MetaMetaTalk and MetaModeration Thereof January 4, 2019 11:56 AM   Subscribe

In another MeTa post, a moderator made comments that some found to be unmodly. That other MeTa became a more wide-ranging discussion of moderation (and metamoderation), to the point that it has been agreed that a different MetaTalk post should be started. This is that MetaTalk post.

To be clear, this is not the Two Minutes Of Hate on Eyebrows McGee. This is a place for discussion of site moderation in general, with an eye toward specific actions taken and how the communities of MetaFilter, its users, and its staff should present themselves and deal with such actions in the future. With that in mind, please lay out your concerns, and remember, we should all aspire to be fellow members of a community here.
posted by Etrigan to Etiquette/Policy at 11:56 AM (547 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I'd like to reiterate the request for a toggle or somesuch for mods to turn off their "mod voices" when they're commenting as regular users in a MetaTalk thread.
posted by cooker girl at 11:57 AM on January 4 [45 favorites]


Cross posted from previous discussion.

Okay, so what are the best practices for mods with a long time user bringing up correspondence into a public conversation and using it as evidence to make a point?

I am genuinely curious about this. What would people be most comfortable with in that situation? My personal general preference is to believe all of my private discussions are potentially public, but that's my own fucked up history with alluded and mischaracterized conversations: I do not really feel safe in private, and I gut-level believe that I am safest when other people have all the context on my behavior and can judge for themselves. This is, to be clear, a belief I hold irrationally and without evidence, one that is the result of extended emotional abuse and gaslighting. I don't expect anyone else to share, but it's a belief anyone might reasonably have.

I am personally incredibly uncomfortable with anyone being not allowed to discuss both sides of private correspondence and possibly post it publicly in response to public discussion initiated by the other party. That gives me screaming hives to the point that I would be considering walking from any community that expected that from any member up to and including mods. I cannot overstate how much that feels abusive and toxic to me, and if that's the policy people want--which sometimes feels to me as if it's being demanded when members allude to probate correspondence with mods to make a point and onlookers express discomfort with mods--I will seriously consider leaving.
posted by sciatrix at 12:01 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


i think the mods should not post as users at all. They have a huge, huge power that we non-mod users don't: to post anything they like without having to worry another of them is going to summarily delete the comment for being "not useful". As it currently stands, they're essentially superusers who can skirt the rules of conversation the rest of us are subject to. Just divide the site into users and mods and let that be that.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:05 PM on January 4 [31 favorites]


A copy of my comment from the other thread:

I think a lot of this thread is happening in the territory of accusations and defensiveness, and a number of old wounds are being reopened which is generally a sign of a long-standing situation where trust is missing somehow.

I think it is important for people to be able to voice their concerns relatively openly, and it seems like maybe some folks don't feel like they have space to do that. I also think it would be useful for the community to drill down into those concerns a little bit more to try to get to solutions.

To that end, some questions for both the mods and the users to reflect on:
-What are your unmet needs in this situation? What are the community's unmet needs? Example off the top of my head: users need a clear understanding of the expectations, which is not always easy to come by because we talk about a lot of difficult topics and there are gray areas. Another example: people need to feel that their contributions are recognized and appreciated. The mods seem to be asking for users to assume a little more good intent on their part.

-If you could make a request from the mods or the community about something you'd like people to do differently, what would it be? My general rule about making requests of other people is that I try to frame it without snark. This is not to say that anger is out of bounds, rather for myself I try to express the feeling separately from expressing what I want the other person to do.
posted by mai at 12:07 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I get why people are uncomfortable and fearful, but also, y'all expressing your discomfort and fear also makes me feel afraid and unsafe. As it has done every time this topic comes up.

I am okay with guidelines like "unless you bring it up yourself, mods will never publicly share what you say with them." But the whole "mods should not publicly comment on private correspondence no matter what the other person is publicly saying" thing freaks me the fuck out, y'all, and it makes me want to run for the hills.
posted by sciatrix at 12:07 PM on January 4 [28 favorites]


I'd like to reiterate the request for a toggle or somesuch for mods to turn off their "mod voices" when they're commenting as regular users in a MetaTalk thread.

I wanted to say, I agree with the spirit of this suggestion, but I'm skeptical that it can work.

The mods are the mods even if the "staff" badge is temporarily off, and users will still know who they are.

If the mods wanted to have alts for participating as regular users, that might work a little better, but I'm still skeptical.

Basically, I think the mods have to (and in general do) swear off certain kinds of participation that regular users can do. It's the best way to balance their authority with peaceful and respectful relations between mods and users.

I wrote a longer comment about this in the other thread. There, I proposed some simple guidelines or ideals that I think capture what the mods mostly already do to navigate this subtle balance:

Proposed ideals for mods conducting themselves as users:

1. Don't wade into heated debates unless they're about the site. Moderators will have to moderate heated debates, so they shouldn't join them as participants. Moderators are people, and as people they can have opinions on all the issues of the day. Accordingly, they may want to wade into heated debates. But this is unhealthy for the site. Bruises from these debates can lead to hostility, and, while hostility between regular users may be okay, hostility between users and mods is harmful to the site.
2. In a heated debate about the site, stick to the points relevant to site policy. When a heated debate is about the site, then moderators may be forced to wade in, but this is still risky. When moderators participate in a heated debate about the site, they should frame their participation so that it is just about the site, not about any other issues that may also be part of the debate. Further, it may be better to frame their participation as explaining how and why the mods have made a decision, rather than arguing for one side or another.
3. Criticize behaviors, rather than users. Do this even when you are not talking directly about a particular person. For example, don't say that people who do X behavior are lacking in empathy. Instead, criticize X behavior.
4. Don't be sarcastic or insulting. If you are responding to a user you think is behaving badly, it is better to call out their behavior than to fire back (even if it would be fine for a regular user to fire back). If a user is just being a little irritating, and it is not part of a larger pattern of misbehavior, consider letting it go. In considering whether one of your comments will read as sarcastic or insulting, be more cautious than a regular user and err on the side of more neutral language.
posted by grobstein at 12:08 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


i think the mods should not post as users at all.

Do you mean in general, or just in MeTa? I would hate to miss out on the contributions from some of the mods here.

Also, I have seen mods delete the threads of other mods. I've even seen some of them delete their own threads.

I generally trust the mods here, even when they misstep. We all misstep sometimes.
posted by bondcliff at 12:11 PM on January 4 [60 favorites]


and remember, we should all aspire to be fellow members of a community here

Seconded. It's far too late to salvage the tone of the last meta, but please, folks, can we try to extend each other a little grace in this one?

i think the mods should not post as users at all.

I disagree. It's their home too.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:11 PM on January 4 [54 favorites]


Mods having alternate accounts where they get to participate as regular users but no one knows who's secretly a mod in their off time is a recipe for paranoia and distrust.

Mods who never relax, joke, and participate as community members have a lot less leeway for mistakes and will accumulate bad feelings at a much, much faster rate, in my experience. There's some good evidence that relationship quality is mediated by the number of positive interactions, not the number of negative interactions, between two people. Removing all positive interactions between two users from the equation does not seem like a good way to build trust.
posted by sciatrix at 12:12 PM on January 4 [100 favorites]


Having mods who don't participate in the community except as mods would go about as well as when police forces are made up of people who don't live in the community -- which is to say, badly, leading to mistrust and abuse.
posted by tocts at 12:15 PM on January 4 [42 favorites]


Just divide the site into users and mods and let that be that.

I... dunno. It seems kind of unfair to deny the mods the fun of participating in the site. I can see how it would be wise for them to stay out of contentious threads unless they are modding, but I enjoy the occasional lighthearted comment.

It’s a bit like my experience of being chair of a fairly large and important group: my job, in meetings, was to keep the business moving and to attend to the agenda and respect Parliamentary rules. During debate, I did not participate except in calling on members to speak, clarifying points, and answering questions. In the rare cases when I needed to participate, I formally set aside my chair status for the discussion, and my vice chair took over the responsibilities until we were done. Mods should roughly follow the same protocol — cortex, for example, should probably not be modding a thread and participating in it at the same time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:19 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


I feel strongly that one of the ingredients that makes the moderation here good is that the mods aren't faceless overlords, they're contributing members of the community, so if we're taking an informal vote on whether mods should get to comment as "regular users," my vote is that yes, they should.

I've always seen the modding here as consisting of at least as much art as science, which can make it difficult to quantify, but I think grobstein does a decent job above of highlighting some of the areas where the mods should (and usually do) tread lightly.
posted by duffell at 12:21 PM on January 4 [33 favorites]


For the reasons Greg Nog states, I don't think mods can post as regular users. If I see a post by cortex, it's a post by cortex the mod with or without a staff tag. If there's no staff tag, then that tells me about how cortex the mod intends to participate in the discussion, but it would nonetheless surprise me if he said acted unmoderatorly.

If you take that as a starting point, then the question becomes: what are appropriate boundaries for mods who want to participate in non-moderation related discussions?
posted by yaymukund at 12:24 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I would much rather work through the occasional misunderstandings and missteps than lose the mods as community members.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:25 PM on January 4 [131 favorites]


i think the mods should not post as users at all. They have a huge, huge power that we non-mod users don't. -Greg Nog

So, I am the equivalent of a mod on A Big Internet Site That's Not This One. It's my job to handle things like abusive users, systemic problems, etc. I used to be deeply involved on the user side of Big Site until I took this job. My job does not, strictly speaking, bar me from participating in the user side of things; it does ask that I consider the appearance, to others, of the ways I participate. But as I settled into my job, I found that I was naturally stepping back from participating in many user discussions (particularly the more heated/triggery ones) because there's just no way, in my experience, to do this job and be sure to have your not-spoken-as-a-mod words not viewed as still being the Word of God. Especially when people are upset or arguing. When I do participate in the user side these days, I do it in areas that do not cross with anything my job relates to, and I do it with explicit disclaimers. Not because it's the rule, but because it makes my own job harder (and it makes it harder for me to make the place better for others) if I do. It sucks and it's not fair, because I still care about those topics, but the other option - the one where I potentially torpedo the good I can do in this job - is worse.

I'm not saying Mefi needs a "no community participation from mods" rule. Or even a "think of what people will think!" recommendation. But I think it is something the mods need to be actively, consciously considering when they want to speak as community members - is what you're about to say likely to impact your ability to do your job? Is it likely to impact how others will see you to be doing your job? If so, the wise choice may just be biting your tongue, even if it hurts. And it will suck, and it will be unfair, but sometimes that's just how doing your job works.
posted by Hold your seahorses at 12:26 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


Up to this point, I've generally taken it on good faith that when the mod summarizes correspondence in a thread where it is relevant, they do so fairly accurately. But then in cortex's summary of his correspondence with zarq in the other thread, one of two things is true:

Cortex bent so far backwards in trying to be fair to zarq while summarizing that he accidentally made it seem that zarq's original characterization was basically correct; OR
Zarq's original characterization was basically correct and cortex shouldn't have felt the need to push back on it at all.

I am unsure which of those is true, and it leaves me feeling uneasy. I used to be the cortex-equivalent on another site, so my first instinct is almost always going to be to trust the moderators, but this particular situation is raising doubts.

It's also making me question my understanding of what's allowable behaviour here, because the description cortex provided of zarq's correspondence didn't jump out at me as being in any way over the line, yet it was described that way. Again, that could just be cortex trying to be extra fair in summarizing, but it might be that the line of what's acceptable has shifted further than I thought it had.

The fact that I took EM's remarks so personally in that discussion is no doubt contributing to my general feeling of angst in the other thread. I've always thought I had a pretty good handle on site practices here on MetaFilter -- as much as you can when "we try to look at the nuances of each specific situation" is part of the practice -- and that thread left me feeling much foggier as a whole. For the time being, I no longer feel like I "get" MetaFilter which is very weird for me. I have always felt so at home here.

i think the mods should not post as users at all.

I think this is an unworkable idea for a community like this with mods who are this closely watching the conversation. It can work on large sites where the mods are basically there to kill spam and swearwords, but it leads very quickly to a lack of nuance and entrenches an Us vs. Them mentality. Mods need to be an active and participating part of the community, and a huge percentage of the time, that is not a problem. It is occasionally a problem, but I disallowing mod participation on the site is a baby with the bathwater solution.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:27 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


So, I used to be one of the voices that was super critical of the mods. I wanted hard and fast rules that could be clearly expressed, and I wanted no bias or leeway in anything ever. It used to make me crazy when mods did the thing of 'this will be upsetting to the community' rather than 'this violates x rule'.

But now that I'm a few more years distant from the military, I realize this is really the only way it can go. Mods are a limited resource, and they really don't have the capacity to moderate fast flowing shit-fights, other than by time-outs and bans, which I don't think anyone wants to see more of. Removing things that make the conversation shitty - the turd in the middle of the floor - before it becomes a shit-fight seems a much better use of mod energy.

And the thing is - the thing that makes mods much better at being able to stop the shit fights without unnecessary deletions is the fact that they're a part of the community and have a higher degree of being able to read the room. The only time I've been flat out shocked by mod decision in the last few years has been mods who didn't participate regularly in certain threads but were on duty modding them and didn't seem to me to have a feel for them.

So count me as very much in favor of the mods continuing to talk in here, and as being personally appreciative for their personal contributions.

I'll also note that my life has been made infinitely better by a mod's personal contribution - EM was responding to a comment of mine about Catholicism, and had the effect of reminding me that I should get inside a church and see what they're like rather than opining blankly. Now I've been a fairly regular church member and I think it's helping me to be a better person on a daily basis. Without mod participation, I'd have lost that, and myself and my family would be the poorer for it.
posted by corb at 12:28 PM on January 4 [55 favorites]


What actual harm is done, or what actual problems are being generated, by mods participating in non-moderation related discussions now?

Maybe I missed something crucial but as far as I could tell, some folks took issue with the content or tone of one particular mod's comment. That horse was subsequently beaten to death and I think it's safe to assume that the specific issue there will not come up again.

How did we get from that to this general referendum on mod participation in threads in general? Folks are talking as if there's a general problem here with mods abusing power, mods getting away with things, mods unfairly influencing things, &c and I am just not seeing that happening.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:30 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


How about all the moderators, when acting as a moderator, show up as a role instead of a person? A jointly-used alt, if you will.

"posted by ***moderator*** at 12:27 PM on January 4"

This way, moderators can post as themselves as much as they like. But the act of moderation appears impersonal and non-arbitrary.

It also reduces the visibility as a moderator by name, so I can't tell if any old moderator is acting, or whether it's That Asshole Knucklehead Moderator X That Hates Me once again raining on my parade, that punk.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:32 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


i think the mods should not post as users at all.

I only agree with this for MetaTalk and only with certain understandings (that of course they are users, but this can be complicated when you're in the place for talking about site rules and regs, by definition what you say in MeTa is mod-talk). I think it's really tough to split off your personal feelings from your work responsibilities and in MeTa it's just too thin a needle to thread. This is me talking as, of course, a former mod. And it's one of the things that sucks about working here if you're someone who also really socializes here (which was something that mathowie/pb didn't have to reckon with the same way I did) and, you know, cares about things.

One of the main reasons why I feel this way is because of a baked-in design here which is that usernames are last. I generally love this as a feature, but it means that you read the words before you contextualize them. Which also means if someone was speaking not as a mod, you wouldn't know they'd turned the staff badge off (and newer users might not even understand that was a thing). So, not speaking to this particular dustup except to say that I feel having a turnoffable staff flag for MeTa would not, to me, address the complex issue people are feeling weird about.

If a mod feels a need to really talk as a user, maybe they have a clearly marked sock puppet or they have to take a whole sentence to say "I get that this is difficult but here are my non mod opinions as someone from an affected group" or whatever.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:32 PM on January 4 [34 favorites]


In the past, there were some misunderstandings with staff members who commented in MetaTalk threads, and yet, were not the on-duty moderator. These comments were taken as, in various ways, official moderator pronouncements or sanctions or actions, when they were not. This led to incorrect understandings of what were, or were not, site policy, moderator action, and proper conduct for the on-duty moderator.

Do we have a way of understanding who among the staff is on-duty?

I agree with sciatrix that one standard put forward prior, that of staff members being disallowed from publicly referencing specific MeMail or Contact Form correspondence regardless of what a user says about that correspondence in a thread, would be extremely concerning.

One way is to disallow all references to private correspondence. Another way is to allow references to such correspondence only if a user brings it up.

Otherwise, I could say that I wrote to the staff to get confirmation that I am the best, and they all said "yes, you are the best poster, our favorite, the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being we've ever known in our lives."
And none of you would be the wiser!

Best
,
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:35 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Having mods who don't participate in the community except as mods would go about as well as when police forces are made up of people who don't live in the community -- which is to say, badly, leading to mistrust and abuse.

I think this is a good point. The mods are the site's police, and that does affect how different users perceive them and their participation.

I actually think a LESS formal and more friendly/convivial relationship between mods and users would be a good thing.
posted by rue72 at 12:36 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


It also reduces the visibility as a moderator by name, so I can't tell if any old moderator is acting, or whether it's That Asshole Knucklehead Moderator X That Hates Me once again raining on my parade, that punk.

I admire but do not share your certainty that in such a case the theoretical user is likely to assume that the moderator account is anyone but TAKMXTHM at any mildly objectionable point. You might as well name the account after TAKMXTHM.
posted by sciatrix at 12:37 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


How about all the moderators, when acting as a moderator, show up as a role instead of a person

That is a really interesting idea.
posted by dazed_one at 12:38 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


the description cortex provided of zarq's correspondence didn't jump out at me as being in any way over the line, yet it was described that way.

I actually read it as another user described - as a gendered power imbalance that did not favor EM. A long time male user of the site, reaching out to a new female mod, to say 'you don't know the rules here, you're new, let me explain to you how to mod' would give me the screaming jeebies. The implication is that the male user knows more about the female mod's job than them by virtue of their social capital rather than their role and position. That to me definitely sounds over-the-line, especially reaching out privately to them rather than using the Contact form. That would make me uncomfortable if I were the mod in question.
posted by corb at 12:39 PM on January 4 [34 favorites]


I think that the vast majority of users have at most minor issues with the way that moderation happens around here and that in the other thread I see some sharp axes wielded by some familiar faces wrt this topic.
posted by Kwine at 12:44 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


I actually read it as another user described - as a gendered power imbalance that did not favor EM. A long time male user of the site, reaching out to a new female mod, to say 'you don't know the rules here, you're new, let me explain to you how to mod' would give me the screaming jeebies.

Which is 1) totally out of character for the user, and 2) entirely the characterization of a mod speaking with the mod voice lecturing the user on why it's a bad idea to come up with your own characterization.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:46 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


The mods are the site's police, and that does affect how different users perceive them and their participation.

It also explains why cortex keeps banging his fist on his desk and calling taz “a loose cannon,” even though she Gets Results.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:49 PM on January 4 [74 favorites]


Let's not get into people's perception of what's in and out of character for particular users . I thought this was about moderation practices?
posted by agregoli at 12:49 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


It also reduces the visibility as a moderator by name, so I can't tell if any old moderator is acting, or whether it's That Asshole Knucklehead Moderator X That Hates Me once again raining on my parade, that punk.

From professional experience, I can tell you that in my prior job, mod anonymity made things somewhat easier on the moderators -- hatemail feels much less personal when it isn't addressed to you by name and it avoids things like gendered insults -- and somewhat harder on the users, some of whom tended to develop elaborate conspiracy theories about a specific moderator who had it in for them, even though they couldn't tell who modded them specifically. There were also plenty of theories about which members of the site were moderators, since they were fully anonymous, and most of those theories were laughably wrong -- the members were often people we would never in a million years have considered inviting to be mods.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:52 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


totally out of character for the user

I am very fond of Zarq, but bless you: I disagree completely.

I find it amusing that I am now getting told by one gentleman I respect and enjoy whether or not my assessment of another gentleman etc etc as being quite in character to explain moderator dynamics to a junior female mod is correct.

Go on, sir. Tell me more.
posted by sciatrix at 12:56 PM on January 4 [56 favorites]


Since moderators work shifts, having an anonymous moderator role would be quite easy to work out when TAKMXTHM was on duty. I think that the mod voice convention works fairly well. The alternative seems to be lots and lots and lots and lots of rules that there will always be corner cases around.

Modding is hard, mods are human, and yesterday seemed to have a whole bunch of grar on the site. Hugs to all of youse.
posted by scruss at 12:57 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


I don't exactly agree with Greg's suggestion that mods not be able to post as users, but I can say that I'm much more sympathetic to that view than I would have been back when mods were more like community members who happened to be mods, offering discussion guidance and shaping site policy.

I think people of good faith can reasonably can disagree on the extent to which much heavier moderation (more comment deletions, more aggressive discussion corralling, introduction of the queue) have improved or not improved the site.

But when power is wielded more aggressively, it's entirely reasonable for people to respond by asking for more clearly-drawn restrictions or boundaries around that power.
posted by lalex at 12:58 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Is it possible to discuss moderation without referring to the great cancerous monolith looming over the site, that uses up so much mod energy and has reduced moderation elsewhere into an exercise in topiary?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:58 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


everyday I think about shutting down the site more and more.

there are a million possible things I could do to try and improve the site, or at least get it somewhat back on track. I think there are a few small things that can get us back at some normalcy, but in the long run, there's just too many people here.

the site has definitely grown beyond what it was designed for.

posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:02 AM on September 23, 2001

posted by Chrysostom at 1:00 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


Is it possible to discuss moderation without referring to the great cancerous monolith looming over the site

well I mean we were doing pretty well up til now
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 1:01 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


sciatrix: I am very fond of Zarq

Except I'm a misogynist?

Wow.
posted by zarq at 1:04 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


well I mean we were doing pretty well up til now

True. From my perspective that means folks were just screwing around discussing symptoms though. Just trying to find out if this is one of those rare MeTa threads worth participating in.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:07 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Moderators should be regular members in addition to being mods, period. If the mods we have aren't exercising their super-user powers responsibly, we should insist that they be replaced with better ones (using the threat of withholding our financial contributions as leverage if necessary), but one brief slip-up in tone from a member/mod who's contributed 7,000+ comments does not justify some sweeping change in policy or enforcement.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:09 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


my dude, as dudes, we have to be able to take criticism for (maybe? wasn't there, not taking a position) inadvertently engaging in sexist behaviors without immediately reacting as though we've been accused of being a capital-M misogynist.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:10 PM on January 4 [100 favorites]


zarq, ffs, sciatrix was describing your behavior, not applying a label to you, and while I *don't* know anything about you or your qualities as a person (and won't pretend to speak to them), from over here your words are petulant as hell. For your own sake, I think you should walk away from the keyboard for a bit.
posted by duffell at 1:10 PM on January 4 [36 favorites]


People had said in the prior thread that they have ongoing concerns with EM's modding. What are they, specifically?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:11 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


What kind of unforgiving standard are we holding the moderators to? They do an impossible job to the best of their abilities. I can separate their actual person from their modding just fine. What kind of utopian kindergarten are people striving for here? Flag it and Move On. Everyone Needs a Hug.
posted by Rumple at 1:12 PM on January 4 [31 favorites]


Thatwhichfalls, we'll have a mod-started MeTa on the catchalls in the relatively near future, so we'll have plenty of time to dig into that seperately.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:13 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Uh. No, I said that it's not out of character for you to inadvertently lapse into a specific behavior that reads pretty badly to women. I also just indirectly called out zombieflanders for doing the same thing to me here, in case you didn't notice. Buddy, that's a internalized living in the soup of patriarchy kind of slip, not a judgement of your character or certainly your intent. I kind of expected you to take that as implied and not require more soothing about that, but I can see that is a big ask when you've been away for a bit and unexpectedly found a spotlight on yourself. That's a shitty situation.

I should note that saying to someone mid conversation "this crappy gender dynamic is coming up and it is raising my hackles" is often something that derails conversations and gets people defensive and upset, even if you hedge it with "I know you didn't mean this" and do a lot of soothing about whether someone is an Irredeemable Misogynist. I definitely wouldn't bother doing it in private because the hand holding through feelings is something I find upsetting, especially when I'm not secure in my position. I'd be much more likely to reach out for a colleague for support, especially from a supervisor.

It strongly read to me like that dynamic was happening--that you were giving advice and viewing yourself as a social inferior or equal helping, that EM was new and reacted as I would have--not well, not during a transition like that, my confidence would have been shaken and I would have been upset--and that she requested backup. I can't tell if that is what happened, but if it helps my reading on your part was cluelessness, not malice.
posted by sciatrix at 1:13 PM on January 4 [48 favorites]


I think it would be good to draw a distinction between:

1. Mods *can't* post as regular users using their mod account. If they're posting about donuts, for example, they are still a moderator posting about donuts and ought to account for that.
2. Mods *should* not participate in donut discussions at all, except to handle comments that violate the guidelines.

I'm not sure anyone is actually suggesting #2.
posted by yaymukund at 1:15 PM on January 4


one brief slip-up in tone from a member/mod

So, one of the things that was brought up in the old thread and laid out here by AOANLA,T is the idea that the conflation of personal and mod participation is actually a longstanding issue here.

To be clear, this is not the Two Minutes Of Hate on Eyebrows McGee.

Agree. It's not fun to get your work criticized publicly with this pent-up energy. I think a good thing that could come out of this thread are some thoughts on how to bring constructive criticism to the mods in a way that more people feel comfortable with. It's healthier for the site and healthier for the mods.
posted by lalex at 1:15 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


restless_nomad, thanks.
Apologies, but I'm not sure what you mean by catchalls?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:16 PM on January 4


Greg Nog: i think the mods should not post as users at all. They have a huge, huge power that we non-mod users don't: to post anything they like without having to worry another of them is going to summarily delete the comment for being "not useful". As it currently stands, they're essentially superusers who can skirt the rules of conversation the rest of us are subject to. Just divide the site into users and mods and let that be that.

This is an interesting perspective. I disagree, but I had to think about what it is I disagree with.

Being a moderator on MetaFilter is different from being a regular MeFite. I agree with that. That's not the only distinction within the community (e.g. people treat long-time users differently from new ones; users who have greater writing facility differently from those who have lesser; those with high rates of participation versus those with low) but it is the most binary distinction that exists in our community. MeFites are either mods or they're not mods.

There are benefits to being a mod, it comes with a salary and status, but it also comes with social pressure to confirm to community ideas of mod behavior, that can become really intense, as in this case. I'm not saying that being a mod is awful, but it's different.

We still don't, as a culture, have a very good way of conceptualizing internet communities, but until we have the language for it, we're going to have to use analogies. I dislike the "police" analogy because mods don't have any kind of comparable power. Staff, as the badge has it, is probably much more apt. MetaFilter is a third space, like a café, and I think we should probably treat the mods like we treat people who work for the café we go to every day.

The analogy breaks down when poked at, I'm aware, but being kind to the person who works in the café you go to every day is a basic social tenet, and I think that applies to interacting with the mods as a regular MeFite.

And we all know that people who work in a café aren't café superusers even though they can drink coffee all day for free.
posted by Kattullus at 1:17 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


I think it would be good to draw a distinction between:

1. Mods *can't* post as regular users using their mod account. If they're posting about donuts, for example, they are still a moderator posting about donuts and ought to account for that.
2. Mods *should* not participate in donut discussions at all, except to handle comments that violate the guidelines.

I'm not sure anyone is actually suggesting #2.


Greg called for #2.

I don't think I agree with his suggestion, but I think it's a useful anchor for the issue and worth taking seriously.
posted by grobstein at 1:17 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


The politics megathreads? Sorry if that wasn't what you were referring to.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:17 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I can separate their actual person from their modding just fine.

Just because you personally don't experience a problem that numerous people have mentioned having doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:18 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


I mansplain all the time, usually to the woman who loves me best. I hate that little aspect of myself (which is super, super common; not at all unique to reprehensible people), so I’m trying to curb it. She knows all about this and doesn’t think I’m a misogynist. It’s a label for an annoying behavior, not a sentence.
posted by thoroughburro at 1:18 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


I just want to add my voice to say I think an anonymous moderator account would be bad for MetaFilter. The fact that the modding here is and feels personal is a good thing.
posted by capricorn at 1:21 PM on January 4 [21 favorites]


I like the "posted by ***moderator***" idea, but I've low-key butted heads with cortex previously about how the moderator on duty needs to be The Moderator and have less buck-passing about "the mod team". But then, that's a more militaristic way of doing things than most of y'all would be comfortable with, and I recognize that.

As for privacy of mod-user conversation: Yes, it's difficult to have to sit here at your job and have users mischaracterize discussions you had with them. But sometimes, part of the job is keeping yourself from coming down hard on people who are wrong, whether that's about their memory of a discussion or about their opinion of the latest Avengers movie. Because even in the latter case, mods are on the "up" side of the inherent power imbalance here, and sometimes that means you should be more circumspect, particularly by holding the retort until you've discussed the issue with the user in private.

Mod-user convos shouldn't be off-limits. But I would ask mods to be extremely goddamn careful about how they characterize those convos, because again, you're saying "THIS IS HOW THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPENED" with the Mod Voice, regardless of whether you're using Caps Lock.
posted by Etrigan at 1:24 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Oh, I forgot to add:

As I often say here (and even occasionally follow my own advice on): Virtually no one remembers "That time that cortex made one bad comment." What people remember is "That time that cortex made one bad comment, and someone called him on it, and he dug in his heels and it became this huge pile-on of a shitshow." Please keep that in mind when you think you're being called a bad person.
posted by Etrigan at 1:26 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Just because you personally don't experience a problem that numerous people have mentioned having doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

This is true, and yet, if people not having the problem don't speak up as well then it is easy to not appreciate accurately just how systemic the problem is, or who it affects, or doesn't, and how many. All of these matter if significant changes to the community practice are on the table.
posted by Rumple at 1:27 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


My community member input: The comments by EM in the other thread are really really shitty. I think that EM just found a new blind spot they didn't know they had. I think that based on EM's contributions to this site so far, they will likely learn from this experience and manage this blind spot better. INESTBHT's comment suggesting that sitting with new information regarding how people process trauma differently is good advice.

INESTBHT was an important person to me in the community for the reasons that zarq pointed out here. I desperately hope they come back. As a male abuse survivor they helped me feel seen and valued at times when that was in question. I hope they come back.

The things that they helped me with in that context are obv. a big reason why I hated EM's prison rape / trauma processing / etc comments. So I hope that EM comes out the other side of this with a new perspective. I also don't feel entitled to be a part of the mod management side of things and I trust EM and cortex and the rest of the mods to work this out among themselves.

Regarding the larger question of mod / user dichotomy, I think that mods should be mods only in MeTa and have the flexibility to be both elsewhere. Mods here should be the best of us - and losing them as community members elsewhere would really suck. It would also likely decrease the quality of mod candidates we get! The best of us would hate to give up the ability to interact with this place in the way that made them love it in the first place, I imagine.

As others have mentioned, everyone is raw as fuck here at the start of another year for many many different reasons, and most of us are more raw than usual due to world events. Many of us regular users have had moments of breakdown and sniping and assholery that we regret. This is perfectly normal, human behavior in times of intense stress.

We should and do expect a higher standard of our mods. But we can't expect perfection. And frankly, given the combination of megathreads and financial stress and general heightened background radiation of shittiness that is our every waking moment these days, I'm surprised that we haven't had more blowups with mods being a part of the problem.

Given that we haven't, I am comfortable (again speaking as someone who was super disappointed and upset at EM's comments) with not requiring sweeping site policy changes as a result of this instance. I'm comfortable with knowing that a mod commenting when they should have tagged out is likely to happen again. I'm comfortable with acknowledging the humanity and imperfections of our mod team while also holding them to the higher standard required for those with power. I'm comfortable with trusting cortex et al. to handle any conversations internally without opening up mod management for all to see. I'm comfortable with the idea that mods should be mods only in the Grey and have a choice elsewhere.

And I really hope INESTBHT comes back.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:29 PM on January 4 [41 favorites]


I think one bit of constructive criticism is just a general rule that applies to all people everywhere: seriously, it's okay to apologize.

Taking the EM-specific precipitating comments from the other thread: I think if instead of just 'walking away' she'd posted a "Hey, this whole topic is really upsetting for me, and I expressed myself pretty badly, in a way that I can see how it was hurtful. I'm sorry." or the like, a whole lot of the subsequent hullabaloo would never have happened.

In larger topics, I think "moderators shouldn't participate as members" is a non-starter for the kind of community(ies) metafilter is. It's also true that the whole moderator position puts those in the role between rocks and hard places because of unavoidable higher standards, but I don't think there's really a technological or policy solution for it other than trying to keep it in mind more often no matter what Generic You As Mod are posting and where and context-what.
posted by Drastic at 1:29 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


This is true, and yet, if people not having the problem don't speak up as well then it is easy to not appreciate accurately just how systemic the problem is, or who it affects, or doesn't, and how many.

Maybe you could express that without accusing people of wanting MetaFilter to be a "utopian kindergarten".
posted by Etrigan at 1:30 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I think the mods can participate as users if they’re chill about it and refrain from sarcasm, sniping, arguing, etc. They probably can’t argue with other members. If they’re not chill about it it sets up a shitty dynamic.

In general, the mods need to get a much, much better hold on their tone. And they need to figure out how to take criticism so things don’t get this bad. This is getting pinned on one mod but, frankly, there has been very little feedback allowed about mod behavior so I’m not sure how she was supposed to know. A mild correction earlier could have avoided a lot of resentment and built-up frustration.

More specifically, the mods need to work harder to create & nurture a culture in which feedback and criticism is welcome. For example, when someone (politely) says that a mod did something that wasn’t great, and users pile on about how mean they are for saying so or imply that the critic must want the right to be shitty on the site, the mods could tell people that they don’t need to defend them and that the criticism is something they’ll think about. That kind of approach would have allowed this issue to be aired months ago with much less ill-will.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:31 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


The politics megathreads
Yes, that's what meant, I just hadn't heard them referred to like that before.
While I'm here, I vote no on anonymous mods and non participating mods. The problem as I see it is that in the process of feeding Audrey II a disconnect has formed been the mods view of the site and the users. Let's not make that deliberately worse.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:32 PM on January 4


I suggested here and here that there should be a way that we can tell if a mod is on-duty modding or off-duty participating.

I like our mods and want them to be participants. I think this is the best way to let mods be mods but also enjoy/participate in our community. It's transparency, and transparency is a good thing.
posted by kimberussell at 1:33 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Maybe you could express that without accusing people of wanting MetaFilter to be a "utopian kindergarten".

Fair point, I apologize.
posted by Rumple at 1:34 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


zarq, ffs, sciatrix was describing your behavior, not applying a label to you

She's speculating, not describing. She has no direct knowledge of what actually happened. She doesn't know me. Has never met me. Her response to my criticisms of a mod's actions is to cast that mod as a victim of my sexism. And also to accuse me of being reflexively sexist.

I like this place. I'd prefer not to leave it. But I don't really see any way forward for me on this site if that's how people feel about my participation here.
posted by zarq at 1:35 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Just want to say that sciatrix' opinion is in no way reflective of my view of your participation here, zarq, and I really hope you stick around.
posted by dazed_one at 1:38 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


restless-nomad, I feel like you reduced your participation on the site in general once you became a mod - was this a conscious decision from you, just a byproduct of your new role, a figment of my imagination or something else?

