Keeping arguing about the US primaries in check January 13, 2019 11:50 AM   Subscribe

The US political cycle is creeping into the beginning of the 2020 primary season, and that means we need to talk about avoiding the stuff that has gone badly on MetaFilter in previous election cycles. That means folks making a collective effort to avoid the worse discussion dynamics we've seen in the past, and it means the mod team pushing hard when folks aren't succeeding at that effort.

To be clear up front: this is an issue that pertains mostly to the discussion in the US politics catch-all threads, but the spirit of it applies across the site in general especially since politics creeping into Every Dang Thing is part of the negative effect the stuff below can have here.

The core thing: we need to not let the Dem primaries in particular fuck up basic quality of life for folks in the MetaFilter community, or to get in the way of useful/tolerable US politics discussion on the site, or make life unlivable for the mod staff. We've been through this in past election cycles and it has ranged from bad to unbearable. It's not viable to do it all again the same way.

So the very short version is: don't argue about the primaries. And that's a little too short, so see below for a more detailed and qualified discussion of what we're aiming for, but when in doubt: fall back to that, err on the side of caution, and reach out to the mod staff if you need help sussing out this or that blurry line.

The longer version:

If you're someone inclined to argue about US electoral politics on the site, there's a whole lot of stuff that you might want to dig in on on the site just needs to not be part of the mix here. Because this stuff multiplies and escalates and gets bad. We need everybody's help reining it in, and we need folks to start working on that preemptively.

That means, as examples, avoiding starting or perpetuating or re-upping arguments about:

- whether potential candidate x should run
- whether announced candidate x shouldn't run
- whether candidate x is obviously disqualifyingly bad and people shouldn't like them
- whether candidate x is obviously the only rational choice and people should support them
- why candidate x is clearly worse, or better, than candidate y
- why supporting candidate x means person y or MeFite z is bad
- why failing to support candidate x means likewise
- why the 2016 primaries prove that any or all of the above
- why the whole political process is untenably corrupt and sheeple need to wake up
- why finding candidate x or the political process in general objectionable makes you a bad person
- broadly, the moral lapses or insufficiencies of folks or groups of folks who disagree about primary issue x

That right there is a roadmap for why the run up to the 2016 election was a miserable time on the site, and nobody on the moderation staff is interested in living through it again. So we are gonna need people to adjust their expectations about what is and is not workable in politics threads and just sideline that stuff entirely.

That doesn't mean zero discussion of candidacy announcements, primary races, etc. There's news that'll actually be happening, there'll be concrete reporting, there'll be genuine major developments in races. I don't expect folks to avoid that, and for the really notable stuff spinning off a new post specifically about that topic is a solid plan to allow for a focused, topic-specific discussion rather than just a sprawling slow-burn argument woven in pieces through however many catch-all threads.

In any case, keeping stuff focused, and focused on actual news rather than hot takes and arguments, is gonna be key. The moment this stuff leaps from citing a thing happening in the news to, in response, jockeying for position on the obvious rightness/wrongness/whateverness of supporting or failing to support or failing to condemn x or y or z is the moment when this stuff has traditionally gone to shit. We really need to find a way to avoid months and months of that. I don't want you to be at each other's throats and I don't want to have to be constantly cleaning up after it and to be trying to half-settle ongoing grudge matches that just smolder and escalate over time.

This isn't the only thing that needs discussion about how US politics threads work on MetaFilter, but it's a big and conspicuous one and it needs addressing right now.
This is something we're going to be paying close attention to and inclined to push hard on, in and among whatever other periodic readjustments happen with the state of politics discussion on MetaFilter. We need your active help in changing this tendency in how these discussions go.

I want to emphasize that this is about keeping the site livable, not about judging the merit or worth of having a strong investment in political developments. I don't believe that feeling strongly about candidates etc. is a bad thing; I think wanting to hold forth about it is totally understandable. I think there's venues where that'd work well. I just don't think, based on established site history, that rolling politics discussions on MetaFilter are one of those places, and I think the desire to get into it often abridges folks' otherwise good sensibilities about the impact their personal advocacy or opinioneering has on the people around them and the tone of the site at large.

All of the above is stuff we need folks to work with us on, even if it's not what you'd personally prefer. I'm happy to talk more in here about details and about where to draw lines—and some of that I think we will have to work out in practice and discussion—so that we can suss out as good a set of compromises as a community as is doable. And I'm down to hear and talk through suggestions for what kind of proactive, constructive stuff y'all think would help with this in addition to the proscriptive nature of the stuff above.

It's been a hard couple of years, and we're gearing up for an extra stressful new period. It's going to be bumpy and difficult, and I want MetaFilter to remain a good, livable place through that, a place where we can look after each other and have one another's backs even when there's stuff we variously disagree strongly about. The mod team will do what we can to help make that happen, but we're absolutely going to need help from the whole community, individually and collectively.

We're all in this together, and I really, genuinely appreciate the effort y'all put into make this place what it is.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 11:50 AM (491 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite

The guidance here seems to be specifically targeted at the catch-all threads. In the past, people have been asked to take a potus45-adajcent discussion that's gotten too unwieldy/derail-y for the catch-all and make it into a separate post. Does the above guidance apply to these spin-off threads as well?

Or, to put it a different way -- is there no thread on the blue where debates over political strategy / messaging / positioning on issues important the community will be permitted?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:05 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah, that's kind of my question too. The idea of various candidates doing or saying various super sexist or racist things, having that get dumped in the thread with a link, and then Not Being Able To Talk About It kind of gives me hives.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:10 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Just want to say I really like this post, thanks.
posted by bleep at 12:11 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I hear you, and I'll make an effort to throttle down on my own personal mild candidate-related grouchiness when I participate in those threads. I want us not to wind up in the same position as we did in the 2016 primaries. Especially when we have a wide range of candidates that it's possible to be enthusiastic about, and especially when like...

...oh, hell, I was being grouchy with a very Texas-specific axe to grind about a couple of current POTUS hopefuls on twitter the other day with a friend who isn't in Texas, and he asked me "Do you think so-and-so would actually be bad at the job?" and I blinked and said "uh, no, that's not the case at all."

That's something I'd like to keep tucked in my mind as we approach the primary runs: that even if I think such-and-such might do better, it's more important to resist making perfection the enemy of good. When the primaries are over, they will be over for me, and the harder work of getting people into positions across the board that will keep political vulnerable groups safer will begin.

I would love the community to keep its priorities clear, even in what is likely to be a heated primary race. I am happy to hear that mods are motivated to keep the grar down as much as possible.

I have a question that might be riffing off tonycpsu's, though. Where is the line between discussing and arguing? Like, if I'm genuinely trying to listen to people and think about their opinions about a candidate, I have a lot more tolerance for grouchiness than I do when I've heard all the talking points about a candidate eleventy bajillion times. Similarly, when we disagree, how can we make an effort to remind each other that either potential Dem offering is a damn sight better than the alternative?
posted by sciatrix at 12:12 PM on January 13 [24 favorites]


My own idiosyncratic rule when it comes to keeping my megathread comments from derailing the discussion is to always include a link to support whatever I'm talking about. This has the benefit of concentrating my often scattered thoughts and impressions—and the bonus that I have to take the extra time to research a link, which also allows me a respite to cool off before I become heated. This also means I tend to concentrate on breaking news rather than purely political perorations.

Many thanks for this post, Cortex, and thanks in general to the mod team for keeping the megathreads manageable and the site convivial.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:14 PM on January 13 [30 favorites]


And, bouncing off that--in the event of candidates pulling genuinely offensive moves, like (say) Warren's boneheaded DNA testing thing, how can we negotiate a relative consensus that prevents recurring, rolling conflicts--especially when people feel like the candidate's official platform may or may not have really resolved the underlying incident?
posted by sciatrix at 12:15 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Cortex, if I read you correctly, you are basically giving some guidelines for how not to talk about political topics. I am going to try to frame them more positively and see if what I am suggesting would be permissable:

Instead of framing your argument like so -----> frame it like this instead
- whether potential candidate x should run -----> the potential candidate's specific strengths and weeknesses
- whether announced candidate x shouldn't run ------> specific substantive criticisms of the candidate
- whether candidate x is obviously disqualifyingly bad and people shouldn't like them ------> your own opinions about the candidate's specific positions and actions
- whether candidate x is obviously the only rational choice and people should support them ------->your own opinion about the candidate's specific positions and actions
- why candidate x is clearly worse, or better, than candidate y ------> comparisons on a particular issue
- why supporting candidate x means person y or MeFite z is bad -------> again, your own opinion rather than why someone else's opinion makes them a bad person
- why failing to support candidate x means likewise -------> ditto
- why the 2016 primaries prove that any or all of the above -------> lesson from the 2016 primaries with respect to a particular development or dynamic
- why the whole political process is untenably corrupt and sheeple need to wake up ------> particular insights about the political process or corruption
- why finding candidate x or the political process in general objectionable makes you a bad person ------> again, sharing your own opinion rather than painting everyone else with a broad brush
- broudly, the moral lapses or insufficiencies of folks or groups of folks who disagree about primary issue x -----> ditto

Am I getting this about right?
posted by mai at 12:18 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]


I strongly support the guidelines listed in the post.

Let me preface by saying that this is just my opinion. Caveat deployed!

The utility of the catch-all threads is, for me, that they serve as a one-stop shop which comprehensively filters the broad spectrum of US pol news into one place. That's the fundamental value proposition for me - I get to go to one place in which relevant on-going news is collected, curated, and sourced by a community I trust.

I do NOT go to the megathreads to read long arguments between users duking it out over this or that development. That's the format of talking head argument based cable news, and I'm entirely uninterested in it. There's a tendency for the threads to go that way, often a dozen times or more per thread, which then requires mod intervention and re-railing etc etc etc.

I'd love it if we could not do that with the upcoming primaries also, and I'll do my best to both constrain my own participation within the spirit of the guidelines outlined above as well as flag stuff regularly and appropriately, and then move on.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:19 PM on January 13 [31 favorites]


In any case, keeping stuff focused, and focused on actual news rather than hot takes and arguments, is gonna be key.

One of the things that I think ratchets up the temperature are the hot takes that come not from users, but from twitter. I think there should be a general ban on posting tweets unless they are actual breaking news, not just some awesome takedown of Trump.
posted by skewed at 12:23 PM on January 13 [30 favorites]


The guidance here seems to be specifically targeted at the catch-all threads. In the past, people have been asked to take a potus45-adajcent discussion that's gotten too unwieldy/derail-y for the catch-all and make it into a separate post. Does the above guidance apply to these spin-off threads as well?

I think there's more room for digging into the details, and a low-heat version of "arguing", in isolated topic-specific threads, yeah. A discussion of a given candidate in a thread about their specific candidacy or some major, post-worthy development therein is going to be a lot more viable in a siloed, topic-specific context than as just a part of Everything Else in the catch-alls.

Some of the spirit of the post still applies, though; there's getting into details (fine, generally) and then there's getting into it with people which is kind of a problem no matter where it's happening. Folks working to keep on the better side of that line is gonna be important regardless of the specific thread they're discussing this stuff in.

I have a question that might be riffing off tonycpsu's, though. Where is the line between discussing and arguing?

That's going to be the trickiest part to work out, and mod-side we'll try to be responsive to the specifics in this or that thread and to the overall political context with this stuff to the extent we're able without losing our minds.

My main request, as far as sorting that blurry line out, is for everybody to basically start by taking three steps back if they're gearing up to get into something that lands in that hazy grey area between discussing and arguing. If it turns out there's room to take a step or two forward again and not have things go off the rails, that's okay; we can work together to manage the details. But starting from a point of recognizing just how badly it has gone in the past even with basically good intentions is key; everybody showing more restraint about it than they might in a null context will help.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:26 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I'm on board with this plan. In my mind, it boils down to "It's probably better if you don't post your hot take."

(on preview/edit: what skewed just said. And also what cortex said if I read more slowly. Jeez, I guess I'm in agreement!)
posted by diogenes at 12:32 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Instead of framing your argument like so -----> frame it like this instead
- whether potential candidate x should run -----> the potential candidate's specific strengths and weeknesses


So I tried that during the 2016 primary. I decided not to say anything negative about the other candidate, and to just speak to what I thought was a strength of my preferred candidate. Here’s what happened: I said “I don’t think A is bad, I just prefer B’s proposals regarding healthcare.” And the response was, point-blank “you would only think that if you subconsciously hate women and don’t trust that they could come up with better policy.”

That’s really what I want to see far less of. It is impossible to have any kind of discussion when people not only disagree with you, but chalk the disagreement up to a fundamental character flaw. Not “oh, you don’t understand policy” (although there was plenty of that), but “oh, here’s why only a bad person would say that.” Again and again, people would say candidate X or candidate Y was obviously the better choice, and that you could only prefer the other if you were sexist/classist/whatever. It’s awful team-sports type politics, and let’s stop it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:34 PM on January 13 [27 favorites]


youhavemysword.jpg
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:37 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Frankly, I think the site would be a thousand times better if we would immediately delete any comments saying “here’s why only a horrible person would think or say this,” especially directed at another user. In politics threads and everywhere else.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:38 PM on January 13 [57 favorites]


The utility of the catch-all threads is, for me, that they serve as a one-stop shop which comprehensively filters the broad spectrum of US pol news into one place. That's the fundamental value proposition for me - I get to go to one place in which relevant on-going news is collected, curated, and sourced by a community I trust.

This echoes my feelings precisely. I only have time to keep up with one politics thread, and that is Megathread. So, while I understand the need to split off individual discussions, I also appreciate getting a taste of them in the Megathread. I would not have heard of certain shortcomings of Tulsi Gabbard, for example, if any discussion of her running were forbidden.

So I ask that the mods let things run a little while before taking action, and not to whack too much when they do, so I'll still learn at least what the issues are and some positions on them before the Megathread moves on.
posted by M-x shell at 12:38 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I mean by March 2016 I could recite the primary arguments of probably 50 different users word-for-word because I'd seen them so many times already, and a lot of the arguments were downright Pavlovian -- "John Doe believes in light beer!" "But Jane Smith says it's less filling!" "But if John Doe really believed in the class struggle, he'd be advocating for ALES, not light beers." "John Doe has nothing against ales, it's that Jane Smith is in the pocket of Big Ale!" "It's sexist to say that anyone who drinks lager is a Doe Bro!" "Hey if the fedora fits!" "Hey, guys, stop fighting, it's counteproductive; if you really want to escape from both Big Ale AND the Lager Bros, you have to vote for Jill [Beer] Stein." It was literally impossible to bring up John Doe's new position paper on light beer without that automatically triggering a response, which automatically triggered a response, which automatically triggered a response, like we had a bunch of low-end AI spouting canned responses to specific keywords, every single time the keywords came up.

That's the part that made me want to scream. It was the combination of "OMG this is literally the 67th time I have heard HotTakeHarry's hot take on housing policy" and "Oh look, here comes the 67th iteration of this specific argument as all the same people who argued with HotTakeHarry last time come to make exactly the same argument again."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 12:39 PM on January 13 [89 favorites]


My own idiosyncratic rule when it comes to keeping my megathread comments from derailing the discussion is to always include a link to support whatever I'm talking about.

I think that's one helpful way to look at it, yeah. Not as literally mandatory or anything, we have plenty of good discussion that doesn't involve linking to something new too, but there is a kind of keeping-one's-self-honest aspect to looking at a potentially heated topic and saying, basically, am I adding something to the discussion for the sake of the discussion, or am I just using this ready-to-hand space to personally react? Things like focusing on bringing in links to outside content or taking an explicit "here are my personal feelings/thoughts about this" framing are good strategies for avoiding going in more of a "no YOU" or prescriptive "this is the correct way to think/feel" direction.

(Though n.b. linking to stuff isn't foolproof; if someone's strategy ends up being avoiding the literal deed of personally arguing but they make a habit of linking to hot takes or fight-starting opinion pieces, that is something we're gonna take a dim view of as well. Adding good links is good.)

Cortex, if I read you correctly, you are basically giving some guidelines for how not to talk about political topics. I am going to try to frame them more positively and see if what I am suggesting would be permissable:

I think those are some good alternate views on it, yeah. Keeping the focus on personal perspective, using explicit "I" language about stuff, and avoiding telling some specific or generic second or third party what's what with "well, you" or "well they" accusations/condemnations/etc. goes a long way toward avoiding the kind of fractiousness we've had to deal with in the past, echoes of which we're still dealing with years later.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:40 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


you have to vote for Jill [Beer] Stein

That was a long long walk for a beer joke and I just want to tell you how proud I am to have you on the team.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on January 13 [99 favorites]


I'm impressed you could, Eyebrows--I, personally, had noped out of everything politics when it became clear to me that there could be no middle ground, no "I think both candidates are good, even if I like one better." I think I briefly poked in after the primary, saw the arguments were still being litigated, and fled into the night until the election happened and that stopped being an option.

I am quite happy to gently push back and forth on which candidate is the best, but I swear to Christ if the rolling "X is the only option and only cryptofascist Russian lovers would vote otherwise" arguments start again I will straight up leave again. I would like not to do that. I definitely have been super gunshy about anyone even mentioning primaries prior to the midterms in part because I find that dynamic so fucking corrosive.
posted by sciatrix at 12:45 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


the very short version is: don't argue about the primaries.

I ENDORSE THIS GUILDELINE. and like all guideline's it's a guide, so thanks for clarifying further. About that.

I'm thinking people might not be plugged into this discussion, so can we get this ( or similar summary ) below the fold in the comment box somehow?
- whether potential candidate x should run
- whether announced candidate x shouldn't run
- whether candidate x is obviously disqualifyingly bad and people shouldn't like them
- whether candidate x is obviously the only rational choice and people should support them
- why candidate x is clearly worse, or better, than candidate y
- why supporting candidate x means person y or MeFite z is bad
- why failing to support candidate x means likewise
- why the 2016 primaries prove that any or all of the above
- why the whole political process is untenably corrupt and sheeple need to wake up
- why finding candidate x or the political process in general objectionable makes you a bad person
- broudly, the moral lapses or insufficiencies of folks or groups of folks who disagree about primary issue x
"It's probably better if you don't post your hot take."

Personally, I find that if my thoughts don't run more than a paragraph, it's probably not sharing.
posted by mikelieman at 12:46 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


And, bouncing off that--in the event of candidates pulling genuinely offensive moves, like (say) Warren's boneheaded DNA testing thing, how can we negotiate a relative consensus that prevents recurring, rolling conflicts--especially when people feel like the candidate's official platform may or may not have really resolved the underlying incident?

Perhaps one of the key words here is "arguments?" For example, we've discussed Warren's DNA testing a lot, with perspectives from experts in Indian culture and anthropology, DNA, politics, etc... We had a thread specifically on that topic, with 200 comments. At this point, we've said a fair amount about it, and it's kind of up to each of us as individuals to decide what to make of all that information and how it impacts our voting decisions. Some people will view something as an unpardonable sin, while others won't. Absent some new information, there isn't going to be a real resolution for everyone, and arguing about it at length after we've had the informed discussion doesn't really change that.

Where I think the tension comes in is that if someone has done something you consider to be "genuinely offensive" (without reference to any specific person or thing here), not continuing to discuss it feels like standing by in the face of something oppressive. Nobody would be ok with a consensus that we agree to disagree on, say, Steve King and talk about him like he's anyone else. So if a candidate has what you genuinely consider to be an offensively disqualifying record, it's difficult to not want to bring that up when that candidate is discussed; everyone's talking about this person like they're fine, and you're over here wanting to yell "BUT THEY'RE A *-IST," kicking off yet another increasingly less-nuanced, less-informed, less sensitive round of "why X is/isn't an unpardonable sin for me and you're a bad person if you disagree." But it's also ok to remember that we had that discussion already.

One goal I have personally is that, if we're going to have contentious primary discussions, we at least try to have high quality ones, framed with lots of links and analysis and commentary from relevant people, rather than drive-by potshots. I learned a lot from the Warren DNA discussion precisely because people brought in voices that needed to be amplified. A discussion of candidates' healthcare plans that's based around some well-researched articles comparing and contrasting them is going to be much more useful than everyone doing their own No True Scotsman over what "Medicare for All" means in the middle of a fast-moving thread. If it seems like something's getting too much into an argument, and it's the rare case of an argument on a topic that's actually worth discussing and hasn't already been done to death, it's worth figuring out how we, as a community, take a step back and figure out how to have that discussion in a productive way, perhaps in a new, well-considered, thread.

(Though n.b. linking to stuff isn't foolproof; if someone's strategy ends up being avoiding the literal deed of personally arguing but they make a habit of linking to hot takes or fight-starting opinion pieces, that is something we're gonna take a dim view of as well. Adding good links is good.)


Thanks for this. Linking "candidate x is obviously the only rational choice and people should support them" in article form, which is a genre that becomes extremely popular, isn't really an improvement over just saying it yourself, and it leads to the same fights.
posted by zachlipton at 12:56 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I wouldn't mind seeing less use of the phrase "hot take" except specifically to refer to (too) hastily-formed opinions of something that just happened. It feels unnecessarily insulting to me. If you think someone's opinion is dumb, just say you disagree; you don't have to call it names. (For example, you may think the opinion I'm expressing right now is dumb, but I've held it for long enough that it's at best tepid by this point.)
posted by uosuaq at 12:59 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


...we need to talk about avoiding the stuff that has gone badly on MetaFilter...

Hold my beer.

(Though of a lesser magnitude of commenting than the POTUS45 threads, things are ... bad ... here and very likely to get worse come this tuesday and the momentous/disastrous vote. Unsure how this will affect the increasingly fighty and mod-intervening UK political threads)
posted by Wordshore at 1:02 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]


So if a candidate has what you genuinely consider to be an offensively disqualifying record, it's difficult to not want to bring that up when that candidate is discussed; everyone's talking about this person like they're fine, and you're over here wanting to yell "BUT THEY'RE A *-IST,"

I think part of the reason this is such a difficult dynamic is because not being able to call certain things out -- racism, sexism, all of the isms and phobics and all things terrible -- mirrors almost exactly the damaging dynamics around these same issues that exist in the real world. "Silencing" is really a thing, which was sort of what my original post upthread was referencing. That is not quite the same thing as "don't argue about the candidates."

I don't really know if there's a solution to this, but I do know that silencing isn't neutral, at all, even when it's accidental or incidental. To reference language from other MeTas, the effect is that it renders a space unsafe for certain folks in a way that mirrors broader issues of inequality.

That's...concerning, to me?

But looking at when I joined up, it was apparently July 2016, so after the primary was (all but) decided. So...I may be missing some, uh, important context.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:03 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


Another thing I need to say out-loud is that it's not a bad thing to re-examine not just how we should have contentious discussions, but if we should. I was speaking with a friend yesterday who is going through a divorce and they brought up Jefferson's stance that the Constitution should be re-written every 19 years or whatever. In context, they were talking about how in relationships, often the agreed upon structure ages out and we don't tend to haul the whole thing out in the light and have a healthy discussion about renegotiating boundaries and whatnot.

I guess my point is, I often find that contentious debate in the megathreads is at odds with the value proposition I outlined earlier, namely the collection and curation of ongoing news. Especially when the arguments are circular and from the usual suspects - they become noise to be sifted through to find the signal. In that way, the megathreads become a microcosm of the problem they are ostensibly solving. I find myself beginning to type in the comment box and often just pause, select all, delete, and walk away.

The news is serious and important and worthy of discussion and worth fighting over and all that sort of thing - but having those types of discussions on MetaFilter is not some axiomatic truth that is unchanging forever and ever amen.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:09 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Something else to keep in mind is that now that social media has been weaponized, you can never really tell whether someone is arguing in good faith or is being paid. Max Read's article "How Much of the Internet is Fake?" blew my mind. Having a community of folks who to some degree already know each other insulates us somewhat, but accounts can be bought or hacked. We still don't know what-all the Russians did in 2016, and we don't know who else will try this time around. But we know that at least some of the fighting that happened last time was purposefully orchestrated by our enemies. We don't want to play into their hands, and I really like to think that simply choosing not to fight about it will work.
posted by rikschell at 1:13 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Megathread is curated news links, but also so much more. I want those opinions. I agree with the person above who objected to the phrase "hot takes". There are a number of people who post here who apparently have a certain amount of expertise with various issues that arise, and their opinions are educational, as are the reactions to those opinions. That's the baby that I don't want thrown out with the bathwater.
posted by M-x shell at 1:16 PM on January 13 [33 favorites]


The Warren DNA thread was super frustrating for me because of how many people so quickly dismissed any concerns as partisan, rather than actual problems voiced by knowledgeable people. That seems like an example of silencing, when (in this case Native) voices are outright ignored because it’s politically inconvenient.

There’s a partisan streak on this site that makes participation a drag sometimes. People are very quick to jump to “this is essentially the Republican argument” to shut down lines of thought. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and it really makes you not want to participate. It can feel like pulling teeth just to get through all the “and some people in this very thread are doing the Republicans’ work for them!” comments, when you’re trying to add nuance or a different perspective.

It comes back to what I said before: stop responding to people here as if they’re your enemies. It’s one thing to be frustrated with Warren, a politician, but it’s quite another when anyone who voices an opinion you don’t understand or agree with must be deeply flawed or stupid. It becomes a chore to talk about politics when you have to defend your fundamental okayness any time you stray from a certain line of thought. This isn’t Twitter. Users here generally deserve good faith.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:21 PM on January 13 [34 favorites]


And I'm down to hear and talk through suggestions for what kind of proactive, constructive stuff y'all think would help with this in addition to the proscriptive nature of the stuff above.

One proactive constructive thing that mods could do is to re-evaluate the way that they tell people in-thread to stop the kind of comments you spelled out in this MeTa. Mefites keep leaving these kind of comments, and then mods will show up and say something like "Okay, we need to reel in [these kind of comments]" and then Mefites will reel in those kind of comments. That dynamic (imo) gives Mefites the impression that comments like the ones you mentioned in this MeTa are totally fine as long as Mefites stop upon a mod's request.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:22 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


There are two main aspects of this that make modding these threads hard for me. One, the repetitiveness, that Eyebrows covered very well. And two, the personalization of the debates. People get really intense about their political positions (as well they should!) but they're not generally great at realizing when their opponents are equally intense in another direction and not going to change their minds. People have different values, different priorities, and interpret the same information different ways. That's fine! But it means that endlessly restating your own positions in increasingly heated terms doesn't do anything but make everyone walk away feeling unheard.

