

Well, yes, terrapin -- that is, in point of fact, specifically why I said "And here I paraphrase" (and that is a direct quotation). I am aware that no one said "sucks," which, once again, is why I said I was paraphrasing. I was trying to communicate how I experienced the tone of the remarks, and I don't think it's a stretch to say that the remarks were making value judgments about the current moderators.

In any event, as long as we're criticizing, maybe you could not disingenuously leave out the other remarks, which is what I was largely responding to:

I don't know what the solution is, but I do think it has gotten worse since Jessamyn left

and, responding directly to the above:

That's exactly my feeling. I only ask the most straightforward questions now, never touching the friend/relationship/complex questions that I think often about asking even anonymously.

You don't experience that as nasty, that's fine. But please do me the courtesy of not accusing me of dishonesty when I was entirely clear about what I was doing.
posted by holborne at 2:57 PM on November 29 [3 favorites]


Thanks, zarq. Apologies for getting a bit shirty there; thank you for taking it gracefully rather than escalating. Hugs if you want 'em.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:39 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


Can you give an example of what community reinforcement of those ideals would look like?

r_n got at the basic idea of what I was thinking about, yeah; it mostly comes in this context down to recognizing moments where there's multiple possible kinds of responses available to someone's post or comment, and actively choosing to go with the one that's gonna be productive or set a good example or throughline for whatever follows it.

Stepping into a thread or a chunk of discussion with a response that allows space for whatever was wrong or dicey or kinda yowza to actually get talked through, corrected productively, treated as a thing in the mix of someone's question rather than the showstopping thing that disqualifies the question from any kind of restrained response: that can have a huge preventative effect on looming ugliness. That's an active kind of behavioral decision-making that doesn't necessarily look or even feel like a big thing; it's notable mostly for what it manages to route around by establishing a good path for the thread to take. When it works it often doesn't look like much of anything at all. But people see it, and internalize it as a normal way to navigate the possibility of space of How To Respond To Things, and they reproduce that themselves.

The thing is that modeling good behavior's a really low-key, work-a-day thing in general; I'd say that most regular participants on the site do it pretty consistently as just their default way of being on the site.

Every day where you show up and comment and interact in basic healthy ways, you're not just Not Causing Trouble; you're actively contributing to a sense of place, setting a background example for how people on the site ought to behave. Lurkers and new members see that and adjust their expectations coming in; long-time members see that and it reinforces or readjusts how they choose to behave.

So there are times when modeling good behavior might be a really proactive choice—when e.g. you take a deep breath and offer up the productive, restrained advice to someone who kinda stepped in it with their question, to help establish a non-trainwreck trajectory for a thread—but most of the time it's just remembering to be the kind of MeFite you want to be around, to do the basic work of prioritizing your community space over maybe satisfying but not-great instincts in the moment, etc.

And I think most people do pretty well at that most of the time! To the point where things here aren't bad the way the would be if people were accepting a kind of baseline-internet Not Really Trying behavior from themselves. But everybody has bad moments or bad days or bad habits. And I think when someone's in one of those situations, they can end up seeing someone staking out a better approach than the one they're leaning toward and that'll guide their actual behavior in the moment. Maybe because they say "oh, that person answered that more coolly than I was gonna, good enough"; maybe because it nudges them to rewrite their response; maybe because it reminds them that that's more how they want to engage and to sort of check in with themself instead of digging in on the situation.

And when someone does that, the next person doesn't end up getting caught up in the wake of things going a little bit south. And the next person, and the next person; threads usually don't go badly immediately, they usually sort of heat up step by step. Breaking that chain, especially early but really at any point, can help keep things from really going off the rails. This is what mod comments are doing a lot of the time, but often at a point where there's already significant heat because that's what's gotten it on our radar; but community members are constantly doing it in subtler ways throughout conversations, by offering bridge-building comments on a disagreement or explaining a point of confusion or even just routing entirely around something provocative to get the conversation back on the okay track it had been on previously.

I think of it a little bit like herd immunity; we're never gonna be at a point where everybody is having a good day, everybody is their best self. Life is bumpy, MeFi is heterogeneous, and you roll enough dice you're gonna turn up some 1s. So we can't just say "everybody be perfect". But if we raise the proportion of people who are stopping and sort of considering their response in any given somewhat testing situation—if we raise the proportion of people modeling good behavior when that choice of responses arises—we reduce the chance of bad dynamics getting momentum, and so people see that less often, and the behavior they emulate is then better, and round and round the ouroboros.

Everybody doing a little bit better a little more often can have an outsized affect on the resulting overall tone on the site, especially over the long term.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:41 PM on November 29 [19 favorites]


Thanks, r_n and cortex both. That is super helpful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:42 PM on November 29


But I almost always delete "doesn't answer the question" / "(unnecessarily) questions the premise" when flagged or when I see them;

I was VERY surprised in my recent Ask Me that answers that told me there were no answers were not deleted to my very concrete question. I flagged all with mod notes and got no feedback. It wasn't a hugely important question, but it's not how I am used to how AskMe runs, and I would hesitate before posting again, even about a question with answers.
posted by agregoli at 7:33 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this thread, lazuli. I was part of the pile on we are talking around and I will tread more carefully next time an Asker annoys me.
posted by eirias at 7:35 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I flagged all with mod notes and got no feedback.