If it was a conscious decision and you're comfortable sharing, I'd be interested to know how you reached it, as I know you've had extensive experience moderating/community management outside this community (tbh I miss your regular contributions! As I value you - and all the mods - as members, and people, not just mods).

Personally speaking on the meta:

- I do feel it's important to remember the vast majority of mefites appear to have no problems with mods or modding

- When mods do misstep (to err is human after all, as mefite I certainly make mistakes!), I think there's a tendency to really laser in on it, and dissect it, and really blow it up. I think this is understandable in that they are mods, but also worth remembering we hardly ever do this with comments and missteps from others. I think few could withstand the heat, and that it certainly does encourage-if-not-demand a degree of self-protective defensiveness

- As a corollary, I think that this means isolated incidents can be overgeneralised and somehow become a moderator's "MO", when actually it's usually an aberration. I would hate to be judged as a mefite by my worst comments on the site. Shit, sometimes I look at old comments of mine and cringe because I over-reacted so much to an issue.

- Likewise, I do think the moderator team can be reluctant to acknowledge missteps, tardy in apologising (or not apologising at all), and defensive and sometimes dismissive when they do. This said, I feel like the cortex and the team is working to correct this and have improved quite a bit, but also

- With the... savagery and hyperbole people are willing to pour on moderators (like seriously, would you talk like that to someone in person? Yikes), honestly I think it's very hard to respond to that in a super chilled out, professional way. Many mefites are seemingly incapable of it, and mods are often criticised as people and members, not just mods.

I think it's important that we give room for mods to make mistakes and acknowledge them, and that they (and we) are imperfect without calling for the guillotine. Also think it's good to remember (For everyone, mods and members alike) that hurt we feel from other mefites is often collateral damage, rather than calculated assault. This is not to excuse it, but to remember that it's often unintentional or thoughtless before responding in kind.

I think there may be something to the idea of anonymous "moderator" posts. It would reduce the personal attacks and what I feel is an undeniable element of sexism out of some of this (I remember Taz, and R_N (and I think LM once too?) both getting attacked as newer mods for 'not understanding the site' or some horseshit. It's a totally gross and unnecessary initiation rite that speaks poorly of our membership).

Thanks team, you do a good job.
posted by smoke at 1:39 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


We could learn a lot from the hypothetical utopian kindergarten!

I agree wholeheartedly that acknowledging and correcting mistakes is a goal for us to strive for, and in order to make that possible we have to extend some grace as well.
posted by mai at 1:41 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


Zarq, having seen the communication in question I think sciatrix is incorrect, although I don’t think she was calling you a misogynist or that people think that. The stuff you received and how you were treated was shocking and that is leading people to come to the wrong conclusions because they’re treating it like it was more within the expected norm than it was. I’m sorry you were treated that way and I’m sorry that people don’t have the context to understand what happened. It is unfair.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:41 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


Let me preface by saying that there is a ton of shitty stuff that has a halflife of milliseconds on this site because of the way user-initiated flagging, moderation and community standards that have shifted over time are at work here. This is why this community hasn't been overrun by spammers and alt-right trolls, so thank Mod for that.

They have a huge, huge power that we non-mod users don't: to post anything they like without having to worry another of them is going to summarily delete the comment for being "not useful". As it currently stands, they're essentially superusers who can skirt the rules of conversation the rest of us are subject to. Just divide the site into users and mods and let that be that.

Personally, I wouldn't want moderators here who don't some level of genuine engagement with and interest in the site. I like that they do.

But there is some accountability for their on-site behaviour as users (outside of MeTa) since that directly intersects, like it or not, with their paid job as a mod and the broader responsibility they have for helping to maintain a healthy community.

And it's precisely because we have a group of mods who are engaged as site users that they have a good sense of where the more hot-button grar-inducing topics are because they have the unenviable and often thankless task of supervising and intervening in those. Conversely, they should understand where getting into arguments - however well-intentioned - with other users on those topics are maybe not the best way to be engaged with the site since it has an impact on how people perceive the moderation on this site, right or wrong.

Enforcing accountability is a pretty easy call if a mod were to suddenly go off the rails and do something wildly egregious and over the top but there are more nuanced questions about where the finer lines are in terms of how mods participate as users, and the effect that has on the community.

What's on the finer-line side of things?

There can be clear standards for certain conduct that blurs the lines and results in the fairness of moderation or its transparency being called into question. Let's say a mod makes comments in a MeFi thread (as a user, staff badge turned off) within a fairly contentious discussion - but has previously appeared or subsequently appears in the thread to make mod-side [comments] with the staff badge turned on.

IMHO, this should be a thing that doesn't happen, and we should just be clear that it's a hard no for mod conduct.

If a situation warrants, asking a moderator to just step back a bit from more contentious user-side engagement on the site is totally within the purview of Metafilter as their employer, in light of the impact that conduct might be having on the general health of the community and what its members (without whose content creation and financial support the community literally would not exist) think. But that employer-employee convo is literally nobody else's business because, well, employment relationship.

Conversely, the mods should be protected by said employer from unwarranted shit-flinging that comes their way since their job entails doing things that are necessary for various reasons but that people don't like having done to them, e.g., deletions, specific in-thread "cut it out" messages directed at users who are creating a ruckus, time-outs, and up to and including bans (for people pining for the good old days - going way, way back, there are cases of MeTas where mods were personally insulted or threatened, in public, by users who were not banned at the time, and whose comments were allowed to stand, so said employer royally shit the bed in those instances. As a lurker, I found those discussions pretty horrifying).

But it seems to me that asking mods to totally step out of user-side non-MeTa participation doesn't really solve anything, and probably wouldn't be good for the site, warts and all.

Just my two cents.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:43 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I do feel it's important to remember the vast majority of mefites appear to have no problems with mods or modding

Let's knock this on the head right now. Until very recently there have been no public ways to express discontent in a way that would register with other users. You have no way to know whether your statement or it's converse is correct.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:45 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Metatalk is definitely not a recent site addition. I’ve seen plenty of criticism of moderation here over the years. What are you referring to?
posted by JenMarie at 1:48 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


zarq: And also to accuse me of being reflexively sexist.

How I read what sciatrix said, is that you, as a male, exist within a patriarchal society. Situations that seem one way to men, seem different for women. Men explaining things to women is very gendered behavior, which pushes certain buttons. I really don't think what she said was really controversial, or even especially critical of you personally. It happens to most of us men at one point or another. When I get called out on it, or catch myself doing it, I try to be kind to myself and others, but it stings a bit.
posted by Kattullus at 1:49 PM on January 4 [53 favorites]


restless-nomad, I feel like you reduced your participation on the site in general once you became a mod - was this a conscious decision from you, just a byproduct of your new role, a figment of my imagination or something else?

I probably did, but a) I was always mostly an AskMe commenter and still am, and b) I suspect it was less getting the job circa 2011 and more the meeting my soon-to-be-wife and suddenly having a life circa 2014. I'd have to run the numbers to be sure.

I definitely don't take part in more heated conversations very often as a member, partly because I am really conscious of Being A Mod, partly because I don't actually like arguing on the internet for its own sake (I like discussing, but not arguing, if that makes sense,) and partly because if someone's being really awful I don't need to bring out the rhetorical big guns and holler at them, I can just... mod them. It's not nearly as much fun, but it sure works better. And it works a whole lot better if I haven't been participating in the argument beforehand, too.

There have occasionally been conversations on the blue that I've participated in that I've also had to mod, but it's relatively rare and has become much rarer since I stopped being The Weekend Mod. Used to be, I could jump into a thread on Monday with some confidence that by Friday night when I came on shift, it would have either died off entirely or moved so far beyond my contributions that it wouldn't look weird when I started leaving mod notes. Now that I'm working a more spread-out schedule, that just doesn't happen.

And yeah, taz and I sure did get some initiation-by-fire MeTas about us, and I think LM got a bunch of slightly-less-laser-focused ones. We were just reminiscing about that, in fact.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:50 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


Until very recently there have been no public ways to express discontent in a way that would register with other users.

I'm curious what you are referring to as a "very recent" development, and I am also curious about why you don't think that MetaTalk, which has existed since March of 2000, is a forum that can be used to express discontent.
posted by gauche at 1:52 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Metatalk is definitely not a recent site addition. I’ve seen plenty of criticism of moderation here over the years. What are you referring to?

Something has definitely changed with how the mods treat the queue just the last few days. Perhaps due to criticism in the recent pony-request thread. These kinds of posts were not getting through (with handfuls of exceptions) for the last 4 or 5 years.
posted by floam at 1:54 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


And yeah, taz and I sure did get some initiation-by-fire MeTas about us, and I think LM got a bunch of slightly-less-laser-focused ones. We were just reminiscing about that, in fact.

not to be all "lol jerks" but that one where the guy was like weirdly obsessed with your name was so bizarre
posted by poffin boffin at 1:56 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


What floam said.
Also, why would anyone start a thread about moderation when historically that's when the satellite mounted railguns start to power up?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:58 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


OK, so I guess I bear some responsibility for this MeTa happening. I have so far only actually skimmed this thread rather than read it in depth, but before things get too huge I wanted to make my own personal position clear:

Speaking just for myself, I don't really have a problem with moderation around here in general. I have occasional one-off disagreements with individual calls, but overall I think the mods do a great job. If I had to pick a nit I might say that cortex is maybe a little too defensive of the moderation here, but really if anybody is going to take that stance by default it should be him. Part of his actual job is to stand up for his team. On the whole I find the moderation here to be careful, sensitive, respectful, professional, and as consistent as one could hope for under the circumstances. Yes there are blind spots, yes there are issues that I would like to see them do better on as a group, but overall I think they do a difficult job and do it well.

Speaking just for myself, I specifically have an issue with Eyebrows McGee in particular. I'm not going to recap my entire linked comment because I know that's not what this thread is supposed to be about, but that's my take and if you need to know more, it's there.

So this thread is actually not that useful to me, because I don't think there are any major issues here with moderation in general, just with one moderator in particular. I'll certainly be following it closely, but I'm not sure what value a general purpose "So, how about moderation on MeFi?" thread has, or what good is likely to come from it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:58 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


This was the memail I sent Eyebrows McGee on March 7th, 2016.

Since I'm the one who sent the memail and they're entirely my words, I'm pretty sure it's not against the rules to post it here.

-------------------------
MeFi Mail: Sent Message « older newer »
To :
Eyebrows McGee
Date :
Mar 7, 2016 5:02 PM
Subject :
Hi.
Message :
Hope all is well with you and your family.

I thought it might be best to say this privately in memail rather than through the contact form, or heaven forbid, in a public metatalk post.

I flagged your comment https://www.metafilter.com/157707/Farewell-to-my-face#6432220 because it makes me quite uncomfortable. For a comment from a site mod, it felt very aggressive.

Heaven knows, I agree with what you said. But a mod responding directly to a user the way you're doing there, where you're practically yelling at them and not just calling out their attitude or statement in a more abstract way, it really feels like you're clubbing them over the head. As a mod what you say and how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority.

I get that there's a fine line you have to walk, being a site user as well as a mod. But you're no longer just a user, and the way you respond to people (including how confrontational you choose to be,) will now be unavoidably viewed through that lens by the rest of us.

You're doing a great job, and I am thrilled to pieces that you're now a mod. Just felt I had to say something.

z
-------------------------


My memail archive on the site goes back to about 2011, I think. This is the only memail in that archive that I've ever sent to Eyebrows McGee. I don't believe I've ever sent her a direct email (that wasn't part of a contact form cc to all the other mods).

Was it mansplaining? Possibly.

Was it sexist? Incontrovertible evidence that I'm a misogynist or some sort of bully? I don't believe it was.
posted by zarq at 2:03 PM on January 4 [30 favorites]


Until very recently there have been no public ways to express discontent in a way that would register with other users.

I'm curious what you are referring to as a "very recent" development, and I am also curious about why you don't think that MetaTalk, which has existed since March of 2000, is a forum that can be used to express discontent.


True, MetaTalk has been around since 2000, but in the last few years it's seemed to be more managed and regulated than it used to be (not a completely bad development).

The permanent institution of the queue is part of it. Posts are now always written for an initial audience of the mods; this shapes what posts we see.

Another phenomenon of the last few years is that there is a much lower bar for deletion of comments from MetaTalk. ~10 years ago, a comment would almost never be deleted from MeTa; normally only really over-the-top vitriol or lawsuit-bait would be deleted. Lately, off-topic or slightly nasty or angry comments can be deleted, too.

Neither of these changes are terrible, but it's easy to imagine that making MetaTalk a more managed and manageable place also might diminish its value as a forum for certain kinds of complaints. This thread and the previous one feel like departure from the way things have been lately.
posted by grobstein at 2:04 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


"and partly because if someone's being really awful I don't need to bring out the rhetorical big guns and holler at them, I can just... mod them. It's not nearly as much fun, but it sure works better. And it works a whole lot better if I haven't been participating in the argument beforehand, too."

This comment was quite helpful for me, because it helps me to see how difficult it would be to be casually conversing in a thread while being a mod with the authority mods have. Otherwise, this could happen:

Mefite: "Miller Light tastes great!"
Mod: "No! Miller Lite is less filling!"
Mefite: Tastes great!"
Mod: "Less filling!"
Mefite: "Tastes great!"

[A couple of comments removed. Also, "less filling."]

Which would, in my opinion, kind of warp the discourse in favor of the mods. Thanks, restless_nomad for helping me get my mind around this.


Wow did I just date myself with that reference.
posted by 4ster at 2:07 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


Hmm....telling a moderator "how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself? How could that possibly be mainsplaining?
posted by neroli at 2:13 PM on January 4 [38 favorites]


not to be all "lol jerks" but that one where the guy was like weirdly obsessed with your name was so bizarre

Now I’m having flashbacks. That’s just great.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:14 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Hmm....telling a moderator "how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself? How could that possibly be mainsplaining?

I dunno, can you dumb it down a bit for me?
posted by some loser at 2:15 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


Hmm....telling a moderator "how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself? How could that possibly be mainsplaining?

Both men and women seem to think this is, in fact, the crux of the issue with her moderation style.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:18 PM on January 4 [24 favorites]


Hmm....telling a moderator "how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself?

Did you read the comment that prompted the flag and email? Because it doesn't sound like something written by someone who was, at least at the moment they hit "post comment", conscious that their position wrt the rest of the user base had shifted by becoming a mod.
posted by Lexica at 2:18 PM on January 4 [35 favorites]


telling a moderator "how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself? How could that possibly be mainsplaining?

This seems unfair; zarq was, to my reading, pointing out an example wherein that mantra was apparently forgotten. If it hadn't been forgotten, there would have been no need for them to make any issue of it. If it's mansplaining to point out to a mod when you think they've overstepped, then it's difficult to say that the mods are open to critique.
posted by dazed_one at 2:21 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


These kinds of posts were not getting through before.

Since it seems to help, here's a quick breakdown of deleted queue posts since June:

1 blatant spam
5 solved via contact form issues
2 about Jessamyn's birthday (cute but...)
2 about comments that we just deleted when we saw the MetaTalk come in (flagging is helpful, folks!)
2 that were potential trashfires that we talked the users into rethinking (one of which was someone wanting to defend a racist-if-not-nuclear word)
2 duplicates, one because I'm a dork who can't read
1 entirely about Reddit (??)
1 with a user who seemed entirely to want to be able to repost their deleted comments
1 with someone who escalated via email well past the point where it made sense to take the argument public

Of these, I'd say four would have been pre-queue style MeTas, of which one would have gotten shut down early, two just would have been straight-up pointless fights, and one where we miiiight have gotten somewhere but it really needed much better framing with a cooler head to give it more than a single digit chance.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:22 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


zarq, that message is really man-splainy. There is no possibly about it. Reading it made me feel very strongly you considered EM to be not as smart as you, and not as much of an adult, and that she needed to have things explained to her using small words that she would understand. It did not read like a member of a community calling out somebody with power who had acted inappropriately.

When I get an e-mail like that in a professional context from a dude, I have to go into a conference room, close the door, and yell a lot before I can engage with the substance.

Your refusal to acknowledge that it was mansplaining is really, really ugly, and increasingly starting to feel gendered.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:22 PM on January 4 [53 favorites]


Heaven knows, I agree with what you said. But a mod responding directly to a user the way you're doing there, where you're practically yelling at them and not just calling out their attitude or statement in a more abstract way, it really feels like you're clubbing them over the head. As a mod what you say and how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority.

This is a vital point and, if taken to heart, would fix a lot of the problems people have been complaining on here. And it sounds pretty polite to me -- about as polite as you can be while directly criticizing someone's behavior.

Is this kind of private, polite, criticism of particular behavior by a mod really off limits?

I'm not sure I'm parsing the complex history here, and I'm sorry to be digging into the details of an old private communication but -- is it true that this interaction resulted in a site-wide restraining order for zarq?

(I'm talking about the bottom of this comment: By your request, I don't interact with EM privately. I also don't participate in her weekly MetaTalk threads. I don't respond to her comments on the Blue and I make it a point not to interact with her anywhere on the site. Why? I found being told by you that I made someone on your staff uncomfortable very upsetting. I don't want to be that person.)
posted by grobstein at 2:22 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


So much for people giving anyone the benefit of the doubt in this MeTa. (edited for misspelled word)
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:25 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


There is no possibly about it.

Except apparently there is, as other users (some of whom I know identify as male, some as female, and some as nonbinary) disagree.

The discussion would probably be more productive if we could acknowledge and discuss the nuances and details instead of "it clearly is!" against "it clearly isn't!"
posted by Lexica at 2:26 PM on January 4 [35 favorites]


"how you respond to people on the site now carries the weight of authority" as if she didn't know that herself?

as evidenced in this discussion, the line between "mods speaking with the weight of authority" and "mods speaking as users with no authority" is not actually very clear with respect to EM in particular?

I think that email goes out of its way to be really nice about something that's sort of inherently uncomfortable (the criticism of other people's work). I don't perceive it as mansplainy (I am a woman, if it matters) but reasonable people can disagree about tone for sure.

But I think cortex's characterization of it was pretty unfair and his own characterization of the exchanges makes it seem like he focused on zarq's tone instead of the underlying point he was making, which doesn't exactly help with the idea that messaging mods is a great way to go if you'd like to offer some thoughts about moderation.
posted by lalex at 2:26 PM on January 4 [39 favorites]


I don't find zarq's message mansplainy at all and I'm worried that we're going to devalue a real phenomena by applying to situations where a man *does* know more about a subject than a woman does. Mansplaining only applies when the man is less informed than the woman. Considering that multiple people have problems with Eyebrows moderation style, I'm not sure that focusing on zarq is productive right now. His interaction with Eyebrows is just one more (slightly disturbing) data point.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:27 PM on January 4 [32 favorites]


Also, the characterization of zarq as a "long time site user" and EM as a "new mod" fails to notice that EM was ALSO a long time site user, and should have known better.
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:28 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


zarq, that message is really man-splainy. There is no possibly about it. Reading it made me feel very strongly you considered EM to be not as smart as you, and not as much of an adult, and that she needed to have things explained to her using small words that she would understand. It did not read like a member of a community calling out somebody with power who had acted inappropriately.

I disagree wholeheartedly, so maybe there is a 'possibly' about it.
posted by dazed_one at 2:29 PM on January 4 [33 favorites]


I think that EM's comment would be fine as a *user* but it had an aggressive bent for a mod, and I don't think zarq was mansplaining.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:29 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


Mainsplaining is more of a pattern of behavior (imo) where a male repeatedly explains things that a woman already knows. That's not what zarq did.
posted by mmmbacon at 2:31 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


I thought EM's comment was so fine in that thread that I don't understand what prompted the memail in the first place.
posted by agregoli at 2:32 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


Not sure how helpful it will be to argue in detail over a comment and a MeMail from 3 years ago, in a new mod’s third month into a part time job.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:35 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


from 3 years ago, in a new mod’s third month into a part time job.

Okay, but 3 years have gone by, she's not a new mod anymore, yet some people feel like she still moderates in a personal and somewhat aggressive manner...
posted by elsietheeel at 2:41 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Not sure how helpful it will be to argue in detail over a comment and a MeMail from 3 years ago, in a new mod’s third month into a part time job.

i mean. people are saying "well i never noticed this being a problem" so i think it's 100% fine for others to say "actually it's been going on for almost 3 years now".
posted by poffin boffin at 2:43 PM on January 4 [28 favorites]


is there anything specific to discuss beyond this one memail, or are we just gonna keep swirling this allusive "some people are saying" stuff around all day?
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:48 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I find it interesting that the "too aggressive and too emotional" complaints regarding metafilter modship hit

our female mods

exclusively.
posted by FritoKAL at 2:51 PM on January 4 [49 favorites]


Not wading into any specific argument or drama and I haven't read most of these threads. Just speaking personally, I think it's totally fine for mods to comment, chat, shoot the shit, joke, weigh in, whatever. But maybe don't turn up the heat in the room 50-100 degrees apropos nothing when a major part of the job is to turn the heat down? Seems like a simple and reasonable ask, and yet, here we are.
posted by naju at 2:52 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


Everything about the post which spawned the meta, and the meta itself, punches every single one of my fuck you all in the ear buttons, so I have stayed very far from the FPP and the meta. So take my opinion with the understanding that I have not been exposed to the particular kerfuffle at issue.

I think it's important that mods participate as users as well as be able to leave mod comments. I also believe it's important to the community that we know who the mods are and are able to connect their mod activity to their non-mod personalities. I think either not permitting mods to engage as users, requiring mods to participate as users with a different name, or finding some other way to silo their participating selves from their moderating selves is unworkable.

It's probably my personality, but I think the mods suffer more from being both participants and mods than the users do. (Possibly because I was offline friends with a user rightfully banned for being routinely hateful to a mod). I also spend a lot of time in IRL community groups or work groups where everyone is ostensibly a peer, but someone has the authority to say "Hey, that behavior won't be tolerated" or is required to be the person who says "Hey, your behavior here is making PersonQ feel unsafe". I think the dynamic can be difficult, but in the end the groups benefit from peer-moderation, rather than outsider/observer moderation.

I am a person here who has very few problems with the moderation around here. Thus, I'm speaking up again that I think the problem to be solved here is just a problem of people who don't necessarily like one another, or don't quite get one other, or disagree in ways that are not going to go smoothly from time to time. That's a Large Number of Humans in the Same Place Problem, not a moderating policy one. It's something the Mods share a greater burden of awareness for, but I think they balance it pretty well.
posted by crush at 2:52 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I won't follow up on this comment because it takes a lot out of me to talk about it but the problem I had was along the same lines as above when talking about a pattern. In one meta (the one I buttoned on) EMs response was less than ideal and then we were told it actually was really harsh for her since she was being midwestern polite angry. The resulting mod team response to that really made me feel that they do not have the backs of trans people on the site. So it is an on going pattern. I don't think they shouldn't be allowed to participate here but do it in a way that is clear to the users of what's mod and what's them. So I won't say anymore because even saying that feels like I'll get piled on for not supporting the mods. I do. This is one of the better places on the internet because of the moderation. And now I'll go back to being quieter which I've felt is what the mod response to that and EM's response about the meta this grew out of is what they want.
posted by kanata at 2:54 PM on January 4 [24 favorites]


Personally, for whatever it is worth, I found Eyebrow McGee's comment in the other thread super upsetting and inappropriate. It was an unpleasant comment on its own, and definitely carried more weight because of the "staff" tag.

On the current mod team, just like in any group of people, there is a range of abilities; everyone has their strengths but not everyone is a high performer. More generally, the defensiveness across the team isn't great, though the public nitpicking must get old and I can understand wanting to shut it down. I wish the pattern of rehashing old offline communications could be short-circuited, even if that means letting people be wrong. It's distasteful to see.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:56 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


I'm not sure I'm parsing the complex history here, and I'm sorry to be digging into the details of an old private communication but -- is it true that this interaction resulted in a site-wide restraining order for zarq?

I am feeling kinda fucked coming and going by this continuing to be prised into, so I'll try and address this directly but I'll ask that folks drop it with this at this point.

I told zarq in that initial email conversation in 2016 to bring concerns about the then-brand-new mod to me or to the contact form going forward instead of mefimailing EM criticism directly. I absolutely don't remember telling zarq to never mefimail EM, let alone to avoid her entirely on the site, and I don't see anything like that looking over the email chains previously mentioned. I don't think he was claiming that I had, just saying that he'd chosen to do that independently. But I also find the idea of having made such a proscription really alien, even aside from not remembering or finding a record of it; I can think of a handful of times over the last decade that we've had to tell someone or a pair of someones to just flat out avoid contact on the site, and it's got a specific "the wheels have completely come off" texture to it when it happens that's really different from this.

If there's something else I can't remember and can't find that touches on that, I'm fine with zarq reaching out to me about it, but again I would really like to stop digging in on this and don't know how that's gonna work if we're both asking for parsings of it and feeling like it's inappropriate to parse it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:00 PM on January 4 [7 favorites]


I'm a woman and didn't find zarq's email mansplainy at all. Once again: land o' contrasts in the userbase!

My general feelings about the modding here: still weak/slow to respond on race and trans issues. Still sometimes seems to give longtime posters (or BNFs in the LJ parlance) a lot of leeway that others do not (I feel like this is most noticeable to me in the megathreads about who is allowed to riff/one-line and who isn't).

I will say that I lurk heavily on a messageboard that does the anonymized Mod1 Mod2 style, and I really like it. I mean, sure, Mod1 seems to get most of the complaints (they also seem to be the fulltime mod), but it feels much more objective when there's a Mod Note rather than, "person I know and like just yelled at me!" This is kind of similar to how I, as an educator, refuse to interact with my students on social media, for example; I feel like it blurs the lines between friendship and profesionalism too much when I am also the person assessing their work for a grade.
posted by TwoStride at 3:01 PM on January 4 [13 favorites]


I find it interesting that the "too aggressive and too emotional" complaints regarding metafilter modship hit

our female mods

exclusively.


I can only speak for myself, but I find the moderation on this site in general to be too aggressive. Seeing as I can't see which mod deleted a comment, nor do I keep track of which mod is on duty at the time the comment was deleted, I couldn't tell you with which gender of mod my issues stem from.

On the flip side, every time issues with heavy-handed moderation are made public on metatalk, it is to no effect and is often drowned out by voices saying everything is fine and that I and people who feel like I do are "wishing for the bad old days" (which I am not). The result is that it's very difficult to try and critique the mod style here. Now I suppose we can add 'getting accused of misogyny' to the reasons why criticizing the mods is a no-go area.
posted by dazed_one at 3:01 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


I find it interesting that the "too aggressive and too emotional" complaints regarding metafilter modship hit

our female mods

exclusively.



Cortex was called too defensive,

defensiveness is an emotional response,

it's not exclusive.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:02 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Fine. Let me rephrase.

You did not read that comment to be mansplainy.

As somebody who gets mansplained to on a regular basis, I read it to be clearly and obviously mansplain-y. The follow-up about how it was only POSSIBLY mansplaining and of COURSE it couldn't be rooted in the patriarchy/misogynist patterns of behavior does not make it feel less man-splainy. It is, in fact, what liberal or progressive men almost invariably say when called out for mansplaining. Add the chaser of zarq saying that by saying he was man-splaining, we must be accusing him of being a misogynist and a bully and a bad, bad person, and it's painfully familiar.

For the record, when I have run into it, which is on an almost daily basis, mansplaining is almost always polite. From one point of view, it's so kind. It's so charitable. After all, even if there is a seething hot lava pool of contempt underneath, what kind of man is mean to a little lady who doesn't know better?

Also, if it provides clarity, I did not initially think that EM's comment was across the line, and I'm a big fan of her substantive comments. After reading discussion and reflection, I changed my mind and think her follow-up in the thread crossed the line and was inappropriate.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:05 PM on January 4 [39 favorites]


I personally think that sexism as it affects mods shows up vastly more in expecting the more female-presenting mods to do much, much more emotional labor around their decisions than specific accusations of overemotional tone, but I'm not sure whether the latter makes much sense to debate since we're a staff with a more-or-less 5-1 ratio of women to men.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:07 PM on January 4 [22 favorites]


Thanks for clarifying further.

I still disagree that zarq was mansplaining.
posted by dazed_one at 3:08 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure why "this is not the Two Minutes Of Hate on Eyebrows McGee" has turned into considerably more than two minutes of hate on zarq over a three-year-old comment. Dunking on him to this degree implies that mod actions are above criticism unless the complaint is particularly eloquent.

So, specific actions: The prison rape derail needed to be cut short much quicker than it was, probably with deletions. In general, I think rhetorical references to rape should be treated with a fairly high degree of skepticism about whether they're pertinent to the subject at hand. I'm not your joke, but I'm also not your rhetorical case to use when discussing things that are not rape.

Beyond that, I'm not certain that a fighty thread with anecdata are the right way to evaluate which mods are behaving badly. Hopefully y'all are keeping logs of contacts, actions, and complaints for review. I'm really unconvinced about keeping that other thread open for much longer.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:09 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


Would it be worthwhile, or even possible, when there is a dispute between users and mods, to have an elected volunteer board of users that help facilitate conciliation? I mean, ultimately, the power does and should rest with the owner and employees of the site, but if frustrated users could see that the mods are willing to act on advice in particularly heated circumstances, might that mitigate some of the problem, and remove some of the burden from the mod squad, of always having to not only be balanced and fair, but to be percieved that way?
posted by b33j at 3:25 PM on January 4


Do disputes between users and mods really come up often enough to justify an elected volunteer board of users that help facilitate conciliation?
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 3:27 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Do disputes between users and mods really come up often enough to justify an elected volunteer board of users that help facilitate conciliation?

Hard to say. How many, like me, don't criticize the mods because they know that, at best, nothing will happen or, at worst, they'll get piled on?
posted by dazed_one at 3:29 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


If anything, this thread has reinforced the idea that criticizing the moderation here is a recipe for an internet beat-down.
posted by dazed_one at 3:31 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


I don't think that moderators should not participate as users. I do think that moderators should think long and hard before participating as users on any kind of contentious subject. It's one thing to have something to say about menger sponges or strength training or an obscure musical act. It's quite another to be a vocal participant in the politics megathread.

That's not my only problem here, but it's certainly one of them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:35 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


It's like Byzantium here - you have to be continually aware as to whether the modolators or the modoloclasts are in power.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 3:37 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I sincerely believe that just being quicker to apologize and say "I'm sorry" would go a long way. The mods do a hard job and walk a difficult line and very often do a fantastic job of it. The times when they do not, there is much more defensiveness than is helpful. I understand it. One of the reasons I know I would not be a good mod is that I am quick to be prickly when I make a miststep and am asked to own it. I am not good at it.

But I am better at it because of AskMe and MetaFilter in general. It's a skill I've learned here, and one that I would like to see a lot more of from the mods. Stepping away from a thread is not at all the same as saying "Yeah, I was way out of line there, and I'm really sorry for characterizing people that way. I was speaking out of my emotions/trauma/whatever in a way that made me unkind."

For what it's worth, I do think that modding is pretty much inherently being paid to do emotional labor.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:39 PM on January 4 [34 favorites]


it is longstanding practice that we explicitly ask and expect the mods to curate the discussions here to align with the prevailing political attitudes, but we want them to participate in such a way as to maintain some illusion of political neutrality?

what for?

Eyebrows McGee makes some of the more interesting, substantive, and informed comments in the megathreads, and I don't think it's worth trading those away for vague theoretical benefits anyway.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:41 PM on January 4 [27 favorites]


The issue is that the megathreads are constantly on the edge of turning into huge fights (which is why they require 24/7 moderator oversight at the level of every individual comment) and having a moderator who is a well-known participant in them makes it hard to see how they could also act as an unbiased referee, which is what the moderators are supposed to be. It's a bit like if you were running for Governor, but also administering the election at the same time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:54 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


The issue is that the megathreads are constantly on the edge of turning into huge fights
Go on then, take the next step. Take the next logical step.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 3:59 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


I'm on record as saying that I think we'd be better off without the megathread, but that's way off topic here. And I stand behind my more general point, that when a thread is contentious or controversial or otherwise potentially fighty, mods should generally only moderate it and not participate in it. As far as I've noticed, all of the mods bar one already do this.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:02 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


but we want them to participate in such a way as to maintain some illusion of political neutrality?

Data point of one here, but as I mentioned upthread my take is that one step would be prohibiting moderators from taking any action as a moderator in discussions (on MeFi, specifically) in which they are active participants. It's not about political neutrality, per se, but avoiding a conflict of interest (even if the stakes are "only" words on a screen and not, say, lucrative government contracts), and, just as importantly, the perception thereof.

This is particularly critical in more contentious, fast moving and high-comment discussions (e.g., politics megathreads/catchalls) where mod notes are more likely to be employed in great number over a series of mod shift changes over several days vs. the occasional comment deletion or mod intervention in slower-moving, less contentious threads. The former situation creates a picture people can see and draw conclusions, right or wrong, from: mod shows up with staff badge on to moderate the thread, and also comes into the discussion as a participant at various points. Certain comments get deleted, and people assume that's because they argued with the mod re: their user comment. Whether or not that actually happened in that specific deletion case, it just fuels frustration that doesn't need to exist.

And nobody is "politically neutral." It's just about avoiding needless blurring of lines where we're dealing with enough blur and chaos as it is.

tl;dr: "Don't shit where you eat = Don't argue where you mod."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:04 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


well I have rather a lot of thoughts about megathread moderation, but since r_n said they'd be posting a separate MeTa about those in the days ahead, I was gonna save them. I do think that MetaFilter moderation as it existed pre-megathreads does not scale up to the megathread level in a way that serves either the mods or users particularly well, but in my experience it's not because of mods participating in fighty stuff as commenters.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:09 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


A 360 degree "oops, that was insensitive, I apologize," would be good. That includes cortex, zarq, and a large number of people in this thread who should really know better than to litigate old grudges. Seriously, what's up with that?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:13 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


in my experience it's not because of mods participating in fighty stuff as commenters.

Yeah, agreed, was just using that as the best example of where that conflict could come into play since the heavy activity of them is drawn out over what's presumably unprecedentedly long periods of time for an FPP in terms of their need for active...pruning. It's also where there's the most heat overall, but don't want to derail pending a dedicated discussion on the megathreads themselves.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:19 PM on January 4


Wow, I'm kind of taken aback by the strength of emotion here. I didn't realize that either EM's comments or zarq's mail would be taken so negatively. It all seemed pretty reasonable on both sides to me.

The idea that zarq should not write something like that to EM (because it's an instance of a man giving a woman unasked-for feedback on something she already might be expected to know) concerns me, because I think it makes sense that a long-time user could have a different and relevant perspective on how a moderator is behaving on the site, and it seems important for moderators to hear that. Is there some rewrite that would have been kinder?
posted by value of information at 4:23 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


Is there some rewrite that would have been kinder?