And that's what we just can't do again for another year. We can track the new information, sure, we can apply a certain amount of analysis to it, yeah, but we cannot make room for endless restatements of different people's positions in opposition to other people's positions, and after a couple solid years of experience, it looks very much to me like we have to choke back real hard on the making-position-statements part in the first place to get there, because I think everyone can see the patterns in the catchall even after umpteen mod notes. I had to leave a note cutting off a discussion of the 2016 elections, again, this morning.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:23 PM on January 13 [30 favorites]


I'm okay throwing some of the baby out of the bathwater here because the bathwater is from my point of view so toxic that it damages the site and the experience of many users, a lot of whom don't (or won't) even participate in the political threads.

It seems appropriate to acknowledge that there are things being lost here if these prophylactic measures are put into place: we'll miss some opportunities to hear informed, helpful views on some topics; there's also the risk that some important viewpoints won't even get airtime at all, and the silencing impact of this is a real one.

But as I see it, this is an unhappy compromise created by the plain fact that the politics threads in their current iteration are more damaging than they are helpful. In the case of a decided minority of users this isn't true of course, but this is a site with thousands of users, not dozens of users. And it will undoubtedly be some combination of sad and distressing and frustrating for that small subset of users who get value out of the politics thread in spite of the toll they take on everyone else. But for the rest of us, I implore you, please realize that the current state of things is not workable and actual, real change is needed, not just a tweak here or there.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:27 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


then Not Being Able To Talk About It kind of gives me hives.

When I see something like this, I just flag it and move on. My stress level has gone down 10 fold since I've adopted this approach.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 1:29 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Though n.b. linking to stuff isn't foolproof; if someone's strategy ends up being avoiding the literal deed of personally arguing but they make a habit of linking to hot takes or fight-starting opinion pieces, that is something we're gonna take a dim view of as well. Adding good links is good.

Absolutely. And if I can't come up with a good link for my comment, that's a sign to me that I should delete the draft and let the thread's discussion move on. For me, that's been the most reliable sign that my personal rule is working.

Linking "candidate x is obviously the only rational choice and people should support them" in article form, which is a genre that becomes extremely popular, isn't really an improvement over just saying it yourself, and it leads to the same fights.

To avoid this kind of arguing by proxy, I try to include a citation of exactly whom I'm linking to. Stating up front that I'm referring to such-and-such a publication or pundit at least makes it clear where the information is coming from (preferrably not HotTakeHarry.com). It also helps keep me aware of whom I'm relying on for my information/analysis, and by now it's fairly clear who my favorites are. Additionally, this rule prompts me to look for additional sources when I cite a single source too often.

By the way, is Chat still a recommended venue to take the pressure off the megathreads and cool down hot topics in general?
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:33 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


It seems important to note here that the labor that goes into the of news and curation of megathread links isn't something that's paid for by advertising dollars or our contributions to MeFi. Instead, it's labor that's given voluntarily by other members in the hopes that they derive some value out of that labor. The value proposition for why we all post in these threads certainly varies from person to person, but likely includes varying proportions of, among other things, (a) believing that it's important to keep others informed, (b) wanting to advance our own political agendas, and (c) enjoying the community interaction that results from posting those links, which includes some amount of discussion and debate.

If the mod team is going to take a more aggressive stance toward reducing the role that discussion and debate play in politics threads, then it seems likely that it will have an effect on the motivation of others to post. Maybe it won't be enough to result in a measurable decline in the quantity or quantity of news coverage, but I think that possibility is worth considering.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:35 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Tonycpsu, we're not unaware of that, but it's also very much the case that the vastly increased mod labor necessitated by those threads has not been compensated by increased overall site revenue. We're not making bank on the catchalls - we're burning the candle at both ends trying to keep them viable at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:37 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


I suspect that mods and/members directing folks who want to discuss the finer points of, say, theory or ideology into threads more relevant than the current US politics thread prevents some messes (derails, hurt feelings, what have you) before they happen. And I’d like to see more of that going forward: a lot of us would love to hear your take on monetary policy or the Russian Revolution or what have you, just not in the middle of the current US politics thread.

I’ll do my part to keep things civil and hale in there, too. I appreciate having a place to do what we do, so thanks to the mods for keeping it running.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:47 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


(I apologize for not expressing this more clearly above: I concur 100% with the content of cortex’s post here re: the primaries in particular. My feedback above was of a more general nature re: megathreads. Thanks, all.)
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:53 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


If the mod team is going to take a more aggressive stance toward reducing the role that discussion and debate play in politics threads, then it seems likely that it will have an effect on the motivation of others to post.

From my perspective, seeing the 67th iteration of an argument is exactly what makes me close the tab (which, you know, is a healthy thing to do for yourself on a regular basis) and why I largely stayed out of the megathreads until the late stages of the 2016 primaries. I do come here because of the role that discussion and debate (and jokes and whimsy) plays, and have no desire to see the threads just turn into a parade of links without community interaction. I also have no desire to wade through endless primary fighting before posting, so if you're worried about keeping people around, efforts to keep the megathreads livable are part of that.

Aggressive moderation may cause some people to post less, but the lack of it also drives people away.

And to r_n's point, it's essential that whatever we're doing is compatible with the available mod labor resources, even if that's not what we individually want for the threads.
posted by zachlipton at 2:01 PM on January 13 [20 favorites]


I think part of the reason this is such a difficult dynamic is because not being able to call certain things out -- racism, sexism, all of the isms and phobics and all things terrible -- mirrors almost exactly the damaging dynamics around these same issues that exist in the real world. "Silencing" is really a thing, which was sort of what my original post upthread was referencing. That is not quite the same thing as "don't argue about the candidates."

So, for me I think it comes down to making a distinction between talking about or calling out a specific issue at all, which I think is generally pretty reasonable and should be a workable part of the overall body of discussion on the site, and doing so repeatedly or reflexively or tit-for-tat in ongoing discussions.

So having a dedicated thread, or a specific focused discussion, about some problematic thing can work, and can be a really useful and valuable thing. I'm not wanting to have people avoid ever doing that; if anything I think it might be helpful for us to aim for individual topic-specific posts a little more often to create those spaces vs. just trying to thread it into catch-alls.

On the other hand, taking that point of discussion or objection and making it a ready-in-the-holster Thing To Pull Out Again any time there's a rhetorical or argumentative space for it causes real problems of circularity, rehashing, escalating "you're wrong because" "no you're wrong because" exchanges, etc. There's some distance between something being worth talking about at all and something becoming essentially suffocating to conversation because folks won't let it lie outside of a focused discussion about it.

So one thing we need folks to do is make an effort to focus on the former and avoid the latter. Mostly that just comes down to every individual MeFite being self-aware about whether they're broaching something for the first time or bringing it back around for the nth; part of that is folks trying to help support more of a culture of "hey, there was/is a conversation about that happening _over yonder_" with links back to other chunks of existing discussion, instead of just responding to the topic being mentioned again by digging in all over again.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:09 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


2019 is gonna be a hell of a ride. It might be possible to be very strict in the main Omnishambles thread, but to encourage more frequent side-FPPs that go down the rabbit hole of specific events and issues, in which a bit more discussion around the framing considerations is considered useful.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:21 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


There's a general thing about Metafilter's structure that it's good for exploring the territory of a debate but not good for resolving it. You can see this in all sorts of classic low-stakes threads -- can a plane take off from a treadmill? (248 comments total.) We can very quickly establish all perspectives on the question, but the thread will keep repeating all of them forever. It's a technology that's very good at a lot of human things, but not good at convincing humans that their perspective has been sufficiently represented.

That makes me wonder if it would help at all for the community to add an outside resource with a different structure. Like, just to put a far-extreme different example on the table, there's a site called Kialo that's basically a wiki for helping a given community map out the arguments in a debate. Here's a kialo on "Should the UK Remain in the EU if the only Alternative is a Hard Brexit?" which maps out 1,100 arguments and counter-arguments in a collaborative tree-shaped wiki. It's a technology that's bad at a lot of human things, but good at representing a given community's understanding of an argument non-redundantly. (Unlike Wikipedia, these are open only to invited participants, which is a key part of having them work as mind maps of a given consensus reality.)

So, I'm not suggesting a literal Kialo. But suppose some group of Mefites ran a document of Arguments That Have Been Made, which basically boiled down to lists of arguments pro and con candidates in their best-articulated form. Having that resource to point each other to (say, in the main post of a megathread) might help soften a little bit the reality that similar arguments are likely to be deleted from then on. It's a list of things we assume everyone has considered, and where it feels less surprising for reiteration to be deleted. (The previous threads themselves, of course, are also things we assume everyone has read on some level. But I'm arguing that they demonstrably don't feel like that for people, even in much shorter threads on less contentious issues.)

I'm definitely not naively assuming that technology can solve a human problem. But I do think it's worth exploring if the technical context of Metafilter particularly leads to this reiteration problem, which particularly hurts in political threads, and expanding the tech a bit (as a non-mod project) would take pressure off.
posted by john hadron collider at 2:31 PM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I really appreciate these guidelines. I'm someone who's basically had every single US politics megathread permanently open in a tab since the 2016 primaries. It's my best and most reliable source for news and the extremely useful scripts for calling/writing my representatives, etc.

The most helpful features of the megathreads (beyond the sense of shared community/staring in horror: 1)links to trustworthy news/commentary; 2)ways to be active.

The absolute least helpful feature of the megathreads to me: round 67 on Why Your Candidate Sucks/Wake Up Sheeple. It is so exhausting and seems to always end in a toxic place. I would love for absolutely less arguing about predictions/the future in the megathreads and more focus on the current news. 875 democrats declaring their possible intent to run for POTUS isn't really news, to me. If there's something particularly worth discussing, like the ramifications of Warren's DNA test (though I wish that discussion had gone much, much better) or Tulsi Gabbard's (financial?) ties to Syria seem like maybe they should be separate threads? Or just taken to chat to fight out? I don't know. But they currently have seemed to led to derails/pointless fights in the megathreads, and I do think they have to go.
posted by TwoStride at 2:35 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Instead of framing your argument like so -----> frame it like this instead

Well no, because that's substantially the same thing. Wording tricks and I statements are not going to make those go better. I mean, not to contradict cortex here, because it seems like he agreed in theory, but it's just not possible for it to work like that in practice.

I was hoping more for a hard-core "do not discuss those things on the site; there are other sites for that".

Also I was hoping for a lighten-up on jokey remark deletion. I think it helps keep people cool with the sense of camradery, and that deleting them both ups the grar for the person, and leaves only the grar in the thread.
posted by ctmf at 2:35 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


the vastly increased mod labor necessitated by those threads has not been compensated by increased overall site revenue. We're not making bank on the catchalls - we're burning the candle at both ends trying to keep them viable at all.

As a heavy Megathread user, I'm willing to pay my share. How much would you need on a monthly basis to hire a dedicated mod for Megathread and cover bandwidth costs? Is that an amount that Megathread can regularly raise so it is self-sufficient? What do you estimate the average Megathread post costs MetaFilter?
posted by M-x shell at 2:37 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


On a separate note (along the same lines as schadenfrau) I think the place where this policy is likely to be hardest is when a candidate has views that a user sees as directly attacking their existence/personhood/etc.

Like, the RPGnet ban on general support of Trump on their forums is a helpful reference. They took the reasonable position that the general statement "I support Trump" was unavoidably an implicit endorsement of his threats against other users, and thus a violation of existing forum policies.

I expect there will be users who feel the same way during the primaries -- that Candidate X said Thing Y that denied the right of the user to exist, and so an offhand statement "I support Candidate X" in a topical comment is an implicit attack on the user, which they are forbidden from responding to because Thing Y was discussed a month ago.

I'm not sure there's a way around that, and it's all pretty hypothetical at this point, but something to stay sensitive to.
posted by john hadron collider at 2:49 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


If there’s a candidate in the 2020 Democratic primaries who attacks the personhood of anyone — implicitly or otherwise — then I hope the door does hit ‘em on the way out.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 3:18 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I think there’s a spectrum between declaring support for someone who’s isms are his main draw and someone who is sort of more...incidentally -ist. I also don’t know where the line is, but I think it’s pretty far from where any of the Dem candidates are likely to end up.

The scenario I’m worried about is like...candidate X said new shitty thing Y, which is newsworthy, but is also part of a pattern of saying or do shitty Y things, and we’ve argued over it before. If the argument is about whether candidate X is a Y-ist (omg forgive the usage, I’m tired), and they’ve done another thing...

The argument is repetitive, but the information is new, but it builds on the existing evidence that X is a Y-ist (which is relevant to running for President) and telling people who are hurt by Y-ism that they can’t talk about that is, I think, going to be a problem.

Idk. It seems like the mods are suggesting a big separate thread about whether X is a Y-ist, which is I think the part I’m finding confusing, because that seems...worse?
posted by schadenfrau at 3:19 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


As a heavy Megathread user, I'm willing to pay my share. How much would you need on a monthly basis to hire a dedicated mod for Megathread and cover bandwidth costs?

I get the good intention with this, but a major difficulty with this formulation is that hiring one person won't cover a 168 hour work week; the megathreads exist in the same round-the-clock context as the rest of MetaFilter, so the idea of separately staffing it would mean duplicating our current staffing costs outright. Having one extra body around just to take the average weekday load off would be welcome if the money were there, but it wouldn't solve the core problem; the rest of us would, at best, spend maybe 20% less of our work week minding US politics but still have to grapple with the overall effect it has on the site.

About the point at which throwing money at the problem with staffing would actually work, we'd be talking about tens of thousands of dollars a month and at that point I'd be inclined to point it at a legit separate PoliFilter site so that new staff could be made up entirely of people who want to do that every day, vs. our current staff for whom the opposite is the case. But that's a lot of money in a market where I'm considering it a success when ad revenue doesn't drop 25% overnight in any given six month stretch.

I was hoping more for a hard-core "do not discuss those things on the site; there are other sites for that".

As much of part of me dreams of that sort of outcome, it doesn't seem like a workable plan for MetaFilter. Whatever misgivings I have about the impact of discussing US politics on the site, it's clear that it's a really important aspect of this place for a whole ton of folks in our community. So it's definitely going to be more a matter of managing the how and the how much.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:20 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


From my perspective, seeing the 67th iteration of an argument is exactly what makes me close the tab (which, you know, is a healthy thing to do for yourself on a regular basis) and why I largely stayed out of the megathreads until the late stages of the 2016 primaries.

Seconded. When I see the same arguments over and over, I get frustrated and I leave. Or I wind up snapping at people to stoppit right fucking now, which was my policy on POTUS primaries right up through midterms election day. Which, I am aware, is also not all that productive!

The issue with two people who have thought deeply about a problem and still disagree is a salient one. Assuming that the issue on which people disagree is not a matter of unforgivable bigotry, how do we as community members get better at making that "agree to disagree" call before the long furious frustrated argument triggers? How do we come to a place where we can say "I think both candidates have some strengths and some flaws, but we have different priorities" and let it go?

Someone told me once that people who keep repeating themselves mid argument feel like they're not being heard. I try, as a result, to check in with the person I'm talking to--to listen to what they are saying and confirm I have it, to defuse tension by finding a place of common ground, to make sure I understand what they're saying--when I catch someone repeating themselves in a dispute with me, or when I find myself repeating myself over and over in a dispute with someone else.

I don't know that it always works. But it's better than nothing.
posted by sciatrix at 3:27 PM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I was hoping more for a hard-core "do not discuss those things on the site; there are other sites for that".

While I'd like to avoid relitigating the 2016 primaries AND avoid setting up the same dynamics for the next one, I don't think it's possible to have useful discussions of the upcoming primaries without some measure of "here's what's wrong with Democratic (potential) Candidate X."

I'd like us to be able to acknowledge that Candidate X is still a viable candidate, is still both talented and resourceful, would still be a tolerable president, even if CanX is truly odious, for good reasons, to a substantial portion of the populace. (I'm making some assumptions here, and vaguely thinking of the currently existing pool of Potential Candidates X.)

I really, really don't want the Democratic primaries to mirror the Rep primaries last time, wherein a dozen mediocre candidates got shoved aside for the most incompetent one who happened to have the most fanatic followers. I'd much rather we start from the premise that the majority of the candidates are at least competent, ignore the concept of "this flaw makes them unelectable" (it has been proven that no flaw makes someone unelectable), and focus on what their past record and policy statements indicate they'd actually do in office.

I don't mean, "we should set aside any sexism, racism, or other biases and just look at policies." Sorting out "what they'd do in office" includes "would they enact sexist policies; would they ignore racism in gov't administrations; would they openly mock trans teenagers on tv," and we need to be aware of those possibilities.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:29 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


No no, I didn't mean ban US politics completely, just your list topics. Somehow I think the "framing" concept... well it certainly helps to frame things in the best way possible, I won't say it doesn't. But it's not going to get the job done when it's really just a subjective thing and still bringing up the same old topics in effect.
posted by ctmf at 3:30 PM on January 13


Oh, for sure. I think listing out the examples I did in the post is necessary but not sufficient to deal with the problem, as far as that goes; along with folks trying to be aware of and avoid doing those sorts of things, we also need folks to just be generally self-aware about the kind of behavior, especially repetitive behavior, they're getting up to when they're engaging in politics discussions.

So identifying those things and saying "how can I frame this in a less problematic way" is a useful thing to do. It's not a cure-all, there are some species of arguments that aren't going to really be a quick rewrite away from going hunky-dorey, but it's still a useful potential step in someone choosing to engage (or not) in a more constructive, less fight-starting way.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:35 PM on January 13


Speaking of relitigating, a lot of current news informs events of yester-scaramucci. Our old speculations can and should be confirmed or denied based on new revelations. This can seem like relitigating, or can become relitigating, but absent that the reviewing of old ideas in new light is very beneficial. Please keep that in mind as you moderate.
posted by M-x shell at 3:47 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I agree that the megathreads are a vital source of information. I can keep abreast of things that absolutely would drive me insane if I tried to follow them on any other platform. It's a hard line to walk, because I want it to be a source of news, but as a member of the community I also want to talk about it in a convival way. It's super clear though that at least as far as PoliFilter goes, we can't have both and have a sane mod team as well. So in terms of filling the need, having the bar be set at "provides new information" or "helps explain information" (like the critical service provided by some of our legally aligned members) seems like a good thing. A bar that, of course, sassy hot takes and personal position statements don't really pass. It's not an enviable position to ask your very engaged users to engage less, but yeah it's so clear that there's a level of "enthusiastic" engagement that's just plain toxic.

Thanks, yall.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:53 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


If there’s a candidate in the 2020 Democratic primaries who attacks the personhood of anyone — implicitly or otherwise — then I hope the door does hit ‘em on the way out.

Yes, but this gets difficult in the details. There's an announced Democratic primary candidate that, without debating the merits here, often gets called an Islamophobe and has a history of homophobic positions. There's one who took a DNA test. There's a soon-to-announce Democratic primary candidate who has explicitly taken legal positions that were against trans people. There's a potential Democratic primary candidate who has a complicated, repudiated, story about domestic abuse in his past. Other potential candidates have "evolved" on LGBT rights and other personhood issues, some later than others. And these are just the most explicit things, rather than the more abstract issues of implicit conduct and blind spots, which are even harder to talk about.

This stuff is going to come up. There are candidates who some MeFites will feel do not respect their personhood, and other MeFites will not view the same facts as dealbreakers in the same way. That's something we're going to need to deal with as a community, and it's where some of the toughest "obviously disqualifyingly bad" arguments can happen.
posted by zachlipton at 4:02 PM on January 13 [52 favorites]


Fair enough and well put, Zach.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 4:05 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Speaking of relitigating, a lot of current news informs events of yester-scaramucci. Our old speculations can and should be confirmed or denied based on new revelations.

I agree with the first sentence, and totally appreciate that that is the context in which stuff that comes back up sometimes comes back up. "Oh, hey, we have this new information about that old situation, that informs my feelings about it" is I think pretty normal and by itself doesn't really cause problems.

But I think there's a huge amount of wiggle room in the "should" part of "should be confirmed or denied". Because there's a reading of that is basically what I characterized above, of just noting and synthesizing new info with old in a way that makes the discussion a bit more informative or contextualized. In that reading, sure, no real complaint.

But there's also the situation, not uncommon, where someone with strong feelings about x will use the appearance of a new bit of information related to x to launch into some form of "see, I was right about x" or "you were wrong about x" or "see this is the problem with x and why people who don't recognize the problem with x are killing democracy" or so on.

And that's a damn mess, every time. The best case scenario is folks show restraint and step around it; likely as not folks respond in kind and we're off to the races.

So there is a degree of shouldness that comes into how folks end up justifying not great behavior in these politics discussions that really needs to be minded. When we afford ourselves a mandate, it excuses some commenting practices that really are not so great and I want folks to try and be thoughtful and self-aware about that dynamic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:20 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: So there is a degree of shouldness.
posted by Melismata at 4:28 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


Thanks to the moderators for all their hard work on these threads.

This may be the right time to mention that it's frustrating when the moderators intervene to ask someone to stop or stop posting hot takes and members just continue talking right past them.

Also, the catastrophe, catastrophe, catastrophe all the way down spirals are awful.

If you find yourself doing these things, be a good member of the community and just stop.
posted by effluvia at 5:12 PM on January 13 [15 favorites]


When that happens, I'd prefer if ignorers of the mods got a short time out, if it's clear they aren't stopping.
posted by agregoli at 5:22 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Maybe it would be simpler if we could just all agree to support the same candidate right from the start.
posted by snofoam at 6:00 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Quidnuc kid, of course.
posted by snofoam at 6:03 PM on January 13 [29 favorites]


(This is good.)
posted by Ruki at 6:20 PM on January 13


my use of the megathread, as a lurker, falls into these buckets:

1. smart commentary, analysis, speculation, and yes, even ocassional one-liners, all of which that include or are in direct response to a...
2. high quality, curated collection of links to reputable sources -- and yes, ocassionally to a reputable twitter user's tweet -- all of which are tied very directly to the (admittedly snowballing) subject of...
3. the russia/trump/republican/nra/oligarch/billionare omnigate.

sure, democratic frontrunners for the 2020 primary are pretty relevant to the above. yet, i would personally be relieved to here *absolutely nothing* about dem nominees, **in the megathread,** ever. period. no discussion about the merits of their policy positions, state of their horserace results, fundraising, nothing. if they mention something about the russian clusterfuck? that can be posted. with a link. and that's probably all, imo

i mean we have to talk about the race's affects on omnigate at some point, but... 2019 is going to be enough on it's own. can we ban the damn topic until 2020? at least in the megathread? pretty please?

i want to echo up-thread comments stating that discussion forum debates get repetative because folks don't necessarily feel heard, even when their argument has already shown up in the thread. i highly endorse these sort of primary candidate discussions happen through a structurally distinct media. no, im not proposing metafilter mods not only moderate the potus thread, but also moderate, say, a google doc of individual candidate' pros and cons, or moderate wiki pages for each candidate. im proposing that, maybe, metafilter is not exactly fit for such purpose, that maybe freewheeling/unstructured discussions don't actually change minds. maaayabe formal debates can, but. those would require everyone participating to be hewing tightly to a higher, previously agreed upon purpose (electability, potential effectiveness as potus). but then we'd have to decide the criteria for that topic, how we'd know we'd arrived at the answer, and what exactly would count as a derail.... agh, it just keeps getting worse the more that i think about it.

regardless of what path we choose to go down: we're not going to convince each other with vehemance, we're not going to convince each other by shaming (subtly or overtly). Long back and forths about politicians and whether or not they pass the purity tests for mere consideration in our refined company? not into it. i really don't want that in the megathread. i'll scroll past it if i absolutely have to -- where else am i gonna go? but i just don't see any value coming out of it. it's not going to be an enormous influence in whom i back in the primary. i won't let it dissuade me from rolling out to vote for the dem nominee, whomever it ends up being. but, balancing any info i get on the candidate i may or may not get against the level of grar i am absolutely positive it would bring... just doesn't add up to worth it. to me. personally. i even dispare of there even being rules that we could all post under and still not have it go off the rails. it makes me feel if drawing a bright line and putting early-primary stuff on the other side would be so much simpler.

in the meantime, how's about we all assume that the people who post here are pretty much universally moral, rational, passionate, reasonable, non-bigots... people who, with the information available to them, through the lens of their personal history and experiences, came to their materially different judgements honestly. because reasonable people can come to wildly different conclusions in the best of times, and we're in existential dread fucking fuck territory here. so there's a lot of stress on top of the normal background radiation of differences in focus, opinion, approaches, priorities. i can't think of better people to kibitz with as we do what we all individually can to stave off, uh, civilizational collapse or whatever. if we have to do circular "firing" squads, can we at least do the puff-puff-pass kind, and, uh, point the other kind of (metaphorical) fire maybe at the authoritarians trying to install neofeudalism whilst putin keks?
posted by wires at 7:05 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I wonder if separating the megathread (I know, I know....I KNOW) into one for "Trump: pawn of Putin or tool of Putin?" and one for the coming two years of Democratic candidacy might actually make both easier to moderate? Just a thought....
posted by uosuaq at 7:41 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. I think there's plenty of room for talking about frustration with the megathreads and their impact on the site but it needs to not come in the form of combative or accusatory stuff. Part of my whole thesis with this post is that we need to get away from some of the "you!", "no you!" flavor that comes out in primaries arguments and doing that instead for politics metadiscourse isn't gonna be any more useful.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:42 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


People use very different levels of absolutist language when talking about this stuff. In addition to not rehashing old arguments, I’d be reassured if statements of criticism about a candidate always ended with the note, but I’d still vote for them ahead of Trump. For example: “Candidate X said this horrible thing which is incredibly Y-ist and is absolutely disqualifying. Put a fork in it. As far as I’m concerned, they’re done. .. But, I’d still vote for X ahead of Trump.”

It would take a lot of the sting out of the tone of the earlier statements and the fact that my style of talking politics is different. I welcome the fact that Metafilter raises up viewpoints I likely wouldn’t otherwise even be aware of. That will come with some debate. It just doesn’t need to come with personal attacks or digging to bad outcomes based on not getting our personal way.
posted by meinvt at 8:13 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I flagged a few comments with a note to moderation just now, but I think the more general points I made are worth bringing up here. (Note that I was totally uninvolved in this conflict.) I have flagged a lot of comments I thought were continuing an argument after being asked to stop and not seen a mod response lately, and I think this could use saying even though that wasn't an issue today.

From where I stand, passive aggressive comments ignoring a request to step off a topic actively make moderation harder because leaving the "I saw you didn't care about what I had to say so you deleted it" responses to moderation invites people like me to continue the fight later on. (As I did before seeing the comments did get deleted!) If the fight is over, it needs to stay over, with references to the conflict from involved users being removed from the thread to start. This is directly applicable to both the megathreads generally and to the political candidacy discussions specifically.