There were several answers deleted in that question - the only one without a concrete suggestion was one that instead suggested a different method of choosing (which is the sort of thing we'll allow ONCE but the following four non-answers were indeed deleted.) We don't respond to mod notes other than via the usual moderation methods - there isn't a specific mechanism to do so. If you want a concrete response, the contact form is still the way to go.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:39 AM on November 30


Maybe they got deleted after I had stopped looking at the question, apologies. I got frustrated.
posted by agregoli at 8:55 AM on November 30


I haven't looked through examples so i only know of one particular question for sure where this was a problem but definitely in that case the pileon was exacerbated by follow-ups from the op.

So it goes like this:
-op asks a question that's unusual / not in line with site norms
-people reply, sometimes asking for clarification
-op clarifies / provides more detail and doubles down / adds to problematic elements
-community goes ????!!!!! and feels an obligation to set op to rights
- op may add additional comments and eventually get a [that's not what we do in askme] mod comment
-by this point enough has been said that respondents start arguing and answering each other which may lead to additional pileons directed at particular responses and a metatalk post

As a very practical suggestion I'd love to see ops required to submit clarifying information through a mod.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 10:29 AM on November 30


There’s something that just keeps coming up for me:
If there was a post where someone dehumanizes women, in their quest for information on their job and marriage or car or whatever, and every answer just absolutely ignored that part and straightforwardly and helpfully answerered their question, that would presumably be a “nice” Ask metafilter post?


"Your comment sounds dehumanizing to women, don't do that here.
Your car might need power steering fluid".
posted by bongo_x at 4:26 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I wish there was a toggle when posting an askme that said "Posters can't reply than once and don't allow posters to see other replies until after they have posted or asker has chosen a best answer". It'd solve most pile-on problems and the OP would have the possibility to allow discussion or not.
posted by Memo at 4:37 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


1. I stumbled on this thread with good timing because I had just typed up - and then x'd out before posting - a response to an AskMe that really got my goat (the response had some new info not addressed but was 90% shut up and mind your own business and I needed to tone it down or not post it so I didn't post)
2. It would be nice if we could give the benefit of the doubt to people that they are trying their best. Like, sometimes even people who are sexists do actually want to be better people. And are trying. And I see people saying well, it's too exhausting, why do the emotional labor of holding their hand gently through their transition into being a decent human being and - absolutely, you shouldn't need to do that, but since no one is forcing you to write a response and since it's not as if the badness hasn't already been called out, multiple times...
3. My perspective on this is unquestionably based on how I have not always been a perfect person, am in fact still not a perfect person, have grown in various ways, and would find this kind of nasty pile on very soul shriveling and would very possibly respond, self-protectively, by dismissing it. So I'm grateful for the people out there who have been patient and kind because I'm a better person for it.
4. I despise this business of treating bigots as subhuman. They are bigots. This should be acknowledged and addressed. But someone doesn't forfeit their right to be acknowledged as a human being just because they're not a good human being. Replace bigots with criminals or mass murderers or whatever, feeling glee about torturing a human person will always be wrong. I have felt it, of course, but it was wrong.
posted by Cozybee at 10:42 PM on December 2 [15 favorites]


I’m late to this discussion but I participated in piling on Hot Stacked Coworker’s Ask. While I agree in theory that piling on isn’t very nice in that Ask I wrote nothing I wouldn’t say to Askers face, in fact irl I’d probably have screamed in his face esp after his updates which made him look like more of an asshole than the original shitty Ask. The shitshow was all his own creation. And as a community we really should push hard against the gross misogyny Asker displayed. I would be upset if mods deleted my cranky reply-it paled in comparison to Askers awfulness.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 1:37 PM on December 3 [5 favorites]


I don't think folks are coming to their answers in bad faith or with ill intent. I do think that folks sometimes come in with expectations or assumptions about what will be a useful or helpful answer that are off target, in a way that can be self- and group-reinforcing in bad ways.

This is such a long thread and so I apologize if this was discussed, but what about people that come in and comment basically the same, (in my opinion) over-the-top advice in every thread? I don't think they're commenting with ill-intent, but it does seem like they're working on their own issues rather than looking at each individual question. These are usually the Humans Relations questions.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:14 AM on December 4 [7 favorites]


That's an okay thing to drop us a line about at the contact form; when someone's not really doing anything flaggable in the moment but as a pattern of behavior it's maybe getting problematic, that's less visible to us thread to thread but a heads up about what's going on can help us take a closer look and potentially contact that member to talk with them about whether they need to throttle back or reexamine some of their answering behavior.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:27 AM on December 4


Thank you, Cortex. I appreciate that and that seems very logical.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:07 AM on December 4


Before I got to this thread I noticed a human relationship AskMe with a huge pile on in support of the poster. I decided not to be the 100th person to say what everyone else was saying because it was overkill. So that was my contribution today, to not repeat advice that other people have already given. In this case, many, many, many, times.