As cortex said, that kind of feedback should be delivered through the contact form or to him as the manager, not directly to an individual mod.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:29 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Also, I'd just like to say that I really appreciate the amount and style of moderation on Metafilter and I think it makes discussions be much more something I want to read and participate in.
posted by value of information at 4:30 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Zarq did nothing wrong by sending that message. It makes sense to send feedback to someone you know instead of to their boss. Now I guess we all know that’s not allowed. But again zarq did nothing wrong.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:39 PM on January 4 [28 favorites]


In this thread:
restless_nomad: As cortex said, that kind of feedback should be delivered through the contact form or to him as the manager, not directly to an individual mod.
In the previous MeTa that spawned this thread:
Lalex: One of the problems here is that especially now that we have the MetaTalk queue, there's no good public or private space for a user to be like "hey, nobody's perfect but [moderator] is engaging in [problematic moderator behavior] again, maybe they could get a nudge?"

restless_nomad: I believe most of the mods leave their MeMail turned on and/or have their email addresses in their profiles. Is there a reason why neither of those will work?
So which is it? Do email the individual mod because it would be inappropriate to copy the other mods, or don't email the individual mod because it's inappropriate not to use the contact form (which automatically copies the other mods)?
posted by Lexica at 4:47 PM on January 4 [26 favorites]


As I clarified later in that thread, if you specifically need to give feedback about a mod that you do not want that mod to see, then it’s reasonable to use a private channel to contact cortex or a mod you feel safe with. That’s not the situation we’re talking about here, though.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:50 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


This is a false dichotomy. A third approach would be to MeMail one of the other staff members.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:51 PM on January 4


It's deeply weird to me that this MeTa is mostly about an email exchange that zarq had one time three years ago.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:53 PM on January 4 [21 favorites]


It would be great if folks could just collective veer off that, yeah. I think the general question of mod/user/site interactions and how to manage the dissonances that can come up in the complicated bits of that was the main motivation for this and folks tacking back to discussing that feels like a way better plan.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:55 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I get that we don't want to have a Two Minutes Of Hate. I do think though that this MeTa was largely precipitated by a comment that Eyebrows McGee made and which at least some users think is illustrative of a pattern of behavior that we would rather the moderators didn't engage in. Can we maybe talk about that? Talk about the behavior and what we think of it, and what if anything we would like to see change there? I get that it's super uncomfortable to have that discussion and that it's rough on the mods and on Eyebrows in particular but I think we've been beating around this particular bush for a while now and if we're ever going to sort this out for real it's now or never. I for one would rather have the difficult conversation and then take whatever action is merited, rather than go back to just feeling increasingly uncomfortable and disillusioned.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:02 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I do think mod participation in MetaTalk is confusing because it's hard to know what is an Official Policy Statement (in capital letters) and what is "Of course the fact I'm a mod is going to influence about how I think about the site, but speaking as myself...". That doesn't mean that I think mods shouldn't participate in MetaTalk as individuals (I don't really have a strong opinion either way), but I would like a consistent convention for official statements. The small tag serves that role in the site at large, but in MetaTalk, it's used to mod the thread itself. Prefacing individual comments with something like "mod hat off" (is that something people say on Reddit? Or was it LJ once upon a time) would help me. (Or preface official comments.)
posted by hoyland at 5:05 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I would still be deeply uncomfortable with EM's statement in the other thread if it was "mod hat off". The problem for me in that case was very much more the content than the context.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 5:09 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


Personally I feel like in MeTa, mods are always speaking as mods. It sometimes gets blurry elsewhere on the site, but on this subsite we're here to talk about MetaFilter itself. I would much rather the mods just stuck to the official line and didn't freelance about their personal take on the issues of the day. I can see being flexible about stuff like MetaTalktails and baby announcements and whatever, but for the meat-and-potatoes site policy threads, mods should always speak in their official capacity, not least because many users will naturally presume that that's what they're doing whether they intended it that way or not.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:10 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


I also think that moderators should refrain from projecting their personal values onto the site. In general, moderators do not make comments—whether as mods or just as users—that make me wonder whether they secretly think I'm a Bad Person. I would very much like for that to be universal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:13 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


I would very much like for that to be universal.

I have previously opined that “[Stop doing that thing you always do, Username.]” is gross as hell, but it goes on regardless.
posted by Etrigan at 5:19 PM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I'm fine with moderators addressing behaviors that are problematic, isn't that their main job? If someone engages in the same problematic behavior over and over again, that seems relevant. Although I will say that I think we see fewer public callouts these days and more just quiet bannings. In general though I can't see how the mods could do their jobs without being able to tell people to knock shit off.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:42 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee makes some of the more interesting, substantive, and informed comments in the megathreads, and I don't think it's worth trading those away for vague theoretical benefits anyway.

I would just like to echo this 100%. While there's some theoretical "conflict of interest" problem that could happen here, it's always been quite clear what is and isn't acting as a moderator, and I would hate to lose these insights.
posted by zachlipton at 5:56 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


it's always been quite clear what is and isn't acting as a moderator

If this were the case, I feel like this thread wouldn't exist and the other one would be much shorter.
posted by dazed_one at 6:00 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Data point of one here, but as I mentioned upthread my take is that one step would be prohibiting moderators from taking any action as a moderator in discussions (on MeFi, specifically) in which they are active participants.

Given the mod staffing levels (i.e. one mod at a time), this would make it hard for mods to participate in any long running threads, wouldn’t it? Also, good luck determining which threads are going to keep on going.

I agree it’s problematic for mods to be commenting and modding at the same time (within their shift), but I kinda doubt that’s happening anyway with the megathreads eating so much time.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 6:01 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I should say that my comment was in the specific context of the "interesting, substantive, and informed comments in the megathreads" that Eyebrows posts, where it's really not ambiguous that a comment about J. B. Pritzker isn't moderation related. Certainly, there's a broader discussion going on here, and there are contexts in which it's not always so clear, but I'd much rather we work through that than straight-up tell the people who work here that they can't also hang out here.
posted by zachlipton at 6:06 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I have previously opined that “[Stop doing that thing you always do, Username.]” is gross as hell, but it goes on regardless.

I'm fine with moderators addressing behaviors that are problematic, isn't that their main job?

I think it's helpful to see a mod callout in thread for two reasons. One, it makes it clear that the mods are already aware of this context, so further flags or other folks digging in on the issue are unnecessary, and two it helps everyone (including the callee) understand where the lines are so we can moderate our own participation better.

Having said that: being called out in public can obviously be embarrassing, more so for some than others. I've been in management situations where a public callout seemed appropriate and necessary but led to significant issues for the folks involved -- resentment, shaken confidence, reluctance to contribute or participate further, &c. Whether or not our mod team is taking that sort of thing into account, I don't know. I hope so.

If it were me, I would aim to make those messages a little more bloodless at least. Anything much beyond 'hello [you], you are doing [this], please [stop]', including references to past or repeated behavior, seems like it might be better delivered by memail/email (maybe with a 'sent you email, contact us with questions' in thread). Otherwise I feel like we start venturing into public shaming for the sake of public shaming, and as much as that feels good when you're irritated by behavior in the moment, it's not the kind of tone I hope to see here. The exception to this would be when the pattern of behavior is already apparent to the whole room, and addressing it as a pattern falls into the first point above (folks see that the mods are aware of and are addressing the pattern and not just the instance).
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 6:07 PM on January 4 [21 favorites]


(not to abuse the edit window: Eyebrows' perspective and contributions in the megathreads are super valuable to me as well, and I'll reiterate that any solution here that discourages any of the mods from participating in the site as human beings, at least outside of MetaTalk, seems like the wrong way to go.)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 6:10 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


All of this would be solved if we simply voted #1 quidnunc. It's not as if he hasn't been clear on this.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:26 PM on January 4 [42 favorites]


I have previously opined that “[Stop doing that thing you always do, Username.]” is gross as hell, but it goes on regardless.

I feel similarly...or, to be more specific: I can see why mods have to call out some people by name, since they can't contact them directly on Facebook Chat or whatever. But it's still a bit unpleasant. And especially so because this is *after* they've deleted whatever comment prompted their response, so when they say "don't do that thing, Username"/"that was gross and shitty, Username"/etc., everyone is free to imagine all *sorts* of bad things that Username might have said. And I worry that a lot of them will. (I guess this comes back to the "mod power" issue: they can call people out by name, with authority, with the "evidence" already gone.)
On the other hand, I'm sure the mods feel a real need to delete comments they think will cause the thread to spiral out of control...they can't just say "the jury will disregard the previous comment" like judges so effectively do. But it still kind of sucks, and I'd love to find a better solution.
posted by uosuaq at 6:28 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


If it were me, I would aim to make those messages a little more bloodless at least. Anything much beyond 'hello [you], you are doing [this], please [stop]', including references to past or repeated behavior, seems like it might be better delivered by memail/email (maybe with a 'sent you email, contact us with questions' in thread).

This is a thing that has been discussed at length previously, and it's a thing that people are quite divided on. For me personally (and I've heard this from many others), if it's not a one-off thing for someone who has never had an issue before, I would much rather the mods publicly acknowledge who was behaving badly (vs. a vague "some things were deleted"). I view that as a more transparent and honest way to moderate.

Yeah, sure, first minor offenses probably should be handled 1-on-1, but at some point when we're seeing the same person grinding the same axe in the same kind of thread again, it starts to border on gaslighting the community to ask the mods to pretend like we're all not seeing this.
posted by tocts at 6:39 PM on January 4 [14 favorites]


A (probably quite unrealistic) pony thought I just had: people are logged in as themselves. If I click to see the 2 new comments I haven't read, they show up. Is it at least *technically* possible that when *I* click to refresh *my* page, an additional message for user 123XYZ shows up saying "we deleted a couple of your comments -- please stop doing that thing"?
posted by uosuaq at 6:53 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


For context, name-checking in notes is something we've made a point of cutting back on over the last few years, largely in response to some of the previous discussions about it in MetaTalk threads.

It's never going to go away entirely because, as folks have noted in some of the comments above, there's balancing factors in play—sometimes that's really where we are with either a specific thread or general pattern of behavior in terms of exhausting other options, sometimes the specific context is such that pointedly omitting a name or names will make a mod note unhelpfully confusing or vague—but the general notion that reserving it for needed occasions rather than doing it as a casual matter of course is something we've actively made a move on over time.

(I wanted to basically let people talk and not jump in with stuff all day long; I'm gonna catch up with this in bits and pieces this evening rather try to write up an omnibus comment, but I'll try and give a mod perspective on some of the stuff folks have been talking about.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:57 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


The Stop Doing That Thing, User aspect I think, from data point of one random schmo, has definitely improved from earlier years. Partly because the moderation here has, from what I can tell from random-schmo-perspective, greatly improved from the frequently absurd numbers of second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chances really problem actors often caused. There's much less of the Stop Doing That Problem Thing, User, Or We'll Be Forced To Say Stop Doing That Problem Thing Again Seven More Ineffective Times And Take No Other Visible Action approach which...well, the site was successful despite it, but it sure struck me as kind of enragingly counterproductive from a peanut gallery position.
posted by Drastic at 7:12 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Hey I’ve had some delicious rum this evening and here I am worrying about all these people that I like and respect that are being mean to each other on the internet. I just want to weigh in and say that Mefi is pretty great, mostly because of solid moderation and also such great users, and also that everyone is doing their best in these trying times and let’s all just try to be good to each other.

More schmoopy less poopy. (I’m going to be embarrassed by this comment in the morning.)
posted by beandip at 7:19 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


On the broader question of what makes for good and not so good moderation interactions, I don't really disagree with the general thrust of e.g. grobstein's ferinstance, and as he says that really is pretty much about how we already try to be in terms of restricting our own commenting behavior as mods.

So everybody in the team ends up putting a lot of effort into separating out moderator activity from user activity. Sometimes that means excising some more personal perspective from the more administrative discussion in a thread; sometimes that means clearly denoting "hey, this is just me-as-a-person talking, not policy"; a whole lot of the time it takes the form of just writing off entirely the idea of participating in a discussion. Which, honestly, it sucks! It can be very frustrating or sometimes dispiriting to have to make that call. But it's part of the job, and it's a mostly-invisible part of what happens (or, by way of omission, doesn't) mod-side every day.

The situation that spawned this discussion, with EM's comments in the other thread, is an example of the failure state for that effort. We screw up sometimes, the personal creeps out to a greater or lesser extent when one of us is having a bad day or feeling overwhelmed by a sensitive topic, etc. It doesn't happen very often on the balance—for my part I've spent the last decade steadily working on my personal toolset there, and have made a lot of progress but it's still just a work in progress—but I get that it's conspicuous when it does happen. As I said in the other thread, it's something I've been chatting with EM about and will continue to do so, because it's important to me that everybody on the team manages those boundaries well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 PM on January 4 [11 favorites]


I don't mind mods posting their opinions in discussions. But one of the things we teach teachers about modding online discussions is to model the kinds of thoughtful discussion they want to see in the classroom. And that's not what happened in that thread.

Now of course, everyone screws up now and then. Fortunately, we have language to say, "Yes, that wasn't the best thing to say there. I apologize."
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 7:24 PM on January 4 [19 favorites]


I will say without inflection that asking the mod team to not participate as users period is a non-starter. I get the logic behind the idea, but like a whole lot of stuff where the logic of a proposal would be sound for some abstract Site On The Internet, it doesn't jibe with MetaFilter. It's not how the site has ever worked, and it's not what anybody on the moderation team signed up for.

Taking it from the perspective of managing boundaries and trying harder to make sure things don't blur from the professional to the personal domains in how we comment is totally reasonable to me, and is where our attention has been already. I don't see more extreme approaches to partitioning as viable; I wouldn't want to work here under those conditions, and it wouldn't look like the MetaFilter I grew up on and ended up being responsible for.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 PM on January 4 [33 favorites]


I'm sorry to bring up old shit, but I just read the thread that sparked zarq's email and EM's response to triggerfinger made my jaw hit the floor. i thought EM's response was overly harsh x1000. Coming from a mod, it was overly harsh x100000000.
i'm a woman, if it matters.

i also think the mods do a really good job, and this job is really really really hard. this thread and the previous one have been very instructive and also are making me a little bit sad because there's so many behind the scenes hurt feelings i didn't know about. But i'm also kinda glad that this stuff is getting hashed out. (although holy dang what a stressful friday night)
posted by capnsue at 7:32 PM on January 4 [23 favorites]


It's not about political neutrality, per se, but avoiding a conflict of interest (even if the stakes are "only" words on a screen and not, say, lucrative government contracts), and, just as importantly, the perception thereof.

So much that. I'm management at work and no amount of saying "ok, the hat's off now" relieves me of the responsibility not to say things that make people uncomfortable about their management. Which is not to say I can't be pleasant and joke around and participate in conversations. When I do, though, I have to be double careful not to say anything I wouldn't say with the hat ON. To be clear, I like when cortex jumps in on some humorous riffing, or talks about music or stuff he loves. I like when EM throws interesting stuff relevant to her (impressive) experiences. But you can't be taking sides in any kind of controversy, and that's hard.

I've generally enjoyed the moderation style for a long, long time, through many a MeTa arguing about it. Something's changed with the megathreads, though. Whether that's out of necessity or just the natural tendency for the enforcers (police, your HR person, etc) to get cynical and quick on the trigger only seeing the worst stuff, I don't know.
posted by ctmf at 7:57 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I am someone who generally spend very little time in the megathreads.

I am also someone who is generally pretty satisfied with moderation here. I thought Eyebrows' comment in the previous MeTa was off base but we all make mistakes, and it didn't make me thing, "geez, all the time the mods are off base!"

I am wondering if those two things are correlated.

I wonder if those folks who have more complaints about moderation being overbearing or coming across with an unfriendly tone are users who are spending more time in the megathreads. I wonder if moderation standards are different (or perhaps even less standardized) in those threads because they are intense, stressful, fast-moving etc.
posted by mai at 8:18 PM on January 4 [15 favorites]


As a rule I think that the mods being site participants generally is very important to me. But I think in the very specific case of metas about moderation and serious site rules, it is absolutely impossible for mods to comment except as talking for the mods as a whole. (So this would exclude things like "tell me something making you happy" or metatalktail hour, or jokey stuff about changing how many asks you can post in a week, but include this thread and the last one.)
posted by jeather at 8:24 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I wonder if moderation standards are different (or perhaps even less standardized) in those threads because they are intense, stressful, fast-moving etc.

This is kind of what I talked about in the other thread, but multiplied a lot for the mods. The things that have happened in the last two years for us all - especially those of us in the US - have been horrible. The mods aren't just living through their own horror, but they're also having to mod it for us, because it is the only thing that lets some of us cope with the horrors. The mods are essentially not just moderating a community anymore, they're running a safehouse.

That has to be intensely stressful. And the mods are seeing us deal with all that stress. They are seeing suicidal ideation, on the regular, from people that they often like and appreciate. And they're having to delete those cri de coeur, because there's the chance that if they don't, it will be contagious, and someone might actually kill themselves. That's an insane amount of responsibility for something that was once moderating a large, rambunctious, largely friendly internet site. They are not paid enough for it. They are doing it because they are fundamentally good people and don't see how to possibly choke off the thing we're all existentially screaming about forever.

And good people are filling themselves with anger daily and that can't help but spill out even to the people and communities they love. It is spilling out now, when people are talking about the mods. It is spilling out now, when people are talking about other users. It is alive and it is ugly and it can't even be helped. But it must be remembered, I think.
posted by corb at 8:24 PM on January 4 [43 favorites]


Pretty sure moderation standards are different, by necessity, in the megathreads. (I say this both as a megathread regular and as someone who read the megathread meta a little while back.) But I have no complaints about moderation myself. I've had several comments deleted from those threads but none that I thought were unfair.

What the megathreads do seem to be doing is stretching the mod resources to the breaking point, though, and I'm not sure what there is to be done about that. I would hate for them to go away but I would also probably not love to be trapped in the Sisyphean task that they've been dealing with every day for more than two years now.

(on preview, yeah, seconding corb)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 8:29 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


I think most of what's in these two MeTa threads is claptrap, uninteresting and unimportant. But to the extent the conversation became a referendum on Eyebrows McGee in any respect whatsoever, I choose to add this:

I think she is one of the most interesting, articulate, respectful, and contributive members of this website. I don't participate here often enough to speak intelligently about her moderation style—or any of theirs, really, although I certainly have opinions about the site's moderation as a whole—but to the extent I'm aware of Eyebrows McGee on this website, I'd rank her alongside Jessamyn and maybe two or three others in terms of being glad she's here. I've never witnessed a single thing about her participation that I'd change.
posted by cribcage at 9:00 PM on January 4 [25 favorites]


It's cool to come in and blithely dismiss everyone's concerns, thanks for that.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:13 PM on January 4 [40 favorites]


Seriously, how is dropping into a thread and describing previous comments as "claptrap, uninteresting and unimportant" helpful?
posted by Lexica at 9:25 PM on January 4 [40 favorites]


More schmoopy less poopy. (I’m going to be embarrassed by this comment in the morning.)
posted by beandip at 1:19 PM on January 5


*hold my beer*

Too much droopy makes me loopy.

Also, it would be good if we could all give each other the benefit of the doubt a lit bit more.
posted by h00py at 9:28 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I've had several comments deleted from those threads but none that I thought were unfair.

I used to be able to say that. Now I routinely see stuff more action-worthy than mine (I think? I can't quite figure out what the standard actually is) stand. It's not that I think my comment was so important, it's just super-irritating, to the point I don't much bother anymore. This site used to be fun.

I'm looking forward to the megathread MeTa and what the mod team suggests.
posted by ctmf at 10:29 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Several things that people (not everyone, and not in every case) seem to be taking one of two sides on are, from my perspective, all true.

• Eyebrows McGee's comments in the other MeTa were problematic on their face, but particularly so from a mod. In her favor, she recognized her error, stepped away, and in cortex's favor he made it clear he agreed there was a problem. So, that's true.

• A signature and widely-cherished aspect of MetaFilter is that the mods are members, too; they are people we engage with. They aren't robots. I sense a consensus that this is a good thing, though there's a minority who think the cost is too high. So, that stuff is pretty much true, too.

• Eyebrows McGee is an outlier among mods for being highly engaged as a user, while also being earnest and passionate. Oh, and also she's smart as hell and staggeringly widely informed and experienced. Many of us value this, as I think we should. So, I believe that point is true, too.

• But a consequence of her being the extreme example of mod-but-also-member, is that she's more likely than others to err on the side of commenting as a member when she'd best have been commenting as a mod (or not commenting at all). Each mod has strengths and weaknesses; the previous paragraph described Eyebrows McGee's strengths, this one describes something she should work on a bit. And that's okay. This criticism is true, too.

• All the mods and the members are exceptionally stressed these days and we're all more likely to stumble and hurt someone when otherwise we'd have been more likely to write and act with more patience. God, yes, is this true.

• I think it probably goes without saying that mods here and elsewhere have difficult jobs -- but our mods here, especially, have to thread a needle every day. It's a lot to expect of them, but it's the job. We can expect them to mostly manage this, and speak up if there are problems; but we can also be generous in understanding how difficult it is. I'm pretty sure all this is true.

• Eyebrows McGee's comment from three years ago is one that many here agree with in substance -- including the person she was responding to, as that person pointed out -- but it was mildly intemperate for a member but definitely and likely problematically so coming from a mod. This fits in with her personality and style, but it was also from when she was much more inexperienced. Regardless, zarq's criticism was justified. I think this is true, though we seem to be a bit divided on this one.

• Zarq's private memail to Eyebrows McGee was clearly written with a lot of care and with the best intentions. However, not only is there a general unfortunate societal dynamic in how and when women are criticized by men, there's actually an ugly history -- much more recent back then -- when MeFi saw a lot of clearly gendered criticism of the new women mods by men. It's a common dynamic. But, to the point: "a lot of care and with the best of intentions" does, in fact, describe much mansplaining.

I know it's pretty much always the case when I do it, and I know this doesn't excuse my doing it. I might be doing it right this minute. A direct message from a man, who doesn't have that job, to the woman who does, telling her nicely that she may not understand that she's doing it wrong is basically textbook mansplaining.

Per the previous bullet point, zarq's criticism wasn't wrong, but it was misdirected. I myself might have argued much the same, but I would have sent it to cortex. That it went to Eyebrows was a mistake. And that zarq was and still is primarily defensive about this is also a mistake.

But, like so many other mistakes we're discussing (as long as it's not a pattern which he refuses to admit to -- which I don't think it is, but as a man, I'm a poor judge), then it's something we can forgive and forget because I don't know any man, certainly including myself, who doesn't sometimes fuck this up and, anyway, it was years ago. I think all this is true, too.

In conclusion, I'm not getting why this thread is tending toward polarizing into roughly two broadly opposed camps. I'm not seeing any good reason for this trend based on the facts of the situation, but rather because we're super-fighty lately. Which sucks, and I deeply apologize for any part I've played in this.

I think the megathreads are part of the context here, and one about which I'm mostly uninformed, because I rarely venture into them. But as far as that goes, as I understand it, we've got an upcoming MetaTalk post on the topic. So hopefully we can hash out some of the underlying factors there?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:18 AM on January 5 [61 favorites]


zarq ... still is primarily defensive about this

As a heads up, I noticed his account was disabled before your comment, so I think there's a supposition here that may not be warranted. All I can see is he's not in the discussion anymore, which seems understandable. I hope he and INESTBHT both have a good weekend and come back eventually if it makes sense for them.
posted by Wobbuffet at 3:18 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


I don't see a damn thing to disagree with in Ivan's comment, for the record. I am actually kind of aghast at the insistent "you said I was a terrible person" and the "omg this is a burn of zarq" readings of my comments; I had honestly kind of assumed that I could point out something that resonated strongly with gender patterns to me here and not... have to deal with that level of pushback and like, "zarq could never be in that position or mansplain and to say otherwise is an attack on his character and sciatrix is objectively wrong" multiple comments.

As joyceanmachine pointed out upthread, that is a request for an awful lot of emotional labor on my part for making a judgement that is... honestly pretty minor as my experience of liberal, well meaning men goes. Christ knows that I fuck up on similar matters re race and class all the fucking time. I think the last time someone I was talking to turned to me and said "look, what you were saying there was ludicrously explainy re class and hourly wages, the person you were talking to was very polite for not laughing in your face" was... probably two or three weeks ago? It happens.

I agree that folks should do more self-examination and that considering apologies for aggressive behavior is a pretty good idea. I don't think I was wrong to draw attention to that gender dynamic and how it influenced my reading, but I suppose I misjudged how much emotional support I needed to provide alongside it given that I knew zarq was in the room.

To that extent, I'm sorry. It's difficult to make judgements about interpersonal dynamics and explain your readings on the fly without hurting the people whose work you're judging or coming across as a lot more personal than you actually mean, and it can take a lot of emotional work to make sure you attend to this in such a way as to avoid the person you're talking to or about feeling really put on the spotlight. I had similar concerns about my discussion of two deleted posts the other day, and said something similar then.

I would not want to be a mod on this site, most days. I have a hard enough time honestly describing community interactions here while carefully threading the needle of 'forceful enough to be listened to but soft enough that the person I'm checking doesn't throw an enormous emotional response that I then have to defuse personally and with a great deal of emotional calculus' as a member, without the mantle of Schroedinger's authority that members seem to ascribe to moderators.

(By that I mean that people seem to have wildly different reactions to the degree of perceived confidence, power, and authority of mod staff which also affects some of these interactions. I am not making a value judgement about that, just noting that it's an aspect of what I see going on.)
posted by sciatrix at 3:31 AM on January 5 [40 favorites]


And on preview, goddammit, zarq buttoning was not my goal here. I too hope he returns in his own time and that he feels comfortable here again in the future.
posted by sciatrix at 3:32 AM on January 5 [10 favorites]


The prison rape analogy would have been deletion-worthy from a regular user, in my opinion and experience. That it was allowed to go on as long as it did is rather a problem for me.
posted by Dysk at 4:53 AM on January 5 [22 favorites]


(And I really want zarq back and wish a bunch of people hadn't gone straight to just jumping on him for something so anodyne.)
posted by Dysk at 4:54 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I really hope zarq comes back. I really hate the way that whole thing with him/EM/cortex was played out in public here. If I had an issue with a mod I would have done what he did out of the 3 options of 1) contact them personally, 2) go straight to their boss to effectively complain, 3) call them out on something in front of the whole mod team via contact form. It read to me like he took a lot of care to write it in a very gentle way, and if I or another woman had written it I get that the gender dynamics wouldn’t be the same as when a man sends a woman a message like that, but I still think it’s unfair that he ended up getting called out for it when he was trying to say kindly and privately what some people have been very publically saying in these two threads.

I personally don’t have a problem with EM’s moderation, or the moderation in general which I think is ridiculously calm and thoughtful in the face of the horror of the megathreads (which I can’t even bear to venture into - the idea of reading them *for a living* is like a special circle of hell). But I did find her comment in the other thread upsetting and I agree with the idea that the mods should only comment in the “proper” metas with their mod hat on. That said it feels like these last 2/3 threads have been a strange venting of something and I’m just wondering what that’s about. Everyone being burnt out I guess. But I don’t know, it’s just that feeling you get when you watch people you care about fighting and you can see all the sides and you know maybe the air needs cleared in some way but you’re just waiting for the point when they stop and you can breathe out again.
posted by billiebee at 5:04 AM on January 5 [21 favorites]


My impression is very much that comparatively few people have an issue with EM's moderation, but aren't always on board with her engagement with the community as a member, given her miss status. Things to the effect of "that'd be fine if a little heated from a normal user, but from a mod..." have been repeated a lot. But I think this is all being discussed in the abstract as an issue with EM's moderation? I think they're separate issues, and that conflating them muddies the conversation.
posted by Dysk at 5:15 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


When is the megathread meta going to drop?
posted by heatvision at 5:22 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


sciatrix, I don’t think you can go calling someone’s communication "mansplaining" without also implicitly saying that they were bad & wrong for saying it, unless you make it very clear that that isn’t the case.
posted by pharm at 5:24 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


given her miss status.

Given her mod status, of course. Thanks phone, this thread deffo needed more weird gender angles.

posted by Dysk at 5:28 AM on January 5 [18 favorites]


He posted the full text of his email and asked people basically if anyone found it problematic. Some did, some didn’t. I don’t think there’s any problem with explaining the reasons why some people found it problematic. I had a similar take to sciatrix. People make misjudgments with how their communication will be received all the time. Pointing it out, especially when asked, doesn’t mean it’s obvious the person who said it is bad and wrong.
posted by JenMarie at 5:34 AM on January 5 [24 favorites]


implicitly saying that they were bad & wrong for saying it,

What the hell? Like... If that is how you understand structural privilege, our perspectives are so wildly different that I have no idea how to reconcile them without engaging in so much bending over backwards to hold hands and soothe y'all's fragility that I find the concept exhausting.

Good people do these things without intending to be harmful.

Sometimes the things we do resonate uncomfortably with larger patterns without our meaning to.


I also never used the term mansplaining once, figuring correctly (it seems) that it would be too loaded for this conversation. But LOL at this weird idea that a woke dude can't fuck up without intending to, I guess.
posted by sciatrix at 5:40 AM on January 5 [64 favorites]


There's a big difference between pointing out structural privilege or critiquing someone's actions, and this:

"totally out of character for the user"

I am very fond of Zarq, but bless you: I disagree completely.


That reads unequivocally as a statement about zarq personally, his personality, and how he engages himself in general.

But bless you.
posted by Dysk at 5:42 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I mean, fair; I'm definitely being condescending there, but my condescension is directed more at zombieflanders and all the men in here rushing to tell me that my judgement here is malicious. It's not.

I am openly frustrated. I keep being concerned that I am being too condescending by offering the kinds of handholding about being accused of (gasp!) being capable of making mistakes in line with social position and experience that I would normally accord to men with vastly less experience and attention than I associate with zarq. The impression I get over and over here is that I should expect less out of the men in this space.

I'm actually fine with the women telling me they didn't see this reading and don't agree with it. No one's a monolith. But I notice that they are generally framing their commentary as "I don't see this" rather than "you are attacking zarq by suggesting it" or "you are unequivocally wrong." That's where a lot of my irritation in this thread is coming from, and if you're reading that as directed at women who disagree with me, you're wrong.
posted by sciatrix at 5:49 AM on January 5 [19 favorites]


maybe we should drop the whole zarq-related thing, honestly.
posted by lalex at 5:51 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I'm actually fine with the women telling me they didn't see this reading and don't agree with it. No one's a monolith. But I notice that they are generally framing their commentary as...

Careful with your implications here. I am in fact a woman as well, and you know this.

You have a generally talked about what zarq did rather than him, yes, but that one comment very much reads like "this is totally in character for zarq" at best, which is a more general statement on him as a person.
posted by Dysk at 5:53 AM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Even if you don’t use a particular term of art the average Metatalk reader is probably familiar enough with the discourse to know exactly what you’re driving at I suspect.
posted by pharm at 6:00 AM on January 5


I know this, and I tried to soften my communication to make clear that I'm grouping you with women. I didn't succeed, and for that I apologize. I didn't recall you as having commented about zarq's character or my judgement earlier, so I didn't mentally consider you in my mental set of "people who have criticized this reading" at all.

That one comment is intended to read "him making this kind of error is very much in character." I thought I was careful enough to hedge my initial comment with the kinds of "but you are one of the good ones and I know you didn't mean it but" qualifiers that I know are generally required when I observe behaviors that play into sexist patterns coming from men who are either present in the conversation or who have friends who are. I don't know what else to say.
posted by sciatrix at 6:00 AM on January 5 [6 favorites]


I'll ask that we please re-rail to focus on the post topic now, please. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:03 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


I had the thankless job of reconstructing a mistake from six months ago, that took hours of labor going through email conversations from multiple angles and I still don't feel like I have a complete handle on it, and we're having this conversation?

I'm under the impression that we don't rehash old fights here, so I'm a bit puzzled as to why people with extremely limited information who clearly know better are choosing to rehash a disagreement from 2016 rather than directly address what happened on MeTa yesterday. Especially after there's a mod note here asking people not to do that.

Using history to undermine the credibility of a person (one of several) making a complaint is also how patriarchy works folks. And I was under the impression that we don't do that here.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:20 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


People are feeling very understandably fragile right now, with the buttoning of two long-time, valuable community members. Please let's not take it out on each other, please let's not assign blame after the fact.

I don't see more extreme approaches to partitioning as viable; I wouldn't want to work here under those conditions, and it wouldn't look like the MetaFilter I grew up on and ended up being responsible for.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 PM on January 4


Could you please expound on what you consider to be "extreme approaches?" Some things on the table:

*No mod participation as community members at all - agree that this is not tenable, will not be happening.

*Mods participate in site and policy MeTas as Mods only, not as regular users - thoughts on this?

*More clear boundaries between Mod comments and ModUser comments on site and policy MeTas - thoughts on this?

Thank you.
posted by cooker girl at 6:21 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I don’t know if this has been addressed - did EM ever apologize? I feel like that point has been avoided (and I apologize if I’ve missed something). Yes, she took herself out of the conversation, but did she ever apologize (specifically for the prison rape analogy in the other thread)?
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:23 AM on January 5 [29 favorites]


If I had an issue with a mod I would have done what he did

In the past I personally would have emailed jessamyn to say "this onsite interaction struck me as not great but I don't know what to do about it" or something similar; since she's not a mod anymore these days I would probably email r_n instead. Regular offsite email, not memail or contact form stuff. I wouldn't really think twice about doing that but I guess other ppl might feel weird about it? idk?

however if it somehow involved making a phone call i would lay face down on the floor and wait for death instead
posted by poffin boffin at 6:26 AM on January 5 [22 favorites]


I do think that modding is pretty much inherently being paid to do emotional labor.

I really agree with this comment.

Emotional labor is a knotty thing in that, on the one hand, it's exhausting and dysfunctional and often small-a or capital-a abusive when people don't do it themselves and force others to do it for them. And even in the best of cases, where everyone is doing their part, it can be really hard and take a toll.

But it's also one of the major forces for good in this world. I want more emotional labor in the world, not less - I just want the distribution of it to be much more even, and awareness of how hard it is, and how much of a personal toll it can take, to be much greater.

There are some jobs that require the person doing them to basically commit to doing an outsize amount of emotional labor. Moderation is one of them. Teaching is another. Having worked as a teacher with kids, it is so hard to constantly have to take their feelings into account when faced with lousy behavior on their part, which is often lousy precisely in that it takes no account at all of how their teacher must be feeling. Do emotional labor for me, and appreciate the emotional labor I do for you, dammit. But that is the job, and there are truly good reasons for it being the job. It's hard as hell, but it's important too.

I think being a moderator for a site like Metafilter is like that. Yes, it probably helps a lot when users take care to invest lots of emotional labor of their own in their interactions with mods. And we're adults, so it's reasonable to expect it from us at least to some extent. But at the same time, I think it is reasonable to require (not only expect) it from mods, because that really is a big part of the job. And I think that means things like giving the benefit of the doubt, helping to make the tone of a conversation more moderate (sorry), apologizing where it would be helpful even if you'd rather not, going out of your way to let users feel understood, accepted, and maybe even appreciated.

So for example in the correspondence with zarq, I can see how it could have felt attacking and mansplainy (I'm a woman), but I can also see how it could have been accepted as good-faith if imperfect effort to bring up something that truly bothered him (I'm a woman who's had to do that, too, and to remind people of what they should already know.)

zarq could have put a lot more emotional labor into his message. He could have considered the gender dynamic involved, and how it might feel to be new on the job, and how much other criticism EM might simultaneously be dealing with from less well-intentioned users. He could have worked harder to cushion his words, veer away from lecturing, and express sympathy and maybe even solidarity.