This serves a few purposes:

-it reduces the public message that mod decisions on the fly can be argued in that thread; if there's a serious conflict over a moderator decision it should go to MeTa anyway. This reduces the frequency of these events altogether as fewer people think challenging moderator decisions is worth it.
-it prevents other people from seeing the passive aggressive shit and piling on later, as I'm doing now, extending the argument. If authority doesn't police community norms as understood by users, other users will. That's a normal trade-off of community conflict management. Mods have to decide whether they want users to deliver aggravated responses to that kind of passive aggressiveness publicly, which helps buttress moderator authority but increases the overall irritation level in the community, or deliver it themselves, which can open mods up to challenges to authority and subsequent headaches but minimizes irritation to only the involved parties.

Now, that means that members need to flag that shit, but I have repeatedly found myself flagging that kind of grar and it not being dealt with that I see. I don't know what the mod feeling is on deletions that are then followed by users continuing to bring up the argument. As someone who wants to be in a situation where enforcing norms of good behavior isn't my job here, and who therefore tries to listen when mods say "enough!" I get really frustrated when other people breaking that agreement and going on when there's a visible mod note are allowed to stay up. It makes me not want to knock it off when asked to, because I feel like the other person is allowed so I have to respond, and that is not good shit.

If this is going to work, mod notes need to be visibly enforced. Otherwise the tension is just going to ratchet up anyway.
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 PM on January 13


Question / suggestion / pony

The sheer volume of the megathreads and politics stuff is one task for the mods and for participants. Really we should all read everything before we post to not just repeat something for the nth time. Participants can see that volume. But, we can't see the volume of stuff deleted.

Light version: Just for context, I'd be really curious to know how many comments were deleted from a few representative megathreads or 2016 primary threads. It may help everyone calibrate

Heavy handed version: At the end of the post there is a running total for comments right now (66 comments total). Would a running tally of comments deleted let us all know what the noise to signal ratio is sans mods?

If all else fails, only Chrysostom should be allowed to post or comment on primary threads.
posted by Gotanda at 8:33 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's probably better if you don't post your hot take.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:55 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I understand why comments in the threads are deleted, especially the Megathread, but this is the thread where we are to discuss that, so deleting comments here doesn't sit well with me. Also, the fact that comments just kick the bit bucket and disappear without a trace has been regularly disappointing me for a long time.

At this point I've decided to write a script that saves every comment I make and alerts me if they disappear. Not to complain! Just to study them to understand why and maybe save the mods some trouble next time. And not least to preserve my bestowed wisdom to enlighten people somewhere else.

It would benefit the site too, so I don't repeatedly refresh each thread to see what has and has not been allowed to remain. It really should be a site feature, but I can tell without asking that has been discussed or even tried before.
posted by M-x shell at 8:59 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


If all else fails, only Chrysostom should be allowed to post or comment on primary threads.

This is definitely a tangent but I have to say that while Chrysostom is a goddamn national treasure and I appreciate the everlovin' crap outta their dilligence, I do think there's some room for improvement in terms of volume of comments and utility of their contributions. It's getting close to GYOB territory. If they dropped in every now and then with a link to the updated info, I think that might be a better way to disseminate while cutting down on comment volume. As a bonus, I'd actually be able to link their stuff to friends instead of saying "uhhhhh go to this comment thread and ctrl-F for this person and ignore the rest especially Justinian who will just make you panic."

JCPL i kid because i love

posted by lazaruslong at 8:59 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I strongly disagree.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 9:02 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


I understand why comments in the threads are deleted, especially the Megathread, but this is the thread where we are to discuss that, so deleting comments here doesn't sit well with me.

I sympathize at one level, but I also think this is an unrealistic want. We need people to manage to not go over-the-top in discussions for no reason, and I'm not inclined to torpedo a discussion just to make the point of not-deleting for not-deleting's sake when someone busts in with a really ill-considered comment.

If someone comes on way too strong, gets a comment deleted, and wants to take a step back, regroup, and remake the salient part of their point without the crappy framing, that's generally fine, but that's on them to manage to do that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:10 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I never post in politics-related threads because I get the feeling that the participants in those threads are using them as a space for reassurance and commiseration about beliefs and world affairs that are really important to them, and disagreement is basically not invited. Furthermore, based on previous MeTas, it sounds like this is by design because a lot of people really want a space like that to exist. (I'm not sure if this is an accurate read -- maybe I'm misunderstanding.)

I personally would really enjoy some alternate space with different norms and moderation where people were explicitly up for disagreement and truthseeking, and there was an emphasis on being charitable to people you disagree with and interacting with them in good faith. It seems to me that primary discussion would work better in an environment like that and I would value being able to talk to Metafilter people about the primaries in that mode.
posted by value of information at 9:13 PM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Chrysostom did set up a feed.
OK, stops talking about Chrysostom. But, seriously some data--not the comments or posters, but just numbers--might help us all step back and say, whoah, that's a lot of calls mods have to make so that we can have this discussion.
posted by Gotanda at 9:13 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The megathread is bad for the site and should be shut down.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:16 PM on January 13 [13 favorites]


Opinion registered, but please let it be in here now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:33 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Really we should all read everything before we post to not just repeat something for the nth time.

Yah, I think this really touches on a . . . I dunno, what would I call it? A user-awareness thing, I guess.

I know we'll never have threads with no repetitions whatsoever, but just as the MegaThreads tend to have the poster throw a "There's Chat for hot-takes and running commentary" reminder at the top, there kinda ought to be a "refresh and control/command F before commenting" reminder, too.

Because it feels to me like that was and is part of the problem in the MegaThreads, and in the primaries/elections threads back when - someone posts a link/news bit in the comments, one group of people have whatever discussion/argument about it, and then 25 or 30 or 50 comments later someone else posts the same link or the same news from a different source, and then a whole new (mostly) group of people notice that comment and proceed to have virtually the same discussion/argument. So it can feel like we're all just repeating ourselves again and again and again and again.

So I think part of making the next two years more tolerable here is for a lot of us to be a little more willing to double-check that an issue or piece of news has not already been raised and addressed in a thread, and to be more willing to flag (with note! because we can do that now) comments - even with links - as "we went around on this already in here and/or previous threads."
posted by soundguy99 at 10:10 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I agree with the comment that disagreement isn't welcomed in the political threads and that it'd be nice to have a space "with different norms and moderation." I think there's a simple, easy solution to all these problems. MetaFilter needs to grow up and implement blocking. It directly addresses what the mods are, right here in this thread, explicitly saying is the problem.

For years, the single answer to this pony has been cultural, that it's not how we roll here at MetaFilter. But I've seen mods openly link to third-party killfile scripts. You can't say it's against our principles but also, uh, here's a back door and the secret knock. Every modern social website allows blocking—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, everyone. The vast majority of us are using it on those sites. It works. There is no valid (non-technical) reason not to implement it here.

It would solve 65 percent of this problem. First, most people here are mature enough to use the tool. It's no secret which users annoy each other, and one side or both will click the button. That will suffocate a lot of fires. For the others, the mods have a better toolkit for responding. Instead of taking sides or muting people from threads entirely, they can simply tell combative folks to block each other; if folks refuse, then it's an easy call to issue time-outs or bans.
posted by cribcage at 10:20 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


there is a kind of keeping-one's-self-honest aspect to looking at a potentially heated topic and saying, basically, am I adding something to the discussion for the sake of the discussion, or am I just using this ready-to-hand space to personally react

One thing I've found PERSONALLY useful is how delayed I have been in the last several months in reading the thread. I do periodically catch up, usually in the middle of the night US time, but because I do marathon thread-reading, I'm often reading stuff from 12 hours or more ago.

So whenever I want to respond to something I have to ask myself, not having seen the rest of the thread, is what I have to say so important or useful or whatever that anyone will still want to read it a few hours after the original comment. Also, how likely is it that SOMEONE else in the thread has made the same point already in the intervening time.

So I comment less now. And though everyone obviously reads the site differently, I think those are useful questions to ask before posting: how likely is it that this is the exact same thing someone else will say in response? And how much does what I have to say truly add?

And a lot of these repetitive, circular arguments wouldn't pass either test. It seems like real-time commenting is where those arguments happen. How often are people reacting to things that have been deleted already without refreshing? So maybe wait 30 minutes and see if the things you wanted to respond to are still 1)posted 2)unrefuted 3)still relevant.
posted by threeturtles at 10:25 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


there kinda ought to be a "refresh and control/command F before commenting" reminder, too.

Yes. Probably 80% of my megathread flags are for duplicate posts with no new info added. The threads are long enough without reposting, and possibly restarting the same discussion. Please look through not only the current thread, but the last one, if the thread is only a few days old.

(The other 20% is noise/derail. We all think our joke is so funny, but again, the threads are long enough.)
posted by greermahoney at 10:27 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


refresh and control/command F before commenting"

The problem is you really can’t do that with the megathreads or you’ll get hopelessly lost and forget what you’ve read before.
posted by corb at 11:43 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


refresh and control/command F before commenting"

The problem is you really can’t do that with the megathreads or you’ll get hopelessly lost and forget what you’ve read before.

You can if you have more than one Megathread tab open. Honestly, the feeling that I should do this mostly makes me not post, which is ok.

I think another thing I would like to see less of is users who attempt to predict the future, but really have no idea and are just doing needless doomsaying. It already happens a bunch in the thread, it’s not useful, and I am worried we will see it a lot during primaries (“candidate x will never win the general”, e.g.). I flag this behavior when I can, but I have no idea if it gets heard or deleted.
posted by nat at 11:56 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]


invites people like me to continue the fight later on

If anyone is interpreting anything on this site as an invitation to fight (including this comment), I think they're using the site wrong.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 3:56 AM on January 14 [7 favorites]


"I flag this behavior when I can, but I have no idea if it gets heard or deleted."

Definitely does and we delete a lot of future-prediction doomsaying ("oh god we're all going to die") or what we call "fanfic" which is where people are just kinda spitballing the next 60 days of "plot." If someone has a content-rich discussion of the future ("After January 20, the shutdown will begin to affect these things, which will tend to put pressure on these specific representatives ..."), that's fine. But if it's just like, "Look the shutdown is going to last forever until $DemocraticHero rides in on a white horse and punches McConnell in the face and then Fox News will call for the insurrection ..." we're going to delete that.

As with a lot of things early flagging helps a lot. If someone does some fanfic in the thread and six people have already responded to it and the conversation has moved on a further 20 comments, it starts to get harder to delete because we have to try to excise the whole set of comments OR because someone makes a really good comment in response and we don't want to lose that even though the originating comment was dumb.

If it's been six hours and 200 comments and twelve changes of topic since the offending comment, we're probably not going to poke through and deal with it unless it's really egregious, although you can definitely flag-with-note and say "This person is constantly predicting the invasion of Canada and it's obnoxious" so we can get it on our radar. We may not have noticed that user CanadianBacon has a real hobbyhorse about "54-40 or fight" if they're low key about it and not starting fires in the thread. Some types of annoying/problematic behavior jump out to users but not necessarily to mods, so it's not necessarily that we saw it and affirmatively decided that pro-Canadian-invasion fanfic was fine; we may be jumping in to deal with people screaming obscenities at each other and just skimming past everything that isn't obscenity-screaming.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:14 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: just skimming past everything that isn't obscenity-screaming.
posted by Melismata at 6:26 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I don't read/post in the megathreads, nor do I think they have a positive impact on the site. But given that they are here to stay, have previous requests for people to adjust their behavior produced the needed changes? Just looking at the threads very casually, they look about the same to me as always, but maybe a lot has changed that I can't see.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:56 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


But given that they are here to stay, have previous requests for people to adjust their behavior produced the needed changes?

Yeah, actually, our last major recalibration made a big difference. People did start flagging stuff that they weren't flagging before, which meant we could delete it in time, which meant the threads got noticeably less doomy.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:03 AM on January 14 [16 favorites]


In my opinion – for whatever it's worth – a good rule of thumb is "be less reactive, and more deliberate".

I'm certainly far from perfect on MetaFilter – but I do have one good habit, and that's this:

Often, I'll find myself looking at a few paragraphs I've typed into the comment box. And I'll realize: "I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said". Or, "maybe I don't actually know what I'm talking about here". Or, "it's probably not worth derailing the conversation to fight over this hair-splitting tangent". Or whatever the realization is.

And I'll just delete it, and continue reading, or find another thread, or go outside. I probably delete as much as I post. You can't fuck up a comment that you don't post. In fact, if you have any sense that a comment may go badly, you should probably be looking for reasons not to post it.

My other opinion is that, if your comment consists of a single line, that's a sign to pause and reconsider before clicking "Post". One-line comments can be perfectly fine – but, in practice, an awful lot of them are repetitive Meredith-style in-jokes, liveblogging, or substance-free snark.

(I would love to see less of the liveblogging and catchphrase-based in-jokes. I get it – it's easy to get wrapped up in this stuff, and everyone wants to feel like they're participating. But, again – ask yourself "am I just reacting for the sake of reacting, or am I adding considered, substantive thoughts to the conversation?" Twitter has trained us to think that every thought needs to be shared in realtime, and...they just don't.)

Oh, and (as long as I'm asking for ponies): can we stop copying-and-pasting huge chunks of articles? A paragraph or two to give the flavor of the thing is fine – that allows users to decide whether they're interested in clicking on the link – but hyperlinks exist for a reason. We don't need to republish every Alexandra Petri article in its entirety, for example.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:57 AM on January 14 [13 favorites]


I follow the megathreads because I want to listen to smarter-than-I/better-informed-than-I people hash out issues of the day, and then steal their best ideas. This, to me, is the Platonic ideal of MetaFilter. But that also means that I have to be careful to spot Yet Another Go-Round of the old arguments, and then start to skim for a few dozen comments.

What would be the specific downsides of making the megathreads be "anything goes" free-fire zones? Is the fear that server load would spike if they were never pruned? That shitty interpersonal dynamics would spill into other threads? That too many good users would button? I mean, I have seen "Jurassic Park" (and browsed reddit) so I have a good guess what the end result would be. And I don't think any of us want it to happen, but for users who insist on dying on every damn hill they can scrape together, is there any practicable way to enforce better norms without frying the mods in a few months?

(Also note: Mods are great, thank you for staying at your posts the past couple of years!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:51 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If you asked me to list the top two redeeming qualities of the megathreads they would be 1) Chrysostom and 2) long Alexandra Petri blockquotes, so it distresses me to hear calls for less of those.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:52 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


What would be the specific downsides of making the megathreads be "anything goes" free-fire zones?

You can’t keep two separate cultures from affecting each other. If we remove the things that make Metafilter great in the megathreads, it would be horrible beyond imagining. It would be a beachhead for the rest of the shitty Internet. I love the megathreads, but that seems a recipe for disaster.
posted by corb at 9:03 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


You can’t keep two separate cultures from affecting each other.

Perhaps, much like how Lactobacillus outcompetes other, harmful bacteria in certain brine solutions, we can inoculate the megathreads with the kind of comments we want to see, and starve out the ones we don't.

Be the revolution, and all that.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:05 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


how does one starve out po-faced intonations of 'institutions won't save us'
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:15 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


I think this is a good example of one of the dynamics we are being asked to address. Having the megathreads be anything goes free fire zones is pretty clearly a non-starter - we're all here talking about how to be better at the opposite of that. Doubling down on a debate that has no bearing on reality while inserting little jabs at other commenters is not a good use of our time.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:21 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


maybe I should elaborate in a non-snarky way: one of the things that frustrates me the most about the megathreads is that a huge amount of phatic, low-content chatter seems to have been grandfathered in and allowed to stand, while a lot of the more idiosyncratic takes that make metafilter interesting to read in the first place are blasted out of the threads before the pixels are dry.

(and I'm not just talking about my own dumb jokes that have been deleted -- if anything, the megathreads have made me more blasé and untroubled about my own comment deletions. and by extension, less concerned about self-editing and worrying about the quality of my contributions, since it seems like a good portion of them get disappeared for arbitrary or inscrutable reasons anyway. But I suppose that's a Me Problem)
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:24 AM on January 14 [9 favorites]


> But I suppose that's a Me Problem

Given that the staff's labor is a finite resource, and given that the demands on that resource are being cited as a reason for these changes, it sounds like it might be a lot more of an Us problem at this point -- particularly if others feel the same way, and are responding to having their posts deleted in the same manner.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:33 AM on January 14 [8 favorites]


The problem is you really can’t do that with the megathreads or you’ll get hopelessly lost and forget what you’ve read before

before i refresh, i highlight a sentence in the comment i'm reading and copy it so i can ctrl f for it as soon as the thread is done reloading. no idea if that would work for everyone on mobile, though.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:39 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I'll note that I still believe that a comments per 24 hour limit would cause people to have to be a lot more thoughtful about what they're saying in ways that would improve the dialog and reduce repetition, hot takes, etc.
posted by Candleman at 10:45 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]


I too have been confused by comment deletions, to the point where I’ve sort of stopped trying to predict what will be deleted and what won’t be, because it seems so inconsistent. The “adds something substantial” rubric doesn’t quite hold up; like pbo, I’ve seen funny and incisive comments that actually do articulate a new perspective on something that has happened get nuked, while longer, repetitive but serious screeds survive, sometimes many of them.

I don’t know why that is, but it is confusing. And I’m not one of the funny people; my deleted comments are generally not that. I just like reading them, and it bums me out that the wittier stuff gets nuked in favor of portents of doom, since it makes keeping up with the overall hellscape a little more depressing.

Plus it makes me sort of throw my hands up at the deletion policies. I genuinely want to be helpful and have the threads work, and I flag stuff that seems obviously bad, but...yeah.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:48 AM on January 14 [12 favorites]


I'll cop to another bad habit: sometimes I respond to deraily comments I flagged because it's 50/50 to me whether a mod will delete the flagged comment, and if it's not going to be deleted, then I'd like to have my responding comment on the record. Most of the time this results in both the flagged comment and my response being deleted, and the lesson I have learned from this is: if you really want to see a derail removed from the megathreads, contribute to it.

I realize this is a thoroughly shitty way to engage with the site and probably makes me look bad! but I cannot think of a better example of how inconsistent megathread moderation encourages less-than-optimal commenting practices.

I don't blame the mods as individuals for this, I think that inconsistency is an unavoidable byproduct of increasingly fine-grained megathread-specific moderation rules.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:49 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


before i refresh, i highlight a sentence in the comment i'm reading and copy it so i can ctrl f for it as soon as the thread is done reloading.

You can click the time of the last comment, which will change the browser URL to that anchor, and then reload. That comment will be placed at the top of your browser's window.
posted by rhizome at 10:52 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


A few more thoughts:

1. I get why hot takes have to go, but I prefer the humor to stay. Humor heals.

2. Short comments might be hot takes ("OMG I hate that McConnell what an asshole"). But they might instead simply be appreciated for their brevity ("Actually, the Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security, not DOD.").

3. Chrysostom's polling and similar comments are uniquely valuable and he is by all accounts a fine fellow, but I can do without Chrysostom fetishism and I'd wager he can too.
posted by M-x shell at 10:57 AM on January 14 [16 favorites]


schadenfrau: "I too have been confused by comment deletions, to the point where I’ve sort of stopped trying to predict what will be deleted and what won’t be, because it seems so inconsistent. "

It's helpful for me to think of comment deletions not in terms of just "this comment was bad" but also in terms of "the comments that are going to come after this comment will be bad". One of the things I like about MeFi is the moderation at its best is proactive; it does mean that a bunch of innocuous stuff probably gets deleted but it keeps threads from blowing up later.
posted by capricorn at 11:00 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


I would delete so much more than what is currently deleted in the Megathreads. I don't know if anyone agrees with that, but here's one vote for mods to be as delete happy as they can be.
posted by agregoli at 12:22 PM on January 14 [15 favorites]


There’s a partisan streak on this site that makes participation a drag sometimes. People are very quick to jump to “this is essentially the Republican argument” to shut down lines of thought. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and it really makes you not want to participate.

Now imagine if you actually are a Republican.
posted by Jahaza at 12:45 PM on January 14 [12 favorites]


Now imagine if you actually are a Republican.

Can I stop imagining now? :p
Fair point, though.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 12:49 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


"I too have been confused by comment deletions, to the point where I’ve sort of stopped trying to predict what will be deleted and what won’t be, because it seems so inconsistent."

There are a few things to keep in mind about inconsistent megathread moderation: these threads have gone on non-stop, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for years. Just to do the most basic coverage of those means that each moderator has read the equivalent of War and Peace many, many times over, just to sort of stay on track. If you take two days off and do not refresh and read the megathread while you are not working, you come back to hundreds and hundreds, or even over a thousand of unread comments and multiple arcs of participation that you're not necessarily aware of, unless another mod made a specific note of "please drop X."

And about that "please drop X," it's also exhausting to constantly leave these notes, and fill up the thread with even more text that isn't actually the news and commentary on the news. Sometimes we just delete without a note because it's the same old thing we've been saying over and over, and if people don't understand the delete, they won't understand any better by us saying it one. more. time. In any case, it's always demoralizing for us, as well, to have to delete a bunch of comments. It's demoralizing to have to continuously be chastising or playing "thread police" with our own members, who we actually like and admire and support. Despite what people imagine, none of us enjoy deleting comments.

And there are SO MANY reasons for deletions. One that might fly under the radar is the rhetorical question. Someone says, "how can republicans be like blahblah," and then there's 20, or 30, or more answers engaging this perfectly in earnest, but also repeating talking points that have been re-hashed thousands (probably literally "thousands") of times in those threads and on the site in general. Or maybe it's a more novel question, but it's still a derail beyond one, maybe two answers. If the person really needs a comprehensive breakdown of the question, we have Ask Metafilter, but 30 answers to a sort of stream of consciousness "hm?" question fills up the thread and makes it harder for people to find the news and discussion of the news. And there's almost nothing that isn't taken up as a derail, a million philosophical questions, American history, European history, education, sociology, psychology, medicine ... it's endless. Which doesn't mean that pursuit of those topics is not interesting and nothing of value could be gained by the constant reader, but they take over and fill the thread and people cannot find news and comments about the current situation (but you actually know this, because we've said it hundreds of times in mod notes).

We've said over and over that if people want to do a deep dive into [offshoot topic] they should start a new post/thread. But for the most part this doesn't happen. There are other sorts of comments that are also guaranteed to start a big side topic discussion, and we have to weave between trying to cut it off at a certain point, cutting it off before it begins, or missing it because life does not allow one single person on duty to follow every single comment posted in the thread and it gets overlooked.

When I come back from a couple of days off, I either spend my whole entire working day just catching up with reading as much as I can of what was posted while I was off, or I try to wing it by reading staff notes, maybe looking for flags and deletions, and just kind of read the last 100 comments? 50? It depends on what is going on with the rest of the site. If we have a crazy bad Metatalk thing going on, or one or several heated contentious threads, or a member crisis, it's not going to happen, and I just respond singly to flags and try to figure out from immediate context how serious it is, re delete or leave.

Also, it's just bone-wearyingly, brain-numbingly exhausting in general. One of the last things in the world I would choose to do with my time is read politics comments all day long every day, day after day, year after year, even in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. But this is where we are. So sometimes I just half-ass it. I try not to, but sometimes self-care means "just put out the fires, and fuck it."

And this only barely, barely scratches the surface of why moderation cannot be seamless and consistent in megathreads to the degree that people will not get frustrated.

However, I do want to repeat myself and say the same thing I always say: if you have a question, don't hesitate to contact us. I don't feel put upon if someone asks why [comment] was deleted. I'm glad to be able to provide an answer (assuming I know the answer, but previous mod can come back and answer later, if I don't). I think we all feel pretty much the same way about that. in fact, let me state it even more strongly: I will be actually happy and relieved if you ask, "so, if you don't mind, could you let me know what was wrong with [comment(s)]." I don't want to argue it for a few hours in email, because that means I'm missing even more of what's going on in the thread and on the site while I do that, but I feel much better being able to explain something that might seem opaque to you, even if we don't 100% agree in the end.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:56 PM on January 14 [35 favorites]


And there's almost nothing that isn't taken up as a derail, a million philosophical questions, American history, European history, education, sociology, psychology, medicine ... it's endless. ... We've said over and over that if people want to do a deep dive into [offshoot topic] they should start a new post/thread.

Thanks taz! Just repeating for emphasis.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:04 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I had a thought: since many megathread readers might have missed the small link in the thread to this metatalk, can it be put in the US politics sidebar? It might be useful for making sure people see it.
posted by nat at 1:05 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


That's a good idea - let me see if I can figure out how to do it. (The tool is usually only for the blue.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:07 PM on January 14


(Looks like it'll have to happen during frimble's morning.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:26 PM on January 14


FRIMBLE WAKE UP WAKE UP FRIMBLE
posted by wenestvedt at 1:35 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I say this with the knowledge that I've had plenty of my own posts deleted in megathreads: are comment deletions logged in the database in a way that would allow for them to be used in order to flag bad behavior for moderator attention? Everyone gets a post deleted now and then, and of course mods are going to notice someone who goes on a rampage and has several posts deleted over the course of a few hours.

But what about users who are regular problems but for whatever reason stay under the radar? Is it possible that the mods are spending a lot of time playing whack-a-mole with the same people, and could use comment deletions as a crude metric for figuring out who needs a timeout? A sternly-worded MeMail or even a public [Hey, HotTakeHarry, cut that out.] is never going to compel someone to change as much as some involuntary time off the site will.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:41 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Honestly, if the site had unlimited money and staff resources, I'd love just, like, a workshop where we could go through all our comments and see when we have a tendency to create problems for mods and other users. I'd love to know what my bad habits are.

That's not even a pony, that's more of a divine stallion sort of deal.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:05 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I understand why we have mega-threads, but as a somewhat less frequent commenter, I have to say the overall length of those threads deters me from participating. And I can imagine I'm not the only one.

I think that probably leads to a dynamic where the most prolific users dominate the discussion in mega-threads. And for that reason perhaps the discussion is more personal, and more repetitive, than it would be with a wider array of participants.
posted by mai at 2:22 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


I had a thought: since many megathread readers might have missed the small link in the thread to this metatalk, can it be put in the US politics sidebar?

I've added a link in the small print in MeFi wiki's draft template for USPolitics FPPs. I'm inclined to bring it up in the main body, too, possibly with examples of new expectations.

Also, it's just bone-wearyingly, brain-numbingly exhausting in general. One of the last things in the world I would choose to do with my time is read politics comments all day long every day, day after day, year after year, even in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. But this is where we are.

Many thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes experiences with modding the megathreads, Taz. Hearing what it's like to moderate these insanely quickly moving discussions, even with all the specialized tools MeFi mods have, can help improve the quality of the threads in future (I hope). And I also sympathize with how exhausting it is to keep up with them. I find contributing to them a Sisyphean exercise, but I'd be at the end of my tether without them. As you say, this is where we are, i.e. an ongoing, epochal constitutional crisis.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:36 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


had a thought: since many megathread readers might have missed the small link in the thread to this metatalk, can it be put in the US politics sidebar?