We are only human. I think it can be really challenging to read a question from someone who appears to be an obvious asshole and not to respond to that person accordingly. But I try not to. I assume every question is genuinely asked from a place of good faith and give the best advice I can if I respond. If the question just makes me furious, and sometimes it does, I try to move on.

This stuff is hard; thanks to the OP, the other commenters, and the mods for wrestling with this stuff.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:40 PM on December 4


I do not think this site has become 'meaner'. Even though I have not been around as long as most posters, and do not post as much as others, I have found the level of conversation and moderation to be fairly consistent over the past ten years.

I also do not see much value in a community that is overly sanitized with with moderation. I feel there is already a lack of diversity opinions as compared to 'real life' due to the composition of the user community and I feel additional moderation to make things 'nicer' would only contribute that problem.

One thing I have never understood about this place is the over the top aversion to pile-ons. Yes, it is not adding to the discussion to have 50 of the same answers to the question in some cases. But, for some questions I feel it is useful. I firmly believe that it is useful for an OP to see that there 50 people rather than 5 who share an opinion or are questioning racist/entitled behavior.
posted by seesom at 4:48 AM on December 5 [4 favorites]


Please forgive me for not reading all the comments above.

I thought that thread, and other pile-ons, should be deleted for two related reasons of scope.

First, an ideal Ask question has a specific goal, where a narrow subset of users's experiences can usefully apply. Like, a pregnancy sleeping question, a specific-place travel question, a question about 401k choices. The pile-on Ask from last week that was so bad, failed that test on the simpler level: vanishingly few people desert a spouse+newborn because the spouse isn't Barbie, and so it wasn't likely to get that narrow slice of the userbase to be super helpful in answering. There were no answers in this category, thank Dog. But a question that asks a basically immoral but specific question? Axe it. Not within our scope.

On the deeper level, the people who the Asker needed answers from were ..... 50% of the users here, as in, he needed Every Woman to set him straight on being a human. The "specific goal" in the Everywoman answer would be to ... not objectify women? And that is well, well beyond the specific, answerable question scope. Just like suicide questions are often deleted: they are beyond the scope of what Ask can or should do.

That's what bothered me about the pile-on: that every woman here was exposed to that level of sexism, where they felt they had to respond. Antagonized into the emotional labor involved. I think the user base shouldn't be (mis)used in that way. If I want to be in a user base where deeply ingrained sexism is common (and the emotional labor of correcting it falls on women, frequently, every time, from ground zero), well, I go to my activity-based site, but I do expect a respite here.

Combined with the offensiveness of the sexism, that question needed a lot more work at best, but I would strongly land on DeletedFilter.

I also think that human-relations questions that are basically "Let me tell you a story. Am I right?" are inherently missing so much that they are prone to failure, where pile-on is a specific mode.
posted by Dashy at 11:12 AM on December 5 [5 favorites]


I think that while the effusively supportive Human Relations thread Bella Donna is (I assume) alluding to contains a lot of astute observations, good advice, and compassionate re-framings of the Asker's perspective, it also displays some of that sort of snowball effect that I referred to upthread. When I first noticed the thread it had several dozen comments and some point, I got the impression that Answerers were starting to one-up each other. No one answer (as far as I read, anyway) was way hotter than any preceding one, but a lot of them were a little bit hotter, and there were enough comments that I think overall things were starting to get a bit frantic at the point where I dipped out of the thread.

I'm not really mad about it because I think people were just trying to help the Asker and I think that the Asker needed the advice they got. I quickly saw that there was really nothing I could say that hadn't already been said quite clearly several times over, so I moved on. It felt a little overbearing, I guess. Fifty one-ups is one fifty-up.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:31 PM on December 5 [5 favorites]


…then again, I imagine that for that Ask, many Answerers had reasons involving their own lived experience that made them feel compelled to answer. I can't deny someone their desire to see others avoid mistakes that we ourselves have made, to see them turn away from that disatrous road.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:13 PM on December 5


If the mods are being overwhelmed by the POLITICS mega-thread, I have a bold suggestion.

No more megathreads.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:26 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


Super, we haven't had that discussion in, what, a week and a half?
posted by Chrysostom at 7:50 PM on December 5 [9 favorites]


Welp I guess we just send all mod power to those and the rest of the site can wither away.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:27 PM on December 5


Well, that's super fatalistic and also hangs the whole thing on some speculative binary when in practice we've been the much more actually-MetaFilter thing of trying to find workable compromises in how much attention we put where. I don't find that sudden terse swerve late in this thread helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:29 AM on December 6 [10 favorites]


just dropping in to say that I'm noticing and really appreciating the mod attention and encouragement of kindness in this AskMe.
posted by lalex at 11:53 AM on December 8 [4 favorites]


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