But both EM and cortex could have extended a great deal of benefit of the doubt, and ignored the mansplainy taste and their personal reaction to it in favor of the substance of the message, and considered how hard it can be for a user to bring up their concerns, etc. They could have cushioned their response, veered away from lecturing, and expressed sympathy and maybe even solidarity. In this case it wouldn't have just been a nice, considerate thing for them to do. I think it would have been, basically, doing the job well. I think their not doing it was a kind of failure in that case, because there are so many reasons that emotional labor is important and critical to effective moderation and to maintaining a real community.

It's so hard, because whenever there's an imbalance in legitimate expectations of emotional labor there are going to be cases where the person committed to it by the nature of their role (moderator, teacher, etc.) is going to get the raw end of the deal. And it's hard because it conflicts in some ways with other parts of the job, like maintaining order and laying down the law sometimes. There's a dissonance between putting yourself in others' shoes as much as possible, and wielding tools like the banhammer. I think there's a natural human tendency to get caught up in the administrative, policing, reductive sometimes-people-are-just-bad-actors side of the job, at the cost of the more gentle side of the job where you have to continually do a near superhuman amount of emotional labor for the sake of people who sometimes treat you like crap because they're not doing emotional labor of their own.

I think mods should participate fully in the site, but should always keep their mod hats on, even when they're off duty. Among other things that means being careful to not make what might be perceived as personal attacks against one or many users, as in the comment zarq wrote about and the comment from the last thread that inspired this. It might mean either reining back one's natural tendency toward fiery righteousness, or cushioning it to make clear that it is not aimed at users. It definitely means giving others the benefit of the doubt (and not coming to conclusions about the mentality that must be behind comments one finds objectionable). I think non-mod users who objected to EM's latter comment could have made that point more gently, and taken it more as an expression of how much the subject meant to her than as an expression of sentiment against other users. But in the end no regular user is being paid for their emotional labor, and part of being a mod is leading by example.

I'll stop because I'm not saying anything new (I'm not a man, but still). Basically I think being a mod shouldn't preclude participation as a user, but that that participation kind of has to be at a level of maximum care and decency. And I think that while we should all do our best to do emotional labor in all these threads both toward mods and toward each other, being a mod represents a commitment to do that.


I tried to be all thoughtful when writing this comment, but there's always the chance I've said something obnoxious that I'm not perceptive enough to notice. If so I'm sorry, and can only ask that you let me know gently. Also I just reloaded the page, and I wish emotional labor capacity were something you could package up when you have some to spare to send to people to use who are too tired or hurt to have enough left of their own.
posted by trig at 6:37 AM on January 5 [28 favorites]


Moderating does require emotional labor, but that doesn't mean that labor is expected in equal measures from men and women. There have been plenty of articles going around my sphere lately about the gender imbalance in what's expected by students from female vs. male teachers, for example. I also think Eyebrows McGee puts a hell of a lot of emotional labor into this site -- the weekly MetaTalktails threads and her participation in them are one of the highlights of my online week, and have done an enormous amount to make me feel re-connected to the site -- and if we're going to talk about emotional labor and who's doing it, let's make sure not to sweep the generally-coded-feminine, spreading-warm-fuzzies, often-not-recognized-as-work pieces of it under the rug.

And I am also wanting to go on the record as saying the MeTas in the last few days feel a lot like stressed-out anxious people getting snipey and upset about straws on camel's backs.
posted by lazuli at 6:49 AM on January 5 [34 favorites]


Speaking as someone who suffers from depression and social anxiety, peering into this thread has reaffirmed my decision to emotionally distance myself from this site. Which can admittedly be a bit lonely, but it's refreshing to barely know anyone and thus be able to favorite/comment without giving two shits about how others might perceive me.

Approaching MeFi from a place of detachment can admittedly be a bit lonely, but I value my mental health over that of trying to fit into a community which castigates its members for even one misspoken word - especially when said castigation is coming from a mod.
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 7:06 AM on January 5 [28 favorites]


This might be my own special pony that I like to keep trotting out, but I definitely feel that many metas could be improved if users had a set comment limit.
posted by TwoStride at 7:34 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


Count me in the majority that find the modding here generally okay.

I've professionally community managed for a full-time salary, back in the dark ages.

On the moderator side:
It always seemed like a tradeoff between "hours we spend discussing things amongst ourselves" and "hours we spend doing the things." Also, "all the things" involved a lot of work the front-end users didn't see so their perception of how much time moderators should spend on x/y/z was really different from the time we had.

This was especially hard on a 18/7/365 clock (we shut down moderation overnight) because you're really trying to keep your team's lives and shifts manageable.

I know some this is basic stuff but I feel like this discussion maybe could benefit from it a bit.

We ended up just going for about the way I think moderation works here which is that we didn't have money/time for a lot of things and each moderator did their best and when things blew up we dealt with them as best we could. And then money dried up, the layoffs hit and eventually that part of the organization shut down.

That said, my opinion as a community member side and as someone who is the point person for escalating customer service issues in her job:

In this case I think overall the response (complaint made, cortex responded, EM stepped out) was okay in the broad strokes but mistakes were made.

Where I think it fell down though is a) way too much back and forth and b) a lack of empathy and c) a gap in understanding between members and mods.

One difference between a professional and an individual is that a professional is formally looking out for the needs of the organization. So if it comes down to my right to self-express, and the community's need for me to limit my self-expression, being a pro means I'm going to pick the latter and go have my fulsome discussion with other people somewhere else. That doesn't mean I can't self-express, it means that the minute there's a conflict, I'm going to aim for that professional bar.

I'm not sure where the mods see themselves though, or indeed if they're compensated at a level that warrants professional development, though. I think some members have an expectation that mods are aiming for a professional level, and I'm not actually sure if that's a goal.

Anyways, ideally, I would look to cortex to make a clear statement of values right away, regardless of anything else (and here I am NOT LEGISLATING the comment, I am talking about an initial response without almost reading it even):

"It's never our intention as a mod team to make someone feel personally attacked."
"I can see how EM's status as a parent and that comment could come across disrespectfully, and I want to apologize right up front for any distress because that really is not what we're about here."
"We're committed to working as hard as we can to keep our personal biases from impacting on how welcome MeFites feel in general, and I want to let you know that you and childfree folks are welcome here, and I am giving this situation time and attention. EM is stepping away from this thread and the childfree thread." (this last happened!)
"I will have a discussion and report back to this thread by Saturday. I'm reading all your responses."

And then...listen. And then I have an idea of how I would respond after, but that's really not my call and like I said, it depends on where the mods see themselves at this stage in the life of the community.

I do think that as members, if we want the mods to be able to stay and not burn out constantly, and have a community, we have some responsibilities too. It's unfair to expect professional detachment from the mods but not also work as members to not treat them like abusive parents or bosses with whom we are trapped and who define our worth as human beings through their attention or inattention. If we agree that they are professionals (and I don't know that we do), it's their responsibility to manage the intricacies of trying to moderate by our values and rulebook, such as it is, and it's our responsibility to recognize if that results in a healthy or unhealthy relationship on our end and not treat them like they are personally betraying us every time they fail.

Regardless of this situation or any of the people involved, organizations fail every day all the time...and community management is not going to provide enough resources for a team to get to like a "this airplane stays up in the sky" level of care of every thread, comment and situation.

I do think a clearer escalation process if someone has an issue with a mod would be good, but ultimately there's only one place is that is going to go: to cortex. That's it, those are the choices, it's not a university with an ombudsman and legislation.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:43 AM on January 5 [20 favorites]


One aspect of the patriarchy is that women’s anger is considered shocking. The focus on Eyebrows McGee’s behavior is resonating with the societal expectation that women should temper their feelings.

Speaking for me personally, the comment that ThePinkSuperhero made the MetaTalk post about hit a very raw nerve. I understand and share the feelings that led EM to post in the thread, though the cultural baggage of my Nordic upbringing led me to be quiet and favorite from a distance rather than take part in the discussion.

Having gone back to read her comments I can see what upset people, and I think that reading is reasonable. In my own heightened emotional state I didn’t consider that perspective, which was my particular failure of empathy.

I think there’s nothing wrong with being angry and expressing the anger. All feelings should be expressed, we shouldn’t expect other people to keep a lid on things. That goes both for EM and those who felt angry reading her comments. But that means people need to be charitable and discuss the underlying issue, and not just problematize the anger itself (most people didn’t, I should add).

I’m not saying that it should be on others to assuage the angry person, but acknowledging that anger is a valid emotion for anyone, is a good start.

Mind you, as mentioned above, we live in a patriarchal society that privileges male emotions, especially anger, over female emotions. In that context I’m much more on guard for people constricting the range of emotions that women are allowed to show than women. It bothers me that EM is being told her anger went over some line, mostly because in my experience, once some female anger is considered too much, the enforcement of that line-crossing gets increasingly vociferous.
posted by Kattullus at 7:56 AM on January 5 [23 favorites]


It's important for moderators to be involved in and engaged with online communities (Kien, Monroy-Hernandez, & Hill, 2016), so I am glad to see that asking mods not to comment as users is a non-starter. That would probably be very bad for Metafilter. But moderators also provide an important normative function in online communities; mods help to establish and enforce social norms (Gillespie, 2018). We necessarily use environmental cues and heuristics in mediated spaces such as this in order to make sense of, understand, and follow these norms.

One such environmental cue is the "staff" tag in Metatalk. I personally think that a lot of this would not have unfolded in this way if the "staff" tag had not been on EM's name in the original grey thread. I could easily be wrong about this, and I recognize that perhaps I am pushing my own particular pony here, but really: what was said would have given me pause, but I would not have flagged it, were it said by a user without the "staff" tag.

Mods should absolutely participate in our community. But they should be mindful of when they are participating while dressed in the moderator's uniform (small, bracketed text and/or staff tag).
posted by sockermom at 8:02 AM on January 5 [13 favorites]


And I am also wanting to go on the record as saying the MeTas in the last few days feel a lot like stressed-out anxious people getting snipey and upset about straws on camel's backs.

I feel like for me, EM's comment was a straw on top of a strawbale, a cylindrical cow-cocooon rather than the cute ones people buy for Haloween decorations. Discussions of rape have not gone well here historically when the survivors are not cis women, including derails, explicit attacks, and trying to explain away the language that traumatized survivors use to describe the adjacent emotional abuse. And culturally, it's an old a familiar pain to be used by people looking for a convenient rhetorical hand-grenade for discussions where no one really cares about the survivors in the room, not really. Do y'all not realize that on bad days watching people do that here, and argue it over multiple comments triggers panic attacks?

So it's not really a surprise to me that instead of just clearing up that original bit of insensitivity ("I'm sorry, I won't continue that side of the discussion" would have done it), we end up discussing whether mods are entitled to get hot and insensitive. And then that's derailed into whether one of the persons complaining was insensitive himself over two years ago. (For the record, I don't think zarq should have gone there either.) These two threads where the history of the persons involved have gotten so much attention is extremely disturbing to me as I start a transition process. What's the line there? Why wasn't it shut down with, "we don't litigate old arguments?"
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:05 AM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Yes, the difficulty of untangling the structural sexism from every aspect of this is not unexpected but is often unaccounted for in the responses of both the men and women trying to be understood.
posted by crush at 8:16 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Mods should comment where and how they want, publicly, knowing blah blah power and responsibility. Users can flag mod comments just like any other comments. The FAQ says to use the contact form if you want to go above that, so that's the rule. I find the FAQ to be somewhat hard to navigate, and there's stuff in there that's newer than much of the membership, so maybe there's a better way to organize it (but who's going to perform that labor). More effort could be made to point to "the rules" when mod decisions are rules-based and not spurred by e.g. community grar.

Which really is the topic at hand, in a way. There have been plenty of mod choices I've been unclear on or not agreed with, but for the most part the only substantially off mod activity I've seen over the years has been started by exactly the sort of MeTa that inspired this one, where a handful of long-time community members came down hard on policing something seemingly out-of-the-blue. No pun intended.

Not the original topic (although childlessness has been a fucking thing at least a couple times now), or even the meta-topic, but the overall dynamic. Those longstanding members have cachet and history, although some of them don't actually participate that much publicly anymore, apparently, in some cases, out of frustration with the ways the site has changed over the literal decades.

And cortex hasn't owned the site for that long. And EM hasn't modded that long. And sometimes older members really do come in here and throw shoulders around, and any time I've truly questioned a mod decision it's been when it seemed like a member or group of members was swinging a little more weight than others.

I strongly disliked EM's comment, while still thinking she's overall an excellent mod and community member. I thought the MeTa it occurred in rapidly devolved into borderline concern-trolling and I wish it had just been shut down.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:18 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


I think one bit of constructive criticism is just a general rule that applies to all people everywhere: seriously, it's okay to apologize.

I give a training on working with challenging clients, and I emphasize the importance of apologies a lot because they are so hard to give and so important. Sometimes you have to apologize even if you did something for a good or understandable reason. What I see sometimes from mods is over-explaining to the point of seeming very defensive. And I think EM needs to apologize, not just for the prison rape analogy, but for saying that people who don't agree with her don't view children as human.
posted by Mavri at 8:20 AM on January 5 [43 favorites]


Somewhat related to the phenomenon of "that one mod who totally hates me", I think it would be interesting for users to be able to see a data dump that includes the names of the moderators who deleted your comments, along with total count for each... Like

Deleted comments:
(400) Cortex
(328) Eyebrows McGee
(207) Lobster_mitten


etc..

Then we could finally determine if that one mod REALLY does hate you. For science!

Also would be interested in seeing some more transparency regarding flagging. Like, can we run a query to find out, for example, how often does a comment flagged by User_X get deleted, versus the average user, or another specific user (User_Y).

Or maybe: who are the top 10 flaggers, who are the top 10 flagged, etc...

I guess actually that these tools would be best used by some kind of moderation-continual-improvement committee, to help identify and correct bias and or prejudice by the moderation team. I'd be interested in using them myself, purely to satisfy my own curiosity, but really the main benefit would be for the moderation team itself to better understand, from a data perspective, what the big picture looks like. I think this kind of self-reflection and honest, data-driven evaluation might be eye-opening.
posted by some loser at 9:04 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I think this kind of self-reflection and honest, data-driven evaluation might be eye-opening.

It's vastly more complex than that, though, since you'd have to take into account individual user activity times vs. mod shift schedules. People who comment mostly on the weekend evenings are mostly going to run into Eyebrows (like they would run into me back in the day) and there are definitely a solid cohort of weekend people that just don't interact much on the weekdays, or interact differently. (You think we can't tell when you're drunk? We can tell when you're drunk.) It's going to end up being noisy and/or unhelpful data just because we're not interacting evenly across the the week, time-wise.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:21 AM on January 5 [36 favorites]


(You think we can't tell when you're drunk? We can tell when you're drunk.)

dammit
posted by billiebee at 9:29 AM on January 5 [40 favorites]


(You think we can't tell when you're drunk? We can tell when you're drunk.)

that brings up another interesting question: What's the Metafilter policy for moderators regarding substance use while "on the clock"?
posted by some loser at 9:34 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


More-or-less not. There are the odd exceptions, eg someone might have one drink if they're having dinner kind of thing, but that's about it, even though we might joke about it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:45 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Also would be interested in seeing some more transparency regarding flagging.

Every metric becomes a goal.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:46 AM on January 5 [12 favorites]


Come on, really?
posted by JenMarie at 9:46 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Oh sorry, ha that was responding to the question about substance use.
posted by JenMarie at 9:47 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]

On the broader question of what makes for good and not so good moderation interactions, I don't really disagree with the general thrust of e.g. grobstein's ferinstance, and as he says that really is pretty much about how we already try to be in terms of restricting our own commenting behavior as mods.
For what its worth, I think this represents a pretty radical change to site norms that has happened slowly and which I think will only be profoundly negative in the long run. The mods here have for a very long time been essentially our strongest users and if we really were to lose the ability to have the mod team lead by example, lacking that keel we'll inevitably only need a lot more inherently destructive action from the rudder.

If this really is where we're going on the site then maybe its the worst possible plan to continue to hire from within? If we really have lost Lobster Mitten, restless_nomad, taz, goodnewsfortheinsane, and Eyebrows McGee as users while gaining then as mods - unlike what was explicitly promised at the time - then the site really has lost something immense.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:39 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Hey cortex is not saying that the mods should stop participating -- he explicitly ruled that out. Since he is referring to my comment, maybe you could say which of these points you disagree with:

1. Don't wade into heated debates unless they're about the site.
2. In a heated debate about the site, stick to the points relevant to site policy.
3. Criticize behaviors, rather than users.
4. Don't be sarcastic or insulting.

I like to think it's still possible for mods to be valuable participants while observing guidelines like these.

Which one do you think would be profoundly negative?
posted by grobstein at 11:09 AM on January 5 [10 favorites]


We'll all be back here arguing what constitutes a "heated debate"
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:19 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


These are subjective standards, to be sure, but if you don't have the ability to follow them fairly closely and effectively, you don't have the skill to be a moderator on this site.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:20 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


One aspect of the patriarchy is that women’s anger is considered shocking. The focus on Eyebrows McGee’s behavior is resonating with the societal expectation that women should temper their feelings.

Okay well a lot of the people involved here are women who are angry about her behavior: angry about the way they've been characterized; angry that, as members here, their good-faith contributions were demeaned (and so were they) as being the clear result of a fundamental character flaw; angry that they were not apologized to; angry that they were being treated as less-than and as the appropriate target of verbal aggression (not anger, there is a difference.) Their anger is okay, and it matters, and it should be taken seriously and respected.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:27 AM on January 5 [40 favorites]


We'll all be back here arguing what constitutes a "heated debate"

Actually the bigger loophole is that sometimes a debate isn't heated at all until one of the mods comes in breathing fire.

In general, the mods should probably try to err in the direction of turning down the heat instead of turning it up.

And of course all these terms are subjective, but that's the game -- Metafilter doesn't have a lot of absolute rules, we have guidelines and judgment calls. A good Metafilter mod is someone with the practical wisdom to make good calls about these things.
posted by grobstein at 11:29 AM on January 5 [7 favorites]


Phronesis. Why is the answer always “phronesis”? :p
posted by Barack Spinoza at 11:32 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


i wasn't gonna say it but yeah i was saying it
posted by grobstein at 11:36 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Could you please expound on what you consider to be "extreme approaches?" Some things on the table:

*No mod participation as community members at all - agree that this is not tenable, will not be happening.

*Mods participate in site and policy MeTas as Mods only, not as regular users - thoughts on this?

*More clear boundaries between Mod comments and ModUser comments on site and policy MeTas - thoughts on this?


Confirming, yeah, that first point is a no-go.

The second point as stated is too absolutist for me; we do maintain as a general goal trying to be selective about where we add personal-voice stuff in policy-centric MetaTalk discussions, but I can't see it being workable to make that a bright-line thing where speaking in a personal capacity, or even just in a non-moderative aside, is off the table. Too rigid.

The third point I don't have any real objection to; that's mostly where our attention on this stuff has already been. Trying to be clear about "this is site policy" vs. "this is my personal perspective/preference/thoughts" is I think really important in MetaTalk discussions where there's a potential strong implication of policy position in what a mod's saying. I've learned over the years to do that more when in doubt, and I think it's helped me communicate a little more effectively in the sometimes ambiguous soup of MetaTalk threads.

So I think some of this discussion has been useful as a nudge on that point; it's a reminder for us as a team and as individuals to refresh and revisit our self-awareness about that and to try to err a little more on the side of explicitly donning or doffing a policy hat when talking about grey-area stuff, and likewise to be ready to just tap out preemptively if it's a situation where a hard day or a hard topic is getting in the way of accomplishing that well.

I don’t know if this has been addressed - did EM ever apologize?

After EM let me know she was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed and needed to check out of that thread, we talked a bit and decided the best thing would be to check out of MeFi and related internet stuff for a day or two. She's had a hard couple of days irrespective of MeFi stuff, which it's not my place to get into and doesn't obviate the need to be good about moderator boundaries like we've been talking about above, but it does mean that e.g. time-tabling about personal responses is colliding with the practical fact that she's not around on the site right now to respond.

I know her comments in that thread bothered a lot of people, and I appreciate folks talking out why. I'll reiterate that I think that how she framed some of that stuff was a lapse in judgement, and that I've talked with her some and will talk with her more about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:45 AM on January 5 [25 favorites]


Thanks for your answers, cortex.
posted by cooker girl at 11:55 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I know her comments in that thread bothered a lot of people, and I appreciate folks talking out why. I'll reiterate that I think that how she framed some of that stuff was a lapse in judgement, and that I've talked with her some and will talk with her more about it.

I think the conduct in this thread also needs to be addressed.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:05 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]

Hey cortex is not saying that the mods should stop participating -- he explicitly ruled that out. Since he is referring to my comment, maybe you could say which of these points you disagree with:

1. Don't wade into heated debates unless they're about the site.
2. In a heated debate about the site, stick to the points relevant to site policy.
3. Criticize behaviors, rather than users.
4. Don't be sarcastic or insulting.

I like to think it's still possible for mods to be valuable participants while observing guidelines like these.

Which one do you think would be profoundly negative?
I'm fine with Point 4, but it really hasn't been relevant in at least a decade back to the more wild days of yore. That said, as much as we might like to insist otherwise this site can't really be accurately described as a place to share neat links on anymore. The majority of user engagement here is 'heated' to varying degrees and if we were to expect mods to stop engaging in the 'heated' aspects of the site that would mean them no longer functioning as fully active users. It would also mean curtailing exactly the context in which their insight and judgement is most valuable as users. I don't think the expectations for mods should be any more or less then that they be excellent users, and maybe these comments failed in that in a minor way by making assumptions about the motivations of others in a way that never goes well, but Eyebrows was and remains among the most excellent of users.

We had similar kinds of problems any time jessamyn expressed strong opinions about justice like this, and it certainly caused a lot of tension, however slowly but surely the moral arc of the site bent further and further to the point where we are now. The mod tools aren't really how this site has change to the where now preformatively casual cruelty and callousness like the 'joke' in the original thread on the blue is the exception rather than the rule so much as mod leadership, and a lot of that leadership was a hell of a lot more pointed and strongly worded than this.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:21 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


GenderNullPointException, could you be a little more specific? Whose conduct needs to be addressed- mods, users, mods-as-users?
posted by Mouse Army at 12:22 PM on January 5 [10 favorites]


How is sarcasm or insulting behavior from mods not relevant? It happens and is a big part of the complaints here.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:31 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I don't feel that everything I disagree with, or even things I'm offended by, means that something needs to change or someone needs to pay.

There are a lot of people on this site that I can't directly relate to, that seem to live in a completely different world than I do. I like that. Eyebrows is certainly one of those people, and I find her comments really interesting and are one of my favorite parts of the site.

I didn't like her comments as a mod in the other meta. I think the response to it was overblown on various sides.
posted by bongo_x at 1:01 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


blasdelb: We had similar kinds of problems any time jessamyn expressed strong opinions about justice like this, and it certainly caused a lot of tension, however slowly but surely the moral arc of the site bent further and further to the point where we are now. The mod tools aren't really how this site has change to the where now preformatively casual cruelty and callousness like the 'joke' in the original thread on the blue is the exception rather than the rule so much as mod leadership, and a lot of that leadership was a hell of a lot more pointed and strongly worded than this.

Thanks, this is helpful.

Our disagreement is: you think moralistic aggression on the part of the mods, directed towards particular users, is a force for good and has made the site a better place in recent years. You think Eyebrows McGee's prison rape comment in the other thread exemplifies this force for good, even if she made a "minor" mistake, because she was taking aim at the "performatively casual cruelty and callousness" of the original comment.

Obviously, if you think the prison rape comment is good and we should have more like it, you won't agree with my suggestions.

But for the rest of us, who think something went seriously wrong there, it's worth thinking about what went wrong and how.
posted by grobstein at 1:14 PM on January 5 [17 favorites]


GenderNullPointException, could you be a little more specific? Whose conduct needs to be addressed- mods, users, mods-as-users?

I feel the derail into zarq and EM's disagreement from 2016 needed to be stopped yesterday afternoon, with deletions and timeouts as needed to make it stick. Instead, it was allowed to drag through this morning. I feel that if disagreements with mods-as-users can escalate to this kind of public dunking, that's also a chilling effect on having conversations with mods-as-users.

And I'll say again, zarq should not have gone there. But everyone else here knew better than to follow that rabbit and did so anyway.

Also, I agree with Rock 'em Sock 'em.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:21 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Casually calling that a 'prison rape comment,' as if the reference to jokes about prison rape within it wasn't exclusively about how fucked up it is that people casually joke about prison rape, is a pretty aggressively dishonest characterization. It is indeed fucked up that many people take the emotional distance between them and prisoners as license to joke about something so profoundly terrible like its the kind of triviality that is appropriate to be casually vicious about. That comment is also a cogent and relevant reference to a topic where we have had basically identical arguments about how fucked up the casually cruelty of this specific brand of humour is in the past, and how inappropriate they are to the values of this site.

There is absolutely nothing inappropriate in that comment's reference to the unfortunately necessary work this site has had to do in the past, and apparently needs to continue doing.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:35 PM on January 5 [25 favorites]


Casually calling that a 'prison rape comment,' as if the reference to jokes about prison rape within it wasn't exclusively about how fucked up it is that people casually joke about prison rape, is a pretty aggressively dishonest characterization.

My thoughts exactly. I think that point has gotten lost. Count me in as someone who values EM’s voice on this site and generally appreciates the moderation in whole.
posted by JenMarie at 1:44 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


Rock 'em Sock 'em said it up there way better than I ever could. Although I will add that if anyone thinks that the criticism of EM's comment arose from some sort of internalized misogyny or patriarchal attitude or whatever the hell that comment about women's anger being shocking was supposed to mean, all I can say is that you're so mistaken that you're not even wrong.

I wasn't upset at EM's comment because I was shocked by women's anger (for fuck's sake, seriously?). Nor was it because her "anger went over the line." I was upset because I was pissed off at yet another example of the never-fucking-ending characterization of childless people as less than fully human specifically because they don't have children. I can promise you I am not in thrall to the patriarchy such that woman's anger does causes me to be "shocked," dismayed, appalled, repulsed, or any similar emotion. That idea is a hell of a lot more patronizing (not to mention mansplainy) toward women than anything else I've read in this thread.
posted by holborne at 1:45 PM on January 5 [40 favorites]


If I had an issue with a mod I would have done what he did out of the 3 options of 1) contact them personally, 2) go straight to their boss to effectively complain, 3) call them out on something in front of the whole mod team via contact form.

I've been taught all my life to praise in public, criticize in private. If I have a problem with someone, my first option is always have a word with them aside if possible, such as to not embarrass them and to increase the chances of having a productive conversation. I expect (and try to be approachable enough to encourage) people to do the same when they have a problem with me. The contact form option, although perfect for general issues when it doesn't matter which mod handles it, feels like calling out someone in front of their peers (and boss) if it's a more individual concern. It's the nasty passive-aggressive cc: on the email.

Regardless, it seems cortex has taken that option off the table by site policy, and if so, well ok then. I don't think that was well known before.

I think we could all do more "ok, thank you for your feedback [consider it, drop it]"
posted by ctmf at 1:55 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]

I was upset because I was pissed off at yet another example of the never-fucking-ending characterization of childless people as less than fully human specifically because they don't have children.
Saying that maybe being responsible for children is kinda necessary to get what it means to be responsible for children doesn't actually imply that people who haven't been responsible for children aren't fully human any more than saying that people who've never been to France probably don't get the French does. If France is just an abstract thing you've read about in books or seen on TV for you, then it kinda makes sense that it would be easier for shitty baguette or garlic jokes to be funny right? Naturally you don't need to have gone to France to have truly lived or loved or whatever, but if that is the case for you maybe it would be better to spend more time reading whatever fraula's comment is in a thread about French jokes than pontificating.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:02 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Casually calling that a 'prison rape comment,' as if the reference to jokes about prison rape within it wasn't exclusively about how fucked up it is that people casually joke about prison rape, is a pretty aggressively dishonest characterization. It is indeed fucked up that many people take the emotional distance between them and prisoners as license to joke about something so profoundly terrible like its the kind of triviality that is appropriate to be casually vicious about. That comment is also a cogent and relevant reference to a topic where we have had basically identical arguments about how fucked up the casually cruelty of this specific brand of humour is in the past, and how inappropriate they are to the values of this site.

There is absolutely nothing inappropriate in that comment's reference to the unfortunately necessary work this site has had to do in the past, and apparently needs to continue doing.


there is an ongoing, 450+ comment thread where people have tried to make clear why they think the joke in question (and other jokes like it regarding this particular subject) wasn't "casual cruelty" and that the place it came from in fact a lot more nuanced and complicated than that. as just one example, some of the people making these jokes are doing so not because of some emotional distance, but because of the emotional PAIN of being childfree in a world that expects everyone to procreate.

the dismissal of this position as similar to defending prison rape jokes, as well as the implication that people who appreciated or defended the joke were somehow bad or lesser for doing so, from a person in a position of authority who should know better, is the exact reason why we're having THIS discussion. it does a disservice to a vulnerable section of our community to treat them like that. THAT is the inappropriate behavior.
posted by JimBennett at 2:05 PM on January 5 [31 favorites]


Saying that maybe being responsible for children is kinda necessary to get what it means to be responsible for children doesn't actually imply that people who haven't been responsible for children

This analogy is so stupid and bad and completely irrelevant to what I or anyone else has said...honestly, I can't even act like it's in good faith.

and I'm sorry, fraula's jokes about the French? Pontificating? I ask this in the kindest way, but what in the FUCK are you talking about?
posted by holborne at 2:06 PM on January 5 [28 favorites]


Saying that maybe being responsible for children is kinda necessary to get what it means to be responsible for children

this, to me, is an extremely shitty and lazy mischaracterization of what the childfree folks are actually saying, and what the section you quoted LITERALLY says, which is that they are treated worse for not having children.
posted by JimBennett at 2:09 PM on January 5 [20 favorites]


That analogy about France is completely unhelpful. While not all of us are French, all of us have been children.
posted by TwoStride at 2:11 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


I think probably it'd be better to take the discussion about childfree stuff over to the other thread, if folks want to pursue that, and try to keep this one for more general moderation stuff? I realize it's tough to separate the two.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:11 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Having said that, I know people are circling over the specific "how reasonable was it" of EM's comment, which is more what this thread's about. I guess I'd just rather we don't end up with two separate Metatalks both arguing over basically the same thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:15 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


feels like calling out someone in front of their peers (and boss) if it's a more individual concern. It's the nasty passive-aggressive cc: on the email.

Other than not being a dick, one of the reasons you don't want to do this is because their boss is just as likely, caught flat-footed, to instinctively get over-defensive about 'their' person you're 'attacking' and push back hard. Just saying.
posted by ctmf at 2:15 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
posted by biffa at 2:16 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


The contact form option, although perfect for general issues when it doesn't matter which mod handles it, feels like calling out someone in front of their peers (and boss) if it's a more individual concern. It's the nasty passive-aggressive cc: on the email. Regardless, it seems cortex has taken that option off the table by site policy, and if so, well ok then. I don't think that was well known before.

I did say that using the contact form for an issue with a specific mod feels like calling them out in front of their colleagues, and my point was that zarq didn’t do that, he contacted EM directly. I think we have been advised since these last couple of threads started that the contact form is on the table, and would have been preferable to memailing her. I personally still wouldn’t be able to use it for that though, but ymmv. (Sorry if I’ve misunderstood the point you were making.)
posted by billiebee at 2:19 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

...but what in the FUCK are you talking about?"
Eyebrows did not at all characterize "childless people as less than fully human specifically because they don't have children," no matter how many times you repeat that in ways that are increasing unrecognizable in the comment she actually wrote. She even quickly clarified to you specifically that this specifically was not the case. What she was saying was something completely different, and while we can all see that this issue is a sensitive button for you, that doesn't give you a right to misquote people in order to attack them for shit they didn't actually say.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:28 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


That said, as much as we might like to insist otherwise this site can't really be accurately described as a place to share neat links on anymore.

I... think I disagree with this. Pretty much all of my posts have been sharing neat links, and Johnny Wallflower’s puppy posts almost never get heated, except by masses of squirming puppies....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:34 PM on January 5 [16 favorites]


billiebee, yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Using the contact form is counter-intuitive to me in this case, but it seems to be the Metafilter preferred option.
posted by ctmf at 2:34 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


This thread seems to have become an ugly pile-on against Eyebrows, including some truly unpleasant mischaracterizations of what she actually said. Are people interested in discussing larger modding issues here, or is this just another chance for the usual axe-grinders to do some more grinding? It's starting to feel a lot like the latter, which is ugly.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:39 PM on January 5 [21 favorites]


A bunch of people in the other thread specifically complained about her moderation. This part of the site is for discussions about moderation. If comments like yours — insulting people with legitimate concerns and characterizing their behavior as “ugly” — weren’t standard in metatalk, this issue would have been addressed already without the admittedly uncomfortable and sudden focus on EM’s role here.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:04 PM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I... think I disagree with this.

Yeah, likewise. Basically it's fine if the site is a lot of different things to different people, but statements like "this is how it is now" without some sort of "for me" qualification is a recipe for misunderstanding and grar.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:04 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


Live by the sword - die by the sword.
posted by some loser at 3:17 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


"I did say that using the contact form for an issue with a specific mod feels like calling them out in front of their colleagues, and my point was that zarq didn’t do that, he contacted EM directly."

My sense of, not propriety, but of consideration for someone's feelings, leads me to the opposite conclusion.

Well, not the opposite, because I, too feel uncomfortable objecting to a specific mod's behavior in a forum of their peers. I instinctively feel these things should be kept small.

I wouldn't have minded writing cortex because (although I don't work for him) he doesn't feel like to me the "big boss" and I'd be getting the mod in trouble. I generally have a strong anti "tattling to authority" instinct, because I mistrust heavy-handed authority and my playing a role in evoking it -- but cortex seems to me to be someone who'd deal with it the best possible way. But I don't really know that.

For me, the best option would be another mod, not cortex. Especially the mod on duty, assuming it wasn't the mod I have a complaint about.

I don't send critical personal email or memail to anyone (excepting close family/friends and that almost never). That to me feels very aggro. Even if I phrased it as carefully as zarq did, and even if the mod was another man, I wouldn't have. It's too ... pointed?

I'm not sure what the best option is here, as a general rule. I am pretty firm on that I think a convergence of factors meant that zarq memailing EM directly at that time and place wasn't the right one. Though completely understandable because these things are more comprehensable in retrospect.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:17 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


blasdelb: Casually calling that a 'prison rape comment,' as if the reference to jokes about prison rape within it wasn't exclusively about how fucked up it is that people casually joke about prison rape, is a pretty aggressively dishonest characterization. It is indeed fucked up that many people take the emotional distance between them and prisoners as license to joke about something so profoundly terrible like its the kind of triviality that is appropriate to be casually vicious about. That comment is also a cogent and relevant reference to a topic where we have had basically identical arguments about how fucked up the casually cruelty of this specific brand of humour is in the past, and how inappropriate they are to the values of this site.