A link has been added to the U.S. Politics FPP Draft as well (thanks, Doktor Zed!)
posted by box at 3:17 PM on January 14


So in the current megathread, it looks like somebody posted some links about Trump serving fast food to some WH visitors. A bunch of people posted a 'wave' of fast food jokes, all of which got deleted. Then a second wave of fast food jokes got posted, most of which are still standing, followed by a note from a mod about cutting out the fast food derail.

Did I correctly observe that there was a first wave of jokes that got deleted, or is my brain filling in discontinuities created by deletions by inventing a vague memory of comments that didn't really exist?

If my observation is correct, what was it about the second wave of jokes that made them more acceptable than the first wave?

This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like trying to internalize and follow best megathread practices while still contributing commentary, observations, humor, and analysis -- you know, the shit we come here to get from each other -- is pointless. Obviously, there are some universal standards of conduct here, but beyond that, I don't think the mod team is effectively communicating through their actions in-thread what is or is not an acceptable way to contribute.

Like, even that tangent about Tulsi Gabbard just before the fast food stuff seems like "fighting about the primaries."

I'll still keep plugging away in there because I'm one of those insufferable people who basically needs to be reading and writing stuff all day long in order to keep the existential dread at bay, but man, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how utterly alienating this kind of inconsistency can be to people who aren't as hard-headed in the same way, and that we're just selecting for a certain Megathread Commentator type that is occluding a hell of a lot of perspectives that might be just as valuable as anything us regulars might have to say, which would have better opportunities to flourish if we stepped away from the ad hoc mess we've institutionalized as The Megathreads and went back to a model of focused, specific FPPs.

And I get that we were steered away from "megathreads: yes or no" as a point of debate here some ways upthread but I cannot fucking wait until we can really dig into a conversation about when and how to wind down the megathreads. I do believe we can preserve the things that made them worthwhile and discard the unsustainable foundation they were built on.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:06 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


I agree. I am never mad about deletions in the Megathread, but especially jokes...I have no clue as to why some are deleted when very similar ones (after mod notes!) are left to stay. I'm not even complaining! But it is inscrutable sometimes, no matter how much things are talked about here.
posted by agregoli at 4:18 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


My guess is that a lot depends on whether people reading the thread at a given time actually flag comments or not. I assume that the mods check out all flags, but can't be reading every comment on every thread. As a result, we don't get complete consistency on how things are handled -- that would be great to have, but unfortunately I don't think it's really possible.
(Feel free to correct my speculations.)
posted by uosuaq at 4:18 PM on January 14


Yes, a bunch of initial jokes were deleted and then a few subsequent ones stood.

When there's a run of stuff like that (twenty jokes on a single pretty obvious subject), there's rarely a fully satisfactory fair etc way of handling it. Deleting it all would seem too harsh, deleting some makes it feel inconsistent. Sometimes if you delete a bunch of earlyish things it'll just take care of itself without you needing to leave a note. But sometimes it doesn't, sometimes the instigating thing is too perfect for people to pass up so the jokes or whatever keep coming, and then eventually you'll have to leave a note - and in that case it can make sense to leave a few comments there so people can see what you were leaving the note about.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:21 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I get it, but I so think this means people assume they can keep joking...because their comment *might* be left up for posterity, accolades, etc.
posted by agregoli at 4:22 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


that makes sense from a thread curation perspective but on the user participation side of things, it sucks.

and assuming you were the mod on duty who made the decision on what to delete or leave standing -- I am not criticizing you. I am criticizing the entire megathread framework that forces arbitrary choices like these.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:25 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Would anyone actually want a Meta thread on winding down the megathreads? I'd be happy to make one, but it would probably be better coming from someone less openly critical of them -- I don't want it to turn into just another "megathreads are terrible" vs "I need them" argument. I mean, for the record, I don't think they're pure evil, I just think they were built on a shaky foundation. It's like when my friend accidentally parked over a rock and ripped off part of his bumper, then "temporarily" held it on with duct tape for like 5 years. It feels like Metafilter is still driving the ductmobile, because it sort of works even though the bumper keeps coming loose and we have to keep putting more tape on. Or something.

Anyway, if ending or radically changing the megathreads is off the table, then there's no point making a post about it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:25 PM on January 14 [11 favorites]


and in that case it can make sense to leave a few comments there so people can see what you were leaving the note about.

This is exactly why I thought this was done, and it seems like a good idea to me. When you reference something that is completely gone, I’ll be honest, I sometimes spend way too long looking for the thing. It’s like “SOMETHING HAPPENED? What was the thing??” And I scroll back really far looking. So I appreciate when you leave some of it as an example of what you’re taking about. (If it’s not hurtful or something.)
posted by greermahoney at 4:25 PM on January 14


Um... no? I don’t want that MeTa? I mean, I don’t want to silence people who want to talk about it, but I really do want the threads to continue. So MeTas on changing them to be sustainable is one thing. Winding them down is not really a thing I want. I don’t know how you’d have a conversation about getting rid of them when many (most?) of their participants find them useful and want them to continue in some form, without getting a ton of comments from people saying just that, derailing your winding down convo.
posted by greermahoney at 4:34 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Well, this is what a separate Meta post could be about. I'm not taking a hard-line stance that they must disappear, but saying they could be made sustainable is much simpler than actually making them sustainable. They were a temporary compromise (to the 2016 election) that has become permanent, and I feel like I keep seeing gratitude for their continued existence without any plan for making them less of a drain on the mods, both in terms of the labor and emotional burden required to maintain them.

I feel like saying more than that would be even more of a derail than this already is, but that's why I'm asking about there being a separate post. Like I said, if radical changes are off the table, then there's no point, because people will just be arguing for no reason. But if there's the potential for a compromise that allows for something genuinely more sustainable than the current model, that's probably worth doing if and when the mods are ready for it. I know it's a contentious topic among users here, so the last thing I want to do is make the mods deal with still more emotional fighting among users. Just... also, there are a lot of problems, and it feels sort of like treading water as long as things remain unchanged.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:45 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


We don't love the megathreads either, and making moves toward winding them down or change them to make them sustainable is on the table. It's a matter of figuring out, how do we achieve that in a way everyone can live with? A lot of people like them. A lot of people don't. They've had weird effects on the site. It's something the mods will make separate a post about soonish, so you don't need to.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:49 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


This doesn't seem complicated to me. If the mods say, in a thread, "please don't do X", then...just don't do X.

Don't throw your hands up and say "but Sue did X, and you didn't delete her comment!", or "but I don't understand the reason for this decree!"

Just don't do X.

The mods have to draw the line somewhere, and it's never going to be 100% consistent or scrutable. If you need a deterministic flowchart that can predict ahead of time which comments will be acceptable to the mods, and which won't, then I think you're going to be disappointed. The threads are a social exchange, and that's the nature of social exchange: legalistic rules are insufficient to classify behaviors into buckets labeled "acceptable" and "not acceptable". Only subjective judgment can do that.

I rarely see a moderator comment that says "Few comments deleted; please drop X", and think "gee, I don't understand why they did that". 98% of the time, I think "thank Christ they nipped that nonsense in the bud".

For things like the fast food jokes...honestly, people shouldn't need the moderators to tell them that this is a derail. If you see 19 fast food jokes, and you think "you know what this megathread needs, is a 20th fast food joke", then...maybe just don't?

Sorry if this sounds cranky. It's just...the mods are all but begging for people to give them a freaking break this go-around, and people are like "see, the thing about that is..."
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:01 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


I'd agree that it's not complicated to stop making fast food jokes after a mod says to stop making fast food jokes.

But it does get a bit confusing when there's some fast food jokes that are deleted, then others that aren't deleted, and then there's a mod note to stop. I understand why it happens, and thanks to LobsterMitten for the explanation, but I also don't think it's so wrong that people were a little unsure what to make of the situation. Just based on the actions in-thread, it's hard to tell if the policy is to never ever make any jokes, or maybe not to make too many jokes and exercise good judgement about piling on, or maybe that only the middle third of jokes are allowed? Understanding the reasons behind moderation decisions is the only way any of us can self-moderate what we put out.

It is subjective and there's never going to be a full set of legalistic rules. It's not like we're going to make a concrete policy that the 3rd fast food joke is acceptable and the 4th is not (five is right out). But if you post a fast food joke and it's deleted, and then you see other people posting fast food jokes that aren't deleted, it's not unreasonable to ask why that happened in the meta we specifically have here to discuss these sorts of issues. That's happened now, so great; no reason to direct scorn at people for asking.
posted by zachlipton at 5:25 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Sorry. Didn't mean to come across as scornful.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:34 PM on January 14


This conversation changed from reform to euthanasia all of a sudden.

Who are these customers who hate megathread yet read every comment? We should definitely meet their needs. I suggest a Hide Megathreads check box in our profiles.

If you just meant the employees, I can understand better. But in that case, as a customer who has used megathread heavily, i feel terrible. It seems the only ethical course of action is to stop contributing to your workplace nightmare. Seriously! Why would you want to reform megathread and abate only half of your suffering? Just kill it. But you should get ready to ban all politics on metafilter then.
posted by M-x shell at 5:44 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


One day, some people will get their wish granted, and the megathreads will cease to be.

I hope it gives them the peace and happiness they seem to believe this will bring them :)
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:49 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Sorry to take that out on you, escape from the potato planet, I got a bit unduly wound up there for no particular reason.
posted by zachlipton at 5:50 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I don't hate the megathreads. I enjoy participating in them. But I think that allowing them to go on as they have has had some significant negative impacts on the site as a whole and on many of us as individual commenters, and I think it's worth figuring out how to do FPPs about big developing news/politics topics with some intentionality instead of riding this nightmare katamari into 2021 and beyond.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:55 PM on January 14 [13 favorites]


brb, gonna post a MeMeTa to discuss moderation of the MeTa thread about moderation of the megathreads
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:56 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I hope it gives them the peace and happiness they seem to believe this will bring them :)

You don't have to agree with me on this, but please at least accept that I'm probably not deluded or whatever. I know it was an offhanded comment, but I've been having an awful week, and I don't need a snipe about what I believe will bring me peace and happiness.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:57 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


instead of riding this nightmare katamari into 2021 and beyond.

Thank you for putting a name and an image to what we’ve been living through these last two years. That’s perfect.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:58 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I think there is a pattern of feedback that seems helpful to reflect on, and I look forward to a future MetaTalk discussion about it. For now, this is what I've been reflecting on from this thread:

taz: When I come back from a couple of days off, I either spend my whole entire working day just catching up with reading as much as I can of what was posted while I was off, or I try to wing it by reading staff notes, maybe looking for flags and deletions, and just kind of read the last 100 comments? 50? It depends on what is going on with the rest of the site.

tonycpsu: I understand why we have mega-threads, but as a somewhat less frequent commenter, I have to say the overall length of those threads deters me from participating. And I can imagine I'm not the only one.

prize bull octorock: we're just selecting for a certain Megathread Commentator type that is occluding a hell of a lot of perspectives that might be just as valuable as anything us regulars might have to say, which would have better opportunities to flourish if we stepped away from the ad-hoc mess we've institutionalized as The Megathreads and went back to a model of focused, specific FPPs.

About a month ago, in a related MetaTalk, I mentioned how I found the megathreads too overwhelming to engage with, but since then, I came across a megathread that included topics I had already been reading and thinking about, and I started participating, and noticed that I started getting a lot of favorites for comments that were constructed according to suggestions in this thread - I found that encouraging, so I continued to try to make thoughtful, nonfighty comments with identified sources.

At one point, I saw a commenter come through and take what seemed like the equivalent of a smelly poop in the middle of the thread - it seemed so contrary to the guidelines that have already been posted, and it just seemed like trolling. So I flagged it, because uck, but then the poopy comment was deleted really quickly, and that also encouraged me to keep participating in the thread. I also felt like I saw a conflict break out on the thread, get hosed down by a mod, and then break out again, and I just ignored it and kept to the topic I was there to talk about. It was disconcerting to me to have multiple conversations happening in one thread, and eventually, I had to sleep. When I went back to the thread, I tried to catch up to help ensure my source hadn't already been posted, but missed it until after I posted, so I flagged my own comment with a note about it being a double, and it was quickly deleted.

Since then, I haven't really been back to the thread because I don't feel like I have the spoons to get caught up, and I feel like I should get caught up if I want to be a constructive participant, but I also don't want to allocate the mental energy to reading about all of the topics in order to track the one or two that I'd like to keep talking about. For me, my ability to recently participate in a megathread was a huge victory, because I am recovering from a frontal lobe injury, and it was awesome to feel like I had the energy and attention span to keep up. There does seem to be a fairly heavy cognitive load required for active participation, and after reflecting on the comments here and my own experience, I agree with prize bull octorock about breaking topics apart into seperate FPPs, and I think it could help the mods and encourage more thoughtful participation.

escape from the potato planet: This doesn't seem complicated to me. If the mods say, in a thread, "please don't do X", then...just don't do X.

Particularly given how hard the moderators work to create a postive experience, it frustrates me to see what looks like trolling, i.e. continuing to do X after being told to stop doing X, and how sometimes commenters seem to repeatedly be trying to test whether the mods will notice and how much poop they can smear around a thread until they are noticed. It seems really disrespectful, which probably aggravates the negative impact on the site, mods, and commenters, and maybe there should be a more firmly enforced "no trolling" policy, and stricter consequences for that kind of behavior on the site.

Ultimately, though, if there is going to be this apparent level of ongoing bad faith participation, then perhaps more focused FPPs could help with managing it - my sense is that it would be easier to sort out trolling from the good faith attempts at discussion, if mods and participants weren't having to slog through so many other topics and conversations all happening in the same place. I feel like the mods would have more allies in flagging if users felt discussions that are otherwise important to them were more accessible as seperate FPPs and thus more worthwhile to defend and protect.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:01 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


Shapes: you’ve made your opposition to these threads abundantly clear. Sorry to hear you’ve had a rough time. I included a (to-me) cloying smiley so folks would know I was kidding the fuck around. I don’t like being read in bad faith either.

Whatever. Nuke the megathreads. I’m over it. The people who seem to think that will fix the site and their lives will discover otherwise. I’m done defending them. The threads, I mean.

Thanks to everybody who contributed to them in such useful, informative, entertaining, and community-building ways. It was a real trip.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 6:04 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


The quote attributed to me in Little Dawn's post is actually from mai. The length of the megathreads is daunting at times, but it's not something that deters me from participating.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:05 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Another thing folks might be able to do if their comment is deleted in a MegaThread is choose to just accept this rather than let it be super frustrating. I mean, it is just a comment and the thread and you and I and everyone else on MetaFilter will probably be okay if it is deleted. One could choose to think of this as a small price to pay for having a MegaThread: thres’s just this random chance that sometimes your comment will be deleted and you won’t have the clearest idea of why as you’d like.

For folks who are finding this is happening a LOT then just hit up the contact form for some individual feedback and if there is a concern about some sort of systemic bias issue that can’t be resolved by talking it out with the mods then there is always MetaTalk.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:07 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


dangit, still working on the whole attention thing, thank you for the correction
posted by Little Dawn at 6:08 PM on January 14


Just based on the actions in-thread, it's hard to tell if the policy is to never ever make any jokes, or maybe not to make too many jokes and exercise good judgement about piling on, or maybe that only the middle third of jokes are allowed?

True, but I don't really see the harm in erring on the side of caution if one can't suss out the mod policy with regards to what gets deleted in the Megathread- if the uncertainty of the policy is troubling, just pick the strictest policy that you can deal with and run with that as your personal guide. If enough people made it a point to reduce how much they riff jokes (and/or how much they leave any of the types of comments cortex listed in the MeTa, really) then the Megathread will improve, even if mods never come out with a clearly stated policy of how much is too much with regards to comments that tend to get deleted (even if they're not deleted with 100% consistency)
posted by 23skidoo at 6:09 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Look I'm trying to read all the comments here and take people's concerns and feelings into account but I'm definitely not happy that this will be the continued policy. It certainly feels to me like it's just going to support the status quo more than anything else.

If I could ask for anything though would be that people stop using the phrase "not making perfect the enemy of good". Every time I see it my first thought it "oh, so what bigotry, what betrayals, what concessions are you fine with making". I don't know if people think it makes them seem like some sort of angelic problem-solver who can divine the ultimate synthesis of necessity and opportunity but to me it reeks of "good enough for me, to hell with those it's not good enough for". Peak centrist lack of perspective and willingness to compromise before it's necessary. It's used repeatedly to quash any complaints or concerns as being unrealistic, and to make out like anyone who doesn't like whoever the top-3 candidates are is practically a Trump supporter.

I think it's assumed at this point that most everyone on MetaFilter advocates for and is willing to vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination when it comes down to the line. The constant Jill Stein comments seem odd in that light. But I keep hearing that the primaries are the time to support who you'd really like, not who you feel you have to.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:11 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]

But I think that allowing them to go on as they have has had some significant negative impacts on the site as a whole and on many of us as individual commenters
I think this is the argument that confuses me most. It’s not the megathreads that have done any of that. It’s the state of the world that has done that. The world is going to keep being a dumpster fire for a while, and it’s going to keep affecting the lives of people in this community. Proposals that amount to “let’s just all agree to pretend that this isn’t a pervasive facet of our new shared reality” sound like demands that everyone just shut up about their lives and what’s going on in the world. Which, besides being genuinely weirdly triggery (you can’t talk about what’s happening to you here!), also seems completely unworkable. Like, if you want people to remain members of the community you can’t tell them that it’s conditional on putting them in some weird politics-doesn’t-affect-my-life closet, especially not when some of that politics is, like, directly targeted at them.

If they still aren’t sustainable, they obviously have to change. But proposals to kill them off seem...I’m searching for non-fighty words. “Not great.”
posted by schadenfrau at 6:16 PM on January 14 [14 favorites]


The people who seem to think that will fix the site and their lives will discover otherwise.

My life is in fucking shambles, thanks, and I'm just trying to make this little corner of it better by offering to work with people to come up with something that will make everyone happy. I'm not expecting a miracle, I'm just trying to help. If that pisses a bunch of people off, I don't know what else to do. It's like you become The Enemy just by straying a little from the line.

The most mature thing to do right now would have been to just say nothing at all, but I'm angry and hurt, and I'm going to do the second-best thing and walk away for a while.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:17 PM on January 14 [10 favorites]


AnhydrousLove, accusing other people of advocating bigotry is the flip side of that coin. People can have different views without it being a Betrayal. This is the kind of thing we need people to avoid doing, acting like other people on the site are the enemy.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:19 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


If they still aren’t sustainable, they obviously have to change. But proposals to kill them off seem...I’m searching for non-fighty words. “Not great.”

Basically I think that if we want to discuss these things on this site in a way that generates more light than heat -- or, conversely, isn't modded into an austere feed of NYT and WaPo links -- we should go back to focused FPPs built around a more or less coherent single topic.

And, like, I do think they need to be rolled back/reinvented, not killed outright. Balkanized, I guess. I want to talk about this stuff! But I'm increasingly frustrated with how the form and traditions of the megathreads are warping these discussions.
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:25 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I would prefer that. And if each focused thread, one at a time, on a TOPIC related to the current fucking mess, was open only a few days or so...then great. We discussed it all, after all.
posted by agregoli at 6:27 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


When people say "making perfect the enemy of good", they're openly admitting that there's problems but ones that don't bother them enough. I don't have to accuse them of bigotry, the statement outright makes clear that there is a level they're ok with.

When it comes to the actual election, I understand that compromises need to be made. At this stage though, when it's already being thrown around freely, maybe people aren't my enemy but they're certainly showing that they're not really my ally.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:28 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Also, it never seems to go the other way with the enemy assumptions. When nmpteog is the response, people are implying that whatever I'm suggesting makes me the enemy. You know, because I'm apparently advocating perfect, and they're more reasonable and offering good, and therefore I am the enemy.

It's certainly been implied a bunch of times that socialists are responsible for fascism. That's not an uncommon undertone in a lot of responses. I would suggest the idea that none of us are actually opposed to each other in any meaningful ways is incredibly misleading
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:36 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I think you're misunderstanding how that phrase is meant.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:38 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


My problem with the megathreads is that they have become de facto politics.metafilter.com - people treat them as a dumping ground for whatever political thing is on their radar. I have no idea how to fix that without just formalizing the reality: create a politics sub-site and ban politics from the blue altogether.
posted by um at 6:46 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


They could even be closed via concensus. That topic is now done! New topic open! Easy to delete any non related shit in thread! Same rules as all of MeFi...stay on topic. I'm sure this a sparkly pony I'm imagining.
posted by agregoli at 6:51 PM on January 14


Can someone please explain to me:

1. What was the problem that creating the megathread was meant to solve?

2. How exactly does the megathread negatively impact the rest of the site?

Thank you.
posted by M-x shell at 6:51 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


M-x shell - per this Metatalk thread from February 2017, the policy of putting related political topics into one megathread was (at least partly) to "reduce the number of distinct posts on the front page".

This Metatalk thread is a discussion of the impact of the political megathreads on the rest of the site - or at least, on the blue.
posted by fever-trees at 7:06 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


My understanding was that the purpose was primarily one of containment. Which is another reason the proposals to go with topic specific posts also confuse me.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:09 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


I mean, in the end what’s best for the site is what allows the mod team to continue to function, and not just in a grim, powering-through sort of way. And it’s possible that by now the politics regulars have been mostly house trained, and dispersing the megathreads back into the wild as many individual posts might work better than it did before.

But I suppose I’m concerned both of these things avoids the real problem, which is just...the world, right now. The world is garbage. That’s gonna leak in. So if the question is one of sustainability, would more mods help? Fundraising? Because I don’t think there’s a way to keep politics off the site without killing the community in order to save it, so to speak.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:14 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


I'm fine with separate, topic-specific threads, if that's workable.

But all of this stuff is so interrelated. Imagine that we have a thread about the collusion/obstruction investigations, a thread about the Democratic primaries, and a thread about a new SCOTUS nominee (God forbid).

If a Democratic candidate makes a notable statement about the investigations (or the judicial nominee), and that statement becomes A Thing in the media – does that go in both applicable threads? If so, what aspects of The Thing are admissible for discussion in each of the two threads?

If people find concerning statements that the judicial nominee has made about the investigations – again, which thread does that go in?

Contrived examples, but you get my point.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:18 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Which is why one topic at a time makes sense to me.
posted by agregoli at 7:26 PM on January 14


Which is why one topic at a time makes sense to me.

Wait. What? So there could be a post about a SCOTUS thing happening, but if some Mueller reveal drops, we have to wait until the SCOTUS thread is done before starting a new post for that?
I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding your idea, but that seems not super helpful. I think news cycles are moving way too fast for that to be the solution.
posted by greermahoney at 8:39 PM on January 14 [8 favorites]


Which is why one topic at a time makes sense to me.

And then we end up with 28 threads a day that are nothing but various heads of the hydra that is US politics, plus maybe another 5 a day for the different Brexit stuff, and the people who want to read about cheese or statements on toxic masculinity or film history can't find what would interest them.

We live in unusual times. This is an unusual scenario. When things normalize in terms of our problems perhaps we can go back to one-topic-per-thread. At present, I think it would be a detriment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 PM on January 14 [16 favorites]


I think you're misunderstanding how that phrase is meant.

I'd love to know what the alternate reading of that phrase is that doesn't come down to "you may think you're dreaming of a better world, but by not falling into line, by trying to hold onto foolish principles and disqualifying courses of action or choices just because they seem immoral to you, you're actually part of the problem, don't you know that we can't really have nice things, just ok ones, and if you try and argue for nice things, by default, because you're not arguing for my ok things, and you think they're not good enough, you're weakening our case and giving the right ammunition".

It's an absolutely bog-standard centrist tactic, deployed to position anyone on their left as a utopian fool who is actually harmful to real progress & most importantly, silence their critiques as helpful to the real enemy, thus always avoiding accountability by effectively wielding the right as a rhetorical cudgel to force co-operation.
Unless there truly is an alternate reading to that phrase, which I'd certainly love to know about.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:17 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


AnhydrousLove, you are doing the thing. What you're doing right now is literally the reason for this Metatalk. If you can't stop yourself from doing this, you need to find another place to discuss politics online.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:21 PM on January 14 [20 favorites]


I view it like this. Was Gay marriage worth it? There were some queer people who viewed marriage as either heterosexual nonsense, or a betrayal of their values and refused to campaign for marriage equality. That was letting perfect be the enemy of good. Because as we're seeing with the absolute flip flop on mainstream views of gay rights, the fight for marriage equality seems to have had a real effect on people's views on gays/lesbians. Now is the fight over? no! We still have to help trans and NB folk and Ace folk etc! Marriage isn't a panacea! But it was an important step forward, and now we can take the others. Sometimes change is incremental. We aren't going to get queer luxury space communism overnight, and taking small steps helps. Sometimes, trying for too much will generate too much opposition, and will get everything shut down, so we try a small step. That's working for good instead of perfect, because one we can actually achieve, and it will lead us to the other.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:24 PM on January 14 [19 favorites]


"The perfect is the enemy of the good" is about alternatives, not about the people that are preferring one or the other of those alternatives. I hadn't considered the possibility it might be interpreted as an insult.
posted by Jpfed at 9:27 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


And then we end up with 28 threads a day that are nothing but various heads of the hydra that is US politics

When I look at the current megathread, I see several FPPs that could be made (e.g. Shutdown Roundup, Impeachment Roundup, Trade War Roundup), so it might be more manageable if politics posts are limited to broad megatopics, as opposed to opening up a free-for-all on political FPPs.

An example of how moderating multiple megatopic politics threads might work is how LobsterMitten directed a conversation to another thread in the current megathread. To a certain extent, the development of each FPP discussion would depend on current events, but it also could be guided by the discretion of the moderators, and I think that could be a low key way to help keep discussions on track, especially because mods could leave notes pointing at the other discussion - if there were concerns about how well it was working, it could be addressed in a MetaTalk, and the site philosophy about managing complex discussions can continue to evolve in response to the feedback.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:28 PM on January 14


It’s not the megathreads that have done any of that. It’s the state of the world that has done that. The world is going to keep being a dumpster fire for a while, and it’s going to keep affecting the lives of people in this community.

This. The megathreads aren’t ruining Metafilter, the shitshow happening outside is affecting us all, not the tiny piece that’s on display.
posted by corb at 9:46 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "We live in unusual times. This is an unusual scenario."

But we really don't. Trump sucks, but he has turned out to be much more of a reincarnation of Bush 2 than I would have expected (unprecedented shutdown aside). So we live in Republican-president-times, and accordingly I think returning to Bush-era post & moderation practices would be much better for the site than the megathreads.