If you think the prison rape analogy in that comment was really appropriate and even necessary, I'm not sure why you object to my calling it that. Maybe if the prison rape analogy was a lone misstep in an otherwise good comment, it would be reductive to call it a prison rape comment. But you don't think that. You think the prison rape analogy is good. So you should go ahead and defend it instead of objecting to the label I used to refer to it.

Here's the part of the comment that you keep insisting isn't there: Maybe that's abstract to you because you've never known a child it's happened to. I do, and it's literally never fucking funny. Have you been to a funeral with a toddler-sized coffin? It's awful. It's the kind of joke that could only be made by someone who considers murdered children an abstraction, rather than a horrible tragedy that happens to real human beings, who are apparently easy to abstract and joke about because they are children and so don't register as "real" persons. Same reason I don't find prison rape jokes funny, really.

The comment is not just saying that parents might have a different perspective than non-parents. It's saying the only valid perspective is that of someone who's been to "a funeral with a toddler-sized coffin," which (by the way) Eyebrows has. By contrast, according to Eyebrows, the joke could only have possibly come from the perspective of "someone who considers murdered children an abstraction."

There is a much more modest point that could have been made, as you say: "maybe being responsible for children is kinda necessary to get what it means to be responsible for children." That's not what Eyebrows's comment says. The comment distorts your modest point. It drastically inflates the experience needed to have an opinion -- you need to not just be a parent, but to have gone to a baby funeral. Think about that. Even if you've been to a baby funeral, you might not want to bring it up in a MetaTalk to prove you have the right to an opinion. But one of the mods is kind of saying you have to. So this rhetorical escalation is not just unnecessary, it's unkind.

And then if you disagree it's because you don't recognize children as "real human beings."

Anyway, this would be a good place to start your defense.
posted by grobstein at 3:20 PM on January 5 [40 favorites]


You know, judging by the favorites I've handed out in this thread, you might think I have something against Eyebrows McGee. Sure, she's deleted some of my comments, big whoop.

Sure, that comment was kinda fucked up, and sure, if I had posted it, it would have been shitcanned. But that hardly disqualifies her from doing her job here, and it hardly takes away all the great comments and posts she's had over the years. I don't think anyone (maybe I'm being too generous?) here wants to see her publicly flogged. I'm not even sure an official apology is needed. I do think that these discussions need to be had, and maybe not be a referendum on Eyebrows McGee herself - either as user or mod. She does her job very well and that's about the best we can expect I think. So she stepped in it this time - ok. We can move beyond that tho, right? Even as one of the people who might have anti-establishment feelings towards her, I can't see this place getting better by making her leave or making her job more difficult, you know? I'm not sure there is anything to be gained by DEMANDING an apology. She's human, just like me. I dunno I just wanted to say even though I'm critical of lots of stuff on MeFi, and it's moderation (when it affects me), Eyebrows McGee is aight in my books. Surprised? me too! (totally not drunk btw).
posted by some loser at 3:31 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


I wish that argument wouldn't happen here, even though this thread is concerning complaints against mods.

The details may seem relevant, but they're really not: each of us can form our own opinions of that particular mod behavior, but can't we just stipulate that sometimes there are concerns and go from there?

I'm not sure there's any more reasons at this point to focus on Eyebrows McGee at all, but if we must, can we avoiding litigating that particular example of her behavior, given it's already caused so much hurt in a thread two doors down?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:31 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


The stuff I'm personally more concerned with (like anyone cares), in threads like these (WRT MODERATION) , are the ones I alluded to before:

Are certain users flags viewed with more weight than others?
Are certain users comments moderated with more enthusiasm than others?
Are certian users given more leeway due to the amount of time and space they take up here?
How can we find out? How can we fix it? Do we need to fix it? Or are we cool with any particular topic being the "User_X show" or the "User_Y show" ?
Do we need to actively placate certain users to keep them and their content here? and is this already happening?

and in the realm of the more speculative: what could some of our users accomplish with their time if they spent it doing something else rather than writing 10000 words a day here? Cure cancer? start a global clothing empire? Reverse the aging process? ;)

OK YES I BEEN DRINKING, IT'S SATURDAY!
posted by some loser at 3:43 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Saying that maybe being responsible for children is kinda necessary to get what it means to be responsible for children

This is barely in the same neighborhood as what she wrote and you're accusing other people of misquoting.
posted by Mavri at 3:43 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


I think that more than a critique of Eyebrows, this whole brouhaha highlights how mod/user communication has broken down.

I would not only not memail one mod to complain about another mod, or email the entire mod team via contact form to complain about one of them -- I would assume that doing either is completely inappropriate.

Honestly, I think that the breakdown of MetaTalk as a real, trusted way for users and mods to communicate transparently and publically (and maybe the breakdown is due to instituting the queue or maybe due to changing site norms or maybe due to some other reason, who knows...) has alienated the mods as a team from the users in a corrosive way. And that corrosion has led to uncomfortable fights like this.

I think that it's really important for the site to have better and clearer avenues for private mod/user communication and for MetaTalk to be revitalized so that it can fill the public, two-way (mod/user) communication and "blowing off steam" functions that it was originally created for.
posted by rue72 at 3:55 PM on January 5 [17 favorites]


Casually calling that a 'prison rape comment,' as if the reference to jokes about prison rape within it wasn't exclusively about how fucked up it is that people casually joke about prison rape, is a pretty aggressively dishonest characterization. It is indeed fucked up that many people take the emotional distance between them and prisoners as license to joke about something so profoundly terrible like its the kind of triviality that is appropriate to be casually vicious about. That comment is also a cogent and relevant reference to a topic where we have had basically identical arguments about how fucked up the casually cruelty of this specific brand of humour is in the past, and how inappropriate they are to the values of this site.

I'm an amab rape survivor, of which "prison rape jokes" are part of a whole genre of same-sex rape jokes, including locker-room jokes, sailor jokes, walking into the wrong bar jokes, and Tucker Carlson. I've not heard them all but I've heard far more than I want in my brain.

First of all, same-sex rape humor doesn't come from emotional distance, it comes from a deep, passionate, and visceral disgust of male homosexuality and the possibility of becoming gay or bisexual by force. It's not a casual viciousness, it's deliberate hate speech to position oneself as straight beyond question. I've been in the room where they're used in this way. That's not a theory, it's an observation.

I have 30+ years experience of being other people's jokes and phobias. I also have 30+ years of being someone's token, of being a rhetorical device of the nearly unspeakable tragedy that's clearly fucked up. Sometimes I'm being used by anti-feminist MRAs, sometimes I'm used by feminists.

And in 30+ years attempting to actually have a conversation about that online, even here on metafilter, just ends up in a mess of denial, gaslighting, trivialization, accusations, and derails. I try not to do that anymore, because why retraumatize myself expecting a different result?

When you drop that great zinger, the purely abstract, theoretical, and rhetorical claim that childfree and parenting humor is analogous to same-sex rape jokes, are you really opening the door to discuss the physical, emotional, and economic realities of therapy bills, medication, and vacation hours for panic attacks? Are you willing to discuss decades of verbal abuse, gaslighting, skepticism, denial, derails, patronizing comments, gatekeeping, and homophobia, all of which has happened to amab survivors here on metafilter the prior times we've tried to discuss it? Do you not realize that you're exposing survivors, the direct targets of your abstraction, to discourse that's unhealthy for us?

And to be clear, I understood what EM said. I partially agree with it. But, since y'all have repeatedly failed to demonstrate the trust, empathy, and willingness to have a serious conversation about amab survivors, it's just painfully shallow and empty words to intensify the argument. You might as well talk about something from the Brothers Grimm or Voldemort for all that it's meaningful.

This is a place where I strongly feel that people who are not amab survivors need to shut up and listen a bit. I know y'all have the best of liberal ally intentions in your heart but you don't know what's going on, you can't know what's going on because the real talk is still limited to therapists and support groups, and you don't have the same experience of hearing that humor in action. It's another tasteless dad joke to most people, not something that punches me in the gut at a family Christmas and leaves me speechless while everyone else nods their heads and tries to change the subject. It's the experience of realizing that the guy I've helped change diapers for years really hates me and is disgusted by me on some level that's never been discussed before. And then volunteering to take a turn changing his diapers again. Of realizing that one of my last memories of that man is the time he revealed how disgusting I am to him.

And realizing, just now, that's how he would have felt about his pre-teen granddaughter, who came out after his death.

Is that TMI? Sorry. If you open that line of inquiry, that's some of what you get.

I don't think EM is a bad person. I think she made a somewhat thoughtless mistake that shouldn't be defended just because it's partly true on some abstract level of theory. Sure, there's some truth there but is it really worth the cost of decentering survivors from our own lives? It may be true but is it also kind? Is it really necessary to the point? Is it her analogy to make?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:04 PM on January 5 [65 favorites]


Also, it’s not true. The childless really are capable of empathy.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:11 PM on January 5 [16 favorites]


I do wish mods had to select a generic reason and MeMail a notice of deleted posts. It could be automated away like flagging.

It drives me crazy not knowing why or even if something I typed just vanished into nothingness.

Other than that (which is WORK) I'm mostly meh, fine, whatever with mods. I've done it in other lifetimes as BOFH or enforcing rules (not mine).

I just really wish I knew that something got modded away and why (even if it's just a form mail with a bunch of checkboxes) because it's hard to try again if you don't even know what you did wrong the first time and it's brain-wrecking to think that you did reply to something of interest and go back and have never existed.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:17 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


The contact form is for asking just those questions. Most of the time the mods aren't so busy that they can't compose a reply and nearly everyone gets an email back within 15 minutes. Most MeFites never get anything deleted. Some people view comment deletions as just part of how things work here and aren't overly concerned. For the people who fall into that middle place, dropping the usual mods (I'm filling in this evening, so usually not me) is the way to go.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:29 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


And I'm comfortable with the resolution regarding EM. I didn't post that because I think anything different needs to happen regarding EM.

I'm posting that because people in this thread are talking about the theoretical truth value of the posts, and not realizing that talking about same-sex rape online is extremely uncomfortable for some of us. Saying that rape jokes are bad is so low-level awareness that it doesn't merit a chocolate chip. It doesn't make you safe to discuss it with. It doesn't make the thread safe to discuss it in.

And that's long been a metafilter failure point.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:37 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


The second point as stated is too absolutist for me; we do maintain as a general goal trying to be selective about where we add personal-voice stuff in policy-centric MetaTalk discussions, but I can't see it being workable to make that a bright-line thing where speaking in a personal capacity, or even just in a non-moderative aside, is off the table. Too rigid.

I think the issue is that, as a rule, anything a mod says in these types of Metas is going to be read as mod-voice, and that it's impossible to speak ONLY in a personal capacity, or ONLY as an aside. And honestly, I'm not sure what it is you want to keep open as an option to say personally but as a mod in these stressful, fighty metas that you think should not and will not be read as anything more than just a personal note.

I have, in the past, complained that mods care an awful lot about intention here and not enough about effect, and though I think the balance has shifted some, this seems to me to be an example of the same issue. Mods INTEND to speak as a user, therefore it's ok for them to do so in fighty metas.
posted by jeather at 4:45 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


holborne: Rock 'em Sock 'em said it up there way better than I ever could. Although I will add that if anyone thinks that the criticism of EM's comment arose from some sort of internalized misogyny or patriarchal attitude or whatever the hell that comment about women's anger being shocking was supposed to mean, all I can say is that you're so mistaken that you're not even wrong.

That’s fair (I’m assuming the “you” is directed at me as the writer of the comment, rather than it being an impersonal you).

I read my comment again after reading your comment and, well, I can all too easily see how it can be read that way. I was trying to comment on what I took to be the ideal of the impersonal mod put forth by several MeFites. But I didn’t give my comment enough context nor did I explain myself well enough. I didn’t take care when commenting on a fraught subject.

For that, and poor choice of words in general, I’d like to apologize.
posted by Kattullus at 4:46 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


GenderNPE, I am sincerely sorry that trauma has been part of your life experience, and I am sorry that you read something here that triggered memories of it. Is it really so inconceivable to everyone that a flippant comment about *parents murdering their own children* might have equivalent real effects on people reading and participating here? I've read all of both threads and I simply cannot parse how someone idly pondering how they could commit lethal child abuse is "childfree and parenting humor" but a serious comment that includes a reference to the inhumanity of prison rape jokes is an offense worthy of two extensive pile-ons.
posted by animalrainbow at 4:50 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


Simply cannot parse how someone idly pondering how they could commit lethal child abuse is "childfree and parenting humor,

That's not what the joke we are talking about was.
posted by agregoli at 4:55 PM on January 5 [25 favorites]


They click a button to delete. Add a drop down as to why and automate the MeMail. Why make someone second guess and even sometimes try to remember exactly what they wrote and guess as to why it was deleted and have to go and ask a parental unit what they did wrong instead of being told at the time it occurred. Mysterious action at a distance when it's pretty (maybe) obvious that the deletee has no clue why. Let's punish/censor/whatever someone and add on the figure out what you did wrong or ask if you can't figure it out or just forget and move on.

It's just my 'thing' an nothing more. The one gripe I have MF-wise.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:58 PM on January 5 [10 favorites]


That's not what the joke we are talking about was.

And Eyebrows' comment was in no way condoning, minimizing or making light of prison rape, so why is that interpretation being given so much weight and good faith?
posted by animalrainbow at 5:07 PM on January 5


I've read all of both threads and I simply cannot parse how someone idly pondering how they could commit lethal child abuse is "childfree and parenting humor"

this is a derail but: i've read all of both threads too and i cannot parse how people clicked on a thread specifically about being childfree, saw a joke directed at the other childfree folks in at the thread, and then decided to make it about themselves instead of just flagging it and moving on, or even better, not reading or participating in childfree threads in the first place. then when a mod makes the childfree contingent of the site uncomfortable, double down and say she did nothing wrong. the complete lack of empathy people have shown towards the complaints of the childfree contingent of the site (who, again, have been historically marginalized here in a way that parents have not been) is frankly disgusting to me.

And Eyebrows' comment was in no way condoning, minimizing or making light of prison rape, so why is that interpretation being given so much weight and good faith?

this was covered - from multiple angles - at least three separate times in the last fifty or so posts.
posted by JimBennett at 5:17 PM on January 5 [28 favorites]


childfree people are not materially marginalized, not here and not in society. childfree *women* face a specific form of misogyny around their reproductive choices. i understand not every voice in this thread has been a man, but a huge amount of the most stringent have been and i feel about ready to lose it if i see one more dude who's had a vasectomy or whatever claiming that they are less privileged than parents. get some fucking perspective
posted by animalrainbow at 5:25 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


but a huge amount of the most stringent have been and i feel about ready to lose it if i see one more dude who's had a vasectomy or whatever claiming that they are less privileged than parents. get some fucking perspective

That's not even remotely what's been happening and the vast majority of the people in the OG thread were women/afab.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:28 PM on January 5 [26 favorites]


[folks maybe not relitigating parents vs non-parents might be a good idea?]
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:28 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


i don't identify as childfree for what it's worth. i'm a 26 year old kid who may or may not have children someday. i recognize the childfree as a sub community who have historically been the subject of a lot of drama here they don't deserve. i value these community members and think they should have the ability to commiserate with one another in peace, just like parents do in parenting threads. it's important to me that these people are treated with respect because i believe they make our community richer.
posted by JimBennett at 5:30 PM on January 5 [21 favorites]


animalrainbow: I have no objections to people talking about their own experiences, shock, or horror with that original comment. I deliberately didn't address the original comment, and fully agree with cortex's stated reasons for deletion.

But here's my objection. If you're going to use same-sex rape as your analogy of the terrible thing that we shouldn't joke about, it needs to be in a space where survivors of same-sex rape can talk about our own experiences. Metafilter is not that space. There's way too much bad history on that topic for that level of trust to happen in the narrow space of one MeTa thread.

No, Eyebrows didn't condone, minimize, or make light of same-sex rape. That's not really a question here. Nearly everyone recognizes that same-sex rape is a terrible thing in different ways, especially the people making prison rape jokes. But people tell me it's horrible and then gaslight how it's defined. People say it's horrible and beanplate the language used to research it. People say it's horrible and obsess over the implications for college football for months (Sandusky). People say it's horrible and therefore this other thing is also horrible in comparison. People say it's horrible and why won't feminists talk about it. People tell me it's horrible and then ask me why I think it's inconceivable that someone would react to this other horrible thing. And I get dragged through all of those discussions generally feeling shitty because it's clear that I'm just being appropriated to argue about something else, and the terribleness of same-sex rape is just an abstract talking point.

So after 30 years of all this, I'm out of trust.

Note that across two threads, multiple people have been piled-on including EM, I'm not even supposed to be here today, and zarq. All of them unfairly in my opinion.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:04 PM on January 5 [18 favorites]


If we're voting on the question is the moderation on MetaFilter bad? Y/N I will just go on the record that I think the moderation here is generally fine. Moderators, like literally everyone, have good days and bad days. I personally have never felt that any of the mods were being unfair or doing a bad job. Do they have days when they could have done better? Of course. But we all do.

Yay mods! I love you. You're doing a great job. I'm sorry that the past couple days at work have been maybe a bit harder than most.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:49 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


This was a while ago in the thread at this point but I wanted to say something about this notion:

Other than not being a dick, one of the reasons you don't want to do this is because their boss is just as likely, caught flat-footed, to instinctively get over-defensive about 'their' person you're 'attacking' and push back hard. Just saying.

I respect that cortex's default position is to defend his team. One of the reasons I like my own job is that I know my boss's default position is to have my back. And I know that even if I fuck up, he's not going to just throw me to the wolves—he'll still be on my side (to a point) even as he tries to ensure that I'll do better in the future. That, to me, is what a good boss does. That is what I see cortex doing. He has to act as people's employer as well as the head moderator of the community as a whole. I think that's worth keeping in mind.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:51 PM on January 5 [21 favorites]


If we're voting on the question is the moderation on MetaFilter bad? Y/N

we aren't and theres like a few hundred comments here
posted by lazaruslong at 6:55 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


I’ve read them, thanks. I was trying to keep it light. Sheesh.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:58 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


that's cool but i think you are mis-reading the room
posted by lazaruslong at 6:59 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


I respect that cortex's default position is to defend his team.

Oh me too. That's why you don't spring these things in public if you can help it, because then you get default defending. I don't think cortex has acted badly here, just that it's a bad strategy. After "speak with the person involved privately" comes "speak with their boss privately and see if that helps" in my book. The contact form isn't public-public like a MeTa, but it's still not the first thing i would think to try.
posted by ctmf at 7:03 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Also I really hope zarq and I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! are just taking a break and that they'll feel better soon and come back.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:29 PM on January 5 [21 favorites]


cortex: ”I think the general question of mod/user/site interactions and how to manage the dissonances that can come up in the complicated bits of that was the main motivation for this and folks tacking back to discussing that feels like a way better plan.“

I think the problem here is that this is not a conversation about moderators and Metafilter. This is a referendum on a particular moderator (who is absent, and not able to defend herself or offer input) in the guise of a general discussion about moderators and Metafilter.

This is how conversations work: they always return to the topic being discussed. This fact about discussions has been codified into Metafilter’s design implicitly, which is why we object to derailments of main-page discussions: the original subject rules. That’s one of the most intuitive and pragmatic aspects of Metafilter’s design. So in this case, it’s hard to understand why people are being asked to act as though the original topic must instead be completely abandoned, but are also told that the discussion can and should continue.

In short: I can’t really see any good justification for this thread. I’m not sure why it was allowed.
posted by koeselitz at 8:04 PM on January 5 [15 favorites]


I've read both of the threads around the issues at hand. For me, the discussions about whether or not a specific comment, post, or email by a mod was warranted, could perhaps be simplified by asking: is this approach appropriate while someone is at work?

As a teacher, that's a question I frequently consider - before I make a joke, respond to a student email, or express frustration with a negative behavior in the classroom. Obviously, the mods are working with a community of (mostly) adults (I'm certain that we have some younger members participating or lurking throughout the site) - so the bar is set a bit differently. However, for most folks, being at work means not yelling at others or making accusations.

I appreciate the time and energy put forth by the mods - they definitely have a tough job. Thank you for your work, team!
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:06 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: “I respect that cortex's default position is to defend his team.”

Up to now I thought that was true. I’m not so sure now. That’s why these threads bother me.
posted by koeselitz at 8:15 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Also I really hope zarq and I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! are just taking a break and that they'll feel better soon and come back.

They have both buttoned or disabled their accounts more than once in the past; I suspect we'll see both of them again in one form or another, if they want to.

I sometimes wish we wouldn't regard disabling accounts as a catastrophe for people and the site. It can sometimes be a conscious choice, and the best thing for people to do at any given time. They are not here for us; if disabling is what they judge to be the best thing for their wellbeing, we should respect that choice. Sometimes, I feel like people disabling are exercising more restraint and thought than those of us who stay, raging on in threads where things would probably simmer down on their own in a few weeks.
posted by smoke at 8:16 PM on January 5 [33 favorites]


I’m not sure why it was allowed.

Like the gold star of Stan Chin.
posted by clavdivs at 8:29 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


I think the fact that I know what you're talking about is a bit like admitting I once saw the light of the twin trees in Valinor.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:33 PM on January 5 [15 favorites]


At this point, it's more like having seen the light of Illuin and Ormal.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:37 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


They have both buttoned or disabled their accounts more than once in the past; I suspect we'll see both of them again in one form or another, if they want to.

Speculating about what people who aren't participating in the discussion may or may not do seems inappropriate.
posted by Lexica at 9:30 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


True.

Born and raised by those who praise, control of population
Everybody's been there and I don't mean on vacation...
Dream of metafilteration.
posted by clavdivs at 10:27 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


(Regarding my last comment: on reread, it seems very harsh, and for that I apologize. I haven’t been as active as I once was for the past couple of years, so to come back after a few months and see this is tough. I know it’s not fun or easy being a moderator. I guess that’s why it bothers me to see this. Anyway, take that as you will. This community is still a wonderful one in my eyes, and I look around and see a lot of people I still regard as old friends. Hi, friends.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:44 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]


I'm with the koeselitz referendum on the whole thing.

Hello, friend(s).

I wonder what srboisvert thinks about all this - I don't think they've weighed in.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:32 AM on January 6


Most MeFites never get anything deleted.

Damn, seriously? Well. Uh. That definitely changes my perception of my own deletion history.

I was going to say that I think the way comment deletions work right now seems systemically best to me. I can find it disorienting and blindsiding to have a comment deleted, particularly one I didn't anticipate would garner deletion. Deletions which appear to have occurred with the objective of shaping the conversation in a thread can certainly be particularly frustrating.

But in my case a UI feature sending a notification or leaving a placeholder would simply have resulted in lots of testy, unfruitful exchanges with mods, some because a dozen years ago I'd have needed basic education about the experience of trans or gender-nonbinary people or something like that to understand and accept why my comment was problematic. Or, like, even when my objections to the deletion might have had some validity because of an arguable subjective judgment being involved or a misunderstanding, it just isn't a good use of mod resources to have something that will lower the threshhold and statistically increase the number of those conversations, if in many cases they're repetitive enough that you can find them in old MeTa threads already—probably more thoroughly explored than they'd be in an individual email exchange—and when, if you really truly need to, you can manually make contact and ask your questions and air your grievances. Or even start your own MeTa thread.

I can imagine that for many people, you'd be much more responsible and disciplined than me and there'd be little difference in your rate of interaction with the mods than under the current system. But because of cranky intemperate curmudgeonly users like me, I think the practical overall cost of features to send deletion notifications or which make deletions more traceable for users would be far greater than the change would be worth, compared to the current system of manually making contact as needed and getting into the habit of manually saving off a copy of edge-case comments which might be deleted so you can quickly re-write them. Or so you can accept that they're gone from the thread but print them out and hug them like a safety blanket. (And actually, maybe there's one or more Greasemonkey-type scripts that save comment text automatically?)
posted by XMLicious at 2:32 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


jeather said, "I have, in the past, complained that mods care an awful lot about intention here and not enough about effect, and though I think the balance has shifted some, this seems to me to be an example of the same issue. Mods INTEND to speak as a user, therefore it's ok for them to do so in fighty metas."

yes! Greg Nog said it best in comment #3:

They have a huge, huge power that we non-mod users don't: to post anything they like without having to worry another of them is going to summarily delete the comment for being "not useful". As it currently stands, they're essentially superusers who can skirt the rules of conversation the rest of us are subject to.

that's way more important than how they intend to participate, which is why I don't think toggleable "i'm speaking as staff now" badges would help very much.
posted by yaymukund at 2:53 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Speculating about what people who aren't participating in the discussion may or may not do seems inappropriate.

Eh, dude has flamed out and buttoned dozens of times.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:40 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I wonder what srboisvert thinks about all this - I don't think they've weighed in.

They wrote the comment that spawned all the discussion, right? It is remarkably awful to have hundreds of people discussing your words, and often your character as well, in depth for days on end. I wish more people on this site took that into consideration.

I wouldn’t want to weigh in on any thread where dozens of people had asserted that only a monster could have said what I said. What are you going to say to that?

Along the same lines, I don’t blame any of the users who buttoned for leaving.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:42 AM on January 6 [14 favorites]


OK, well, I still hope they come back.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:56 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


koeselitz, good to see you! May I ask what prompted you to come back? Did it involve twitter by any chance?
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:00 AM on January 6


I ask because I was followed by a mefi related account but I’m not friends with anyone from mefi or otherwise identifiable and I’m pretty creeped out and unhappy about it.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:06 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


the account I believe you're referring to is weird as fuck
posted by lalex at 6:07 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


(What is a “MeFi-related” twitter account?)
posted by Barack Spinoza at 6:13 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


They wrote the comment that spawned all the discussion, right? It is remarkably awful to have hundreds of people discussing your words, and often your character as well, in depth for days on end. I wish more people on this site took that into consideration.

Do they even know? Is there currently a mechanism in place for notifying a user that there’s a MeTa about their comment?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:24 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


There is not, not formally. I assume someone has notified srboisvert, but the initial comment hardly seems to matter at this point. It was just a throwaway joke, a one-liner, a bit dark and maybe in poor taste but not exceptionally so. It was only a spark; sparks happen all the time here without starting fires. This one started a fire because the wrong person saw it at the wrong moment and instead of just tutting in irritation decided to start a MeTa, and then all this happened. The initial comment, and the fact that it was srboisvert that made it, isn't so important. Most of us have probably said something worse at one time or another without it starting a fire.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:36 AM on January 6 [17 favorites]


I don't blame ThePinkSuperhero either. I don't even really blame Eyebrows McGee. What I mean above is that I think potential for all this must have been lying latent in the community for some time now, and it is just that this time the sparks happened to land in a place where they caught fire rather than fizzled out.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:42 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


This all just sucks. I had wanted, this year, to try to be more active and actually comment more on this site, despite screaming internet social anxiety. I refresh metafilter constantly, and I do mean constantly. I always have at least one tab open on this place. And after all this I'm really convinced that I'm going to have a much better experience if I keep my mouth shut.
posted by dogheart at 6:57 AM on January 6 [24 favorites]


the account I believe you're referring to is weird as fuck

Oh good, it wasn't just me who thought so. I am a little weirded out about all of it, especially because while there's crossover for me between MeFi and my twitter, I primarily use twitter for professional networking, and I'm not sure who's operating the twitter account and whether I know them or what.
posted by sciatrix at 7:05 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Wow, that Twitter account is not cool. Who does that? That is unhinged.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:09 AM on January 6 [16 favorites]


Sounds a little deranged for sure.. This is the kind of thing my ex would have done to "help" me if I were in Eyebrows McGee's shoes. Stop "helping" fam, I already have a hard time making you appear sane.
posted by some loser at 7:11 AM on January 6 [12 favorites]


Rock 'em Sock 'em: ”Did it involve twitter by any chance? I ask because I was followed by a mefi related account but I’m not friends with anyone from mefi or otherwise identifiable and I’m pretty creeped out and unhappy about it.“

I’m Twitter friends (or whatever you’d call it) with a chunk of MeFites, in fact those are the people I interact with most over there, so I’d heard about it. After posting my comments here last night I looked up the weird other account you’re talking about - thankfully they haven’t noticed me yet. They’re screaming into the void in a way that’s pretty creepy and unhelpful, yeah. Ugh.
posted by koeselitz at 7:27 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


thankfully they haven’t noticed me yet

Oops
posted by Burhanistan at 7:34 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I would like to preemptively request that, should the owner of that Twitter count turn out to be a member here on MeFi, they be banned. I'm not asking for people to try and doxx them or anything, but if their identity does come to light I would like for them not to be a member here anymore, assuming that they are one now. I don't see how you can create a public-yet-anonymous Twitter account to spew vitriol about this site and its members out into the air and still be welcome here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:36 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


That account is nuts, but saying that you can only criticize the site from within, and that off-site public criticism should be a banning offense, feels very much like the proscription on "airing dirty laundry" that you find in cults and your more fucked-up families.
posted by enn at 7:45 AM on January 6 [32 favorites]


Probably the same douchebag that has previously made hate blogs for cortex. Obviously they are pretty envious of Josh. Pretty sure it’s a dude, so don’t be fooled by the claims of misogyny.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


you can only criticize the site from within, and that off-site public criticism should be a banning offense

It's also wildly ahistorical. There have been Mefi-hate sites and forums and whatnot since forever. They don't cause any real harm.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:47 AM on January 6 [13 favorites]


There have been Mefi-hate sites and forums and whatnot since forever.

Well color me naive. I had no idea.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 7:48 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know what the deal is with that twitter account and long years on the internet have convinced me that the most appropriate way to deal with anonymous aggro shit-stirring is to not engage. Maybe let's just not feed whatever the heck is going on there with any more attention.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 AM on January 6 [18 favorites]


OK fine, but that shit is creepy as fuck. Following other users around offsite and peppering their social media with this kind of commentary? If anyone went on a tirade like that here on the site itself they would surely be made to leave, right? I'm not saying they should be thrown in jail or anything, just that I don't think you can be that shitty and still have a place here on MetaFilter.

If that's not how we roll then whatever, I'm not on Twitter anyway so I'm never going to be affected. It doesn't make sense to me, though.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:51 AM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Also, if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that online hate-spewing certainly can cause real harm and in fact does so all the damn time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:52 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


What does "buttoned" mean here? It's a use I have never seen before (a Britishism?)
posted by PhineasGage at 7:53 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


That twitter account is definitely weird and gross. There are more appropriate and useful ways to communicate, but apparently this is someone's preferred MO.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:55 AM on January 6


For sure, it's creepy and inappropriate as hell. It doesn't have the feel of member in good standing, is my main assessment, but who knows and it's deliberately anonymous so I don't really expect to find out. I'd be more concerned about it if it were going after other people, but since they seem basically to be gunning for me and I know how to operate the mute button on twitter I'm just leaving it at that for now. If anything more actionable-seeming comes out of it, folks can drop us a line at the contact form with details to take a further look.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 AM on January 6 [13 favorites]


What does "buttoned" mean here?

To close one's account (vs. being banned by the mods). Refers to the idea of hitting the big red button, which is to the literal red "close your account" confirmation button for the form that you get to after clicking the initial "close your account" link at the bottom of the main Preferences page.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:00 AM on January 6


Buttoning refers to clicking the "button" to close a person's account. You can't undo it on your own, but you can ask a mod to reopen your account and they will generally do so no questions asked. Other users can observe who has done this. Some people button when things get stressful as a way of helping themselves abstain from commenting and digging in with the full intent of returning; some people button as a public signifier of leaving the community altogether.

I have occasionally been tempted to button temporarily when I need a break, but I don't like the distress it generally causes in the community over the ongoing conflict. I usually announce that I'm taking a break instead as a way of holding myself accountable for that claim.
posted by sciatrix at 8:02 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Got it - thanks.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:02 AM on January 6


Following other users around offsite and peppering their social media with this kind of commentary?

Sadly, not really new. There's a long history of ex-mefites or still-mefites-for-some-reason-but-they-fucking-hate-mefi who spend a fair amount of time on twitter or elsewhere complaining about metafilter, its mods, its users, etc. They have done weird shit like injecting themselves into mefi-adjacent spaces or starting public conversations about the mefites they all group hate before. It will happen again.

Basically, people are the worst.
posted by tocts at 8:18 AM on January 6 [9 favorites]


Folks, let's not try to dox this person on Twitter. If you think you figure it out, you're welcome to send us a message about it, but public speculation is going to catch up innocent folks in the crossfire and that sucks hugely.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:35 AM on January 6 [17 favorites]


I propose now that we've acknowledged the Twitter account in question, we cease talking about it from this point forward. Even if they aren't getting likes and retweets, I can assure you they are enjoying the attention here. Attention = fuel.

Also, if you don't want them to follow you, you can "soft block" (force-unfollow) by blocking and immediately unblocking them.
posted by nightrecordings at 8:39 AM on January 6 [20 favorites]


For the record, if that’s your anonymous account, whoever you are, I do not appreciate being dragged into this quagmire via Twitter & I have blocked the shit out of that account. Hugely annoying & immature behavior.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:09 AM on January 6 [13 favorites]


On non-preview, I agree with nightrecordings & won’t mention it again.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:10 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I do want to say that that account makes me feel pretty gross in that they felt it was a good idea to associate me with their unhinged crusade against cortex. I still think this is a pointless thread, but that’s buried now under my feeling that it’s gone too far in other directions. Anyway, I agree with you both. Blocked and leaving it in the past.
posted by koeselitz at 9:23 AM on January 6 [6 favorites]


*slurp* *slurp* *slurrrrrrp*

"how's the soup sir?"
"terrible!....*slurp*"
posted by some loser at 9:35 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I skimmed this thread and the other one, and took stock of the emotions that welled up within me. As I put the wordless into words, the only certain impulse I felt was to walk into a blizzard and never come back
posted by cellphone at 10:52 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


This discussion seems to include a metamoderation point related to online abuse and harrassment, so I want to promote the Crash Override Network, which may be helpful to anyone looking for more information on how to respond to online harassment and abuse, including options beyond just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. There is a 'role model' function for moderators, and when it looks like our mods and other members are being targeted for online harassment and abuse, we can respect their choices to not engage, but perhaps also gently point out that other options may exist.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:25 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I think we might finally be at the end of this convo, but I would like to leave a few final thoughts:

Moderation requires a steady hand that needs to be dispassionate. This is difficult in a place where emotions often run high and the intersectional nature of the community creates many, many blind spots. But playing it cool helps with enforcing those values we have agreed to as a community.

Moderators are people. They are humans. They will step in it, hit blind spots, double down when they should back off, back off when they should engage. They will sometimes be stupid. While we should hold mods to a higher standard, we need to stop expecting perfection, and we need to stop thinking they aren’t going to royally fuck up in thread. It is important to call it out, but it is also important to learn and grow from it.

We are hard on mods. We expect a great deal. We want them to adhere to our definition of justice. Some lash out at the mods here or elsewhere. The emotional labor is real. This place, unfortunately, can be toxic. It's less toxic than other modded places, but it's still toxic. At the same time, we need to balance the fact that people here are hurting, and we cannot deny their experiences or their reactions.

I wish could offer any solutions that didn’t sound trite or denied the culture that exists across MeFi. This already reads to me as somewhat trite. But right now what I see here is a community thrashing and churning through this, and it feels like I've seen this over and over the last 14 years. Maybe this wrestling with the meta-problems like this is good and the right way for a community to adjudicate what it rewards and punishes culturally. To, me, though, it's exhausting, and a reason I mostly avoid MeTa now and have taken long breaks from MeFi in general.
posted by dw at 11:29 AM on January 6 [6 favorites]


I agree that twitter is super weird. However - their point that leaving these two threads up is gross is 100% correct. They've turned into a pile-on of several users, and of a mod, and the mod in question has taken a break -from her job- due to some of this.

These threads should be locked down, or better, deleted, with an apology from cortex to the users and EM, and the discussion should be done privately - no job is worth being called out in public when you cannot respond. This has gotten 100% out of hand.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:13 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Mmmm, uh. The prospect of a MeTa being deleted has never in my knowledge here happened, and would shake my (and many others') faith and trust in the site.

So would the prospect of people in a metadiscussion being unilaterally told to be quiet and an apology coming from cortex for... allowing people to air feelings and context?

That's a real weird sentiment to bring into this discussion at this time.
posted by sciatrix at 12:17 PM on January 6 [23 favorites]


When a -manager- does something to harm their employee, it is their job to apologize and fix it.

If EM was around to discuss, state her case, apologize, whatever, this would be different but she's taking a (as far as I can see) boss-mandated TIME OFF. So her -boss- who writes her paycheck said "Take some time off" and -then- let stand an awful shitty thread where she was complained about and could not reply.

To further than, this thread also became a place where users were also attacked, and cortex (look I LIKE cortex I think he's swell, I think he has eaten my cookies, but people I like can screw up sometimes, that's a thing) let that also stand.

The thread is bad, it was handled poorly, it did harm and it needs to go away.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:21 PM on January 6


From the FAQ

Very rarely a MetaTalk thread will be deleted rather than closed.
posted by drezdn at 12:23 PM on January 6


Further, if the "this is not a thread to pile on EM or the non-mods who were also piled on" was enforced and those comments had been removed quickly, I would also not be complaining but these two threads have been largely colored by call-outs of specific users.

The kid-murder joke was in bad taste and deserved deletion. These threads were in bad taste and should never have been started in the -manner that they were-. If a thread is designated "not a call out of $person" and then turned into one, it needs to be stopped.

IF a call-out of a person happens when --their boss-- has given them a time out and they cannot reply, that is also in bad taste, is poor management and should be called out

jesus if my boss did this to me I'd throw my keys on his desk and quit
posted by FritoKAL at 12:24 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Yes thank you I read the FAQ Too. Doesn't change my opinion that it should be locked, or better, deleted, or better but impossible never to have happened at all.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:24 PM on January 6


I remember one MeTa thread that got deleted when it was hundreds of comments in. Very much a nuke from orbit situation. It was a long time ago though, and the only copy left was on blort as will one day be true of everything.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 12:25 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The kid-murder joke

*sigh* that's not what it was, and why we needed these two discussions. Please don't misinterpret what caused all this, and please don't discount the real grievances people are having with the moderation on this site, which seems to prioritize the lived experiences of some mefites over others.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:27 PM on January 6 [25 favorites]


Further, if the "this is not a thread to pile on EM or the non-mods who were also piled on" was enforced and those comments had been removed quickly, I would also not be complaining but these two threads have been largely colored by call-outs of specific users.

The kid-murder joke was in bad taste and deserved deletion. These threads were in bad taste and should never have been started in the -manner that they were-. If a thread is designated "not a call out of $person" and then turned into one, it needs to be stopped.

IF a call-out of a person happens when --their boss-- has given them a time out and they cannot reply, that is also in bad taste, is poor management and should be called out

jesus if my boss did this to me I'd throw my keys on his desk and quit


i don't see how the bolded section of your post relates to the rest of it at all, and it certainly colors your perspective on this thread.
posted by JimBennett at 12:28 PM on January 6 [13 favorites]


If your manager allowed a loud mob of people to yell about how terrible you were at your job but told you" take a few days off you're not allowed to reply" would you think you had a good job?
posted by FritoKAL at 12:28 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


My perspective is that every single thing about these two threads is awful and should have been handled differently.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:30 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Y'all are making some really big and weird assumptions around Eyebrows taking a couple of days off. I'm not even sure they're incorrect so much as the dynamic doesn't even remotely resemble what actually happened.

As someone who has had more than one of these threads aimed at them, both here and in my younger days, it is vastly less psychically harmful to go away, let someone else manage them, and come back and read and reflect when you don't have to be braced for a continuing flood of criticism and also the impulse to be defensive or to respond to things doesn't need to be acted on. It's the sort of thing where if you *don't* walk away, you're gonna end up sitting there clicking refresh until three in the morning giving yourself ulcers. This is bad self-care and putting your employees in a position where they have to do that is terrible management.

Eyebrows taking the weekend off is not a punishment, it is a protective measure. She can have a couple days to deal with life shit and get some sleep and perspective and come back to address this from a better place. Making her mod these threads would be fucking torture. And, as many people have pointed out, we need to have threads where y'all can criticize the moderation. Sometimes it gets more personal than others, and managing the load around that is part of our jobs. I was really fucking happy to offer to work a twelve-hour day on Friday so Eyebrows didn't have to walk into that particular blender. I had to mod my own first hostile MeTa and I sure do remember that evening vividly - and it was ten years in to a career of building calluses around it.

She's not banned, she could comment if she wants to, we're just not making her.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:30 PM on January 6 [99 favorites]


boss-mandated TIME OFF

Yeah, to be super clear: boss agreed-to time off when she expressed concern about her immediately upcoming shifts. She's not suspended or any nonsense like that; she didn't feel that working this weekend was a good idea and I agreed and sorted out coverage for her shifts so she didn't have moderate in the middle of a clusterfuck on top of everything. Taking those shifts off would have been a non-event if folks hadn't been agitating about a lack of some kind of prompt personal response; I mentioned it to try to cut that shit off. The notion that she's been barred from participating rather than just given space to not have to is someone else's uncharitable invention.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:37 PM on January 6 [35 favorites]


MeTa deletion of an entire conversation hasn't happened since I have been here, and that's 2014 I think?

It was my understand that cortex wasn't ordering EMcG to take a break, but that they'd talked and mutually decided things would be better if she took a break and let her own reactions blow over during a stressful time. Personally I have been the center of a MeTa that was deeply upsetting before, and while stepping away for a week was a hard thing for me to do, it was unquestionably the best thing for resolving the conflict as a whole and also not keeping the heat specifically on me. Particularly as cortex has been repeatedly asked to not interject with long justifications and asked to not allow mods to do so before users can comment, it seems like a reasonable decision for both people. For me, as long as I trust that someone with my best interests who I trust will be around later while I take myself some time to recharge, it's generally the best solution.

Obviously I can't speak for Eyebrows, but that was very much my own read on that decision.
posted by sciatrix at 12:39 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


It would have helped if that had been made clearer. I just re-read the comments talking about her break, and neither read to me like it was a EM-directed decision. Thank you for clarifying, most of my issue with that particular aspect of this is resolved now.

But frankly, the fact that this thread was "this is not a pile-on of EM" and the turned into one and it wasn't stopped is bothersome. Maybe it needs to have been more heavily modded, maybe not started at all, but this is not a good or productive thread (to me as a user) because of the that pallor hanging over it.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:43 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I would just like to acknowledge the extra work that the mods (and jessamyn, looks like) have been doing to cover this weekend while Eyebrows has been away, both the extra weekend hours they've been working and also the load of dealing with these MeTas. I see MeTas like these as being a central part of the way this place works, and I think the fact that we can have them is very good for the site. That doesn't mean they're any fun to actually deal with when they do happen though, especially when people (myself included) are leveling direct criticisms at individual moderators. This has no doubt been an especially tough weekend for the entire team, and I wanted to say that I see that and I appreciate the work that you're doing
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:43 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Sometimes if you're criticizing the moderation, you're criticizing specific moderators. We don't all mod exactly the same and sometimes those differences cause static. Y'all are allowed to point that out. It's nicest when the criticism is specific, thoughtful, and takes into account that we are humans who aren't 100% consistent, but we can't forbid criticizing specific mods without gutting the utility of taking moderation feedback at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:48 PM on January 6 [17 favorites]


Correct, but I still believe that a post that says "not a pile on!" should not have been allowed to become a pile-on.
posted by FritoKAL at 12:49 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Honestly, it doesn't read like a pile-on to me, angry Twitter accounts aside. It also hasn't been terribly great at articulating specific complaints other than "I don't like the comments Eyebrows made in the other MeTa", which... if that's what there is, that's what there is, and that's fine.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:50 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


I'm shocked at the failure to defend Eyebrows, too.

In my opinion, her comments, taken as a whole, are the best this site has ever produced, and if we lose her due to the casuistic bullshit on display in these two threads, these will be the worst days of work MetaTalk has ever seen.
posted by jamjam at 12:52 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


And hey, I get that Etrigan tried to frame this as being about moderation in general and not Eyebrows specifically, but the fact of the matter is that there was a big Eyebrows-specific component to why this MeTa had to happen. I hope my own comments here on that subject have read as calm and considered, which was my intent. I hope they did not come off as reflexive piling-on. I don't think that this was an inappropriate venue in which to make them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:53 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


What would “not a pile-on” look like?
posted by dw at 12:57 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


If it comes to it jamjam, I also think Eyebrows is one of the strongest and most interesting contributors here on the site. As a user, I think she's absolutely top-notch, none better. My issue (and some other people's, based on other comments in this thread and the last) is basically that I think she sometimes blurs her participation as a user with her duty as a moderator, and some—not all, but some—other users suffer for that. That's the crux of it, to me.

It sounds like this has been taken under advisement by the moderator team though and I'm satisfied to give it some time to percolate. I'm not expecting huge, sweeping, immediate changes. I'm not expecting justice or punishment. I don't want that. I just want to see a lasting recalibration of the way Eyebrows moderates, and I'm hopeful that that's what will happen. Even if it doesn't, I'll just do my best to get along.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:01 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]


dw: What would “not a pile-on” look like?

That's when every opinion is expressed only once, and never again. If you're not the Chosen One, and someone has already said what you wanted to say, you should sit on your hands and forever hold your peace. And also refrain from expressing agreement.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:01 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Well I'm enjoying the pileon about how any users who expressed concern are a terrible mob who've been abusing a mod.
posted by TwoStride at 1:14 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


If we keep escalating with hyperbolic generalizations things are bound to improve
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:18 PM on January 6 [38 favorites]


Is it maybe possible to characterize a conflict in which folks are being critical of an incident as anything aside from a pile-on?

Because as far as I'm concerned, in this conversation literally every position any given person feels threatened by has now been characterized as a pile on. The term has lost all meaning.
posted by sciatrix at 1:19 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I'm asking an honest question. What would "not a pile-on" look like? Because it feels like we are quick to go to "pile-on," but so far everyone has had snarky answers as to when something is not one. I have my opinion, but I want to let others tell their truth.
posted by dw at 1:23 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I have my own thoughts on everything that's happened, and I was going to share them, but I ended up staring at the little note at the bottom of the screen for a while, so right now I'd just like to offer everyone a hug, including the people that buttoned, all the mods, and the Twitter person.

Ten second hug timeout.

I'm not trying to be cute or glib. I just really think everyone needs a hug.
posted by Ruki at 1:24 PM on January 6 [18 favorites]


MetaFilter: Well, I'm enjoying the pile-on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:35 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


dw, it was not my intention to be snarky, but I'll try to give you a more straightforward answer:
"not a pile-on" is pretty much an impossible situation as soon as there are enough people talking in a room (such as here and now), because some of them will invariably agree with each other, and opinions that overlap will be expressed, and as soon as that happens it will have become possible to say there's a pile-on happening.

And saying so is a great way to stop the conversation, or to at least try to.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:35 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Thank you for your feedback.
posted by ctmf at 1:38 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


And yeah, MetaTalk so far in 2019 has had a weird unhappily-familiar texture to it, the feel of old days grudges coming out and probably also a lot of pent-up holiday lacuna anxiety and stress for a lot of people unbottling in a perceived yelling-friendly spot, in and among just the general extra high crappiness levels of the world the last couple years. There's a part of me that would like to have just shut all three of these recent grar-filled threads down at the first sign of trouble, or not started them in the first place. And in a strictly tactical sense I don't think those would have been entirely bad moves.

But it's important to me that MetaTalk be available as a place to talk about community issues and site policy and moderation concerns and so on. I think it's a valuable and vital space for that. But there's always a tension between letting people talk and wishing people could manage to do so more kindly, more cooly, more thoughtfully; if we did just blockade every contentious post and cut off every fraught bit of discussion in here, we would have way less of the fractious bullshit that comes out and also way less of the useful and important stuff, and more systemically folks would have less capacity to feel like broaching the useful or important stuff is even allowable.

The contentious threads in the last few days have been a real uneven stew of the good and the bad, with I think a conspicuously bigger dose of the bad than usual because of a half-dozen things colliding in unexpected ways plus whatever the weird bonus agita in the water is, and when folks wonder why we try to be more cautious and more hands-on with MetaTalk than we were in e.g. the mid-2000s, that bad stuff is a huge part of it. The contradiction between on the one hand trying to support a general goal of open intra-community discussion and transparency and on the other hand keep people from going off the rails is in the process of airing their otherwise generally understandable grievances is constant and complicated.

I've been trying, and the team's been trying, to find a throughline on that, and I think at least most of the folks participating in these bumpy threads have been too. With a time machine there's stuff I'd be inclined to go back and shut down or reroute to excise the clusterfuckier bits, inevitable complaints in that alternate timeline about needless heavy-handedness notwithstanding, but we don't have that option. I don't blame anyone for feeling angry or dispirited about this or that aspect of these threads; they've been bumpy and hard to deal with. I've personally found them intensely fucking frustrating and have been doing my best to keep that from being part of the conversation or driving my decision-making about them, but, I dunno. I don't have an end to that thought; it's just been an intensely fucking frustrating start to the year.

Like r_n said, it's important that folks be able to talk about site issues, including moderation concerns. I think it's also important that people not be assholes about it. By and large I think people used to be bigger assholes about it more often and more loudly than they do these days, and I'm glad that's changed over time. I think people have mostly done a decent job of being productive and not cruel in talking about moderation strategy and guidelines in this thread, and I appreciate that. I don't think people have been perfect about it and a younger scrappier cortex probably would have gotten in some very long mid-thread arguments about that, but I'm trying more these days to not do that even if I think someone's letting their own grumpiness or sense of having been wronged come out uncharitably.

But, look. Eyebrows is a valuable part of the MetaFilter moderator team, full stop. I'm glad she works here, and I'm glad she's a member of this site. If there's somehow any doubt about that, I'm unambiguously rejecting it. She's a good mod, she does good work daily, and my base priority is always going to be to support that and help her, and the whole mod team, succeed at keeping this place functional and a place where people want to be.

Folks who want to work with us about this or that concern about her or any other mod's work, I'm okay with that; gossipy or gripey or look-at-her-eating-those-crackers type stuff I am not gonna factor into my thinking and is basically getting into There's Other Places On The Internet, Go There Instead territory.

Everybody on the team has had their own Venn diagram of (a) actually bad moments and (b) shit people want to gripe at a mod about, and where those things genuinely intersect it can be important to talk about it together sometimes, but it's also real important—more, to my regret, than we really appreciated back in the day when we allowed people to be just ridiculously awful out of a kind of principled stoicism—for folks not to be assholes about it. And I don't think folks were generally trying to be assholes in here; I don't consider "it used to be worse" sufficient to say this version of things went perfectly, but having a few people specifically air complaints about some past mod-specific situations in among a lot of more general mod practice discussion is a way more measured and adult outcome than that historical nonsense would suggest was possible. Most of the actual issues I have had with this thread have been folks spiraling off into this or that escalation about something other than the core idea that we can talk about moderation boundaries and community goals.

But to bring it all back around: it's been a weird hard stupid fractious week, and I think it's gonna be very hard to just press a reset button on the productive parts of a MetaTalk discussion if folks can't just collectively step back and recognize that all the extra weird shit creeping into the discussions sideways is a major contributing factor to how we end up perceiving the whole thing, and how we end up each reacting more overtly or quickly or ungenerously to each new thing than we would in a vacuum.

I don't know how to get people to do that collective stepping-back other than just laying it out here and asking people to try. I closed down that older thread last night because I got tired of asking and hoping and seeing things swirling down the drain repeatedly. I'll ask and hope again here but at a certain point it may just be a "welp, this is not working, let's try again some other time" sort of deal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on January 6 [48 favorites]


I WOULD say that everyone needs to chill the fuck out, except there’s already been an argument about that.

I didn’t see these threads until late last night, and the one thing that sticks out for me is the total lack of good faith all around. Anyone can be cruel, or a monster, or any number of things, if you look hard enough. Look at me now, cruelly dismissing the very valid complaints in this very thread!

I mean, that’s not what I’m doing, but why make the distinction? This site is a minefield where anything can blow you up, and I wish people would take that more seriously, instead of (so often) assuming anyone who feels that way is probably just defensive about getting to say obviously bad stuff whenever they want.

This site needs to work out some major issues, seriously.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:39 PM on January 6 [9 favorites]


And I’m light of cortex’s comment I wouldn’t have said anything at all. Just please, I want to tell you all that I went to check the weekend Metatalk thread, and it felt like visiting friends and finding them in the middle of a screaming fight. I’ve had a tendency to dig myself into these meta fights, but seeing it more or less from the outside this time, it feels like everyone’s just processing largely unrelated shit in a pretty unkind and unhealthy way with each other.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:45 PM on January 6 [28 favorites]


Last comment — but if it looks like I have your comment in mind when I talk about bad faith assumptions, I might, but it wouldn’t only be yours. This is one of those things where both sides of an argument can end up looking bad for lack of good faith. Like, please understand that you can have a good point but phrase it in a way that might look unkind; or that you can very kindly say something not great; or that some dipshit like me can look like they’re acting all superior, when they might not have meant it that way.

I’m kind of disappointed that this is how we’re starting 2019, but maybe this is what it takes to get somewhere better.

Alright, now I’ll take my own advice and chill the fuck out, and more importantly (for me personally), I will shut the fuck up for a while and leave this to more capable people.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:53 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


My overall reflection on this discussion is that I feel like there is a need to more clearly seperate out intent when talking about comments and posts, because when there is an unintentional harm created by a blind spot in empathy or experience, I think it is something that can be very helpful to call out, but not if it is framed as a personal attack or negative judgement on the commenter as a human being.

For episodes of intentional harm, we have the moderators as a first-line defense on the site, but for the rest of the internet, these recent events inspired me to update the ThereIsHelp wiki page to add worldwide resources to combat online harassment and abuse. My point is that if a commenter inadvertantly causes harm, it seems very unhelpful to approach it as if it is the equivalent to actual harassment and abuse.

I also want to acknowledge and thank the MeFites stronger than me for fighting to represent voices that are silenced by the pain of past trauma. I support the instinct to call out harmful and oppressive language, and I admire your strength and hope to do what I can to support your inclusion in this community.
posted by Little Dawn at 2:05 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


In one of these threads (frustratingly I cannot find the particular comment), a MeFite said something to the effect that over the years the site's philosophy on acceptable commenting has shifted from focusing on the intent of a comment to focusing on how it landed.

If this is correct and matches the intent of the mods, perhaps there's a way to convey that headline point to all users? And perhaps a parallel/complementary point, that when a comment lands poorly we all try to initially assume the best rather than the worst about the commenter's intent?
posted by PhineasGage at 2:07 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


If that was ever the philosophy, it was well before my time. Moderation is always about the effect, not the intent, in my experience.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:09 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


It also hasn't been terribly great at articulating specific complaints other than "I don't like the comments Eyebrows made in the other MeTa", which... if that's what there is, that's what there is, and that's fine.

I'm not sure what to think of this (it seems a little flippant which was maybe not your intention?) when AOANLA,T laid out specific complaints in the previous thread which they re-upped here and which others agreed with.

The fact that folks have issues with this moderation style doesn't make it a CRIME or Eyebrows a BAD MOD or anything, but I'd hope that mods will take these observations from community members into account moving forward.
posted by lalex at 2:10 PM on January 6 [15 favorites]


FWIW
- I am a parent who did not like the original joke but didn't find it as charged or hurtful as some, and did not see a need to delete it.
- I thought Eyebrows clearly stated in the metatalk thread that she was not acting as a moderator, did not think the comment should be deleted, and also found the "joke" extremely hurtful and offensive, which to me is totally fine.
- Assessing power dynamics is important but I personally find it odd to assert that a metafilter mod holds a lot of power - in the age of Facebook and Twitter - our little site is quaint with kindhearted human moderators making good effort unmotivated by profit or mysoginy or nazism (unlike those other sites), that at some point of each of us will inevitably disagree with. I just don't see a welding of power that raises a lot of concern for me in the context of a paid moderator sometimes saying, "I didn't delete this but it really upsets me"
- I think Eyebrows is a great moderator here. I don't agree with every single thing she says because we're different people. But she listens, works hard, makes overall good calls. I feel almost exactly the same about every other mod here and find it distressing to see people calling this one staffer out.
posted by latkes at 2:27 PM on January 6 [44 favorites]


I hope the mod team continues to learn and improve. I hope the folks who have grievances feel like they were heard and recognized.

More than either, I hope we can do better than this in the future. Valid concerns have been raised and addressed, I don't want to dismiss the value of that, but there's been so much grar here, so many uncharitable readings and bad faith assumptions, that it almost overshadows anything productive that we're taking away from it.

We share a unique and valuable space here. We owe it to this community and to ourselves to try harder than this to find common ground, assume good intent, and treat each other with compassion and respect. If we can't keep Metafilter a place where that can happen, why are we even here?
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 2:34 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Moderation is always about the effect, not the intent, in my experience.

Of course, but when concerns are being raised in a Meta, it doesn't seem helpful to impute a malicious intent without evidence, such as someone expressing delight at causing upset. Trolls tend to be remarkably open about their intentions, and they get deleted and banned accordingly.

When we talk about the effects, it seems important to keep focused on that, and not the commenter as a person. I feel like I see a fair amount of speculation about intent that seem like recipes for neverending conflict. An 'argue with the ideas, not the person' norm could be helpful for these types of discussions.
posted by Little Dawn at 2:42 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


(I have the vague impression that MetaFilter in general -- not moderation per se -- has moved away from considering intention...a gradual slide from "just saying you had good intentions doesn't get you off the hook" to "your intentions don't matter *at all*, people are busy getting offended over here". Part of a broader trend towards simplistic thinking that prioritizes righteous judgment over allowing the shitty, gross people to have any validity at all. If I thought all that judgment was actually going to have a good effect on the real world, I might find it less unsettling.)
posted by uosuaq at 2:47 PM on January 6 [43 favorites]


Can't say I entirely disagree with you there, uosuaq.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:49 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


(To clarify, since that was a bit brief, I think this is a trend on the larger internet that has infiltrated Metafilter, not a Metafilter-specific issue.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:50 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Thanks, r_n! And I can't say I disagree with you there, either. Let's hope it's a passing phase...
posted by uosuaq at 3:28 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I have the vague impression that MetaFilter in general -- not moderation per se -- has moved away from considering intention...a gradual slide from "just saying you had good intentions doesn't get you off the hook" to "your intentions don't matter *at all*, people are busy getting offended over here".

QFMFT
posted by hippybear at 3:35 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Moderation is always about the effect, not the intent, in my experience.

Unless the mods have terrifying psychic powers, I’m not sure how they would moderate by intent in the first place....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:45 PM on January 6


Unless the mods have terrifying psychic powers

Wherein we discover that cortex is more than a pseudonym . . .
posted by aspersioncast at 4:30 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]




Unless the mods have terrifying psychic powers, I’m not sure how they would moderate by intent in the first place....

Exactly, which is why I worry about commenters acting like they have terrifying psychic powers to determine the intent of other commenters, although I'm not sure what the mods can do about that.

Good intentions don't get people off the hook for being held accountable for their comments, but it does suggest a more productive avenue of discussion beyond personal attacks. Someone who is trying to participate in good faith is likely going to be open to critique, and open to new information about why the things they said caused harm. By contrast, someone trying to participate in good faith is likely going to be driven away from the site if all they are met with is personal attacks and accusations; maybe they'll try to defend themselves personally, but an opportunity for a larger discussion about the actual comment is lost, and a good faith participant may then feel unwelcome and driven away from this community.

There are so many brave and courageous people participating on Metafilter, and I think we can encourage good faith participation if Metafilter can be a place to defy the general internet trends and try to avoid the tendency to attack the speaker instead of the impact of their words.
posted by Little Dawn at 4:43 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


Huh... I thought that back in the day the bylaws of metafilter had the mods "dispose of" troublesome users in kind of a Sarlac pit fashion... I could swear my $5.00 was originally framed as burial money...
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:46 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


In one of these threads (frustratingly I cannot find the particular comment), a MeFite said something to the effect that over the years the site's philosophy on acceptable commenting has shifted from focusing on the intent of a comment to focusing on how it landed.

That was me, and it was more specifically about mods -- in this case, whether mods who intend to speak without their mod power in a fighty meta thread can actually do so; in the past, about what it looked like when mods deleted certain posts or comments but not others (some of that has since changed).

I tend to, in the real world especially, try to focus more of my life on impact and less on intent (there are I think religious and cultural reasons for this): if I intended well, as I usually do, then the fact that it came off badly should matter to me. Here, if mods intend well, as I believe they usually do as well, then the fact that a number of people (including Jessamyn, a former mod), agree with me on the general level that mods cannot comment in these kinds of threads as users means that I think the mods need to much more carefully consider the question of why they want to do so, why cortex feels that this is a step way too far to go.

(It is possible that cortex responded to my question about what comments he specifically thinks the mods need to be able to make that this rule would exclude and I missed it. Or maybe he's considering it and discussing it with the other mods. Or maybe he isn't going to answer, because there are a lot of things going on in this thread.)
posted by jeather at 4:50 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


childfree people are not materially marginalized, not here and not in society.

In an old FPP about a Facebook plug-in which blocks baby pictures, a user called childless people who didn't want to look at baby pictures specifically on Facebook "forever alones."
posted by Room 641-A at 5:19 PM on January 6 [20 favorites]


I could swear my $5.00 was originally framed as burial money...

That’s the kind of joke that could only be made by someone who considers murdered MeFites an abstraction, rather than a horrible tragedy that happens to real human beings, who are apparently easy to abstract and joke about because they are MeFites and so don't register as "real" persons.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:26 PM on January 6 [26 favorites]


Thank you for all that you do, to all of the mods.

This has to've been an intense weekend.
posted by salt grass at 5:27 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


So sad to see people not realize that the Sarlacc doesn't kill you, it's just that you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:31 PM on January 6 [23 favorites]


That explains a lot about the last two years tbh
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:48 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]


In an old FPP about a Facebook plug-in which blocks baby pictures, a user called childless people who didn't want to look at baby pictures specifically on Facebook "forever alones."

Here's the comment (from 2012). And given how the rest of the thread goes (and yeesh, what a rolling derail), I don't know why that wasn't deleted. I don't think in 2019 it would be allowed to stand -- back to the "intent is not impact" stance that has been more prevalent in the years since.

I don't want to say "well, that was 2012." But I would say that MeFi's culture and modding has evolved since and I would expect the response today from mods to be different. I may be wrong.
posted by dw at 5:48 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Eesh, yeah, I'd nix that comment today.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:50 PM on January 6


No, I don't think it would stand today and to be clear, that's not a concern. That doesn't mean someone still wouldn't try to make it. But I really wanted to push back on the dismissive declaration that childfree people aren't marginalized here or anywhere.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:06 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


"Marginalized" and "oppressed" are two different things. I think it would be helpful to separate the two. I would 100% agree that women without children are marginalized. I would 100% not agree that women without children are oppressed.
posted by lazuli at 6:42 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Who mentioned oppression?? This is the quote I was responding to, which was included in my comment. The word oppression is not mentioned anywhere in the comment:

childfree people are not materially marginalized, not here and not in society.


So, yeah, I feel marginalized.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:11 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


I think this thread has cooled down and might be pretty close to the end. I'd really like to reiterate uosuaq's comment because it seems like the heart of the issues over the last few days.

(I have the vague impression that MetaFilter in general -- not moderation per se -- has moved away from considering intention...a gradual slide from "just saying you had good intentions doesn't get you off the hook" to "your intentions don't matter *at all*, people are busy getting offended over here". Part of a broader trend towards simplistic thinking that prioritizes righteous judgment over allowing the shitty, gross people to have any validity at all. If I thought all that judgment was actually going to have a good effect on the real world, I might find it less unsettling.)

We know that everyone has their vulnerabilities and hotspots and there are some valid sensitivities that we as a community try very hard to respect. The children/childless debate perfectly crystalizes the intersection of two incredibly sensitive areas where both sides raise valid concerns that by their very utterance might offend the other position even if that wasn't the intent.

We can't create a space that is comfortable for everyone at all times and I know people weren't asking for that specifically. I think it would be great if we used this as an opportunity for a sort of community resolution to take some of the emotional burden off the mods and just try really hard to offer generous interpretations of each other's comments. I think we're all good people on the other side of the screen.

In one of the two MeTa threads it was mentioned that suggesting people 'calm down' or take a walk was patronizing, but it doesn't need to be taken in that tone. I think we've all typed out reactionary posts then sat on them, breathed a bit and deleted them. We're all good people here, it's not like this is a nest of trolls. Let's endeavour to be a bit more generous in the intent of others.

*If someone feels the urge to yell at me for tone policing or concern trolling, fine. I think those terms are potentially poisonous in a good faith community where we 'know' each other. At that point there's very little one can do to try and make things better.
posted by Telf at 7:20 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


Folks, let's really not get further back into the marginalization etc. stuff in here. I know it remains a sore spot and something worth talking about more, but doing it in here now chaining off comments from a day ago is really not feeling like the way to do it.

Or maybe he isn't going to answer, because there are a lot of things going on in this thread.

Hadn't gotten around to answering yet, yeah. With the busyness the last few days I'm pacing myself a little and coming back to this in bits and pieces is the main thing; I do appreciate folks being patient about it. So:

Here, if mods intend well, as I believe they usually do as well, then the fact that a number of people (including Jessamyn, a former mod), agree with me on the general level that mods cannot comment in these kinds of threads as users means that I think the mods need to much more carefully consider the question of why they want to do so, why cortex feels that this is a step way too far to go.

I don't think it's a step way too far, for what it's worth. I just think it's too absolute as a "never" or "can't" thing.

For me what it comes down to is that as mods we definitely do have an obligation to be extra aware of, and extra cautious about, the impact of mod-or-user ambiguity when participating in a thread which is policy-centric or which involves a strong aspect of mods-making-a-call to it.

Sometimes there's a very bright line in a thread where that does mean there's not going be really any room for "and here's my personal opinion while we're at it"; much of the time it's less clearcut than that and I think instead it comes down to taking care to (a) double-check that it's actually workable to share a personal-perspective comment, (b) make sure the framing of that personal take is temperate enough not to generate extra heat, and (c) clearly frame the comment as being that and not site policy or mod declaration or whatnot.

(And then there's lots of threads where the dynamic is explicitly just friendly bullshitting and barring some intrusive bit of crappy user behavior there's no reason to expect a mod to be mod-hatting at all, but outside of the no-go "mods can't be users" notion I don't think that's what anybody was talking about.)

That's pretty much been my standard guideline and our overall shared team expectation with mod participation in threads, and I think it strikes about as workable a compromise as we can for a site where mods are community members and not just compensated outside staffers. I'm taking this discussion as a reminder to us as individual mods and as a team to keep close to that guideline, as well as to make as sure as we can that everyone on the team is being as consistent about it as we can.

For me that's the primary issue: effectively and consistently managing to do that context-aware boundary management. I much prefer that to drawing down some codified new curtain prohibiting a class of site participation entirely.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:24 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


"Marginalized" and "oppressed" are two different things. I think it would be helpful to separate the two. I would 100% agree that women without children are marginalized. I would 100% not agree that women without children are oppressed.

women without children are also the focus of intense resentment for seeming to have escaped a type of oppression that is seen to be women's natural lot (women's punishment, for the biblically inclined.) that is: people take extreme pleasure in looking at mothers' suffering and responding with a pleased "Stop hitting yourself! Why do you keep hitting yourself?" and to fight back against that you have to have a long argument about how it's biology and society and male behavior and heterosexual institutions hitting you, not your own fists. and that makes you miserable.

but when such people look at voluntarily unchilded women they stop being happily superior and instead become enraged: How dare you not start hitting yourself? Why aren't you hitting yourself? if you don't start hitting yourself maybe I'll have to do it for you.

I mean: pregnant women are certainly oppressed. mothers are often oppressed. the rest of us, call it oppression or don't, who cares, the word not a prize that we simply must have. but what we get is of course much more than simple marginalization. there is also anger and contempt and insults and sexist abuse and veiled or unveiled threats specifically targeted to our reproductive situation. it is different from what mothers get and it is sometimes useful to draw back the thick blanket of undifferentiated sexism and take a specific look at what all is under there.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:24 PM on January 6 [55 favorites]


Actual photo of cortex at work at MeFi Central.
posted by hippybear.

But whose in the background.

And I wonder, when cortex became boss, did like Matt have to turn over physical keys like a pair of quikset for the SSS.°

°= Super secret server.
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Please remember when you are speaking about how oppressed/marginalized people are, that not every mother chose to be a mother. The choice to remain childless is a privileged one. If you had that choice, great. Not everyone has. But it does require that you have access to birth control and/or abortion, and/or the ability to say no to sex.

Many women do not have those options.

But oppression and marginalization are inter-sectional. A mother -and- a woman who has chosen to not have children can both be oppressed/marginalized without the other having to be personally oppressing their counterpart.
posted by FritoKAL at 7:53 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


[For really reals though, let's drop the parenthood/childlessness stuff in here for good. I know folks are talking about stuff that's really personally meaningful to them but I'm just gonna delete anything going forward because I can't just keep nudging.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:55 PM on January 6 [21 favorites]


But to bring it all back around: it's been a weird hard stupid fractious week, and I think it's gonna be very hard to just press a reset button on the productive parts of a MetaTalk discussion if folks can't just collectively step back and recognize that all the extra weird shit creeping into the discussions sideways is a major contributing factor to how we end up perceiving the whole thing, and how we end up each reacting more overtly or quickly or ungenerously to each new thing than we would in a vacuum.

I think the recent number of MeTas which are addressing moderation issues are perhaps hard or fractious, but they aren't stupid, and they certainly aren't weird.

It's entirely obvious that the community is expressing collective discontent with how things are running right now. These things are multi-faceted, from the queue to deletion practices (both for comments and for FPPs) to social interaction on the site both between members and between the mod team and members, whether that's commenting in threads or other matters.

It really feels like there is some kind of deeper conversation over which stones are being skipped while nobody is really dealing with the underlying subject that needs to be faced, which is a combination of all these matters and more.