But I suppose this is a conversation for the promised megathread metatalk discussion.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:18 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


This. The megathreads aren’t ruining Metafilter, the shitshow happening outside is affecting us all, not the tiny piece that’s on display.

Right, but some people also just want a tiny piece of the internet to just not be an absolute shitshow. And I don't think either side is using Metafilter incorrectly, but I also don't know how to keep both sides happy.

I mean, this post for me is just a loud air raid siren warning that for the entire year the primaries and politics will dominate the site AND the internet. So, I just went ahead and clicked "Hide US Politics" on the sidebar, because I do not want to go through 2016 again. And if that doesn't work, I'm just going to be on the internet less. I'm not saying this as some way to say "IT'S UNFAIR I'M SILENCED FOREVER!", I'm just saying this is how I'm already trying to avoid bad shit.
posted by FJT at 10:24 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


Count me in on the side of "megathreads were a good choice, and probably the only workable way to approach this within this particular site and community."
posted by aspersioncast at 10:25 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


But I suppose this is a conversation for the promised megathread metatalk discussion.
Or maybe one that is very unlikely to be productive? The site is vastly different now than it was in the Bush years; there's no threading that needle.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:28 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


When I look at the current megathread, I see several FPPs that could be made (e.g. Shutdown Roundup, Impeachment Roundup, Trade War Roundup)

Democratic Candidate Roundup, White Supremacy Roundup, Proposed Legislation Roundup... we have a megathread because, as messy and scrambled as it gets, most MeFites don't want six smaller megathreads going all the time, and it was pretty obvious that the current political situations could easily maintain 4 and maybe 8 constant political threads.

I'm often frustrated with the "one big thread" approach; when I check in after several hours or a day or two away, I find where I left off, and see a new interesting section on a topic where I might have more information - but by the time I get to the bottom, it's obvious that my Topic Of Interest is old news, no longer being directly discussed.

It's also disorienting to spend time in other threads, where casual jokes and miscellaneous "so, I had a thought about this" comments are not forbidden. It's hard to participate in both "the site" and "the megathread."

However, I'm not sure there's any other way to arrange it. The megathread was created to prevent clusters of smaller megathreads ("upcoming candidates" would not be a small or slow thread on its own) and swarms of single-topic political threads, of the kind that appeared occasionally before the megathread model. I don't think that'd be better for the site nor for the members who dislike the megathreads, and even for those who like the politics posts, there's something comforting about seeing the majority of the topic confined, even if it's chaotic.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:55 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I see several FPPs that could be made (e.g. Shutdown Roundup, Impeachment Roundup, Trade War Roundup)

A problem with allowing multiple similar but slightly different US Politics FPPs is that the same content/arguments ends up getting posted in each one's comments, significantly increasing the workload of the mods.
posted by Candleman at 11:11 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I had a thought: since many megathread readers might have missed the small link in the thread to this metatalk, can it be put in the US politics sidebar? It might be useful for making sure people see it.

I've now added it – I just didn't want to make the change and then go to bed hoping that nothing broke while I slept.
posted by frimble (staff) at 1:51 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


Thanks, frimble.
posted by nangar at 2:30 AM on January 15


Since the moderation of jokes is confusing people, maybe the jokes should get their own Meta, so there's an angry/despairing Meta and a funny/savage mockery Meta. Then the mods could just nuke all the one-liners in the megathread.
posted by heatvision at 4:20 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Or take the jokes and one-liners to Chat.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:42 AM on January 15 [14 favorites]


No. Not 28 threads a day. One at a time. On one topic. For one day. Or two. Or more. I was pretty clear about the idea. I am sure it's a non starter, but I've gotten several reactions that aren't about any of what I imagined for that idea.
posted by agregoli at 5:13 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the threads and I would love less noise in them. Sometimes I go on a flagging spree in irritation - I could try to be more consistent about flagging.

I am very frustrated by the response here to the inconsistent modding of jokes. We were asked to cut it out. Mods are telling you it makes their jobs bad. I mean, I love to make one-liner jokes, but when I find myself wanting to do that in the politics thread, I take myself to the front page or FanFare to find a more appropriate place to be silly. Or I message people who I think will appreciate my sentiments. Not to say I'm perfect, but I really try to keep the guidelines in mind when commenting.

I have learned a lot from these threads but I was well informed before they were here and I would rather the site be a healthy place than preserve the MegaThread at all costs. Anyway, I contributed some $$ to MetaFilter for the first time in 2019.
posted by Emmy Rae at 5:35 AM on January 15 [7 favorites]


I don't read the US Politics megathreads, but I'm glad they exist so the rest of the site stays readable.
I still find other live events megathreads useful as a single place where people I trust will share links and commentary.

A couple of ideas, I'm sure those have been discussed before, and admittedly some are bad :
- Have a "permanent" US Politics thread that would reset every day to make it more tolerable ? (e.g every day, a new post replaces the previous one and the previous one is closed to new comments)
- Give Mod duty to a different user every day (within a pool of volunteers) specifically for the megathreads
- Give the mods the ability to "hide" a bunch of comments as a way of saying : this a derail or this is not that relevant, but without deleting the comments (so one could read the jokes if they wanted, but they wouldn't clutter the conversation)
- Make the text editing box slower to type in for megathreads (the more comments a thread has, the slower it would be to type in the comment box
- Force preview in megathreads, or DoublePreviewTM so people actually have to pause and reflect before sharing
- Past a certain number of comments in a thread, you have to answer a few question or write a small essay about good commenting practices before you're allowed to comment
- Every n flags on a megathread someone has to provide a mod with a hug/drink/candy and only when that hug/drink/candy has been consumed can commenting resume

More seriously : I'm a bit worried that mods sound very tired already from megathreads, and although enforcing better behaviour will have an impact, I fear it will still be overly stressful to them. Would it make sense to think of things that we can do as users (beyond flagging and respecting the rules) to make this less of a burden on mods ?
posted by motdiem2 at 5:54 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Sorry, agregoli – I too am having a hard time imagining what you are proposing. If we're in the middle of a three-day "let's talk about the shutdown" cycle, and major Mueller news drops on the morning of Day 2...do we just not talk about that until the next cycle? We would have to arm the mods with Gatling guns for them to stand a chance.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:20 AM on January 15


I have extremely mixed feelings about this. I agree that things were ugly here in 2016, and I don't have a better idea. But I'm not sure this is going to be any less frustrating for anyone, honestly.

I logged out of MeFi recently to prevent myself from posting. I'm logging in this morning just to post this comment and will log back out again immediately.

There was at least one instance in late 2018 where a particularly bitter post assigning blame for the 2016 election was allowed to stand, but my response to it was deleted.

There have been other times in megathreads where posts disappeared with no notice or explanation from moderators. When that happens it can be confusing and frustrating, particularly when it seems to be inconsistent. In one of those cases, I had simply posted a link to what seemed like a well-reasoned, thoughtful and relevant editorial without adding my own commentary. NOPE! deleted without explanation.

Overall this gave me the impression that certain people (with certain points of view) are allowed to bend the rules more than a little, while other people (and their points of view) are just considered troublemakers and immediately duct-taped into silence. And that made me feel more unwelcome on this site than all of 2016's infighting.
posted by Foosnark at 6:34 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


My hope is that Thread cuts down on fluff, and if that cuts down on participation in those threads, then... good? There's nothing wrong with a quieter Thread. People might feel like they need jokes, but they don't need jokes *in that thread*. Find another way to satisfy your need.

Another source of fluff is kneejerk reactions that could be filled in without reference to any current news outside the site, e.g. by a Markov bot trained only on Thread. The idea was mentioned above that we could ask rants that retread well-covered ground to also include a link. There is some value in that suggestion just because it introduces a barrier-to-entry for rehashes, but I think the suggestion could be further refined. The point of links isn't the indirection; it's connecting us more firmly with observed facts or at least introducing new information. That takes us out of Janelle-Shane-could-have-written-something-that-could-have-written-this territory into somewhere new. So when you want to talk about Those Feckless Democrats, you can bring something new by linking to Splintercept.leak that reports on what they've done, etc. If you'd like to fantasize about Mueller Is Going To Legally Destroy Trump And Damn That Will Be Satisfying, not going to lie, I'm right there with you, but unless you've got a link to some expert's analysis, it just fluffs up the Thread.
posted by Jpfed at 6:50 AM on January 15 [9 favorites]


"We live in unusual times. This is an unusual scenario."

"But we really don't... we live in Republican-president-times"


Huh, I don't think I've ever actually sputtered before.
posted by diogenes at 7:04 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


Sorry, agregoli – I too am having a hard time imagining what you are proposing.

Yeah, I'm not getting how it would work, either. Don't get me wrong, what you're describing sounds interesting and beneficial, but I don't really understand how it could be implemented at Metafilter
posted by 23skidoo at 7:08 AM on January 15


" In one of those cases, I had simply posted a link to what seemed like a well-reasoned, thoughtful and relevant editorial without adding my own commentary. NOPE! deleted without explanation."

I could not locate this incident -- it's possible it simply didn't post, due to server hiccup or accidentally hitting preview instead of post or who knows. The only megathread comment you've had deleted that included a link was to a joke site (about Mueller grinding for a while before the boss fight) and it was a double that someone had posted a bit before you.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:09 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Yes. It's a sign of these weird MeFi times that the attitude is we SHOULD be talking about ALL of it. Maybe a topic wouldn't make it to an FPP because the news cycle moved on to something different/bigger. So what? No harm done! We aren't actually required to have a catch-all thread, or discuss every horrible thing that is related to current U.S. politics. There's no reason the scope should be SO big, and it's not how anything else on MeFi works. I think it would be great for the mods to know that the current topic would be over at a set time, and anything off topic can be deleted safely. Maybe it's too much change per day/week, but that's my thought on it.
posted by agregoli at 7:17 AM on January 15 [9 favorites]


To reiterate: one FPP at a time, on one topic at a time (current new news about ___), closed at the end of the day or two days. A pause, where the mods get a break. New thread about new topic posted the next morning/shift. Anything off topic deleted. A queue of topic threads for mods to decide on. And if a topic is skipped in favor of bigger news, get over it. Or try again during the next slower news period.
posted by agregoli at 7:21 AM on January 15


If you'd like to fantasize about Mueller Is Going To Legally Destroy Trump And Damn That Will Be Satisfying, not going to lie, I'm right there with you, but unless you've got a link to some expert's analysis, it just fluffs up the Thread.

QFT. I could do without lurid, unrestrained speculation in general – whether it's "here's the sequence of events that will save us and put 'em all in prison", or "here's the nightmare scenario that will surely kill us all".

Like, it's okay to say "I wonder if this could have X effect on Y issue in the future", or "sometimes I worry that X is leading us down a path to Y", or "X gives me a little more hope that Y will come to pass". But I find no value in "here's the detailed and entirely speculative way this is gonna play out, according to my imagination". It's just baseless wishful thinking and/or catastrophizing.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:39 AM on January 15 [12 favorites]


I think the Megathread has already become very grim and would be happy to see at least as many jokes survive.

I do think people need to stop with their hobbyhorses, though. I even agree with many of their hobbyhorses, but it just gets too self-righteous and too stale. Plus, it's bulky; that's the "fluff" I wish weren't in the thread. If you feel like you're getting back onto your specific hobbyhorse, then please get right back down (that includes me, 100%). (If someone cannot do this or does not apparently realize that they're on their hobbyhorse so much, then I think some very gentle mod intervention is warranted. Not anything disciplinary, but a head's up).

I'm sorry that the threads are so hard to moderate. That said, I think that cracking down further and further on them with more and more rules is just going to make them worse places to be, both for moderators and commenters. Because it's going to make the atmosphere even more antagonistic and exhausting. And creating a million rules is infantalizing, which if anything, will encourage commenters to act like infantile brats.

From my perspective, the changes that have empowered commenters and encouraged the thread to be self-regulating have been the most successful. Both in how thoroughly those changes have been adopted and in terms of how long and how well they've stuck. I'm thinking of changes like the institution of the Wiki for post creation, or timing the creation of new threads.

I hear that the current status quo is untenable for moderation, but I think that the way to make it more tenable is to cede more control to the commenters in ways that encourage internal/self-regulation and not to impose more rules and discipline from the outside onto the threads. Not least because sloughing off some of the work to the commenters themselves would hopefully take that work off the mods' shoulders. And because if positive changes to the thread's culture become self-reinforcing, that's the easiest to maintain and happiest outcome for everyone.

Just putting in my two-cents. I don't have a lot of ideas about how to encourage greater self-regulation in the Megathreads, because although I'm an avid reader, I'm not as involved as many in them.
posted by rue72 at 7:43 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I appreciate the megathreads for compiling a lot of good links and for the commentary that often follows, focusing on that info and I don't really mind the joking that much, in reasonable measure, what does get me down a bit on the threads is that they do seem to exist in their own, um, echosystem, where the there seems to be smaller group of users that dominate the conversation, which is in itself isn't necessarily a problem, but in doing so create an atmosphere for the threads that has a patter which lends it a clubhouse-like feel at times.

One of the most notable examples of this is when a commenter will quote or say something descriptive about the administration or its acts which will be immediately corrected to be more condemnatory or cynical without really offering any different information otherwise. Common examples are a media source saying Trump may have planned X, and someone will respond saying Trump doesn't plan, or a someone will offer some speculation on why the administration did something and someone will jump in to add "racism" or some other indication of how evil they all are.

I don't have any problem with seeing Trump and company as racist and evil, but the constant need to repeat it gets pretty noisy. I mean there isn't really anyone arguing against the idea and the site is pretty firmly on the Trump=Evil bandwagon, so the impression that repetition gives often reads like "your comment is soft, hate harder". Something I imagine is draining for the mods to have to constantly read since it wears me out in small doses.

Maybe try developing some acronyms TDP (Trump don't plan), RARSA (Republicans are racist, sexist assholes), MBS (Media both sideism) or whatever since those things are almost always already implicit in the original statement anyway and don't need full recounting to be noted.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:11 AM on January 15 [20 favorites]


Maybe try developing some acronyms TDP (Trump don't plan), RARSA (Republicans are racist, sexist assholes), MBS (Media both sideism) or whatever since those things are almost always already implicit in the original statement anyway and don't need full recounting to be noted.

Nah. We don’t need more acronyms and in-group phrases. There are always new mefites and these things are a barrier, and each time they are used, someone will ask what they mean, prolonging the conversation.

Your original point stands. If your answer is “because racism” or “it’s not nth dimension chess, people” please consider that maybe that doesn’t need to be said yet again. Literally no one in the politics threads has forgotten racism exists or that Trump is an idiot.
posted by greermahoney at 8:29 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


There are always new mefites and these things are a barrier, and each time they are used, someone will ask what they mean, prolonging the conversation.

Heh. True enough, something I should have realized after months of people asking about "obvious anagram" Reince Priebus. Thank goodness that, at least, has passed.

(There is no obvious anagram, his name just looks as if there should be.)
posted by gusottertrout at 8:39 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


One thing that just occurred to me is that during the election, we had a helpful FAQ up that explained common in jokes, as well as arguments already firmly rehashed, so the new users coming in would be able to start right away. I’m wondering if it might be a good idea for the post election threads too?
posted by corb at 8:39 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Maybe the answer for that genre of fluff is just to flag with note-> rehash.
posted by Jpfed at 8:47 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


I read the Megathread, comment rarely, and flag less. I get that I should flag more, but I basically can’t read during the workday so I often end up behind by twelve or more hours. Is it still useful to flag things that are that old? I tend to only do so when it seems pretty egregious.

If I am not supposed to bother flagging so late, then we should also consider what it means that the people who have time to flag immediately are the ones whose flags are most likely to matter. (I understand that it’s a practical thing if so, but it might be distorting nonetheless).
posted by nat at 9:20 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I feel that the majority of posters in the megathreads are basically center-left politically, and this sometimes results in further left analyses being deleted because they lead to pile-ons from other users. I know it's useful to avoid pile-ons or rehashes of intense arguments, but I worry that this also results in a situation where, all else being equal, a socialist analysis is more likely to be deleted than a liberal analysis. I find this incredibly frustrating, and it makes me feel unwelcome on the site in a way I never had before.

I will say that this has felt like less of a problem in recent months, but I'm not sure whether that's just a result of my modifying my posting style.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 9:30 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


nat - We very rarely delete stuff that old, since the main goal of moderation here is to keep things more-or-less on track in the moment, not to have an edited improved transcript after-the-fact.

In these catchall threads, we're very likely to have already seen the comment and left it for one reason or another, even if it's not great. (Might be worth flagging if there's some very subtle problem like the comment is linking to a malware site that only changed to malware hours after the comment was posted, or it's secretly saying something terrible in a coded way that we may not have understood.) In another kind of thread, e.g. if comments are coming in very slowly, a 12 hour old comment may only have a couple of responses, and then it's more likely that a late flag will be useful.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:31 AM on January 15


Ok, I'll fess up.

I'm a megathread regular. I read most comments, I hold my place in multiple open tabs (click on the timestamps to open them in new windows, yo!), I comment moderately often, I have had the occasional comment deleted. (Including one just now, possibly because it was too long, or possibly because I prefaced it by saying that it came fully formed to me in a fever dream last night?) And I'm ok with all that.

I've repeatedly and vocally appreciated the mod effort that keeps those threads useful, and I really appreciate the regulars who bring in the firehose of stuff.

What I don't understand yet - and I'm asking this in good faith here - is why some people are so hell-bent on changing the megathreads. Yes, it's a duct-taped solution, but what's so wrong with it?

1. It's a worry about mod burnout. OK, I'm 100% on board for this one. Anything that can help with this, count me in. I suspect that the only real solution is money - enough to hire more mods - or possibly volunteer megathread-only moderators.

2. It sucks up the site energy. I understand this, but as EmpressCallipygos and corb said upstream, the world is different. Don't tell me this is usual Republican president stuff - I join diogenes in sputtering (spluttering?). If it wasn't for the megathread, I'd find some other politics-obsessing site to spend much more time on, where I would be worse off - and I sincerely believe that this site would be worse off if enough people decided the same thing.

3. "We should go back to the way things were." Sorry? Let's talk after Trump and Pence have resigned and President Nancy Pelosi leads us into the luxury gay space communism we were promised, with taco trucks on every street corner. Then, yes.

4. "We should have more threads for deeper dives on topics." I agree! But have you met these other members, who want to ban all US politics from here? Can you imagine a front page with 8 active threads, one each for the Supreme Court fight, the border wall bribery scandal, the resignation of Mnuchin, the Emoluments clause lawsuit, the indictment of Jared, ...?

Ugh I don't know. To the thread regulars, I love you all. Please don't leave.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:44 AM on January 15 [16 favorites]


Including one just now,

(It was in the vein of "here's my hypothetical prediction about how this will definitely go, and how it will lead to terribleness", which folks have asked us to rein in some. I do get where you were coming from with it, and no harm no foul at all; sorry to delete a longish comment.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:51 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that it is mostly driven by a worry about mod burnout, and I'm not so sure throwing more money at it will work, because the only money solution I see would be hiring mods who specifically enjoy moderating such threads and :
- You'd need several of them to cover the round-the-clock nature of the megathread
- That would cost a lot of money to properly pay them, and bring very little additional revenue to the site

And to this I'd add:
- I'm not sure there exist people who'd enjoy being paid for that and do a good job at it constantly
- If the site had enough money to hire such mods, I'm not sure that would be the best use of this money, versus say improving other parts of the site, or delivering more ponies

So yeah, it seems like a tough problem to solve, and possibly the only thing we can do is everyone plays a part in making it a less miserable experience for the mods
posted by motdiem2 at 9:59 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


2. It sucks up the site energy. I understand this, but as EmpressCallipygos and corb said upstream, the world is different. Don't tell me this is usual Republican president stuff - I join diogenes in sputtering (spluttering?). If it wasn't for the megathread, I'd find some other politics-obsessing site to spend much more time on, where I would be worse off - and I sincerely believe that this site would be worse off if enough people decided the same thing.

I think the problem is that some (impossible to quantify) number of people believe that people are abandoning MetaFilter for some other politics-obsessing site. That site is called TheMegathread.com*. We've seen the stats that posting and commenting are way down since 2016. It's entirely possible that that is unrelated to the megathreads - or even that the megathreads are helping to fight what would otherwise be a worse downturn - but it seems wise to at least consider making some changes to see if we can reverse that trend.

*I just bought it, so feel free to make me an offer.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:47 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


What if you support the President? Do you have a place here in conversation?
posted by lstanley at 12:16 PM on January 15


Honestly? No, very likely not. In my experience, though, opinions like that and things like "socialism is always evil" aren't very amenable to having conversations about in general.
posted by flatluigi at 12:23 PM on January 15 [11 favorites]


I like RPG.net's answer to that question.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:23 PM on January 15 [13 favorites]


(tl;dr: Support for Trump is implicit support for white supremacy and fascism, and is therefore not welcome.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:26 PM on January 15 [14 favorites]


lstanley, that seems like trolling, and I'll warn you in the strongest possible terms against it. If that's your sincere view you should go elsewhere.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:26 PM on January 15 [17 favorites]


It was an honest question that I was hoping to see comments along of the line of "Of course, opposing viewpoints do no harm." That the response I give to those posting the same type of questions on website I moderate on.

But on Metafilter, simply because I support many of the President's policies in just a few moments, I am accused of not being able converse because I don't like socialism, was accused of "implicit support for white supremacy and fascism, and is therefore not welcome" and a mod thinks I am trolling and tells me to go elsewhere.

You worry about user engagement and that's your approach to someone that has an opposing viewpoint?

Ahh well, this place passed me by a long time ago and I probably should have seen it more clearly. Go on, continue to collect your cheap favorites on my behalf but honestly I get it, it's hard to defend speech or content that’s inconsistent with a website's identity politics and required signals.
posted by lstanley at 12:55 PM on January 15


It's dishonest in the extreme to say Trump's "viewpoints" do no harm; that's exactly why this seems like trolling. Happy trails, guy.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:59 PM on January 15 [51 favorites]


Have a cheap favorite from me, LM. And a beer if I ever meet you in person.
posted by greermahoney at 1:16 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]


The purpose of megathread is so we can discuss things from a shared elevated perspective and set of assumptions without constantly going back to the ABCs. This is our sanctuary. Please respect that.
posted by M-x shell at 1:41 PM on January 15


this seems like trolling. Happy trails, guy.

If you scratch a Trump supporter I believe that you will find racism and shitty beliefs pretty close to the surface, but this is itself a shitty way to interact with a Mefite.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:00 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


This is not our first interaction with him, and at a certain point politely making space for someone to be the same jerk over and over again becomes a worse thing than saying, okay, goodbye then if you are going. It's a rarity that it comes to that but, yes, mind the screen door in this case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:10 PM on January 15 [33 favorites]


I feel safer here with a mod who does not mince words about whether this website needs to cater to Trump supporters and who treats people who advance that idea bluntly before waving at the door.

I have actually already written and flagged for deletion a comment in this thread about how strongly I do not want this place to be a safe place for them or for proud Republicans, because even the concept makes me feel unsafe. I feel really strongly about it, but I figured I'd maybe misread the person I was responding to and that I was being unnecessarily aggressive.

But the rudeness to someone who comes in with that opinion? That lets me go "oh, okay, there's a decision here, and it's a decision in favor of bandying together and supporting our vulnerable members." I feel incredibly strongly about a sort of "at least let's be polite" mentality providing cover for abuses and abusive people, and I am a little fragile about the number of people who have written off poor behavior to me because I wasn't sufficiently polite about saying "That hurt!" We don't have to respect people who are being disrespectful, and I don't think it is possible to be both a Trump supporter and someone who is genuinely respectful to other people here.

Sometimes inclusiveness can become exclusionary, and vice versa, depending on both context and whether certain types of people can coexist.
posted by sciatrix at 2:15 PM on January 15 [23 favorites]


What I don't understand yet - and I'm asking this in good faith here - is why some people are so hell-bent on changing the megathreads.

Despite appearances, I’m not under the impression that banning megathreads will fix my rotten life and bring joy to children of all ages.

Here are my real concerns:

Mod burnout is real, and huge. There have been comments for years stating outright how difficult and taxing these threads are. One of the mods recently mentioned that the megathreads require nonstop attention to continually put out spot fires. They’ve made it abundantly clear that this is exhausting and not fun at all. I don’t want to act like I can speak for the mods, but I think I’m just summarizing stuff they’ve said publicly over the years.

This need for constant vigilance isn’t just stressful and exhausting for the mods, it also takes their energy away from the rest of the site. They are less able to monitor the rest of the site, and they are less able to develop the rest of the site going forward. This has been problematic of late — think of the MeTa threads in which the mods have had to apologize for not being able to stay on top of things as much. I feel like I’ve noticed a difference, and other people have said the same.

To put it another way, this site needed a full-time staff long before these megathreads, and it still needs one now — except that staff is now required to focus on one giant thread, instead of the site as a whole. It’s not like they had nothing to do before.

At this point, I don’t even care about personally participating in megathreads. That ship sailed a while ago. But I think it’s still had an effect on how people interact. My totally unscientific take is that there’s a new site culture around megathreads that seeps over into anything remotely political.

But look, even if that’s not true, the fact remains that the mods have consistently complained about burnout, and I don’t think it’s my imagination that the rest of the site has been impacted as well. I know how valuable these threads are for the people who use them, and I don’t think you’re a bad person if you get value from them. It’s just that they require more than the site was ever built to do, to the real detriment of multiple facets of the site community, especially the staff.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:17 PM on January 15 [18 favorites]


Paradox of tolerance. Karl Popper. If a society tolerates intolerance soon you wont have tolerance- or a society.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:17 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]



this seems like trolling. Happy trails, guy.

If you scratch a Trump supporter I believe that you will find racism and shitty beliefs pretty close to the surface, but this is itself a shitty way to interact with a Mefite.


I am someone who thinks that the site has become significantly less interesting and readable (and compassionate, and kind) in the last couple of years or so, and have made a new account in good part for this reason, but I 100% endorse both restless_nomad’s wording and & actions re. the user who wants to ponder Trumps virtues on the site.

To my mind, one of the worst effects of the megathreads is that they exacerbate a tendency the site had before 2016, namely to allow only for a narrow set of opinions, attitudes, expressions, beliefs. You know the arguments; they have been made – and debated – before.

But Trump and what he stands for are something else. He has become a byword, worldwide, for everything that is ugly in the human species. He and his ilk are not just a danger to individuals and groups, I firmly believe that what they stirred up could genuinely endanger large swathes of the human species. To say, in the strongest of terms, that defending him and those like him is absolutely banned in a space online is the tiniest, minuscule contribution we can make to countering this real and acute danger. For many of us, it is the only thing.