I think most of the problem that is happening right now, which is drawing out all these contentious MeTas, is that a lot of the members here feel like the moderation of the site is a black box. FPP post deletions feel inconsistent, comment deletions are entirely invisible even to the commenter, and mods fluctuate between user and moderator without much indication about which role is speaking when. I propose the following to solve this:
1) We as users have been offered 5 preformatted options plus a freeform comment form for flagging a comment. The mods need to have that same thing for deleting a comment. This kind of feedback will help the community learn what the moderation guidelines are more clearly and will hopefully help people feel less like they are shouting into a well. P.S. Having to drop a coin down a well (fill out the contact form) to get an answer to the wish of WTF happened isn't what should happen here.

2) FPP deletions need to happen a tiny bit less often, but need to have maybe a bit of discussion rather than just nixing the post. I learned my hard lesson when I pushed the mod team to let me make a Taylor Swift post. They warned me -- this will become an entire shitshow. I was all, "What, it's her new video! No danger!" I was wrong. Oh so wrong. The mod team knows what it's talking about when it comes to posts that are a problem.

But I propose this: Instead of disappearing a post, since (as jessamyn frequently has pointed out in this thread), mods have time on their hands to handle issues with members and such... put a problematic post in a "hold" position and communicate with the poster. Treat a bad post like you'd treat a contact form question about a bad post. Have the moderation be less reactive and more proactive, working with users to shape posts that would be deleted (with the requisite 24 hour time-out for the poster) into maybe a 24 hour "let's make this better" session. Posts would be better, users wouldn't feel so black-boxed, and overall posting quality would rise as problem posters had tutoring.

3) The "staff" flags need to be turned on and off for different actions by the mods on the site. We're already not allowed to do formatting of "posted by" bylines that look like what is on the site when we're crafting comments. Let's make it equally clear when a mod is being a mod and when they are not.
I don't think I've actually found what the core, the central issue is for MetaFilter right now. There's discontent with what is going on with the site, and it has to do with what is being allowed to be expressed on the site and how the moderators are doing their jobs. I'm doing my best to grasp at solutions, but I think there's something more basic and central going on that I haven't discerned.

And I'm certain the queue isn't helping much. Although eliminating the queue would likely create a lot more ugliness before it settled down into being a useful MeTa again. Because there's a lot of shit pent up right now about a lot of things, a lot of which I think a lot of us feel isn't being allowed to be expressed. I certainly feel that way.

So... Yeah, black box. Problem. Make it better.
posted by hippybear at 8:21 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Telf said, "We can't create a space that is comfortable for everyone at all times and I know people weren't asking for that specifically. I think it would be great if we used this as an opportunity for a sort of community resolution to take some of the emotional burden off the mods and just try really hard to offer generous interpretations of each other's comments. I think we're all good people on the other side of the screen.

In one of the two MeTa threads it was mentioned that suggesting people 'calm down' or take a walk was patronizing, but it doesn't need to be taken in that tone. I think we've all typed out reactionary posts then sat on them, breathed a bit and deleted them. We're all good people here, it's not like this is a nest of trolls. Let's endeavour to be a bit more generous in the intent of others.
"

That's nice, but I don't have this level of trust with other random mefites. I certainly don't expect other mefites to assume I'm a "good person." I don't even know what that means in the abstract. In fact, if we're on a difficult topic I prefer to assume that the other person has experienced trauma and might therefore hesitate to trust me.
posted by yaymukund at 8:29 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


The "staff" flags need to be turned on and off for different actions by the mods on the site.

Well, I mean, I guess that doesn't make anything worse, just.. it doesn't help. A mod is a mod all the time. They can't (hyperbolically and hypothetically) take the staff tag off and then be all "but seriously, I hate those people" and expect people to not think of that when the staff tag is back on.
posted by ctmf at 8:36 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


ctmf: the logical extension of your argument is that the moderation team has power to regulate what happens in the community but are not allowed to participate in the community.

I'll let you tell me if that is what you think is best for MetaFilter.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


And I'm not saying they shouldn't participate as users. Just they have to always remember they're mods and act accordingly, with or without the tag. This is not usually a problem. I feel like it's not really an issue of a mod having said some things that were unclear if they were being spoken as a mod or not. It's that they ARE a mod, and shouldn't have said them.
posted by ctmf at 8:41 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


I think you can participate in the community while not posting comments that make multiple people wonder if said mod views them as sub-human monsters.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:41 PM on January 6 [24 favorites]


I think you can participate in the community while not posting comments that make multiple people wonder if said mod views them as sub-human monsters.

And here we are again at the intersection between "intent vs effect" and "your intentions don't matter at all people are busy getting offended over here" and the impersonalization of the internet and probably politically correct overcorrecting and a zillion other things.

I think one of the problems with the late 2010s is that people are too easy to take a stance of offense out of a defensive posture to protect themselves from future harm rather than acting within the real parameters of what the in-the-moment communication actually was.

But, yeah, you know... I've been an out faggot online and in meatspace since 1990. My experience with being viewed as a sub-human monster is not a short one.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


From a conflict management standpoint, I think there is an important difference between presuming someone is 'good' and avoiding the presumption of evil.
Nothing kills creativity quicker than anger, pride, embarrassment, envy, greed, or other strong negative emotion. Anger is often an expression of fear, or lack of confidence in our ability to get what we think we want. Emotional outbursts tend to escalate rather than solve a conflict. If we can improve our ability to manage our emotions and respond without getting defensive, we have gone a long way toward creative negotiation.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:52 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


Not to abuse the edit window: Benefit of the doubt goes a long way. As does community membership and good standing. Both of which I feel are deserving here in MetaFilter land.
posted by hippybear at 8:52 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


My experience with being viewed as a sub-human monster is not a short one.

neither is mine, on many axis, I don't like that you think I need to prove this in order to have an issue with what's going on. The point isn't probably politically correct overcorrecting its that a mod did not presume good faith in a user's comment and expressed her feelings intemperately, in a way that multiple people felt was problematic and othering. I think Eyebrows is a good mod generally, but we all have our blindspots, and as a community we've just learned hers. I think we can all move forward as a community, but pretending this was nothing when it was something is not the way to do that.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:05 PM on January 6 [17 favorites]


But blowing it out of proportion is also not the way to do that.

It's a thing, it's been brought to attention, she's undoubtedly learned from it as has everyone else reading this thread.

At what point does it stop being brought up? When does it stop being a snarky aside? When does she get to read this thread again and not have it being thrust in her face again and again?

I can't make that judgement, as I haven't been doing that. But you just did. You, perhaps, have an answer.
posted by hippybear at 9:08 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Yes and to be clear, when I say "shouldn't have said them" I mean in hindsight. People get caught up and say something intemperate. Lord knows I have as "the management" at work, where the stakes are much higher. I don't know why I would expect a mod to be more perfect than me. I think we can move on from that and keep it about site policy.
posted by ctmf at 9:20 PM on January 6


An apology would be a start, because even if suggesting that I and other Mefites are not inhuman monsters was not her intent, that was the impact and, beyond that, the comment made it clear that she had no intention of giving anyone who disagreed with her POV the benefit of the doubt or was herself considering the intent of the original comment.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:25 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Given that cortex has said that EM is taking a few days off, do we need to keep having the same circular discussion until such time as she returns and has an opportunity to apologize?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:33 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


Maybe so, maybe so. I have a feeling if we ever hear (and it's none of our business) what's going on with her we're going to feel really badly about the way we've been tearing her up over a few minutes of hasty commenting on the Internet.

Or maybe she's a monster who will come back and refuse to take back a word. We can't know right now.
posted by ctmf at 9:33 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed. When this gets to "fuck you" we're already a few steps too far down an avoidable path.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


[hippybear, with all kindness, please cool it and walk away from the thread for now.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:45 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I should have put "monster" in quotes or not said it at all. It was "I could be totally wrong, anything could happen." My point was, speculating either way is not going to do anyone any good right now.

I'm sorry my phrasing was poor.
posted by ctmf at 9:47 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


I do have trouble thinking of what EM said as monstrous with or without quotes. I mean, that's a pretty heavy condemnation. When I think of monstrous acts, I think of evil intent.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Y'all let's retire the entirety of the "monster" framing all around. That's nobody here and we can talk about stuff without introducing that extra rhetorical charge to the whole thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I liked hippybear's ideas for ways to bring greater deliberation and transparency to comment and post moderation, particularly deletions. Those would be a great starting point for the mods when thinking about improving site processes.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:28 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Folks who are asking more from the mods, please bear in mind that the mods are working super hard and have a lot on their plate already. That's not to say there's not more they could do, or things they could do differently, but this is not an inexhaustible resource we're talking about. Along with discussion of changes to the moderation model, please consider whether there are things you yourself can do to help the site run better, including but not limited to helping to fund Metafilter if you can.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 10:55 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


To actually get back on the actual subject, I'm thinking again that its a pity that the only two colors are yellow and white. I'm thinking this, because on rpg.net, another site that has moderator participants, official moderator comments are all in red. Red is disallowed from comments except for official moderation statements, so its obvious when a moderator is and is not speaking in an official capacity.

So just as a thought, while the whole situation cant be subject to a technological fix, maybe there's something that the site, even with its baseline setup can do to make official moderation posts stand out. If a color change isn't posible, then what about making the fonts super large, or some other html trick?

Thoughts anyone?
posted by happyroach at 12:00 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


On the blue (and in Ask), we only have staff tags when we are speaking as as moderators. It would be a little more complicated to do that on Metatalk, but it might be something we could think about.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:06 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


hippybear: I propose this: Instead of disappearing a post, since (as jessamyn frequently has pointed out in this thread), mods have time on their hands to handle issues with members and such... put a problematic post in a "hold" position and communicate with the poster. Treat a bad post like you'd treat a contact form question about a bad post. Have the moderation be less reactive and more proactive, working with users to shape posts that would be deleted (with the requisite 24 hour time-out for the poster) into maybe a 24 hour "let's make this better" session.

That is pretty much what happens (unless a post is considered to be unredeemable). I've seen many a deleted post with a note from a moderator that says something like 'Hey, hit us up and we'll talk about how to reframe this'.

For example: https://www.metafilter.com/178598/Is-your-washroom-breeding-fascists and https://www.metafilter.com/178281/simply-find-out-who-you-are-not-allowed-to-criticize
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:47 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I think informing commenters of deletions, and why, would be disastrous.

It seems reasonable, to be sure. And I'm pretty strongly in favor of transparency. I think I have a good handle on the motivation and reasoning for this suggestion ... not the least because it's been suggested and discussed dozens of times over the years.

I have a prediction for what would happen were this implemented. I'm so sure of this prediction that in true MetaTalk spirit, I wouldn't just have a cake riding on this, but I'd, um, be willing to cut off my hand were I proved wrong.

The prediction is this: complaints about deletions would more than double, perhaps they'd grow by an order of magnitude. A very large portion of these complaints would take the form of back-and-forths with the mods consisting mainly of rules-lawyering, with occasional outraged abuse. Disagreements and anger between members in threads would greatly increase, as awareness of deletions in charged and combative threads would lead to looking for villians to blame. Posts to MetaTalk about comment deletions would likewise multiply dramatically (not decrease) and the threads would involve pile-ons and flame-outs. For every one person who thinks the new system is an improvement, there will be nine who believe that MetaFilter really and truly is an authoritarian dystopia of biased and vindictive mods. And most of the rest of us will feel like things have become far more acrimonious.

All of which would be the opposite of what was intended.

This would also be true, to a milder extent, about automatically informing posters of FPP deletions.

With regard to the queue, I was one of the most outspoken people who had concerns about the MeTa queue when it was implemented. My worry was that there was no transparency to the membership at large about what was happening with the queue. I advised not a public visibilty into the contents of the queue, but rather just some visibilty of current queue activity, such as quantity, age, and disposition. I felt that this would dispel some worries about potential admin misuse of the queue. As it happens, my read is that history has proven that my concerns about suspicions provoked by a black-box queue have proven correct. On the other hand, every single time it's brought up in a MetaTalk thread, a mod will be very forthcoming and explicit about queue activity, and without exception it's proven to be rarely used and benignly so. Therefore, I'm in the rather strange position of feeling some vindication of my long-ago worries even as I have become convinced that there's nothing to be concerned about and there's no compelling reason to change.

That's three of hippybear's suggestions. I think they're either long-decided no-go's and would be actively harmful, or unnecessary, or both.

So there's a group of people who think there's a problem with the modding. That it's inconsistent, inscrutable, or heavy-handed. The thing is, I can't recall a time in the last seven years when there weren't a group of members with this complaint. It's never been close to the majority and, in fact, consensus has tended to be that the modding is mostly okay, though there can always be improvements here and there.

Sure, it's entirely possible that now things finally are seriously screwed-up and a majority here will agree. We should always be willing to talk about it when the issue is raised, even if it's perennial. We ought to talk about it, but those who believe there are serious problems shouldn't be surprised if a consensus fails to form in support of this position.

However, it's always been the case that community standards and expectations about the mod staff evolve hand-in-hand. The same blind spots and rough edges and outright offenses we experience and hash-out as a community, we also have to work out with the mods in the same terms for the same reasons, and their standards and behavior likewise evolve. So, for example, if there's a subcommunity here who feels aggrieved, we absolutely should talk about it and improve some things both with the community participation and with the modding. That sort of discussion is always appropriate -- with the caveat that some issues are extraordinarily sensitive and painful and we should be very prudent in choosing when and how we have those discussions.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:16 AM on January 7 [28 favorites]


I'm about eighty comments back and I'm not inclined to read them; I'm jumping down to say:

In all my employment experience, it would absolutely be appropriate and the norm for someone, if they had an issue with me, to include my boss in addressing it. If I had an issue with a co-worker, I often wasn't sure how to address it and I took it to the manager. The management relationship is supposed to be cooperative - working towards a shared goal - not antagonistic. The managers, in my experience, had a more holistic view of things. They would know how big a problem something was. They would know if it fit into a pattern of problematic behavior. They typically had a better understanding of why that person was and how to talk to them. Most importantly, they had both the power and responsibility to address it. At a certain point, with a bad enough mistake - say a food handling mistake when I worked at a restaurant - some of the blame for that goes to the person who trained me for the job and trusted me with it. Or at the very least, it's their problem.

If I thought a mod's comment was inappropriate, I would flag it and put a very short note in the contact form. The note would effectively just be "I have a strong opinion about this comment." It would feel inappropriate to directly and privately tell a mod that were wrong; I think they're wrong (in this hypothetical scenario) but my opinion is not the only one that matters. I would want to express my opinion in a space where other people could weigh in. And, this isn't a restaurant but I think it's analogous; all of the modding decisions reflect on the people who hired and trained and set expectations for the mods.

For the record, both of EM's comments that have been under discussion seem moderately line-crossing to me. I don't exactly care about it, though.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:16 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to add a quick footnote that EM's earlier comment was not just as a brand new mod, but one with little more than a handful days actually on the job, since she is usually weekends, and still much more in the "watch and see" period than the "it's all on you – take it away!" period, plus she was not on duty. The transition is not necessarily simple, and in different ways for each of us. When I was a new mod, I had to be on all alone because of the time difference, and one thing that I felt strongly was that I did not want to leave a mess for the other mods when they woke up and went to work, so I would press myself to make some decisions I wasn't 100% sure of, because I didn't want to be a coward who couldn't make a decision, thereby making them go back and clean up messes that had been going on all night. That wasn't always the right choice, and on a couple of occasions it would have been much better just to leave something, and explain that I didn't know for sure.

That was me, within my context, and with my feelings about the work. We each have different contexts and feelings, and none of us make every choice correctly (obvs!), but especially at first. I know it seems like it would be easy when you're a longtime member who knows and understands the site pretty much as well as anyone, but trust me, it's waaaay more complicated than it seems. And there's no manual.

I say this not to inflame more anger (please, God), or challenge people to argue the point, but just to sort of add a smidge more context to the earlier situation.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:07 AM on January 7 [24 favorites]


I have the vague impression that MetaFilter in general -- not moderation per se -- has moved away from considering intention...a gradual slide from "just saying you had good intentions doesn't get you off the hook" to "your intentions don't matter *at all*, people are busy getting offended over here". Part of a broader trend towards simplistic thinking that prioritizes righteous judgment over allowing the shitty, gross people to have any validity at all.

One suggestion I would've made is to focus on "calling in" rather than "calling out" - i.e., instead of roasting someone in public in front of their peers, or escalating to their superiors, instead try to privately and directly communicate with the person to try to address the issue or at least understand where each other is coming from. It's kinder and usually more effective, and doesn't play into the dynamic of righteous judgment mentioned above as much. In fact, it's possible lots of people are calling in by taking a concern private instead of talking about it in public - we never see a "call in" by its nature unless it happens to us first-hand or it's shared, but we always see the "call outs", so it's easy to have the impression that no one is doing the former and everyone is doing the latter. FWIW, in my decade+ of often prickly and provocative commenting, no one has made a public call-out post about me that I can remember, but there have been people messaging me off-thread about something I said that bothered them. Sometimes I learn from those interactions and change for the better, but no one will actually know anything happened except me and the person who messaged me.

But I note that this - privately talking to the person off-thread about the perceived problem - is a precise action that many commenters and mods are finding fault with in this thread. So if calling out is bad, and calling in is worse, I'm at a loss as to what people actually want to see in expressed criticism. Not to express it at all? Certainly when I was growing up in the 80s/90s, much less people felt like they had the courage, community, or self-worth to do so. I doubt it would be an improvement to start moving back in that direction.

(Also, this dynamic about offense vs. intention etc. is really just a cyclical thing that comes and goes. People were saying the exact same things about Gen X-ers in the 90s)
posted by naju at 3:01 AM on January 7 [17 favorites]


On the issue of intention, a canonical case to be aware of at the end of the spectrum where content is an overriding factor over intent can be when someone is unconsciously transmitting an anti-Semitic trope. Specific examples and some of the rationale behind this were discussed in the most recent anti-Semitism MeTa a couple of years ago. (And undoubtedly in previous ones too but that's the one I participated in.)

So perhaps awareness of cases like that—and of the extensive and centuries-long analysis of phenomena like anti-Semitism and their consequences which can extend well beyond people "getting offended over here"—could be one reason for a shift away from assumed intentions having less weight, in some instances at least.
posted by XMLicious at 4:18 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Eh, to be honest, I've always remembered that particular antisemitism thread as the one where I dug in and called someone out in an unfair way after taking a super uncharitable read of what they were saying. I sort of figured that my own Jewish heritage gave me the ability to spot someone's totally unconscious bias, without considering that maybe I was just misunderstanding them.

I've always been too embarrassed to apologize, and as far as callouts go it was probably pretty tame, but it was a lesson learned for me. That thread was basically the first one I participated with when I got this account, and it's always been a bummer to remember that I kicked things off by refusing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. That was an argument, for sure, and even with the benefit of the doubt I may still have disagreed with them -- it was too long ago to remember, at this point. But there's a difference between disagreement and an accusation.

I'm not invalidating the possibility that people can unconsciously repeat ugly biases, and I'm not suggesting that people are just acting in bad faith when they want to call someone out. Most -isms don't personally affect me the way antisemitism does, and I wouldn't claim to set a standard for how people should react when a statement sets off alarm bells. But since you mentioned that particular thread, I wanted to share this particular aspect of it that ended up sticking with me.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:02 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


The prediction is this: complaints about deletions would more than double, perhaps they'd grow by an order of magnitude.

We started to do this in my previous job, at least for the top line deletion in a threaded conversation. It was a fair lot of work in and of itself until we had templated text in place that covered the vast majority of deletion situations. The follow up was a significant amount of work, but not quite as much as we would have predicted from the outset.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:18 AM on January 7


shapes - moreso than drawing conclusions about someone's bias, I was thinking of guidelines like "blood metaphors are almost never going to be okay" as an example of where content can be a superseding concern over conscious or even unconscious intent.
posted by XMLicious at 5:21 AM on January 7


Awareness of intent vs. impact isn't a new thing. It's more in the forefront now for sure, but OF COURSE it is, with #metoo and everything happening. It has to be.

Putting more thought into what we're saying might help, but guidelines as XMLicious says would be better. Having a place to point people whose comment has been deleted, rather than a one-off explanation each time, that is specific enough to satisfy the commenter.

Comments get misinterpreted, sure, we can see that right here. But we're a community, don't we want to fix things for people who are being hurt? "Offended" is a crappy word that has lost all its own impact. Pain is real.
posted by wellred at 5:55 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Re: the idea of anonymous mods: unless Cortex hired all new mods from outside the site, new, anonymous mods would likely be long-time, frequent users of the site, one who is respected, and thus probably well-known. How often do you recognize who wrote a comment within a sentence or two? I think it would be impossible to have a truly anonymous mod here. (Although I'm enjoying the idea of The Quidnunc Kid as anonymous mod.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:12 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Although I'm enjoying the idea of The Quidnunc Kid as anonymous mod

I mean, we've been voting them #1 for years now. Respect the will of the people!
posted by zombieflanders at 7:29 AM on January 7 [12 favorites]


I suggested an Ombudsperson some time ago, and it was not warmly received by cortex, but I think it would offer a really important contact point for users who feel like they don't have a good way to speak out about their concerns about moderation.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:30 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


Sometimes there's a very bright line in a thread where that does mean there's not going be really any room for "and here's my personal opinion while we're at it"; much of the time it's less clearcut than that and I think instead it comes down to taking care to (a) double-check that it's actually workable to share a personal-perspective comment, (b) make sure the framing of that personal take is temperate enough not to generate extra heat, and (c) clearly frame the comment as being that and not site policy or mod declaration or whatnot.

Sure, things can't be a bright-line rule. But I think if you started from the "it is generally a bad idea for a mod to speak as a user in a tense policy meta, think very strongly about whether this is truly a good comment because the bar here is high" side, as opposed to "just use your common sense either way", it would be wise. Will mods occasionally not get to say something they might have wanted to and which would have been fine? Yup. Will mods occasionally say something where they shouldn't? Certainly. You can't always tell how tense a meta is going to be until it's too late, and sometimes things come off more argumentative than you wanted or one of a million other things. And I'm not trying to suggest that mods who post personal stuff in an inappropriate meta should have to suffer the Procession Of Shame, just that you start more from the idea that in one very specific case -- there aren't THAT many fighty policy metas -- mods should assume that the default case is only speak as mods.
posted by jeather at 7:38 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Sure, I don't think I disagree with that; like I said, I think we do specifically have an outsized responsibility to be extra careful and extra self-aware about that stuff. I don't think a proposal of "never" is a workable solution, but I don't think we should be casual about it either; I think the narrow band of "not often, and carefully even then" is the more MeFi-like space to carve out and is what we've been aiming for as a team. Just like anything else we're gonna slip up at it sometimes over a long timeline, but that's the goal I'm aiming for.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


Strong agree to all of Ivan Fyodorovich's comment.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:22 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I deliberately stayed out of this thread yesterday because it's all kinds of triggering. I'll just say this; there is a topic that I am very passionate about, but which every single time i make a comment alluding to it, it gets deleted immediately. I've had comments from one mod along the lines of "I swear to god, we are not going to discuss this topic". Another mod has commented frequently and vociferously in many many many threads about their personal feelings on the topic, which are the opposite of mine. User comments that agree with that mod's personal feelings and views are always (and yes, I do mean ALWAYS, regardless of how vile, and regardless of flagging) allowed to stand. But on this topic the opposing view or experience is never given space. Because of this, in a way MF has begun to feel like much less of a safe space for me, and I've been censoring my participation much more in the last three or four years.

The fact of the matter is I've been considering addressing cortex privately via MeMail about this for some time. But I keep talking myself out of it because I tell myself "they're already doing so much work" and "the political threads take so much effort" and "they're already stressed about the budget" and "I'm just one person " and "this is the internet, get over yourself ".

All of the mods do an amazing job and I will not fault anyone for the job they do. MF is an amazing place and despite my paragraph above it's the safest space that I am aware of on the internet. But there is room for improvement; the users need to see that there is a line between participating as a user, and what some users experience as censorshop of other users by the mods.
posted by vignettist at 8:48 AM on January 7 [17 favorites]


I strongly agree with Ivan Fyodorovich that individual deletion notifications would be a mess, but I also think the user base would appreciate some degree of increased transparency.

Would it be helpful at all to consider some kind of stats-only transparency report, so that we at least have some idea of what mod actions are going on? I.e. some kind of one-a-quarter (year, month, whatever) post along the lines of:

On the Blue, 750 comments and 60 posts were deleted. 300 of these were spam, 20 hate speech, 150 were deleted to stop an unproductive fight...

With similar stats for other subsites, and for posts that don’t make it through the MeTa queue. Sort of similar to some of the stats cortex has been providing ad-hoc, but on a regular scheduled basis and a bit more complete.

I don’t know how easy this would be to implement, as I don’t know how well the mods track this kind of thing now? And God knows that this kind of thing wouldn’t satisfy everyone. But it could give us some insight into what the mods are dealing with on a daily basis, without forcing mods to potentially litigate every deletion.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 9:26 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I strongly disagree with the particular deletion that eventually led to this thread, for various reasons, but I won't go into them (and didn't comment in the other thread) because I don't think the mods always need to agree with me.

Subjective moderation, rather than moderating based on strict and detailed rules, is a very tricky thing that can generate a ton of complaining from the userbase (speaking from experience as a previous mod on a much smaller forum)....but at the same time I think that type of moderation is absolutely essential to cultivate the unique and precious atmosphere here. And I very much trust the mods' judgement towards that end, even if I don't agree with every decision they make.

I do not have a strong opinion on mods-commenting-as-not-mods thing, other than pointing out, again from experience, that it is a difficult tightrope to walk as someone who wants to contribute to the community that they love, and that I do not expect the mods to be perfect in this. I do expect them to acknowledge when they make a mistake. In this particular scenario I think the line was at least edged towards if not crossed, and I do not think more is needed than a mod acknowledgement that it was inappropriate (as cortex did, in my interpretation) and a genuine effort to avoid the behaviour in the future (as I imagine there will be, after such a big fuss). I don't think this thread needs to be a referendum on any particular mod but for the record, I think they are all great, if flawed like any of us.
posted by randomnity at 9:36 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Vote Ivan #1 for Ombudsperson.

I guess I am one of those people generally content with the moderation here, so read this as you will, but Eyebrows is one of the best of this community: she has rich life experiences which she writes about with flair (and sometimes with flare), she is funny and perceptive, and count me as another who finds the persistent innuendo about bad things she is alleged to have done pretty uncool. The examples, the actual examples presented, and not just the generalized whispering, seem to me at most to be uncharacteristic lapses of judgment though I am hearing from a few members that they don't share that view, and from a few others that they do.

And I agree with Ivan that there is always and has always been disgruntlement here; whether the level of gruntle will ever approach zero (or infinity depending on how you understand the concept) is unlikely, the best we can do is be gracious, forgiving, and gentle in the meantime. Fighty members make fighty mods, for the most part, IMHO.
posted by Rumple at 9:40 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


My low-key suspicion about deletion notifications causing chaos and confusion and toil and trouble, is that the concern would prove to be overblown. The parallel in my mind is the sheer amount of beanplating and nervousness over the winding road Metafilter took to enabling an edit window option for users. After which it was finally put into place, the sky remained unfallen. There was plenty of concern there about people abusing edits in order to meaningfully change what they'd set down, deliberately saying enflaming things but then ninja-editing after responses so responses would look silly, generating much more work for the mods, etc.

My bias now, as it was then, is that I suspect abuses would be rare, and that when they did occur, the mods could just respond strongly to them (see previous musings about Nth Chances for problem actors handling having improved over the years). Similarly, if a user went from 0 to HOW! DARE! YOU! in responses to comment deletion notifies, that's not really a sign that hte notifications are bad; it's a sign the user needs at minimum a time out since they're struggling with acting like an adult.

(My bias there is informed, I'm sure, by the only personal comment deletions I've ever been aware of having been a couple jokey peanut-gallery drive-bys that got nixed on account of noise, and probably one THE ANSWER IS TO STOP BEING STUPID when I was younger and dumber-aggro, in an AskMe which the reason is kind of obvious.)
posted by Drastic at 9:44 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Our position has always been that we'd get an unmanageable increase in the amount of correspondence around routine deletions, and all of my experience modding, here and elsewhere, supports it. It's not like the edit window - something we did not have at all, and then added and managed (and it has been totally fine), it's something we do at a minimal level now, and we can forecast how it would scale up. Namely, poorly.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:47 AM on January 7 [15 favorites]


y'all should come post in the megathreads, it will inure you to having comments deleted and the last thing you'll want is goddamn mail every time it happens
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:50 AM on January 7 [42 favorites]


I'm still not sold on the idea that the edit window is "fine" as it's still being used to edit for content, but that's just my particular bugbear and I'm mostly at peace with it now (really, I swear).

Also I realize you probably mean in terms of malicious abuses and mod resources required when you say fine, which I agree with.
posted by ODiV at 9:53 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


y'all should come post in the megathreads, it will inure you to having comments deleted and the last thing you'll want is goddamn mail every time it happens

Yeah I swear the megathreads was what broke me of my feeling personally injured every time I had a deletion, because I could so clearly and swiftly see how some comments took things off the rails and made the thread unbearable. It's like the fruit fly of moderating or something, watching the many short lived generations gave me a ton more respect for the moderators for being able to wrestle that nightmarish beast into shape.
posted by corb at 10:05 AM on January 7 [20 favorites]


The practicality argument against notifications is secondary to whether actually people generally prefer to know if and when their comments are deleted. What I mean is, are people okay with giving up this aspect of control over something that they make?
Like I'm saying an answer could be either way, but the questions are more like, who owns comments and user-produced content, are people informed on their rights on these issues, and then given that what level of ceding ownership is okay and how does that impact user behavior as well as site guidelines and site features.
Put aside the notifications question for a moment. Do people generally want to know whether their own comment is removed or not? Me personally, yes, but I presume there's variation and moreover as to the wide range of reasons why.
posted by polymodus at 10:45 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I'd kind of like a notice so that I can see what I wrote and why it was deleted so I can try to avoid writing whatever moronic/ill advised thing I wrote in the future and so I know that I'm not going crazy and my comment didn't just disappear into thin air.

But I'm like Corb in that I don't get attached to my comments and don't get all bent out of shape when/if something gets removed so I'd never feel a need to dispute something. And, even if the notice itself doesn't allow users to reply I'm certain that some users will be happy to go out of their way to argue about something a mod did and sometimes providing more info about it just drags out the argument.
posted by VTX at 10:47 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


The practicality argument against notifications is secondary to whether people generally prefer to know if and when their comments are deleted.

How is this true? If it is impracticable and non-workable then you don't have a site to post comments on at all. How could the practicality argument be secondary?
posted by ODiV at 10:52 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


What I was saying is that we should talk about the more basic issue before the narr
posted by polymodus at 10:58 AM on January 7


I don't want feedback from the mods about my deleted comments.

I don't mind getting comments deleted (I don't really notice when/if they are, to be honest), but I also don't relish the idea of having critical emails from the mods showing up unsolicited in my inbox, you know?

At best, it seems like busywork. At worst, it seems like it would stir up hurt feelings and defensiveness.

In general, I don't need more information from the mods, per se. I think what needs improvement are the venues of communication. After these two threads, I honestly feel kind of lost regarding what kinds of communication should be via memail v. email v. contact form v. flagging v. MetaTalk v. backchannels, etc.
posted by rue72 at 11:03 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


VTX: even if the notice itself doesn't allow users to reply I'm certain that some users will be happy to go out of their way to argue about something a mod did and sometimes providing more info about it just drags out the argument.

Yup. And if you provide a reason for the deletion, that will only invite those same people to explain in length why their deleted comment should have remained because it wasn't actually [whatever].
Sending people a copy of the deleted comment will be seen by some as an invitation to simply post it again (with or without tiny changes). And so on.

Basically: what R_N said.

Disclaimer: I'm a moderator (elsewhere). I'm not your moderator.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:06 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


Personally, I nearly always know when my comments are deleted, and I am nearly always satisfied with the deletion. It's generally because I'm feeling really pissy about someone else who has said something I found upsetting, and I usually flag it and then comment irritably back explaining why I'm upset--then if the mod on duty chooses not to delete it, it's not there unopposed and my context is publicly there, and if the mod sees the burgeoning fight and goes "aw fuck no," my judgement isn't as likely to derail the conversation for very long.

I get comments deleted quite a bit, guys. Often I flag them myself (as when the mod deletes the comment I was responding to before I notice I no longer need to respond). It's not a big deal. It really isn't. It does not mean you're not a good member or anything, it just means that the conversation will be better without that aspect.
posted by sciatrix at 11:06 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


Heh, I’ve also flagged myself before when realizing just after posting that I should’ve just shouted at the void directly.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:09 AM on January 7 [12 favorites]


People can presumably remember their most recent comments and go see if they still exist. People can look at Recent Activity and notice something missing? And then they can ask a mod about it if necessary.

I know that the time I had an FPP deleted, it felt like a slap and a punishment (ultimately I managed to put it in perspective and I think I did contact mods about it) - sending a notification and prompting that feeling deliberately, when it wouldn't otherwise have happened, is asking for trouble.

Similarly, I think personalizing the moderator decisions (e.g. Mod X has deleted 5 of your comments over the past year, Mod Z has deleted 15) would be very bad. These things are not supposed to be personal. The distinction between Mod X and Mod Z should not exist. If it does, that's effectively a QA problem. So that might make sense as an internal metric, but as a public metric it's asking for trouble.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:10 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


And second sentiment from other folks, as another person who has been a moderator in the past: I do not want mod feedback on my deletions. I generally can work out exactly why whatever it was got deleted, and I'm totally cool with it given some distance and time. But drawing more attention to it just makes me feel more irritated and more fighty about it, not more at peace. No one likes having more attention on their not-great behavior, you feel? And just because I'm going "hey hey THAT GUY STARTED IT" that doesn't mean my initial crabbiness is actually making the conversation better.

Good god, imagine having to engage with lots of "but was your engagement in so-and-so acceptable?" conversations every time there's a deletion. Imagine giving someone who is already pissy and acting out a specific venue of conversation and encouraging them to contact our mods. Horrible for everyone, including our trust in moderation.
posted by sciatrix at 11:11 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


Even putting comment stats up invites the sort of rules-lawyering that has allowed Gamergate and other trolls to prosper in permissive places and destroy places they see as unfit. At the very least, it will slow down the deletion process. I would rather speedy-delete something with terrible impact than to fall into the trap of having to explain and adjudicate every micro-decision.

I think of it how the NFL, thanks to replay and situational dynamics, turned every catch into an existential question of "is it a catch." It made the game increasingly unwatchable (along with the wife-beating, child-beating, racism, concussion-linked suicides, corporatist servitude of players, etc etc etc). I don't want want to turn every single deletion decision into "is it a catch." I want to trust the mods are working within MeFi's culture, and if we disagree we can take it to MeTa or email.

I've sometimes felt my comments have been deleted unnecessarily, and at times I've raised an "oh come on," but in the end, I trust deleting them in the context and impact of what's there is what's right for the greater community.
posted by dw at 11:14 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


I, too, think the attitude that a deleted comment is some kind of disaster that needs detailed justification from the mods is ridiculous.