I’m glad the action was taken and restless_omad put it the way she put it.
posted by doggod at 2:29 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]


Here is one question I've been wrestling with for some time with respect to folks requesting that megathreads be removed or reduced:

How do we disentangle the effects of the megathreads themselves from the effect of living in the intensely politically stressful time that both the USA and the UK are currently experiencing? In terms of moderator burnout, is the megathread itself what's stressing mods out, or is it the increased user tetchiness as a factor of stress?

I know that I have way less in the way of interpersonal reserves for conflict management than I used to, and I'm more reactive than I used to be. I pop in and out of the megathreads as I have energy--I follow maybe a third of them and comment infrequently on them. I'm much more likely to immerse myself in threads on other topics that might be equally sensitive, like workers' strikes or tradeoffs in nutrition for school meals. But not being in the megathread itself is.... hrm. I don't know that I am appreciably better behaved in one kind of thread than another. That might generalize to other users, and it might not. But I have to wonder how much of that moderator burnout with respect to trying to wrangle a reactive, tense, and easily upset userbase is coming from the topic, and how much is just coming from the uncertain context that is hitting many people in their day-to-day right now.
posted by sciatrix at 2:31 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Can't we just believe the mods when they say they are tired of the megathreads in the current form?
posted by agregoli at 2:33 PM on January 15 [8 favorites]


I'm... not sure where you are getting the idea that I don't believe the mods? Huh?
posted by sciatrix at 2:35 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Someone linked the RPG.net policy above. I think it has genuine value as a set of guidelines for how to strive for positive engagement in the age of Trump (may it be short-lived), so I am pasting it here:

1. We are banning support of the administration of President Trump. You can still post on RPG.net even if you do in fact support the administration — you just can't talk about it here.
2. We are absolutely not endorsing the Democrats nor are we banning all Republicans.
3. We are certainly not banning conservative politics, or anything on the spectrum of reasonable political viewpoints. We assert that hate groups and intolerance are categorically different from other types of political positions, and that confusing the two legitimizes bigotry and hatred.
4. We are not going to have a purge — we will not be banning people for past support. Though if your profile picture is yourself in a MAGA hat, this might be a good time to change it.
5. We will not permit witch-hunts, progressive loyalty-testing, or attempting to bait another into admitting support for President Trump in order to get them banned. The mod staff will deal harshly with attempts to weaponize this policy.
6. It is not open season on conservatives, and revenge fantasies against Trump and Trump supporters are still against the rules.


I don't know if it would be difficult (or irrelevant) to include such a strongly worded statement as under RPG1, but maybe having something of this kind openly stated would function as reassurance that even if there are differences between users, everybody is united by accepting this as a (current) foundational principle of the site.
posted by doggod at 2:35 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]


In terms of moderator burnout, is the megathread itself what's stressing mods out, or is it the increased user tetchiness as a factor of stress?

The mods have said, repeatedly, that the dynamic of the megathreads, and all the deleting, notes, etc they have to do there, is what's causing the biggest problem for them. Yeah, the world is tough and everyone is cranky, but the threads themselves are a problem, yeah.
posted by agregoli at 2:43 PM on January 15 [8 favorites]


My "Megathread Thunderdome" idea still has no traction, though? Ok fine. It would make the mods job easier...
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


M-x shell: "Chrysostom's polling and similar comments are uniquely valuable and he is by all accounts a fine fellow, but I can do without Chrysostom fetishism and I'd wager he can too."

Hi there! I've been in New Mexico and basically offline for the last five days (we had a good time, thanks). I don't have much to say about the megathreads in general that hasn't already been mentioned - I agree with cortex's main idea introduced here - but since my own thread contributions have come up, I thought I should say something.

My personal goal is to try to comment about stuff in areas where I have some interest or knowledge and/or to point out seemingly important news items the thread has missed. Obviously, I'm not perfect about that and have made snide comments and such, but I do try to stick to places where I think it somehow improves the threads.

Some people like my comments, which I am glad about. Some people have told they don't think that they really are of interest or value. That makes me feel bad, because I don't want to contribute negatively to anyone's experience. Ultimately, though, I think it comes down to the threads being seen somewhat differently by everyone, and there's probably nothing I can do that would be liked by *everyone*. So, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, unless I hear differently from the mods about content or frequency.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:01 PM on January 15 [38 favorites]


Thank you Chrysostom, I think I've mentioned before that I find your comments very grounding, in the way that a life-line thrown to a drowning person is grounding.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:08 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I wish I could vanish "this is your regular reminder that..." and related formulations from the megathreads.

Also, all the back seat driving - what someone thinks the Democrats ought to do or say or how they think a candidate ought to message, etc. That feels very GYOFB territory to me. Let's talk about what they are actually doing/saying/etc.

Overall I appreciate the mega threads so much and am very very thankful that the mods have found a way to sustain them until today, and I hope we can all work with the mods to keep them sustainable.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:53 PM on January 15 [14 favorites]


Nthing the appreciation for Chrysostom's contributions.

Someone mentioned it upthread as a joke, I think, but in all seriousness: would volunteer mods specifically for the megathread be an option?
posted by dogheart at 7:04 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I would volunteer. Could only do a couple hours a week, but I would.
posted by greermahoney at 7:16 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


> Someone mentioned it upthread as a joke, I think, but in all seriousness: would volunteer mods specifically for the megathread be an option?

If you're referring to my comment, I wasn't joking - the only plausible solutions I see to mod burnout are (i) more money to hire more mods, or (ii) additional volunteer mods for the megathreads.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:16 PM on January 15


Complaints about inconsistent content deletion (and believe me, I has them from time to time) can't be solved in the current MegaThread form. The simple reason is, they can't get them all, no matter what the policy is.

As for the existence of the MegaThread at all, I'm kind of hard-core about the original frowning on chatfilter, newsfilter, and breaking news live-blogging. Essentially the MegaThread is all that. I understand the compromise that brought them about though and i think it still stands. If we remove the MegaThread, then every other thread on the site starts breaking out in snarky political remarks and deleteable grar. Not a win for the mods, just more places they have to look.

e.g. by a Markov bot trained only on Thread. Hmmm...
posted by ctmf at 8:42 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Also I suggest an Alexandra Petri megathread and corresponding moratorium elsewhere. I don't dislike her, but come on, now. Also, seen it.
posted by ctmf at 8:49 PM on January 15 [9 favorites]


(I mean, I get that the mods’ jobs can’t be replaced by volunteers. What they do is way more nuanced and skilled than any 2-hour a week person could manage. But even if just the most egregious stuff were handled by volunteers, that would leave the mods a few more hours a week to handle the rest of the site, and maybe just check in a little less frequently on the megathreads?)

I’m totally not just saying this because I want to nuke some comments into oblivion. *whistles*
posted by greermahoney at 8:54 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Volunteer mods is a real can of worms, one we've tried hard not to open over the years for a variety of reasons, not least the extra paid labor required to organize, train, and manage volunteers.

There is definitely stuff that falls into the realm of loosely-organized community effort that I feel okay about having folks do—past efforts like the big back-tagging project years ago, contemporary stuff like wrangling post drafts on the wiki, etc—but it gets a lot more complicated on multiples axes when there's stuff like schedules and administrative privileges involved. So while in the long haul view of things I'm cautious enough to never say never, this wouldn't be where I'd look before eliminating a lot of other options.

I'm much more inclined to encourage folks to support specific positive user-level, anybody-can-do-it strategies to redirect/rerail/refocus conversations, to basically outline and review what works well and what will help and give people the communication and guidance to just straight up model good behavior and feed the site culture that way.

In terms of moderator burnout, is the megathread itself what's stressing mods out, or is it the increased user tetchiness as a factor of stress?

I think it's fair to say "and" instead of "or", really. Shit's hard, the world's a spectacular mess, and that would take a toll on everybody no matter what else was going on. So certainly I wouldn't say that the only reason we get tired of dealing with politics discussion on the site is the specific structure of the catch-all megathreads. It's a very tiring period in US and world history, period.

That said, I don't think the catch-all megathreads are tiring to deal with just because of that ambient whateverness; they do present specific challenges owing in part to their size, their structure, and the unique difficulties that come with managing a large, on-going, omnivorous discussion. It's not what most MetaFilter threads are shaped like, and the moderation practices and community expectations that have developed over the years in the context of non-megathreads don't fully cleanly translate to weeks-long, thousand-plus comment serial threads. They are a unique sort of beast to deal with; it's not just that Stuff is difficult, it's the threads themselves that are for a variety of reasons more challenging than the sum of their parts might otherwise suggest.

We've mentioned we're aiming to do a separate MetaTalk soon specifically about megathread stuff, and so I'm not inclined to dig in more on the general subject right now beyond responding to a couple of dangling threads from today above; I'd rather save it for that discussion instead of getting into it twice. But there are things I think we can tweak about how this stuff works to encourage good participation and reduce some of the unique load of the megathreads on the mod staff at the same time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 PM on January 15 [8 favorites]


We've mentioned we're aiming to do a separate MetaTalk soon specifically about megathread stuff,

Oh, I thought this was that. (I don't how to not sound snarky about that, it's not meant to be)
posted by ctmf at 10:25 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Nah, it's fine, the conversation sort of naturally drifted toward general stuff which is understandable. But insofar as the primaries present their own specific set of challenges it may be useful to try and aim this thread back more in that direction.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 PM on January 15


I think the problem is that some (impossible to quantify) number of people believe that people are abandoning MetaFilter for some other politics-obsessing site. That site is called TheMegathread.com*. We've seen the stats that posting and commenting are way down since 2016.

I have this concern. I find "the rest of Metafilter" to not be what it once was, not that it was ever a particular static thing (ie: always evolving), but it does feel to me that the megathreads have sucked a massive amount of energy their way and the site overall is worse for it. I suppose we can just blame it all on Trump, but, being a fan of military history, I can't help but think that, if Metafilter intends to survive the current situation (and perhaps even prosper) it does need an overall strategy toward dealing with this "energy suck". So yeah, I welcome this discussion and the future Megathread specific Meta.

As for my two cents. The megathreads didn't just happen. They evolved, starting more or less organically and then shifted into becoming official site policy at a certain point. I wonder if the way out of them is similar (ie: something that can only happen gradually).
posted by philip-random at 11:13 PM on January 15 [7 favorites]


I know y'all hate adding subsites, but I feel like if we'd early on shifted these megathreads to their own space, it would have bled less into the rest of MetaFilter. Subsites naturally have their own rules and expectations: what goes on the blue is different than what's allowed on the green, etc. Is it really to late to just dump all this ugliness into a neighborhood of its own? It's fantasy to pretend it's going to go away soon, and if you ever feel like it's time to retire the subsite in the future as a historical artifact, well then, party time, right?
posted by rikschell at 5:09 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


The mods have been very clear (including in the MeTa that you linked to) that a separate politics subsite isn't going to happen.

Doesn't matter if people think that a new a subsite is a great idea (I've had the same thought, more than once). Isn't gonna happen.

And, honestly – I get it. As challenging as the megathreads are for the mods, I would run away screaming from the prospect of moderating an entire subsite devoted to a subject (politics) which is, by definition, prone to controversy and conflict.

Would it be great, from a user perspective, to have a separate subsite that's designed for discussing politics? Sure! Would that subsite be an absolute nightmare to maintain? Also yes!

I think that the current policy of containment is probably the best decision that could've been made, considering the history / resources / etc.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:39 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


My point is that the politics sub-site already exists. That's what the mega-threads are. They have their own rules which overlap with but in many cases diverge from the rest of the site - just like Ask and Fanfare. That's why the mod team have to keep putting up Metas to explain how the mega-thread rules work.

I am in no position to do the analysis, but it wouldn't surprise me if the amount of activity on the mega-threads is a sizable percentage of the whole site, both in terms of number of comments and number of contributing users.

Ultimately, the mods know best what they are capable of, but they seem to be already living a nightmare in which they are moderating a politics sub-site in which nearly all activity has to be confined in a series of gigantic threads.

I suggest they make the background of the new sub-site safety orange.
posted by um at 6:24 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


I no longer participate much in the politics megathreads, for diverse reasons (one was “why not just follow twitter directly?”) although I truly appreciated them as a sort of refuge and anxiety-sink in the months around the 2016 election and first few months of Trump’s reign.

Personally I think the current emergency makes passionately debating the 2020 primary field a lot of wishful thinking anyway.

But my Modest Proposal for making it easier for the mod squad to police the politics megathreads, reflecting what I eventually came to find annoying about them, would be to shadowban EVERYONE only for their posts to the politics threads. It’s perfect. Then everyone will only see their own comments.
posted by spitbull at 7:48 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]



My point is that the politics sub-site already exists. That's what the mega-threads are. They have their own rules which overlap with but in many cases diverge from the rest of the site


But one of the core elements of "sub"-sites here is that they have multiple live threads. The whole idea behind the MegaThreads was so the mods didn't have to keep eyes on multiple political threads with multiple possible flash points in every thread. Setting up some kind of MetaPolitics subsite means either having a whole section with multiple live potentially explosive threads - hardly a situation that eases the mod stress - or making that section drastically different from the rest of the site, where there's only one live thread at a time. And I don't see the purpose in that besides some kind of "keeping politics off the Front Page", which, well, the current MegaThread was posted Jan 7, my current "front page" (on Android mobile, classic theme at the moment) runs from today thru the 14th - the thread is long gone from the front.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:57 AM on January 16 [6 favorites]


My point is that the politics sub-site already exists. That's what the mega-threads are. They have their own rules which

what soundguy99 just said, and I suppose my point (incompletely stated above) is that the megathreads are already "a bridge too far" and far from throwing in and making them their own site, I think the healthiest thing for the community is to calculate a gradual withdrawal from them. To put it military terms, they were territory that for the sake of greater site strategy/sanity we needed to occupy for a while, but let's not make it permanent, let's cede that territory back to the greater internet. Or, if needs be, if somebody else wants that territory, figure out a way to hand it off to them, let them become their own sovereign "nation" NOT part of an expanding Metafilter empire ...
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


taz: these threads have gone on non-stop, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for years.

cortex: the unique difficulties that come with managing a large, on-going, omnivorous discussion. It's not what most MetaFilter threads are shaped like

I feel like I'm missing a piece of the history related to why the threads are allowed to continue for years - I didn't realize that was happening, or maybe I am misunderstanding? If the threads never close, it sounds like at least some of the concerns related to having a political subsite are currently happening because the threads are not closed down, but maybe closing down megathreads at some point after a new one begins would help with managing the traffic - and that could be part of the gradual scaling down and reshaping of political discussions.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:27 AM on January 16


I feel like I'm missing a piece of the history related to why the threads are allowed to continue for years - I didn't realize that was happening, or maybe I am misunderstanding?

No, they're just saying that the activity on them is constant and ongoing, and they don't trail off because there's always some fresh atrocity to discuss.

The megathreads do close like other posts on the Blue, but the number and length of comments makes them unwieldy before 30 days, so people write new ones and put "NEW THREAD -->" links at the bottom to try to give the mods only one thing to watch at a time.
posted by Etrigan at 9:38 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


The megathreads close in 30 days, Little Dawn, same as any other on Metafilter. The problem is that they become unmanageably long—at times as much as 3,500 comments—within a week or two, depending on the pace of breaking news and current events, which necessitates new ones. These new megathreads overlap with existing ones, creating a rolling effect. We now try to create fresh ones before they hit 2,000 to 2,500 comments (which is also about the limit for people's browsers, especially those who visit the megathreads on smart phones).

Of course, this state is entirely due to the current crisis in US politics, an unprecedented situation that doesn't have analogs even at the worst periods of the G. W. Bush administration.

EDIT: Or what Etrigan said.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:40 AM on January 16 [7 favorites]


Thank you for the clarification - it sounded wrong to think that the threads never ended, and in light of the clarification, maybe a megathread could close as soon as a new one is opened? I know we'll be talking about this in an upcoming MetaTalk, so I'm just brainstorming at the moment about ways to address the concerns and issues raised in this thread. Particularly because I wholly agree that we are in an unprecedented era, and I do want to talk about it on Metafilter, and I see a lot of good faith participation in this thread that makes me optimistic about figuring out a way to manage future political discussions.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:03 AM on January 16


maybe a megathread could close as soon as a new one is opened?

IME, most megathread users are pretty good about moving to the new thread as soon as it's opened. "Old" threads are not technically closed (as in, can't post more comments) for 30 days, but whenever a new one arrives everyone heads over there.

I add the MegaThreads in my activity (whether I comment in them or not), and once a new thread goes up there might be an occasional straggler comment within the next few hours but we seem to have trained ourselves to leave the old thread alone even when it's technically "open".
posted by soundguy99 at 10:14 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


> maybe a megathread could close as soon as a new one is opened?

Honestly, this is a non-issue. The threads effectively end within ~5 comments of the NEW THREAD ---> and the traditional milk-and-cookies notification. There might be the occasional minor clean-up needed, maybe, but this is not a big issue.

There is an active, massive, rolling behemoth to deal with, but just one of them, for all practical purposes.

(That's not counting genuinely distinct crises - for example, the Brexit thread is getting a workout now, for obvious reasons, but it's still only at 370 comments.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:14 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


I don't read the megathreads. My personal preference would be for all the Democratic Socialist / socialism posts to also go in the megathreads, but that may just be a bugbear of mine.

I do read the Brexit / UK threads but never comment, because I'm not in the UK, I've never been to the UK, and I'm not a political expert. I think they're the ideal length and pace for a megathread.
posted by daybeforetheday at 11:24 AM on January 16 [3 favorites]


counterpoint: the DSA/AOC/etc-specific conversations have gone well when contained in their own threads and serve as a useful model for how various topics can be split off from the megathreads without hindering our ability to discuss them
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:19 PM on January 16 [6 favorites]


The core thing: we need to not let the Dem primaries in particular fuck up basic quality of life for folks in the MetaFilter community, or to get in the way of useful/tolerable US politics discussion on the site, or make life unlivable for the mod staff. We've been through this in past election cycles and it has ranged from bad to unbearable. It's not viable to do it all again the same way.

That Václav Havel guy put it this way:

“Given the global character of today's civilization, any minor hatred can easily turn into a global catastrophe.

Where should we look for guidance? How can we discern the dividing lines?

There are no exact directions. There are probably no directions at all. The only things that I am able to recommend at this moment are: a sense of humour; an ability to see the ridiculous and the absurd dimensions of things; an ability to laugh about others as well as about ourselves; a sense of irony; and, of everything that invites parody in this world. In other words: rising above things, or looking at them from a distance; sensibility to the hidden presence of all the more dangerous types of conceit in others, as well as in ourselves; good cheer; an unostentatious certainty of the meaning of things; gratitude for the gift of life and courage to assume responsibility for it; and, a vigilant mind.

Those who have not lost the ability to recognize that which is laughable in themselves, or their own nothingness, are not arrogant, nor are they enemies of an Open Society. Its enemy is a person with a fiercely serious countenance and burning eyes.”

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:21 PM on January 16 [8 favorites]


is this the right place to respectfully request that the current "AOC: awesome person, or best person ever?" megathread chatter be brought to a close? It's not really news or analysis and it's really unhelpful to those of us (especially those of us on mobile devices) who use megathreads as a news filtering mechanism.
posted by Old Kentucky Shark at 1:31 PM on January 16 [8 favorites]


is this the right place to respectfully request that the current "AOC: awesome person, or best person ever?" megathread chatter be brought to a close?

Not to mention that it felt like a concern-troll from the beginning.
posted by rhizome at 1:35 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


If it's the right place for that, then it's also the right place for someone like me to respectfully request that interesting avenues of discussion about a US politician not be prematurely shut down simply because someone is using the megathread for a purpose beyond their original intent. There are plenty of other places to find curated feeds of what's going on in the world. MeFi is a community, not a content mine.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:36 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


...but, certainly, redirecting it to another thread as LM suggested is a fine compromise.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:37 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Apologies if it sounded like I was trying to prevent discussion of the topic altogether; that's absolutely not my intention.
posted by Old Kentucky Shark at 1:38 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


As someone who participated in the AOC sidebar, I think this sort of thing could happen whenever someone asks a question in Thread. This one may have been a bit of an outlier because the question was pretty low-hanging fruit, so basically everyone feels qualified to answer. So you get a ton of answers, and some of those answers spur a reaction of their own, ad infinitum...

I guess an approach to that issue (which I did not take, but should've) could be "if someone asks an easy question in Thread, wait for someone else to answer, because they will."
posted by Jpfed at 1:45 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Questions that get asked frequently could certainly be wikified and people could be pointed to the wiki for common questions or if an argument's already been hashed over several times etc.

I don't actually know if this would solve repetitiveness problems in practice but it's a possibility in theory!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 1:52 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]


That would have been a perfect occasion to post an AskMe.
posted by rhizome at 1:53 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


I assumed the question was an attempt to get others to consider what they're contributing to the thread and why. We've been told by mods just this week not to post about every single thing Individual 1 does, yet it's being done for AOC. Her chasing McConnell around is an amusing image, but that's all it is right now. I hope that tomorrow there will be a thorough news article telling how it all shook out, and I'll look forward to reading it. Today it's not even a whole story yet.

People are so fixated on her that I worry I will hurt feelings or anger people just by saying this.
posted by heatvision at 2:14 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


Megathread poses a number of problems but I think they can be meaningfully divided into two camps: problems within megathread, and problems created for the site by megathread. Internal megathread problems include rapid thread growth, occasional negative atmosphere, frequent repetition, and proliferation of one-liners and hot takes. External megathread problems include moderator burnout, competition for attention with other threads, excessive consumption of other site resources, and megathread is just different from how things used to be. I'd like to try to summarize each of these and say how I might handle them.

1. Rapid Thread Growth

Rapid thread growth affects users in a variety of ways. Some people would like to stay current but find it difficult to keep up. Long threads are bad on mobile devices. Refreshing long threads causes bandwidth inefficiencies. Too frequent new threads is a tax on the people who would create them.

Rapid thread growth is caused by too many short comments, back and forth arguments, and too much rehashing of old arguments. It is also caused by just too much damn stuff happening these days.

I suggested last fall that new megathreads be created programmatically. If I owned the site my crontab would call a script to roll each one over at exactly the same time each day. It would add a link to the new thread at the end of each old one and close it. Each new thread would start with: a link back to the previous one, a list of all the links people provided in the previous one (to help those trying to catch up), and whatever reminders site personnel want us to see. I would not make new megathreads be FPPs. They would all be in the sidebar, and I'd find something similarly easy to access from mobile.

This was rejected last fall in favor of unique user created threads. While I admire the skill and erudition of these posts, it is a lot of hard work and so they have not been recreated weekly as initially planned, resulting in longer threads again. This is not to disparage the hard work that went into them. But the desire to have megathread be hand-crafted like other posts is causing delays in the rollovers. And so megathread size continues to be a problem.

I would like to save those post creators a lot of hard work that I feel is nice but unnecessary and yet still not solving the problems. I suggest this burden be removed so they can direct their energies toward creating even more top-notch comments and still have time left over for real-world resistance and/or life's other endeavors.

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

2. Negative Atmosphere

Megathread's conversation is not really a conversation like we expect in other threads, and we find it more or less impossible to steer it so. Of course we don't want Megathread: The Thunderdome. But actually, even at its worst, megathread is still a pretty great place to be, compared to all the others available. Maybe not compared to the rest of MetaFilter, or how MetaFilter's political discussion used to be. But certainly compared to, say, Twitter or reddit. (By the way thanks to all the people who link to the best and worst of Twitter and who read and report back on r/thedonald so I don't have to go on those platforms.)

To be honest, the things people complain about don't affect me that much. There will always be arguments. They are unavoidable because people come from so many different perspectives. Is your comment too specific? Someone will let you know the general case might be different. Too general? Someone will give you a counter example. So what?

On the one hand, if I make a comment and someone points out that in my bias I forgot about people of color, I need that and I appreciate it. Even if I disagree. Even if they were a little rude about it. I'm not here for reassurance; I'm here to challenge myself to be better.

And on the other hand, if I see two people arguing back and forth, why should it ruin my day? I read a little of it to gather what they are saying, then I skim past. I might decrement (or increment) my opinion of someone but that's it. They aren't family or co-workers I have to interact with every day, just some people on the internet, really just names on a screen. As I am to them. Some I think I might like to get to know IRL some day but the odds of that happening, even with people in my same town, seem pretty slim.

So if moderating these arguments is taking too high a toll, do yourself a favor and moderate them less. I hear it's nigh impossible anyway. But rather than kill megathread because it's unmanageable, just try managing it less. All the more time for moderators to keep the rest of the site nice and clean. I know this goes against the sense of community that has developed over the years, but:

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

3. Repetitions

People object to the frequent rehashing of the same old conversations, such as relitigating the primaries. Of course this is a problem if you read megathread as a conversation like the other threads. But I say let those people express themselves. It may be their first time. It may be because new information informed older events. Let's not be telling those people their ideas are bad, just because we have heard it all before or so we can have some semblance of order.

Just skim over it! Scrolling is your friend. You don't have to emotionally involve yourself and respond to every comment. If you're writing a history book or encyclopedia, repetition is bad. But megathread is not those things. We aren't trying to leave a perfect transcript for future generations or extraterrestrial anthropologists (although I admit the motivation is strong). So if removing all this repetition is taking too high a toll, instead of trying harder manage your expectations, and advise users to scroll past whatever they find boring.

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

4. Hot Takes

One-liners, hot takes, and jokes increase thread size but otherwise they exist because people like writing them. Smaller comments demand less of their reader and that is a virtue. Many people don't have the time or expertise to write a longer comment filled with great original content, but they still want to participate. Let them. If we are doing daily rollovers and skimming whatever doesn't interest us, it really doesn't matter, at least until we start running out of database rows.

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

5. Moderator Burnout

Moderators do not like megathread because it takes up too much of their time. That's an easy problem to fix: moderate less. Let it go. Just in megathread, but let it go. Moderators can skim too, and I wish they would be allowed to. The only reason this has not happened yet is we are holding on to making megathread conform to the standards we expect of other threads, but:

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

6. Competition for Attention

I could not read all of the older MetaTalk thread that discussed the impacts of megathread on the rest of the site, but I gather there is concern that megathread comments outweigh all other "normal" thread comments. This is cited as a negative impact on the site. There isn't as much interest in the other threads. Conversations aren't as fun and lively as they used to be.

I would say that MetaFilter's customers are voting with their feet (or fingers and thumbs). Listen to your customers. They are telling you what they want. They are spending their time on what they need. Why question it? Trump/Republicans/Russia is an existential threat and anime is not, so it's normal and correct to pay more attention to the former.

As for myself, when I've caught up on the megathread, I take a look at the others too. It's the anchor store of your mall. It brings people to your mall, and then they go look at the other stores too.