And I think it is unreasonable to expect that the kind of judgement calls necessary to moderate MetaFilter discussions will consistently follow some kind of black and white rules that every arm-chair mod here in MetaTalk would be compelled to agree, "Yes, that deletion was correct according to Rule #4."
posted by straight at 11:16 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


I get the whole, don't take comment deletions too personally. But that's not the issue. It's not any different in a real life discussion involving moderation whose purpose is to guide the conversation between panelists/commentators. But I do not buy the rationale that users should not, in any online forum, be digitally empowered to know and access what comments they wrote that were removed. How this should be implemented is the secondary issue. Again, I don't understand the other perspective but I recognize that may be a valid too.
posted by polymodus at 11:16 AM on January 7


Some comments would be fine if they were the only one of its kind, but since there are more than that, they clutter up the thread and most or all need to be removed.
It doesn't mean they are horrible. It can just mean that there's too many of them. No one needs to take that personally.

I'm not devastated when a comment I wrote gets deleted. It happens. It's never a big loss. I think Oh, okay. And if it's something that really needs to be said and heard, I send it to Stoneshop.

I don't need to have notifications for deleted comments and I think that for Metafilter as a whole, the disadvantages (as described in comments above) would vastly overshadow any advantages.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:19 AM on January 7


(To make my position obvious, I am against notifications, but I'm 50-50 on some private listing of deleted comments.)
posted by polymodus at 11:22 AM on January 7


Right, that's really my root problem. The comment was deleted and I don't remember what I wrote which makes it hard for me to figure out where I've gone wrong.
posted by VTX at 11:23 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


What I mean is, are people okay with giving up this aspect of control over something that they make?

If you're not okay with giving up control over the existence of something you've written, you shouldn't be posting the only copy of it that exists to an online forum. No forum, particularly no moderated forum, exists to be your personal archive.
posted by tocts at 11:24 AM on January 7 [15 favorites]


I think it would be fine if a user's comment history kept all their deleted comments with a flag saying they were deleted if those comments were only visible to the the user who wrote them.

What you don't want is some sort of system where "deleted" comments are de facto just "hidden" comments which other people can go read and respond to as if they were still there. And I would want a pretty hard rule against people just coming into MetaTalk and pasting a bunch of their deleted comments here.
posted by straight at 11:26 AM on January 7


People can presumably remember their most recent comments and go see if they still exist.

Oh God no. I do agree about the possible drama concerning deletion notifications, just look around, but assuming that I will notice a deletion and realize what was wrong with it and adjust, not a chance in hell.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


But I do not buy the rationale that users should not, in any online forum, be digitally empowered to know and access what comments they wrote that were removed.

We've got them all, and we're totally happy to send them to you en masse or in any specific instance. Just drop us a line. It's not a super common request but it happens, especially when it's a longer comment. (Just don't, you know, use that as a tool for pointedly reposting deleted comments. That won't go well.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:29 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


Yeah sure, I made an ill-advised comment that took up a mod's time they could've spent doing something more productive and then you want me to ask for MORE of a mod's time to dig out my ill-advised comment?

I know it's more of an investment of the mods time to hopefully prevent me from taking up their time in the future but I'd MUCH rather be able to make that investment without requiring any more of any mod's time than is absolutely necessary and I REALLY hate making anyone do extra work to correct MY mistakes.
posted by VTX at 11:44 AM on January 7


Just as a data point: I have definitely noticed when my comments have been deleted and it's been clear (even without a mod note) why they were deleted. In the moment it can sting, but on reflection I agree with the deletions of my comments since it helps cut down on grar.

More generally, though, I don't think we should always view comment deletions as some sort of teachable opportunity that we have to learn from. Sometimes that could be the case, but often deletions are more about keeping the community on track rather than a rap of the knuckles.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:50 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]


People can look at Recent Activity and notice something missing?

Missing things from my Recent Activity is the main thing that bothers me about getting my comments deleted. Recent Activity is my bookmark for the site, my entry point, and having things fall off it drives me nuts because then I'm left with 'what was that conversation I was following? which post was it?' to try and get it back. Actually having my comments go away is usually only a secondary irritation,.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:21 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Is there a technical way to keep a thread subscribed-to on Recent Activity even when the user's comment is deleted?
posted by lazuli at 12:24 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


We've got them all

r_n, are they just stored in a separate table unconnected from any of the standard site mechanics, or are they someplace where they could be linked easily? I think being able to go to your recent activity and seeing all comments including deleted ones, maybe with a flag or something to indicate that one was deleted, would be helpful.

When I get a comment deleted I try not to stress about it and mostly do not, but there's often a period of 'wait, what exactly did I say? was that terrible somehow and I just didn't realize it?' and being able to see exactly what it was would at least help minimize that.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:28 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Is there a technical way to keep a thread subscribed-to on Recent Activity even when the user's comment is deleted?

There's an "add to activity" link next to the "add to favorites" on posts that adds them into RA without ever needing to make a comment. I use it pretty heavily for threads I'm following along with but don't have anything useful to add. ("So all of them then!" Shush, Statler and Waldorf!)
posted by Drastic at 12:30 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


They're compiled in an admin-only page, sorry. Easy for us to get to but not something we can grant access to.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:32 PM on January 7


There's an "add to activity" link next to the "add to favorites" on posts that adds them into RA without ever needing to make a comment.

Sorry, yeah, I meant on the back end, so that users stay subscribed to a thread even though a moderator has deleted their comment, without the user needing to do anything.
posted by lazuli at 12:34 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


OTOH, clogging up users' inboxes with notifications that their comment was deleted might be a small but helpful way to disincentivize the kinds of comments that tend to get deleted. By which I mean of course passive-aggressively punish users who tend to do this often.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:45 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Wow, I just made it through both threads and, welcome to Metafilter, where we could pile onto a plate of beans.
posted by Karmakaze at 2:23 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Another vote for not increasing the visibility of deleted comments. I'm deeply baffled that so many people think this would be a good idea. I think it would be an unmitigated disaster, for all the reasons outlined above.

If you really need the text of your comment, you can have it. Just ask, and ye shall receive. The idea that you want automated notification of your deletions but also don't want to make more work for the mods by asking is not one that I'm buying.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:17 PM on January 7 [12 favorites]


The FPP and these two Metas have taken up a good deal of my brain space over the past few days. Typically, I lurk in these types of threads, so that I do not inadvertently say something flippant that will upset another member or a mod. However, I felt obligated to comment in case my thoughts resonate with anyone else.

Although I am CF, and I did feel that there was a lot of grar against CF folks in the first Meta, I understand that everyone has their own triggers, and I do not expect mods to be inhuman automatons when they are on site. The modding here has been better than anywhere else I have been on the net. Worlds better.

I believe that we do need places to vent as a community, so having these discussions is better than not, and I am sorry that a few folks felt the need to take some time off because of it. It helps me to understand where some of my blind spots may be, and reading through these may help others as well.
posted by blurker at 3:24 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]


I've been thinking about the challenge moderator/community communication -- how things might have gone wrong in the past. whether over memail or on Metatalk. I think the main thing missing is not enough "I language." To be clear, not just the *language* of I, but the ownership and sharing of personal experience, rather than extrapolating and attributing feelings and responses to others.

I also read the communication to EM as mansplain-y, but I don't think what made it so was that it went to her and not to her boss. Nor was it that it was not gentle enough. In a way, it was too genteely couched, and that gave it, to me, a condescending/patronizing feel.

I've been thinking how to communication could go better - how could, for example, a man who has been a long term member of the site share their feedback to a similarly experienced woman moderator in a way that wouldn't feel off to me?

I think the key is that the feedback should be framed in "I language" and should be straightforward. E.g. "I think that this comment was off base. I felt like it mis-used the mod voice. If it were directed at me, I would feel humiliated and intimidated to participate...; etc etc." State the experience, the impact, the desired outcome - then send it to whomever - a message like that can go to the mod themselves, the 'boss', the team, etc.; and let the recipient(s) draw their conclusions about whether it's useful feedback from a veteran community member or not.

I think this is also part of what went off in the comment by EM that led to all this controversy. Instead of owning and sharing her own response to the quip, EM made reference to people who have been to toddler funerals and those who haven't, and implications about their respective approaches and moral sensitivities.

I want to make sure to say that I almost universally appreciate EM's contributions both as a member and a moderator. It's happened so often that I'll get caught up and absorbed in reading a comment and get to the end and see her name. I don't identify with the users who have experienced her moderation as problematic.

But that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement and I do think that community conversation about moderation is valuable. I just wish there could be more 'I language' in it.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:00 PM on January 7 [25 favorites]


...I made an ill-advised comment that took up a mod's time they could've spent doing something more productive and then you want me to ask for MORE of a mod's time to dig out my ill-advised comment? ⁋ I know it's more of an investment of the mods time to hopefully prevent me from taking up their time in the future but I'd MUCH rather be able to make that investment without requiring any more of any mod's time than is absolutely necessary and I REALLY hate making anyone do extra work to correct MY mistakes.

Here's an example of the kind of automated input-text-saving browser augmentation I was talking about above, a Chrome browser extension named “Total Recall” that allegedly saves the contents of every form field you fill out. It's just an old link I bookmarked which I don't think I ever got around to installing myself but there are probably newer and better ones.

I'm not immediately seeing a MeFi-specific thing of that sort on the appropriate wiki page but one could be made so that it just collects MeFi comment text rather than everything.
posted by XMLicious at 8:48 PM on January 7


Man, we need more hugs.

And between this and the preceding thread I'm just wiped out.

Is anyone hungry? I'm so hungry I could eat a baby sized bean burrito.
posted by loquacious at 12:27 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


I've said it before, but just to add my weight to whatever pile it is that says that people ought to be notified in some fashion of the deletion of their comments. Chucking comments down the memory hole has always felt weirdly passive aggressive† & the assertion that “it’s fine! just ask the mods for the text of your comment if you want it!” just doesn’t work for me.

Said description fits this site to a tee sometimes of course :(
posted by pharm at 1:31 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Unless the deleted comments are moved from mf_thread_comment to mf_thread_deleted_comment, they're probably still in mf_thread_comment with is_deleted set to TRUE or something. I can see why the mods don't want to automate surfacing of deleted comments to their authors, because it requires either:

- a new high-volume query to build & tune & ensure is secure and unexploitable or
- changing what is probably now a locked-down stored procedure or other prepared statement for looking at comments that always always always has is_deleted = FALSE as part of the query

Undeleted comments are, unlike private messages, public and searchable by default to mefi members. It is baked into the framework almost like an axiom. So while it may seem trivial to just surface deleted comments to their respective authors, the regression impact is, as we say in the industry, "non-trivial" and potentially destabilizing to the whole moderation framework for which one of the current pillars is "deleted comments are gone gone gone."

Or at least that's my best guess. Either way I don't blame the mods for pushing back.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:06 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure (based on what has been said in this thread and many others) that the technical aspect is the least important reason why deleted comments are not automatically available. Also it sounds like what you described is not really how things currently work; deleted comments aren't totally gone, they're available for the asking. And they do get moved to an admin-only part of the site, unlike deleted posts which are not displayed on the main page but can still be found if you plug their URLs into your browser manually.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:18 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


You're both a little right, describing it at different levels basically. grumpybear69's correct that we just set a boolean toggle in each comment table rather than moving data around between deleted vs. not tables, and right that for some of our existing queries it could make for a bit heavier load to serve mixed view (or require rewriting those a bit to avoid that). Anticipation's right that "gone gone gone" is characterizing it unclearly; deleted comments (and posts) get hidden rather than nuked outright specifically so they are retrievable or restorable.

So technical difficulties aren't really the issue; if we chose to make a change on whether and where and how deleted comments were browsable, it would require frimble to do some work and query weight would inform some of the constraints on how that'd actually be presented to the user, but there's nothing fundamentally prohibitive there. It's a philosophical issue first and foremost, one I know folks don't universally agree with but one we've been consistent about for the whole life of the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:28 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: It's a philosophical issue first and foremost, one I know folks don't universally agree with but one we've been consistent about for the whole life of the site.
posted by Melismata at 7:56 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


I regret that I don't have the bandwidth to engage with all of the above comments, and I apologize if my comments here aren't within the current line of conversation or have already been said. I wanted to add two thoughts, and get them off my chest.

1) EM's comment absolutely should not have a "staff" tag on it; that was a big mistake. The forum software needs to give mods the option to speak without that tag, even on their shift. And the mods themselves should probably preface any comments with "Speaking outside of my mod role, I have to disagree and say ... ".

2) I'm a major contributor ("Staff") to a widely used activity-based website. However, we "Staff" contributors do NOT moderate the forums -- that is done by the site owner, and in a different way and with different results than here. We "Staff" actually have "Staff" tags on our usernames, and the obvious confusion results frequently, where we are confused with or assumed to be forum moderators.

At any rate, we "Staff", despite not being able to mod, are expected to behave ourselves in the forums, to model the participation we'd like to see. That means restraint in comments, basically. We're human, we fail occasionally. But it's basically a trade-off choice we each made, in taking on the "Staff" role. While it's important that we are community members, and same is true here -- we are not, and will never be, garden-variety community members. I expect the same principles are at least subconsciously applied here, if not explicitly stated. If not, you (cortex) should consider an explicit code of conduct for moderating staff. If someone's not willing to make the commitment to occasionally pass on making a sharp or pointed comment, then they shouldn't be moderator staff. But a code of conduct should make that clear.
posted by Dashy at 8:16 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Life's too fucking short to litigate every deleted comment. Come on.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:53 AM on January 8 [23 favorites]


I deliberately stayed out of this thread yesterday because it's all kinds of triggering. I'll just say this; there is a topic that I am very passionate about, but which every single time i make a comment alluding to it, it gets deleted immediately. I've had comments from one mod along the lines of "I swear to god, we are not going to discuss this topic". Another mod has commented frequently and vociferously in many many many threads about their personal feelings on the topic, which are the opposite of mine. User comments that agree with that mod's personal feelings and views are always (and yes, I do mean ALWAYS, regardless of how vile, and regardless of flagging) allowed to stand. But on this topic the opposing view or experience is never given space. Because of this, in a way MF has begun to feel like much less of a safe space for me, and I've been censoring my participation much more in the last three or four years.

We should probably be talking about this, huh?

It's something that can go wrong if a mod becomes identified with one "side" of a heated issue on the site. Then, people on the same side become emboldened, knowing that the mod has their backs. They post angrier takes with more personal and condemnatory language, they pile on the occasional commenter who takes the wrong side. It breeds one-sidedness, but more importantly it encourages nastiness.

I don't want to become wedded to this particular example. The point is not that whatever specific topic vignettist cares about is being suppressed on the site. The pattern is more general. It's a way that mod interventions in discussions can actually make discussions impossible. Now, maybe some discussions should be impossible. But if we want some discussions to be possible, we need to tread a little carefully.
posted by grobstein at 9:15 AM on January 8 [22 favorites]


Relatedly, my participation on the blue is really minimal after being on the receiving end of a pointed comment from EM and then having my comments deleted from a thread on a similar topic, in which really awful comments directed at me were allowed to stay (other people were horrified, not just me). The combined result was that I felt profoundly unwelcome as a commenter here. Ironically, I essentially agreed with everyone in both discussions, but just...not hard enough?

I’ve noticed that this kind of user nastiness has been less prominent across the site than it used to be, but it’s worth considering that mods being perceived as taking sides in an aggressive way, or criticizing members as commenters, can make later moderation decisions seem really personal and unfair.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:40 AM on January 8 [20 favorites]


One thing that I think steers these threads in less-than-optimal directions is people coming in hot and early with a big hypothetical pony request that attempts to engineer a solution whatever problem the MeTa is about. Most of these suggestions are either unworkable on their face or sufficiently complex or divergent from site precedent that they would merit their own dedicated MeTas if we were going to seriously debate adopting them (although a lot of these proposals strike me as thought exercises, if not downright Swiftian).

And I feel like a lot of people are in some uncomfortable inbetween space here when it comes to complaining about mod behavior as peers and community members vs complaining about mod behavior as clients/customers of a business where we don't care for how the new staffer is speaking to us, which seems to have led to some suggestions like toggleable "staff" tags which sort of speaks to this underlying issue but probably won't make a whit of difference the next time something like this happens. It's also maybe why people keep alluding to problems they've had with EM's modding but stop short of delving into anything specific and actionable.

This thread is not a good model for how to work out user/mod issues. I don't think it has gotten us anywhere positive and I think threads like this need a hell of a lot more structure, intentionality, and focused discussion if they're going to be anything more than vent sessions that do nothing but stir up bad feelings.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:38 AM on January 8 [18 favorites]


I just wanted to add a little support to what Rock 'em, grobstein, and vignettist (in the comment quoted by grobstein) are saying. This is the kind of thing I was trying to get at earlier when I talked about EM allowing her personal values to color her moderation choices, and about why I think mods should generally not take part in contentious threads as users. Maybe they weren't talking specifically about EM, but that doesn't really matter.

What matters is that when moderators have well-known opinions about controversial topics, and especially when they don't do a perfect job of separating their opinions from their moderation choices, individual site users suffer for it and so does the quality of discussion on the site as a whole. Moderators must be seen to be impartial if they are to be trusted. This is not currently the case, in the eyes of many (not all) users here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:01 AM on January 8 [9 favorites]


In group / out group thinking inevitably means that moderation that’s biased according to your personal beliefs will seem perfectly fair to you & vice versa. Done right, impartial moderation on any individual topic should make everyone unhappy! We feel the cut to ourselves (or those who agree with us) more keenly than the cut to others.

(This is not a dig at anyone commenting here - just a thought that occurred to me as I was reading.)
posted by pharm at 11:22 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I've sat on posting for several days to mull over this, and.... it does really bother me that it's now been 5 days since the first MeTa, since the first comment deemed offensive was deleted, and now 5 days since EM posted some things many community members found really offensive too, and.... they're still up. As time passes it gets more sour to me that the deleted comment was deleted within 12 hours, but we don't know how to handle problematic comments a mod made for 5+ days? I'm not asking that they be deleted too, but I'm asking for some sort of accountability?

Could we have a protocol for when/how mods can put an addendum or apology on problematic comments, even if those comments aren't deleted? Because the current lack of any addendum or apology makes me think there's just not going to be one? And I'm not okay with that? It's fine if EM needs to take a few days off from the site, but I'd like, if there's not one, for there to be some policy wherein we know that mods WILL come back and say something.

To be clear, I think all the mods are human and do good jobs and participate in good faith. I also think it's appropriate to say that the users' good faith in our mods includes expecting that mods will acknowledge when they could have done better.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:13 PM on January 8 [7 favorites]


I think this horse is dead.
posted by JohnR at 12:32 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


but it’s worth considering that mods being perceived as taking sides in an aggressive way, or criticizing members as commenters, can make later moderation decisions seem really personal and unfair.

Yeah, just to provide an example, this is the kind of thing I'd like to not see from mods. It's pretty aggressive towards another member in a way that I don't generally care for anymore and definitely do not care for from a mod, and the last sentence for me really blurs the line between commenting-as-user and commenting-as-mod.
posted by lalex at 12:40 PM on January 8 [36 favorites]


I've sat on posting for several days to mull over this, and.... it does really bother me that it's now been 5 days since the first MeTa, since the first comment deemed offensive was deleted, and now 5 days since EM posted some things many community members found really offensive too, and.... they're still up.

The comments still being there comes down to me not feeling comfortable deleting them when they were such a point of discussion and contention and involved a moderator directly. Not "a mod made them so they inherently deserve to stay"; rather, "a mod made them so the fact that they were an issue means we should especially keep the record visible for reference". I can understand preferring deletion of a chain of comments and replies and etc. to keeping something around, and we will do that sometimes when it seems workable, but this does not feel like a case where that would have been appropriate or left a coherent MetaTalk discussion.

But I've acknowledged a few times that I think that EM framed those comments poorly; I think the best thing there would have been for her to skip engaging on the subject in that thread entirely. She recognized that her participation was going in the wrong direction too and checked out of the thread accordingly after those two comments. Better would have been to do so before, but so it went. We've talked a bunch as a community in the last few days about the moderation boundaries and community needs that play into that, and how this case is an illustrative example of why it's important that as mods we be careful about those boundaries. If that hasn't been clear enough acknowledgement, I can try and talk about it more.

So I don't feel like there has been a dearth of critical discussion or analysis here, or of engagement and acknowledgement from the mod team about the whole thing, regardless of EM specifically not commenting in the discussion. I understand folks feeling frustrated or hurt by that interaction the other day. I can understand wanting some personal followup. But I'm not any more comfortable with a time-tracked demand for a personal apology here than I have been when it's come up for other MeFites over the years; it's always a dicey dynamic that prioritizes the form and ritual of the thing over trying to find long-term solutions to community problems. I'm giving EM her space on this, and that means actually giving her space on it vs. compelling some kind of public appearance.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:37 PM on January 8 [10 favorites]


Yeah, just to provide an example, this is the kind of thing I'd like to not see from mods. It's pretty aggressive towards another member in a way that I don't generally care for anymore and definitely do not care for from a mod, and the last sentence for me really blurs the line between commenting-as-user and commenting-as-mod.

Thanks for posting this, lalex. I hope you don't mind if I make some of the subtext here into text:

The linked interaction is between Eyebrows and zarq. We know from above that zarq had previously contacted Eyebrows to take issue with some of her in-thread behavior. Eyebrows had responded to this communication by escalating to cortex. We don't know what she said, but we do know cortex took a hard line against zarq.

When, in the later thread, Eyebrows comes down on zarq, it's in the context of this history between them. I wouldn't be surprised if interactions like this are part of why zarq eventually decided not to participate in the same threads as Eyebrows.

It's bad if mods have (or seem to have) enemies among the userbase. When an interaction comes from a mod, and you already have reason to think that mod might have it out for you, it lands differently. If it's harsh, it makes you watch your back, it makes you feel like your contributions are not welcome. If the interaction is also part of a debate in a thread over some substantive issue, it makes you think commenting on your "side" of the issue might be unwelcome altogether.
posted by grobstein at 2:48 PM on January 8 [12 favorites]


I hope you don't mind if I make some of the subtext here into text:

It is actually sort of a coincidence that it relates to zarq. A MeFite friend and I have occasionally discussed this user/mod line-blurring and this was the example that popped up quickly in my search of our correspondence.

It's not a one-off comment of that type, but I'm not personally going to go down the road of posting tons of examples and only chose to post this because it seemed like describing the issue in broader strokes wasn't helpful.

Your commentary does however bring some potential context to the weirdly personal (why would zarq be "eager" to rebut EM?) response to zarq's fairly milquetoast, bog-standard comment of disagreement.

(I'd also like to say that EM's comments in that thread re Catholicism/politics are fascinating and informative and good examples of why it would be a loss if mods were only allowed to comment on modly things.)
posted by lalex at 3:11 PM on January 8 [10 favorites]


She recognized that her participation was going in the wrong direction too and checked out of the thread accordingly after those two comments.

I have to ask -- if she knew after making those comments that they were not good for the conversation, why didn't she delete them at that time?
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:13 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Mods nixing their own comments from MetaTalk is kind of a "that's pretty much never even happened" scenario, mainly. I think in practice it would have been okay to choose to do so, to nix 'em and leave a follow comment saying as much, but that'd be an exceptional sort of thing in its own right so I wouldn't expect it to really occur to anyone as the obvious thing to do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:18 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Insisting on a public apology feels far too close to insisting on a public humiliation for me to be at all comfortable with the idea, personally. I don't see what good it would do. I agree that the issue has been acknowledged and I'm satisfied that action is being taken even if the appropriate venue for that action is a private one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:23 PM on January 8 [31 favorites]


Man, if I had a handy "delete" button for my own comments...it would always occur to me is what I'm saying.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:25 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


But also, just in general: I don't really feel like stuff of the form "why didn't thing that went badly not go differently?" is gonna get us much of anywhere. I get the idea of sort of thinking through processes and alternatives, so I can appreciate how it comes up, but this is why beyond a certain amount of trying to recognize and acknowledge what actually did happen I tend to focus so strongly on what we can aim for in general ongoing strategy, and what we can nudge or refresh in how stuff will go with policy and community and moderation, because that's the stuff we can actually control and do differently. The only time machine we've got is the one that we're all in already and this one's stuck on Forward At A Steady Pace.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:28 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


(Sorry, I do not mean to...thread-should? I actually was just really curious to know what the thought process was at that time. Your mod world is a mystery to me.)
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:32 PM on January 8


No worries, more a general brewing thought in any case. Curiosity about mod stuff is totally understandable.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:32 PM on January 8


A general thought: When modding by deletion is the primary tool in the mod toolbox, members are going to read non-deletion as a statement that the comment was acceptable, unless & until people see a statement to the contrary. If a mod realises that they've probably overstepped the mark & got too personally involved in a discussion it might best to say so in the post in question as early as possible instead of just exiting stage left with no comment whatsoever: Leaving things in place with no mod comment at all inevitably gives the impression to everyone else that the mods regard the status quo of the comments in question as being acceptable, because that’s how things work here.
posted by pharm at 1:00 AM on January 9 [20 favorites]


"We've got them all, and we're totally happy to send them to you en masse "
Oh, nooooooooooooooo... I would that I had never learned this... Just when I'm getting somewhere with Marie Kondo, now I find out there's a huge stankity pile of my e-rants somewhere and I can GET it?
posted by Don Pepino at 11:45 AM on January 9 [8 favorites]


Perhaps I'm wrong, but I perceive a difference in the way people respond to moderators' comments even when they're made in a private capacity. I know that as a user I do find myself less willing to engage with moderators in comment threads: I don't want to be perceived as excessively "fighty" if I disagree, or fawning if I agree.

I imagine this dual role moderators have might make their participation less enjoyable and, ultimately, tiresome: at every stage they'd be asking themselves whether to respond as a user or in their official capacity, and not know whether peoples' reactions were entirely genuine. If that's why moderators seem to comment (as users) less frequently it's regrettable; IIRC Restless Nomad had a lot of interesting things to say about things like gaming (e.g.), as did other mods on the topics that interested them. Maybe it's just a normal evolution of interests; I don't know.

EM seems to be the only moderator who continues to regularly engage on MeFi as a user. She's intelligent, erudite, engaging, I have less than no reason to think she would abuse her position; and I still find that my interactions with her as a user are poisoned by my awareness of her dual role. It's a shame.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:25 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


It's bad if mods have (or seem to have) enemies among the userbase.

Ok, so I've followed this along as well as I could over the past few days, and the thing that mostly sticks out is a sense of history, and not in a good way.

I thought the original MeTa about the joke was...I mean, I can see how someone could be genuinely bothered by such a joke, but I would also expect them to realize that that was a personal reaction. I thought EM's comment was really not great, for all the many reasons articulated in these threads, but also human. Like I've been both of those people, and I will be both of those people again. Sometimes I deal with things by making jokes, and when I do it is about detachment, and distancing from something horrible, all while providing catharsis. That's what joking about shitty things is for: making them bearable. And sometimes the horrible thing is so close to the surface that a joke feels like another fresh wound, and I've been horrified at whoever went ahead and did that, because how could they not read the goddamn room?

All of that seems human to me. As does sometimes screwing it up royally. And I think the pushback to EM's comment was appropriate. That's what should have happened: a correction. That's what generally happens when someone fucks up on MetaFilter.

And then...things took a turn.

I haven't been here long enough to get a really good sense of different moderators' preferences (although I also wonder if there's one who has particularly little patience or affection for me; this is not uncommon maybe?). But I have been here long enough to see the some of the same names showing up to mansplain at me or otherwise be generally sexist in thread after thread. (And, like joyceannmachine, that message would have made me go outside to scream obscenities for a while.) Or sometimes in a MeMail after they've been deleted! Hell, I've seen a lot worse than that.

So I'm not totally sure what you mean by "enemies among the userbase" when there is a user I have personally flagged as "sincere rape defender" who I will never, never interact with ever again, and who's very presence here frankly upsets me, except hey, he's been here forever, so. Or that guy who wanted to yell at me in MeMail after his in-thread yelling had already been deleted. Or or or.

Plenty of us have to navigate complicated and varying feelings of safety in this community. The threat of a mod deleting something unfairly, or getting too personal, or even doing so in a pattern...I get why this makes people uncomfortable. But if anyone has alleged serious boundary violations or otherwise dangerous behavior, I've missed it. The reaction to this whole specific thing has seemed so wildly out of proportion to the events that have been described that it's hard not to feel like this is some old, old shit working itself out. Which is, honestly, somewhat bewildering.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:58 PM on January 9 [30 favorites]


Hey everybody,

First off, let me say that I acted like an asshole, and I apologize for that.

Because this has gotten relatively out of control, I want to give a little context. I was dealing with a sudden and unexpected death in my family, and on the day of the funeral, a close friend suffered a difficult pregnancy loss. I was exhausted, overemotional, and had no business being on the internet at all, let alone in a hot metatalk. What I said in the original metatalk had a lot more to do with me processing significant grief and a lot less to do with what the original comment actually said. I apologize to everyone whom I made feel shitty or lesser-than by my ill-considered comments, where I took my anger at "the world, for sucking" and turned it into nastiness towards a community that I love. That sucked, and I'm sorry.

I also want to recognize that bringing in an analogy to prison rape jokes was a bad idea. It’s an extremely serious subject and one I feel strongly about, but I know how badly it can go when people introduce new charged subjects in a “x is like y” way to an already difficult discussion and it was a mistake to go there.

While I think the specific, terrible day had a lot to do with why that joke set me off so much, as a general thing I admit I'm not fond of dead children jokes. But in the wake of my overreaction, in the future I'm going to be a lot more mindful that that is a potentially hot topic for me, and double-check my read of the situation with another mod who doesn't find it quite so emotionally fraught.

If I could ask one thing of the community, I would ask others to remember that there are members of this community who have lost children, some of whom reached out to me, who find that sort of joke very painful.

With the support and guidance of the rest of the staff, I took a few days off, to sleep, and grieve, and calm the fuck down, and reflect on my sins and errors (as my spiritual advisor might say). I didn't realize until I unplugged from the internet how overwrought I was and how badly I needed a break. I appreciate the other mods covering my shifts and picking up my other work so that I could do that. I apologize for any unnecessary drama that the resulting delay in me addressing this has caused.

Just so you're all aware, I'm dealing with some ongoing family stuff so I'll be on and offline the next couple days and may not respond super-quickly.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:16 PM on January 9 [185 favorites]


pharm said exactly what I was trying to get at better. I know it might seem like a nitpick, but IMO it really does make a difference if the mod in question personally accounts for "wow yep I need to step out here; I realize I said some uncool stuff." I am not saying we should demand or insist upon a great public apology, but yes: I would like it if the site ethos was that we strive to personally acknowledge when we said a shitty thing. I realize this is my personal feeling and that's not what drives site policy, but putting it out there.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:17 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Well that was some pretty funny/ridiculous timing. I'm glad to see you EM, and it really does matter to me that you came back and spoke. Thank you.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:19 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


🌟
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:21 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


EM, as one of the people who felt hurt by your comments, I want to say I appreciate your apology. I'm sorry that all of this landed on top of a difficult personal time for you and your family. I'm glad you're able to take some time away from work and from Metafilter to focus on your more pressing concerns. Be well.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:29 PM on January 9 [20 favorites]


Eyebrows, I'm sorry for your loss an am glad that you are back.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:57 PM on January 9 [11 favorites]


Hang in there, Eyebrows. It'll get better. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by heyho at 4:32 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


EM, as one of the people who felt hurt by your comments, I want to say I appreciate your apology. I'm sorry that all of this landed on top of a difficult personal time for you and your family. I'm glad you're able to take some time away from work and from Metafilter to focus on your more pressing concerns. Be well.

This says what I was thinking, but much more eloquently. Best wishes.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:00 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Thank you, EM.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:50 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Thank you for sharing your perspective, Eyebrows. For my own part, I intend to make a renewed effort to get along and not cause extra work or aggravation for the mods.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:55 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry for your loss, Eyebrows.
posted by blurker at 9:26 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


That’s terrible news EM and I hope everything starts going better for you and your family.

I think it is brave to step forward and share your recent losses and how those may have skewed your judgement and to apologize to those in the community who were hurt.

I also think, at least for me, your comment above is a reminder that reading each other charitably is almost always the right default, especially here. You never know what someone is dealing with.
posted by notyou at 11:29 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


reading each other charitably is almost always the right default

I think this is a good lesson here, and maybe an even better reminder than "everyone needs a hug".
posted by biogeo at 12:39 PM on January 10 [21 favorites]


EM - Cold_Chef said something once that stuck with me in a time of my grief over the loss of a fellow mefite who was a good friend: take good care of yourself.

Only you can determine what that means for yourself and it sounds like you are doing it, but just please remember to keep doing it. We're all fighting a hard battle.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:56 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


If I could institute one standard for posting comments on Metafilter, it would be "is this a charitable take on what you're responding to?"
posted by Enemy of Joy at 1:01 PM on January 10 [23 favorites]


EM is an invaluable member of this community as a member and a mod, and has a nearly inexhaustible reservoir of goodwill with me.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:52 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


I find Brows carriage prose refreshing. sorry for your loss. The only thing I've learned from loss is Time; confusing and lonely, this is why I call my mom weekly.
posted by clavdivs at 8:08 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Thank you EM for your response and I'm sorry to hear that you're going through such a rough patch right now. I'm sending hugs and good thoughts your way.

I have been following this thread since the beginning, though I haven't commented at all. I'm not going to wade into the debates that have been had because they've been thoroughly discussed at this point. I only want to mention my discomfort with one of the lines of defense of EM here. Many commenters have stated that they were willing to overlook EM's comment in the other thread because of all the other comments she makes here that are so insightful and well-informed, etc. I think that is a really bad road to go down - defending someone who has acted in a hurtful way because they do other things that are good. We've seen abusers and terrible people get away with things for too long because people thought that person had value in other ways that were more important.

I want to make myself very very clear that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT saying that EM is an abuser or anything like that at all. I just like to be logically consistent and if that defense is not allowed (and shouldn't be allowed!) for people who abuse, I don't think we should use that defense at all, no matter how wonderful the person and how trivial the action.
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:13 AM on January 11 [24 favorites]


In conclusion, EM is not a poopshake.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:35 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Hi everyone. The correct way to experience these two threads is to start at the bottom this one, scroll up a little, see an excellent example of How To Apologise from EM and then basically read no further. It has saved me considerable sphincter-clenching.
posted by Jofus at 7:16 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Please don’t.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:04 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]


No, I'm calling my mom tomorrow.
posted by clavdivs at 7:33 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I get comments deleted quite a bit, guys. Often I flag them myself (as when the mod deletes the comment I was responding to before I notice I no longer need to respond). It's not a big deal. It really isn't. It does not mean you're not a good member or anything, it just means that the conversation will be better without that aspect.

I just had a revelation.. and it is this:



This is a choose your own adventure comment. I either posted:

A: VINDICATION!!!
B: You WOULD say that!
C: You're da best.

If flagging, please ensure to note which version of this comment you chose (A, B, or C) to flag.

(Turn to page 86 if you decide to cast "detect alignment" on this comment)
posted by some loser at 6:07 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Man, we need more hugs.

And between this and the preceding thread I'm just wiped out.

Is anyone hungry? I'm so hungry I could eat a baby sized bean burrito.


Nobody does it better,
makes me feel sad for the rest,
nobody does it haaaaallff as good as you,
BABY you're the best
posted by some loser at 6:48 PM on January 21


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