If megathread went away, do you imagine all that need would be redirected to anime? I think not. The majority would just (reluctantly I am sure) go somewhere where they can buy (with their time) what they need. MetaFilter has a great customer base. I hope and pray MetaFilter does not turn them away, because megathread at its best is amazing and it worst is not really all that bad.

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

7. Excessive Resource Consumption

On a per-thread basis megathread consumes most of the site's bandwidth, database hits, electrons, moderator time, and probably any other metric. Of course it does, it's the largest. (California consumes the most food each day of any state but is that significant?) On a per person basis, or per comment, or per eyeball-minute, I bet it's more or less equal or maybe better.

Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently.

8. Megathread is Just Different from How Things Used To Be

Okay you got me there. Things have changed. Some people just do not like megathread because MetaFilter used to be more about all the quirky little things in life. Or something like that. I don't know, I wasn't here then. Maybe us newcomer political types overrunning the place are the real problem. (There used to be a farm over there and now it's a Whole Foods and it has its own traffic light. I'm going to go in there are fume about it!) Seriously, I don't know who is forcing those megathread haters to read megathread, but:

Megathread is not like other threads. If that's the real problem, then I just wasted three hours.

Summary

I would:

1. Have daily programmatic thread rollovers to eliminate thread bloat.
2. Have less moderation to reduce moderator burnout.
3. Lower our expectations.
4. Suggest that people just skim more and scroll past things they don't like.
5. Accept megathread change.
posted by M-x shell at 5:15 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


> 5. Moderator Burnout

Moderators do not like megathread because it takes up too much of their time. That's an easy problem to fix: moderate less. Let it go. Just in megathread, but let it go. Moderators can skim too, and I wish they would be allowed to.


I think you and I come from roughly the same place in terms of wanting more permission to discuss and argue about political topics, including ones that have come up before, but you lost me right here. We really can't just ask the mods to just throw their hands up and declare these threads Little Hamsterdams. The passion and intensity people bring to these conversations can sometimes lead to some pretty vicious attacks if there aren't enough refs to keep things under control. The staff still has to respond to flags, and flags will certainly come once you've set a higher threshold for mod intervention. People will have their feelings hurt, may choose to leave the site... None of those outcomes are acceptable to me, no matter how much I do like discussing these topics.

We're already asking a lot of the community to tolerate these strange, unwieldy behemoth threads. Asking the mods and negatively affected users to just eat it doesn't seem like the right solution.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:40 PM on January 16 [13 favorites]


Maybe we should bring the megathreads here to MeTa? Combine with the fucking fuck threads? They'd likely get less traffic and be easier to mod...
posted by frecklefaerie at 5:41 PM on January 16


Given how much people point to the moderation as being one of the stronger forces for the threads being as tolerable as they are, I think "Less Moderation" would be counterproductive in the specific (to say nothing of the general).
posted by CrystalDave at 6:13 PM on January 16 [10 favorites]


M-x shell: "Megathread is not like other threads. It's okay for it to be managed differently."

I think repeating this same phrase over and over again is less convincing an argument that you intend it to be.

You're not really saying that the megathread should be managed differently -- you're saying that it shouldn't be managed at all. That doesn't follow from your claim that it's a different thread requiring different management.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:32 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


To be super clear, "just don't moderate the megathreads" is not an option.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:40 PM on January 16 [11 favorites]


I do like that we’ve started referring to it as just “megathread,” like an entity or a state of being. Or like Buster talking about Army.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:41 PM on January 16 [4 favorites]


To be super clear, I said less moderation, not none.
posted by M-x shell at 6:42 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


Suggest that people just skim more and scroll past things they don't like.

You mentioned you're new here; I've been here since like 2001. No matter what year it is, Mefites cannot do this, no matter how hard they try. It comes up from time to time, and they/we just can't do it.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:49 PM on January 16 [12 favorites]


Probably worth emigrating away from MeFi for this sort of thing if your favoured political discussion is anything other than the most warmed over centrist takes. Where too I could not say, but this place is basically a cost bubble for that ideological bent and nobody else.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


I do like that we’ve started referring to it as just “megathread,” like an entity or a state of being. Or like Buster talking about Army.

These are my awards, Mother. From Megathread. The seal is for oneupmanship, and the gorilla is for hot takes.

Moderation on MetaFilter is not about preventing arguments, it's about making sure anyone and everyone feels welcome. It's easy to say that Megathread (or MetaFilter in general) at "worst is not really all that bad" when you come from a position of privilege. We have seen many times over the years that increased moderation improves MetaFilter for underrepresented communities - women, people of color, MeFites from countries other than the US, LGBTQ folks, etc. That's not to say we are perfect at welcoming everyone, but I think it is safe to say that we have improved along all those axes (and others). The idea that Megathread (and MetaFilter in general) could be improved with less moderation goes against everything the community has learned over the past almost 20(!) years.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:26 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


I thought "Megathread" was a nod to MST3K and "Megaweapon!"
posted by agregoli at 5:51 AM on January 17


I've been very grumpy on MetaFilter lately, and have mostly avoided the politics threads in part because it keeps leaking out into other, nicer threads, and in part because it was driving me to paranoia.

Perhaps a variation of the typical application of Godwin's Law could be adopted: anyone who ascribes motivations to other people based on their opinions has lost the argument. Not just modded out, but if that's where they need to go to have the world make sense, they're probably wrong.
posted by Merus at 6:21 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I appreciate the call to minimize arguments on the megathreads. I am a frequent contributor and I read these threads everyday for three reasons: to add information that is missing (sometimes I double post, even when I look. I wish there was a solution for that), to read new information that I missed and to read the often times extremely insightful and informed comments of other users. Honestly, these threads have made the past two and a half years bearable in many ways. Mefites are the best!

What I skip are the repetitive opinion back and forth based on hypotheticals with opinions based on cotton candy fly around or doomsday proclamations of riots and class warfare. I find these unhelpful and uninteresting (NOBODY KNOWS WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN). This is different than, for example, speculation about redacted information that is informed by knowledge about the bigger picture and interpretations of events based on facts. What I love about the threads is that sources are almost always linked to. I feel like these threads will be a look at 21st century American history.

So thank you mods and I'll do my best to minimize your headaches.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:23 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Probably worth emigrating away from MeFi for this sort of thing if your favoured political discussion is anything other than the most warmed over centrist takes. Where too I could not say, but this place is basically a cost bubble for that ideological bent and nobody else.

People keep saying this – and maybe they're right, but it kind of baffles me. I see far more socialist-friendly discussion on MeFi than anywhere else on the web, outside of explicitly socialist spaces.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:26 AM on January 17 [23 favorites]


So, if daily rotations eliminate the need to whack repetition and one-liners, mods would only have to remove the worst behavior. Would that reduction in their scope be enough to make life tolerable?
posted by M-x shell at 7:48 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"So, if daily rotations eliminate the need to whack repetition and one-liners, mods would only have to remove the worst behavior. Would that reduction in their scope be enough to make life tolerable?"

This would tend to increase, not reduce, the amount of mod labor required. New politics threads always come with repeat fights, no matter how close together or far apart the threads are, and it would just add so. much. more. reading. I mean I'm a lifelong huge reader and I'm barely reading a book a month at this point because I'm so exhausted from reading megathreads constantly. I literally haven't read this little recreationally since I learned to read, so I'm not enamored of the idea of adding yet more megathread reading. And the idea of having to read MORE repetitions of the same arguments gives me the screaming heebie jeebies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:58 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Like, just reading this suggestion for daily megathreads that are longer, full of cruft, and deliberately allowing repetition is giving me heart-pounding anxiety. And I mostly like the megathreads (definitely much more than the rest of the mod team).
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:03 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


The current megathread has 1887 comments in 10 days. In that thread, how many comments have been deleted? Typically, what percentage of megathread comments are deleted?
posted by M-x shell at 8:06 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


About four hundred, if the numbers I'm looking at are correct. I'd have to do some research to figure out if that's typical, but I can't say this one has felt unusual at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:13 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I see far more socialist-friendly discussion on MeFi than anywhere else on the web, outside of explicitly socialist spaces.

You would be amazed at the ambient political temperature of intelligent online communities where the average age is millennial, I'll tell you that.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 8:16 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Shiiiiit, what a mess.

Do you think that tightly "topic-focused" threads would cut down on the cruft and the reiterated arguments? I suspect that you get a bunch more of those with each new cycled threads because people like me who don't follow all the threads usually onboard with the creation of a new thread, so the creation of each post draws a substantially bigger chunk of attention than you get with each day on an older one. If you don't have that initial friction of sometimes-participators flowing on and off with each discussion and hitting always-participators with a bang, would that be easier?

Or do you think the generally overflowing topics would just fester and explode under the surface if people don't feel like they have any place to discuss the general shit?

Maybe we should bring the megathreads here to MeTa? Combine with the fucking fuck threads? They'd likely get less traffic and be easier to mod...

I suspect that would result in drawing more traffic to the grey and more of it people priming to be nervy and argue (rather than the current associations Eyebrows and others have been carefully building for years, with MeTas being likely to be engaging with people on a community-building tack rather than focusing on a particular topic and coming in tense). I... oof, I would not do that, I think it would have a number of knock-on effects that would both undermine those relaxing-association efforts and also increase mod effort sitewide.

People follow the topics that interest them. You wouldn't get less traffic for long.
posted by sciatrix at 8:19 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


If we regularly have large threads where the mods are deleting 20% of comments (400/1887) that strikes me as ludicrous and if the users of the site can't behave themselves at that rate, then a radically separate set of rules makes sense to me. Limit the number of posts in a specific period, hand out automatic short period bans after deleted comments, whatever works.
posted by selfnoise at 8:20 AM on January 17 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I hadn't ever actually compared those numbers but it does suggest that people are absolutely not on board with limiting jokes and one-liners in a way we cannot support in the long term.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:21 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


400 is A LOT and not the number I was expecting. It's too much work for mods and too many people getting comments deleted (which is not costless). It moves me into the "something needs to drastically change" camp.
posted by lalex at 8:23 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


Huh. What if the catch-all discussions were limited to, say, one day per week? Like, Megathread Monday, and the megathread gets closed immediately after 24 hours? And other breaking topics allowed to FPP, but with a higher bar for what constitutes a big enough chunk of political news for what counts as a FPP?

Would that maintain the stress valve function of having a place to argue about whatever general politics shit but also give mods a lot more time with non-megathreads going on for them to recharge?
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


400/1887

This is jaw-dropping. I hope that there is some consideration to the possibility of rate-limiting comments on a per-user per-thread basis, or somehow adding friction to posting (like even a reminder popup before the comment is committed to the database like "You have made 4 comments in the last 24 hours in this thread; are you sure (Y/N)?"
posted by Jpfed at 8:25 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


A question for the mods. Is a lot of work having to go through and read the entire mega thread to find out what’s going on? Would the job he made significantly easier by more serious and dedicated flagging?

We’ve talked about why volunteer mods are a non starter, but if it would help, what about volunteer flaggers? Asking some of the more prolific users to commit to flagging every violation they see?
posted by corb at 8:25 AM on January 17


(I am also sharply moved into the "we need to change this for the sake of mods right now" camp. That number is a real wake-up call.)
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Of those 400, what percentage would you estimate are one-liners versus repetitions versus arguing?
posted by M-x shell at 8:25 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I am on shift, I do not have time to do that analysis right now. That's the problem.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:26 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I think we need to find a way to let users help mods at this point - analysis of that seems sharply necessary, I had no idea it was quite that bad.
posted by corb at 8:28 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Can you tell how many different users generated the 400 deleted comments?
posted by rue72 at 8:31 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I don't think it matters, M-x shell. Either way, all of them are going to take up a lot of mod resources and attention and cognitive effort to run the numbers and make calls: do you delete stuff and get the user grar from that, or do you let it stand and possibly warp the discussion and later require a bigger mod effort?

I'm not sure that user flagging would help any here, either--that's so many judgement calls. It must be exhausting.
posted by sciatrix at 8:32 AM on January 17


Probably worth emigrating away from MeFi for this sort of thing if your favoured political discussion is anything other than the most warmed over centrist takes. Where too I could not say, but this place is basically a cost bubble for that ideological bent and nobody else.

People keep saying this – and maybe they're right, but it kind of baffles me.


arguing that MeFi is overwhelmingly centrist feels similar to me (albeit from a more or less reverse perspective) that the Democratic party is somehow Left Wing. That is, yes, if you restrict yourself to looking inward at the local fish bowl and ignore the rest of everything that's going on. But in reality, profoundly otherwise.

And a good thing, too, I should add. This site only works because if there is a status quo, it's one that occupies the comparatively inclusive middle ground between between say, the actual center of the Democratic Party and ... fully automated luxury gay space communism.

But, that's just my perspective ...
posted by philip-random at 8:38 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


400/1887

This is utter, absolute infuriating, far worse than I'd imagined in my worst estimates. Nobody's perfect—I've even flagged a few of my own comments for duplicating new or going off on a derail—but this is a severe problem. No wonder the mods are at a breaking point.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:39 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


I am quickly auditing the first couple hundred comments in the current thread to see what the reasons for deletion are, I will report back in a bit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:42 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


400 / 2287 = still a lot

But that counts one-liners and relitigating. How much less would it be without worrying about those things?
posted by M-x shell at 8:42 AM on January 17


The problem with ignoring relitigating is that its very presence increases grar.
posted by Jpfed at 8:44 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


"But that counts one-liners and relitigating. How much less would it be without worrying about those things?"

I'm not sure if you didn't understand this, but having to read all of that is a huge portion of the work. Deleting is quick and takes a second. It's reading everything to stay on top of the conversation and delete problems quickly that's the lion's share of it. What you are proposing will sextuple our workload. I understand it seems like a good solution from the outside, but, again, it will increase, not decrease, our workload.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:47 AM on January 17 [14 favorites]


400/1887

Welp, that's basically it for me, then. I won't post in them again except to respond to explicit queries about arcana or the polisci, which are the only circumstances I could see myself being remotely useful.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:49 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I value the politics threads very much for the informative, intelligent commentary from community members. Just a suggestion, but perhaps the mods could pick a few trusted community members to comment on POTUS and on Primary updates...that is, four or five people who can contribute with informative comments, and the rest of us have read only status.
posted by effluvia at 8:50 AM on January 17


I don’t post a lot in the megathreads, but I’m gunna post less. That number is terrible.
posted by greermahoney at 8:51 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


that is, four or five people who can contribute with informative comments, and the rest of us have read only status.

I can't see that working, but I can see way more timeouts and, if needs be, outright bans (both limited to megathreads unless otherwise warranted). Reasons for timeouts could be as comparatively simple as "you keep dropping one-liners" or just overall "you're posting too much right now". With the bans going to repeat offenders.

Because yeah, something's gotta give here, and it best not be the moderators themselves.
posted by philip-random at 9:01 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I think if there was a sort of read only status for most users, most noise would flow to the chat thread where it belongs. The double posts and talking past the moderators would be solved. Flagging, editing, hunting down and counseling posters in addition to reading the firehose must be exhausting.
posted by effluvia at 9:05 AM on January 17


Another option is for members to maintain a cash balance, and every comment in megathread costs $1 (or some number of cents, the particular amount doesn't matter for this discussion), automatically deducted. Out of funds? Reload or lurk. This is not to raise site income, though it would, but just to create a speed bump to commenting. That will definitely reduce the one-liners and back and forths, but people of little means will feel silenced. Maybe there's a way to minimize that impact.

Of course this will have already been discussed and determined to be a non-starter. I don't think it's any worse than the other suggestions out there though, just bad in a different way.
posted by M-x shell at 9:07 AM on January 17


That will definitely reduce the one-liners and back and forths, but people of little means will feel silenced.

Yeah, no shit. I can tell you right now, I would not comment in any thread with such a policy, and I would feel resentful that the community cares only about the voices of people who can afford something like that. Good lord, I feel bad enough that I can only afford to support the site with a few dollars a month as it is. I'd feel worse about the entire site if that was a metric that existed on part of it, like my nose was being shoved in my finances all the time.

Maybe that's the goal! But I have to wonder at any metric that posits that the voices of wealthy people are the ones that should be prioritized. And like, I--if people offered to give me or any specific person money for it, I'd feel bad too! There's people who are way financially worse off than me. And judging from what MeFites working on, say, campaigns have said, they're more likely that otherwise to be part of that group.
posted by sciatrix at 9:12 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


We are not currently considering pay-to-play, and if we did, it would not look like that.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:14 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


It’s often mentioned that hot takes, jokes, and other insubstantive comments be taken to Chat. What if there were a Politics Chatroom that was foregrounded as the place on the site for general US Politics discussion? (There could even be a UK Politics one as well for ongoing Brexit discussions.) Megathreads would be replaced by more targeted FPPs for individual issues, and mods are given the procedural power to direct discussions to the chat.

But whatever the solution, there has to be one found — no matter what insanity the world presents, we cannot as a community treat our moderators this way and still call ourselves a community.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:20 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Another option is, when a comment is deleted, the site automatically MeMails the user with something like this:
The following comment in [insert thread link] was deleted because [insert reason mod chose from drop-down list]. Please review our megathread commenting policy [here]. Multiple instances of this can result in temporary or permanent loss of megathread commenting privileges. We ask that you please don't reply to this MeMail unless you absolutely feel you have to.
Over time that could train users pretty well. I bet a few don't even know their comments were deleted. Others can review what they said, maybe reword what they said, and learn to avoid problematic comments in the first place.
posted by M-x shell at 9:21 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I value the politics threads very much for the informative, intelligent commentary from community members. Just a suggestion, but perhaps the mods could pick a few trusted community members to comment on POTUS and on Primary updates...that is, four or five people who can contribute with informative comments, and the rest of us have read only status.

Just a quick note about how Thread looks like now, statistically, just so you can see how different your idea would look.

The distribution of comments per user is super skewed. Let's divide it up into three regions, each comprising about 1/3 of the total comments made.

"Spike": The top 19 most prolific commenters made between 80 and 20 comments apiece.
"Lobe": The next 56 users made between 7 and 20 comments apiece.
"Tail": there are 318 users with fewer than 7 comments.
posted by Jpfed at 9:23 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Calming down a minute--I think the "pick some people who really get to comment, and everyone else is read-only" thing is also an incredibly bad idea, and one that will slowly build resentment among the commentariat. (This is distinct from the "wow, those things don't need my participation" thing that folks are saying, fwiw; I'm talking about a structural rules-based change, which is I think the only thing that will probably work at this point to ease up on moderator work and burnout.)

The devil is, I think, in the details.

Who decides who can post and who can't? High-profile frequent commenters who put a lot of energy into the megathreads? They're probably the people most likely to have hobbyhorses to ride. People working on actual political campaigns at the moment? Good luck verifying that; that's also a proposed investment of time for the mods to figure out. What if someone joins the site who can provide good commentary? How do you work out whether or not they might provide that? Who defines what's good? And with what time and resources do they do that?

It's easy to say "well, the people who most frequently post useful comments are the ones who should stay, and the rest of us should sit back," but I think this thread itself demonstrates that different people have really different ideas about what the useful things are. Jokes, solidarity, news, thoughtpieces: there's a lot of disagreement there when you get down to brass tacks from one community member to another, and the same people can provide very useful pieces of commentary in some discussions and really unhelpful arguments in others. It can be hard to predict what will happen.

One of the reasons I suggested a system of frequent time-outs during which megathreads are closed on a predictable timescale, with 24-h open intervals*, is that I hope the time delay will minimize the hot takes and jokes and give people time to think about what they do want to say when the threads are again open. I think it would encourage people to maybe write up comments that are substantial for when the threads do open next, and maybe let the fast thinking-out-loud ones sit or take them elsewhere to process out loud. And mods have periods in between of at least 24h that they can use to focus on the rest of the site or downtime, with no general-purpose megathreads running.

What we want is a general restructuring of the social space in such a way that less moderation effort is needed. Ideally, we want to create fewer opportunities for resource-intensive behavior, so that conflicts never arise that need mod input, and when they do they require as little cognitive investment from mods as possible. That means minimizing the points of friction at which people initiate conflict-intensive communication with mods--not inviting people to comment on mod corrections shortly after they've been upset, for example--and also minimizing the points of friction in which people behave in a way that inflames community discussion. You want to set up a social expectation space in which you're creating the opposite of an asshole filter, on the understanding that people may be at any time Schroedinger's Asshole: that they may be angry or upset by factors outside your control, but encouraged to come back and communicate in productive ways after a cooling-off period.

for the sake of people in different time zones
posted by sciatrix at 9:30 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


If we want to reduce the number of comments with enforced limitations, then the egalitarian way to do this seems to be to put a daily comment limit on everyone. I value the frequent posters, but I think it'd make for a better reading experience to have fewer posts by the same small pool of people anyway.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 9:32 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


400/1887

That does seem like a lot. And I'm generally in favor of deleting more, rather than less; in a world where there's no strain on the mod team this doesn't strike me as bad, but we don't live in that world and this really drives home the scope of the work involved to keep things manageable.

The point that moderating these threads to delete the right things often requires reading everything around those comments is well taken, and my personal plan is: comment less often. It's really easy to lose sight of how individual comments add up to a lot of comments.

Would it -- on the mod end -- be at all helpful to have a total freeze on megathread comments over the weekends? Or over holidays? I don't know how feasible that is technically (closing it on Friday and then opening it on Monday?), or if it would even align with the mod schedule in a helpful way (since: mods do work weekends, as the site is open, and the site is open 24 hours a day and not 9-5), but those are generally slow news times anyway -- it feels like there have been a lot of weekends where a mod has had to drop a note about not filling the thread(s) up with chatty comments in periods without news. If we're basically saying it doesn't make sense to be commenting during those times, maybe we could close the threads for specific times, on a scheduled basis, the same way Metatalk used to be (still is?) limited during the holidays.
posted by cjelli at 9:33 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


It doesn't come as a surprise that the megathread comment participation resembles the Internet 1% Rule, especially after deletions. If more people could add unique news links or thoughtful analysis, that would be terrific, of course.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:33 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Honestly, the 400 number doesn't surprise me.

Folks upthread are saying things like "MeFi is good at policing itself", and I'm like...how do you know that? The comments that get deleted are, by definition, invisible.

As tetchy as things occasionally get, the surprising level of civility that we do have is thanks entirely to the moderators constantly holding the Lord of the Flies scenario at bay. They are the Thin Blue (and Green and Gray) Line that stands between us and savagery.

MeFi probably is better at policing itself than other communities – but that's not because we're so darned great at applying community pressure to encourage good behavior. That pressure only works because it's backed up by the might of the mods (and their source of ultimate power, the Banhammer – should it be necessary to break the glass). We're just hall monitors – if anyone listens to us, it's because they know we speak for the principal.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:36 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


OK! After some internal chatting, we have decided to try an experiment. Head over to the new designated thread for jokes, one-liners, and riffing, and let's see if that takes the load off in a useful way while preserving an aspect that people find valuable.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:36 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


You can't imagine how much willpower it requires to not make any jokes about the "Women for Cohen" thing in the megathread right now.
posted by diogenes at 9:37 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


But wouldn't all of these solutions that require custom coding (cap on comments, super special commenting "cabal", cost-per-post, automatic emailing of delete reasons) that apply only to politics threads only add burden to an already taxed MetaFilter staff?

I don't see why the answer to behavior against the rules/norms should be for the staff to build something new to help make people behave better.
posted by kimberussell at 9:38 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Audit of first 154 deletions in current megathread (which, FYI, is 778 pages long, I had to pull it into a text editor):

"FIRST!" - 2 (which, come on)
Jokes & Riffing - 25 (75% dumb, 25% witty)
Double links - 12
Doomsaying - 8
Fanfic - 11
I hate these fuckers and wish them to die in this specific way - 6
Dems in Disarray - 12
Restatements of previously-held arguments - 23

Noise - 55 (including a literal "wake up sheeple," multiple Reichstag fire comparisons and subsequent arguments about whether this is or is not like the Reichstag fire, "is this something I'd have to own a TV to understand?", metaconversations about the thread/other users, lots of rage-posting)

After 154 I got depressed and had to stop.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:39 AM on January 17 [43 favorites]


OK! After some internal chatting, we have decided to try an experiment. Head over to the new designated thread for jokes, one-liners, and riffing, and let's see if that takes the load off in a useful way while preserving an aspect that people find valuable.

Would mods appreciate flagging of jokes/one-liners/riffing in the Megathread during the experiment, or would that just be a headache?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:46 AM on January 17


Seeing that unbelievably large proportion of deleted comments makes me want to re-ask a question I asked up-thread, which is: what about an automated process that tracks each user's number of deletions in a given time period, either as an absolute threshold or a percentage of their overall output, and either flags them for attention by the mods for possible reprimand/suspension, or automatically gives them a short timeout. Just from the number of active users in these threads, there have to be a lot of repeat offenders in there who should know better and would change their behavior if the resource were temporarily taken away from them.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:48 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


We're generally not a fan of automated moderation, and I think we'd rather try to use more traditional methods, but believe me, we are aware of the repeat offenders and will be moving to some direct conversations followed by harsher methods if we need to.

23skidoo, yes, flag as normal! We will be modding the megathreads as usual, and flags there are extremely helpful.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:51 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


OK, so maybe don't let the machines actually do the moderation, but why not let them tell you who's taking up more of your time with this noise? I can't imagine y'all can keep hundreds if not thousands of usernames in your head across many weeks of activity given that you're working in shifts and only seeing a portion of the problem at a time. You could still make the decision, but why not automate some of the data gathering?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:54 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Oh, we have the data, no worries there.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:54 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Right, yes, fantastic, absolutely! And to build on that, escape from the potato planet, part of the reason that hall monitors-- community members who abide by community rules--can afford to be relatively easy going about correcting perceived infractions is that they can rely on teachers to enforce them.

Real law--not the letter of law, the spirit of law--is enforced by notions that communities have chosen to collectively embrace. I've spent a lot of time watching moderated and unmoderated communities develop and enforce the real rules of what is and isn't allowable within each community, and one of the huge themes I've observed is that places where moderators are absent or rarely intervene develop a mindset that each individual needs to work out what behaviors are or are not acceptable for themselves, because there are no clear "real" rules that are predictably enforced. So what happens is that socially influential users decide what they will and won't tolerate, and use that influence to enforce those rules--while being varying degrees of aware that that social influence lasts only as long as other users like and choose to follow the member.

The insecurity of that lack of explicit power often encourages users in conflicts to come in hard and fast to squash inappropriate behavior before someone else can be a threat, which is one of the reasons that very new people behaving badly in a forum wind up used as examples. But when you have disagreements in unmoderated spaces, they end only when the participants choose to end them, which encourages some users to come in hard, sharp, and dismissive to emotionally crunch people who transgress the rules into stepping back.

Moderated dynamics by contrast often allow moderators with the trust of the community to forcibly separate conflicts and mete out societally agreed upon justice before you wind up creating huge fights and conflicts that upset the community broadly. They often have the power to minimize the visibility of transgressions, which reduces the shame and defensiveness of transgressors and increases the likelihood of people who transgress rules being able to be drawn back into positive community space.

If you don't have mods with explicit power and judgement enforcing rules and taking up that social space, people will start implicitly doing the same job without the explicit agreement and buy in of everyone in the community. And that is a much more aggressive, less nuanced way to do things that results in much less safety for difficult discussions.

We need to make this sustainable for our mods, because their active presence is what sustains the community.
posted by sciatrix at 9:55 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Could the mods add the Hyucking Hyuck thread to the sidebar? It might give more people a chance to encounter it.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:57 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


A major problem with the current setup is users receive very little direct feedback. You can't train people without feedback.
posted by M-x shell at 10:00 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Yeah, even if there was an automated MeMail that got fired off when something is deleted (kind of like the one that gets sent when you do a new FPP, but more sternly-worded), that could go a long way. Even if I know it's not really coming from "cortex" the human, I see a message with the site owner's screen name and language telling me that my post was removed, I think it might make me think twice -- if for no other reason than that I have to go to my MeMail and mark it as read to avoid the blinking mail icon.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:03 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The MeMail would also eliminate a lot of frustration when people find the post they spent an hour composing just vanishes. This way they get to at least keep a copy.
posted by M-x shell at 10:10 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


M-x shell, do you mean a post, that is, a thing that is linked on the front page of MetaFilter or one of the subsites, or do you mean a comment, that is, something entered in the comment box at the bottom of a page?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:15 AM on January 17


MeMail-on-delete (for comments; I don't know about posts) has been discussed previously. Thing is, there's a difference between getting feedback offline and getting it in the heat of the moment. We want to believe we're ready to hear about what we've done that's wrong, but when we've *just done it*, it's really easy to get defensive. And that exacts another toll on the mods, who might get mired in a back-and-forth with a defensive user when they're trying to deal with what's happening in a thread.

Note also that thread-pruning may involve many comments at once from more than one user, which may then spawn several MeMail conversations at once...
posted by Jpfed at 10:20 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


They have said, many times, that they’re very sure that automatic notifications upon delete will add to mod work (more fighty email exchanges). They have also said, many times, that they are happy to send you a copy of your deleted comment on request. Spent a lot of time of a deleted comment? Ask, and they will send you a copy so you can revise it or whatever.

(Deleted posts are still available at their original url.)
posted by greermahoney at 10:27 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


M-x shell, do you mean a post, that is, a thing that is linked on the front page of MetaFilter or one of the subsites, or do you mean a comment, that is, something entered in the comment box at the bottom of a page?

Sorry I meant a comment, specifically a megathread comment. I keep typing post when I mean comment. I edit most of them back but that one slipped by.
posted by M-x shell at 10:27 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


instead of talking about all the weird new rules we could make up in order to keep the megathreads shambling along in their current form, could we discuss in more affirmative terms the type of content that should be posted to the megathreads?

because this:

Jokes & Riffing - 25 (75% dumb, 25% witty)

is what a lot of people are here to post in the first place, it is specifically what drew them to MetaFilter, to joke around with people who are more or less in their cohort, and this:

Doomsaying - 8
Fanfic - 11
Dems in Disarray - 12
Restatements of previously-held arguments - 23


represents a lot of the "commentary and analysis" that people are told they're supposed to post there.

now, I'm not a fan of the fanfic or doomsaying or...well, any of it, but it can get pretty subjective and I don't think many of us have a great mental concept of what good commentary/analysis is supposed to look like, and a lot of what gets posted -- and gets left standing -- is just "here's how I think Trump's brain works" or whatever.

are we there just to post links to breaking stories from major news sources? I can get that by swiping right from my home screen. is the big value-add of the megathreads links to hot takes and Important Threads on Twitter? lots of people hate the hot takes and we don't all agree on the difference between an Important Thread and somebody who just likes to see themselves drag out an obvious point for thirty-odd tweets.

I mean, I like that y'all just made an experimental thread for jokes, but really? the megathread needs two spinoff threads to buttress it now?

why do we think the optimal mode of engagement with this stuff, on MetaFilter, is to act like sober little pundits-in-training?

if we're going to keep these monstrosities for now let's talk about what we can put in to make them better instead of coming up with endless byzantine rules for preserving them through increased deletions and bannings and warnings and subthreads.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:34 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Honestly, prize bull octorok, what we can put in them to make them work better is less. Fewer comments over longer periods of time. All of the special-case rules around it is because we're up against the technical and human limitations of moderating threads on this site.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:36 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


but a standing, 24/7, catch-all megathread is a big, sticky, perfumed honeypot for bored people to hang out and chat in. the form of the thing is completely at odds with how we're supposed to use it.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:37 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I agree completely, but we have a pretty strong community desire for them, so we're trying to make them work. Personally, I don't like them and would prefer not to have them at all, but we live in the times we live in and people want community support specifically around the current political situation. So we do what we can.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:40 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


This might be a little goofy, but what about ongoing MetaTalk threads for discussion of political dreams/aspirations/inspirations? And to discuss our own real life political involvement, too, if people want to share?

It always seems to me like there is a lot of political dreaming (of the luxury gay space communism variety) that goes on in the Megathread, and it creates a lot of repetition and noise there. I like a lot of those comments in and of themselves, but the Megathread doesn't seem like the right place for them. They're not especially timely, for one thing. Yet they're also not jokey (hyuk thread) or ragey (fuck thread).

Also, there was a MetaTalk thread going on for a while that was about our personal involvement in political action, like if we were volunteering, running, etc. I really enjoyed that thread, and I'd especially like to talk about that stuff within the context of overall policy/political dreams (like Medicare for All or Free College, etc) -- so if a "political dreams" MetaTalk did exist on a rolling basis, then maybe that stuff could be folded in, too?
posted by rue72 at 10:41 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"Doomsaying - 8
Fanfic - 11
Dems in Disarray - 12
Restatements of previously-held arguments - 23

represents a lot of the "commentary and analysis" that people are told they're supposed to post there"


Yeah, it's not, though. The Doomsaying is stuff like "WHELP THAT'S IT WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST, BYE GUYS" and is rarely more than 2-3 lines. The fanfic is stuff like "Okay so hear me out, Donald Trump is really dumb, so what if we buy him a TIGER and tell him it's a CAT and then don't feed the tiger?" or "I've seen our future and what's going to happen is the Wall will create an actual Mad Max situation with Charlize Theron as our queen ..." The Dems in Disarray is something we've REPEATEDLY asked people not to do which is basically to be like "Democrats are bringing up $progressivething for a vote? Oh goodie, time to be disappointed by Chuck Schumer again!" before anything even happens! (And then to argue back and forth for days on end about whether we should be pre-emptively disappointed in this or that centrist or progressive for their prospective failures that HAVE NOT OCCURRED.) And the restatements of previous arguments is the stuff where the same poster has posted THE SAME ARGUMENT literally dozens of times before (sometimes hundreds) and is saying not one new or interesting thing, they just want to hear themselves talk about their favorite thing at great length no matter how repetitive.

People who have actual commentary and analysis that happens to be a little doom-y, or that involves some future hypotheticals, or that discusses strengths and weaknesses of Democratic tactics, that stuff doesn't get deleted. This is all stuff that is pure noise with no value-add to the thread, that happens to fall into those specific megathread types of noise. And the restatements of previously-held arguments were probably fine the first six times, but I don't need to read the same person saying the same exact thing about, oh, western states water management (imaginary example) once a week for more than two years.

" a lot of what gets posted -- and gets left standing -- is just "here's how I think Trump's brain works" or whatever."

So, yeah, the stuff that's getting deleted is mostly not even clearing that very low bar. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:49 AM on January 17 [27 favorites]

this:

Doomsaying - 8
Fanfic - 11
Dems in Disarray - 12
Restatements of previously-held arguments - 23

represents a lot of the "commentary and analysis" that people are told they're supposed to post there.
I strongly disagree. I am THRILLED that the mods are deleting this stuff. Doomsaying in particular is so destructive (for me, and for many of us).

I wonder whether there could be a separate "deleted comments" page to provide useful feedback and instruction to all of us? Show all the deleted comments, scrubbed of poster name and time, maybe sorted by those categories (only if that's easy to automate), so that we could all see what kinds of comments are problems? Even a static selection from, say, a few weeks ago could help everyone see exactly what we need to avoid.
posted by kristi at 10:49 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


How about in my profile instead of seeing:
MeFi: 0 posts , 249 comments

I would see:
MeFi: 0 posts , 249 comments, 92,518 comments deleted
posted by M-x shell at 10:51 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "but a standing, 24/7, catch-all megathread is a big, sticky, perfumed honeypot for bored people to hang out and chat in. the form of the thing is completely at odds with how we're supposed to use it."

I agree that the basic form of the megathread is the underlying problem. A catch-all thread inevitably attracts catch-all comments. More frequent, focused political threads on particular topics would a) avoid generic political commentary and b) elicit more fruitful, interesting discussions.

Again we seem to be discussing the megathread in this thread. If indeed the mods plan to have a megathread metatalk discussion, it might be worthwhile to close this thread and open that post.
posted by crazy with stars at 10:52 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


M-x shell, I think you're trying to be helpful by suggesting various ideas in a brainstormy way, but these issues have been discussed many times before on MetaTalk. Many of the ideas you're coming up with off-the-cuff have also been thought of by others before, proposed, discussed, and responded to. I think you're not getting much response from the mod team to your suggestions because they've responded to each of them at length before in previous threads, some of them quite recent. Mostly the mod response has been along the lines of "X seems like a good idea in theory, but when you consider Y and Z, it would actually make the problem even worse." Since these discussions haven't been compiled into a FAQ or anything, it's understandable that you may be unaware of the ideas that have already been proposed and the limitations and reasons for not incorporating them that the mod team has articulated. However, since the topic of this thread is not brainstorming solutions to the problems posed by the megathread, I can understand why the mods (and others) may not be interested in engaging yet again in this thread to address each of these ideas and why they're unworkable. Particularly since we're now several hundred comments in and few people are going to read this far, meaning that in just a few days they'll probably have to have the same discussion yet again with someone brainstorming similar ideas.

Cortex said up-thread that there'll be another MeTa coming up soon specifically targeted at long-term solutions to the unsustainable megathread. I've noticed he often includes a summary of ideas that have been discussed previously as a starting point for discussion in these threads. I think all of us would be better off holding our brainstorming for the upcoming thread where it will be on-topic and better framed.
posted by biogeo at 10:59 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, your examples were very illuminating to me. I think I had a skewed view of deletions because most deletions that get discussed on Metatalk are often borderline - which means I had no sense of the amount of stuff you have to delete that's just really bad. It is a bit distressing actually - that so many comments don't even clear such a low bar. Thank you for sharing this data.
posted by motdiem2 at 11:00 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


Yep. We’re just gonna have these same debates in 2 weeks or whenever that new post is.

Honestly, there should be a megathread FAQ for this:

Why do we even have the politics megathreads?
Why do you delete so many comments?
Why don’t you delete more?
Why not single topics? Why a catch all?
Why not start a new megathread every day?
Can I volunteer to mod?
But I like jokes! Why can’t I post them?

Just answer all that stuff one more time, and anytime we ask again, just link to the FAQ.
posted by greermahoney at 11:00 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


I strongly disagree. I am THRILLED that the mods are deleting this stuff. Doomsaying in particular is so destructive (for me, and for many of us).

I'm not saying those comments shouldn't have been deleted, I am saying it's difficult for commenters -- especially commenters who haven't been marinating themselves in megathread culture for 2+ years, whose voices and contributions are valuable too -- to know where exactly the line falls, where informed speculation crosses over into fanfic, where acknowledgement of grim reality becomes doomsaying, etc. It may be crystal clear on the mod side of things where the deleted comments fall, but for people who don't have that back-end visibility who are staring into an empty comment box, I doubt it often is, especially when you can see lots and lots of stuff left standing in-thread that looks like it could be fanfic, dumb jokes, rehashed arguments, etc
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:00 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Honestly, frimble's pulling some data, but my gut feeling is that most of those deletions are absolutely from megathread regulars who should, by now, know better.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:01 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


And the restatements of previously-held arguments were probably fine the first six times, but I don't need to read the same person saying the same exact thing about, oh, western states water management (imaginary example) once a week for more than two years.

I guess it's probably a good thing I stopped hanging out there going on about how approval voting would fix so much of our electoral system.
posted by biogeo at 11:05 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Jokes & Riffing - 25 (75% dumb, 25% witty)

Joke away, I say – well deployed humor makes the substantive parts go down easier. It's the "75% dumb" part that I consider noise. I guess that's tricky, since humor is subjective, and not every wisecrack can be expected to land. But I think it's safe to assume that a 4,700th round of "tiny hands / weird hair / pettily derogatory nickname / joke stolen from a late show" will not be received as the pinnacle of comedy.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:07 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The politics threads are absolutely all about playing favorites and appealing to the clique. Defenses of it are generally just about shitting on everyone not in that clique. It’s a bad part of the site and probably not a good sign for future site culture, since trust in the moderators is a big art of that culture and the plot is thread breaks that.
posted by Artw at 11:13 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


" I am saying it's difficult for commenters -- especially commenters who haven't been marinating themselves in megathread culture for 2+ years, whose voices and contributions are valuable too -- to know where exactly the line falls, where informed speculation crosses over into fanfic, where acknowledgement of grim reality becomes doomsaying, etc. "

"I wonder whether there could be a separate "deleted comments" page to provide useful feedback and instruction to all of us?"


Let us talk about these two things a bit. Past discussions about megathread rules have been in MetaTalk threads which do fade from mental view after a while, and some people don't see them. We may be able to compile a short "best and worst practices" list for megathread commenting, and an FAQ with common megathread questions as greermahoney suggests -- but let us think it through a little bit.

Re: the deleted comments, we don't want to put people on the spot or hold their comments up as The Bad Example, but we kicked around a little bit the idea of culling a corpus of deleted comments and then creating some "types" of common deleted comments that would be composed by us and therefore fictional but representative.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:14 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Honestly, frimble's pulling some data, but my gut feeling is that most of those deletions are absolutely from megathread regulars who should, by now, know better.

okay, but I'm really not asking y'all to justify your deletions. I'm sure the overwhelming majority were good deletions. I'm saying there is nothing consistent about the messaging w/r/t what the megathreads are for and how we should use them. not just from the mod side, of course, a lot of the stuff we should "know better" than to post gets rewarded with hell of favorites when it gets left up.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:18 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


of course, a lot of the stuff we should "know better" than to post gets rewarded with hell of favorites when it gets left up.

Almost might be worth seeing if they could kill the favorites in the Megathreads to see if that would slow the problem repeat behavior.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:23 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


we kicked around a little bit the idea of culling a corpus of deleted comments and then creating some "types" of common deleted comments that would be composed by us and therefore fictional but representative.

Well so far Eyebrows McGee's fake comments (would they be considered anti-fanfic?) have been very amusing so if you are doing this I might read those instead of the real megathread.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:33 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I'm saying there is nothing consistent about the messaging w/r/t what the megathreads are for and how we should use them.

I didn't read Eyebrows as primarily aimed at justifying mod behavior- rather showing (prototypical/idealized) examples so you can see what the guidelines are guarding against.

To complete the picture, a sort of table with columns "bad example", "good example", "key difference" could help ground the discussion of guidelines and avoid the confusion you're alluding to.

(Sorry for commenting so much here; bowing out)
posted by Jpfed at 12:09 PM on January 17


Almost might be worth seeing if they could kill the favorites in the Megathreads to see if that would slow the problem repeat behavior.

repeated for emphasis
posted by philip-random at 12:09 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


It’s doubtless unworkable (socially and/or technically) but I am intrigued by the idea of removing favorites from the megathreads to see if that provides a brake.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:14 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I do think that since the megathreads are so fast moving, it can be difficult to even notice when your comments are deleted (outside of the most obvious cases with mod notes), which makes it more difficult to self-moderate by learning what not to do. Jokes and one liners are a bit of a different category, but for the doomsaying, fanfic, dems in disarray (and I'd toss in unnecessary "fuck yeah dems are finally fighting" comments too) type of comments, it seems like a lot of that just gets screamed into the void, and nobody gets the specific message of "yeah, this is what we want to not see."

I agree that deletion notifications cause way more work for the mods, and so are a nonstarter, but if people aren't seeing specifically that their comments are being deleted, they don't know to change what they're doing.

I'm not sure if it's specific mefites who make up the majority of such comments, or whether it's a broad diffuse "basically everyone does it a little bit and we all need to do it a lot less" situation.
posted by zachlipton at 12:34 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


> I agree that deletion notifications cause way more work for the mods

Surely this (yes I know) is scriptable?
Even without a reason assigned, automated notice of deletions would be useful as a behavior modifier.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:00 PM on January 17


See, I think hiding favorites would have the opposite effect -- I know... ***favorites aren't upvotes***, but many people use them to signal their agreement. Being able to do so in a way that doesn't clog up the thread is valuable. What we gain from reducing the temptation to grandstand I think we would lose in people wanting to throw in their "^^this" or "quoted for truth" type noise.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:30 PM on January 17 [15 favorites]


separate "deleted comments" page to provide useful feedback and instruction to all of us?"
I am intrigued by the idea of removing favorites from the megathreads

I wouldn't say I actually endorse either of these measures, but as a former heavy megathread participant let me just say that the positive feedback loop in those threads is nuts and it's really easy to feel like your contributions are good! and valuable! even when you're Doing It Wrong.

Here's what I saw when I was heavily participating in those threads:

1) tons of favorites. There are so many eyeballs on those threads that favorites "inflation" is a thing. I'm aware that favorites don't always mean YOU'RE THE BEST but they do make it feel like people are at the very least engaging in some way with my comment.
2) Other users frequently engaging with my comments in the thread.
3) People commenting in public or via private message to say they enjoyed my contributions.

Here's what I didn't see:

1) My deleted comments - the content or even the number of deletions
2) That other users were flagging my comments - which comments or even how often they were getting flagged.
3) Any big picture context or perspective; for me and I think many other users I was just participating in an ongoing conversation, you know?

This is all to say that I don't think people are necessarily being dicks or lacking in self-restraint or anything like that; the threads are basically positive reinforcement machines (if you operate in line with the political zeitgeist here) and the guidelines so vague that it's easy to think that your one-liner is one of the funny ones! or that you are participating in one of the riffs that's allowed! etc. etc.
posted by lalex at 2:13 PM on January 17 [25 favorites]


400 out of 2287 is literally an order of magnitude more than I would have guessed--so is megathread basically on par with the fightiest shitshow threads, except going on constantly 24/7 instead of a few times a month? I haven't been posting there regularly since the first few months of 2017, but I'm sure my own signal-to-noise ratio was not that great. The temptation to treat it like political chatfilter was impossible for me to resist.
posted by skewed at 2:22 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


To lalex's excellent points, I'd just add that the same favorite inflation doesn't really happen on the rest of the site (which, overall, is a good thing), just in the megathreads. I promise that I don't measure my self-worth in favorites or even look at my "Favorited by others" page much, but to the extent that favorites are a positive feedback loop, it's much stronger in the megathreads than anywhere else on the site.

So when we talk about the megathreads depressing participation on the rest of the site, there's a thing that happens where you can just copy/paste a tweet into the megathreads and get 50 favorites, while you can pour your heart out in a non-politics thread and get five. I don't know if people really react to that and adjust their behavior accordingly, but if they do, it's a factor that makes the megathreads more sticky than the rest of the site.

As for the Hyucking Hyuck thread, I'm curious how it will look in a couple days once some of the novelty has worn off. I miss some of the whimsy and camaraderie of the old days, when we'd have Meredith! and the JCPL and friends and it all felt a little bit more like a community, but not only was that utterly unsustainable, this all became increasingly less funny with every passing day and outrage.
posted by zachlipton at 2:36 PM on January 17 [11 favorites]


400 out of 2287 is literally an order of magnitude more than I would have guessed

To be clear/expand on my comment, when you're routinely deleting close to 20% of the comments in the megathread I think you're really looking at a deep user education/training problem.

I retreated from participation before the big "Resetting Expectations" MetaTalk that gets included in the posts was put up, but I can't say it cleared a ton up for me and it is way, way too long to be any kind of efficient, re-readable reference guide for behavior. (I really appreciate that this MeTa was way more concise and specific.)

It is also not even close to consistently enforced? and when people point this out I don't think they're saying like, "GOTCHA MODS" as much as "this makes it very confusing to figure out what's welcome here." And of course there are plenty of people who don't read MetaTalk at all and model their behavior after what they see in the threads.
posted by lalex at 2:46 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


I’ve spoken out in the past about how much I am glad Thread is around, and how much I appreciate the mod work that goes into it. But honestly that 20% number is huge. It puts me straight in the camp of “time for Thread to go”.

Knowing that the mods have been diligently saving us from that level of noise and bluster makes me even more grateful for their work, but that’s unsustainable and not getting better (is it getting worse?).

I also worry that my addiction to reading it prevents me from taking more substantive action; reading the Thread does not fix the political situation. I think I will hope for a “what are you doing to resist” Metatalk update instead.
posted by nat at 4:55 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


As a note, that 20% number is a bit of an outlier, though not by enough to substantially change things; having seen some more numbers frimble has run today, the typical load of deletions in the catch-all threads is more like 10% give or take a point. That's still a lot, however; it really is something like an order of magnitude above what historical normal for your baseline-average MetaFilter thread would be.

It's also worth contextualizing that idea of average, though; some threads are bumpier than others even when we set aside the issue of big scale differences. The median number of deletions in a MeFi thread is probably zero or one, because many threads never have anything really come up; some threads are more fractious than most and are going to end up with an outlier share of deletions.

But one of the distinguishing marks of the catch-all threads is that every single one of them has been a big, sprawling, fast-paced discussion about a collection of tense, highly-charged issues. So every one of them is predisposed to be a mess, to produce the kinds of conditions where we end up needing to delete often and delete chains of comments much of the time, which is a big part of how that deletion percentage gets so high. And because the format is always like that, because that big and fast-paced style is the norm, it's one thread after another with those conditions.

A lot of what I want to focus on as we revisit how the catch-alls are going and what we can do to tweak them is trying to reduce the impact of that unique setup. To look at the conditions that produce the most pressure and the most unsustainable stress and help folks redirect some of the input there in ways that work better. That's what we were aiming for with the big Resetting Expectations metatalk, and as much as we have a lot of work to do still we actually did get a lot of responsiveness, in the moment and ongoing, to the stuff we addressed in there as needing to change. So that's heartening; I think we can continue to make progress.

We're working as a mod team to try and form up some of the current ideas into a reasonably concise presentation for a new MetaTalk post, and we'll get that rolled out when we're able to; I'd have liked to get it out in the last day or two but it's been a busy week and I'd rather we feel like the ideas are as baked as we can get them, so it may be a few days yet before that goes up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:35 PM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Popped back in to see the 400/1887 number, and damn that is much higher than I thought. So, I want to bring this up again, please adjust the base of the post.

Current megathread looks like this:
posted by Doktor Zed (2023 comments total) [add to activity] [remove from favorites] 128 users marked this as a favorite [!]

Please change to:
posted by Doktor Zed (2023 comments total: 430 deleted) [add to activity] [remove from favorites] 128 users marked this as a favorite [!]

Many people are expressing shock that the number is so high. Many more Mefites are not in this thread. Let people know! This number is not a criticism of any one individual's behavior.
posted by Gotanda at 6:40 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


By the way, if anyone would like to see how the #USPolitics FPP sausage is made and/or help make that sausage, new draft is ready on the MeFi wiki for people to contribute/collaborate.

The current megathread hit 2K comments earlier this evening, which leaves the window open for tomorrow for a new one, or else the current one will be grinding under the weight of a weekend's worth of comments. And given the restlessness of Trumpland this week, Grand Jury Friday could hold some surprises.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:06 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I’d really like to see frimble whip up a little ratio or percentage counter that would be stickied at the top of the thread: “Of 1880 comments posted to this thread, 400 have been deleted for being off topic, jokey, or needlessly argumentative.”

Format it like a deletion reason right under the post.
posted by disclaimer at 7:24 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


Since I've got this big corpus of megathread comments in my word processor now I was messing around with some other tools:
If the megathreads were a novel, we'd be generating about 100 novel pages per day of content (including deleted comments), or around 30,000 words per day.

The megathreads, when people are being conversational or reporting on events, score at an 11th grade level for reading level. (War & Peace in translation scores at a 9th grade level.) When the discussion gets technical or theoretical, the reading level goes up.
Which is like, NO WONDER I haven't been reading for fun lately, this is like the semester in college I had [theological] systematics with a crazy man who felt 500 pages of systematics a week was a totally reasonable expectation from students carrying 17 credit hours. MY BRAIN GOT SORE.

And gosh no wonder the mod team is so worn out, that is an incredibly intense reading load to maintain day after day after day for nearly three years!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:54 PM on January 17 [29 favorites]


Just to clarify, 1800 was the number remaining after deleting 400.
posted by M-x shell at 10:39 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


And gosh no wonder the mod team is so worn out, that is an incredibly intense reading load to maintain day after day after day for nearly three years!

You act like mods are the only ones doing that. How many megathreaders read or skim everything? This one does. At least it's your job, we're doing it in our spare time. If I get two or three days behind, I catch up. I'm worn out too, but this is no time to stop!
posted by M-x shell at 10:47 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but you have the option of falling behind or stopping if you want to.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:42 PM on January 17 [25 favorites]


And you read less, and higher quality, because the mods remove the chaff. Evidently quite a lot less.
posted by nat at 1:00 AM on January 18 [19 favorites]


Gotanda: "Many people are expressing shock that the number is so high. Many more Mefites are not in this thread. Let people know! This number is not a criticism of any one individual's behavior."

Notably, several people whom I would consider major offenders are not in this thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:42 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]


well I guess Chrysostom has me killfiled
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:19 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]


Yeah I'm reading too!
posted by Justinian at 12:08 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


The megathreads, when people are being conversational or reporting on events, score at an 11th grade level for reading level.

This is crazy high for massive amounts of general-interest text over large periods of time! That's amazing. But I understand the toll it must take on the mods.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


On reading level, there is a quick check you can do by copy/pasting your comment into http://www.hemingwayapp.com/, if you are curious as to how "readable" your comment is.

(I acknowledge that Hemingway was a pretty vile human being.)
posted by freethefeet at 4:24 PM on January 18


Apparently I am extremely interested in megathread facts. Subscribe.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:38 PM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Reporting just the percentage of deleted comments vs. other threads seems misleadingly small, given how many more comments are in the megathreads than other threads. The "400 comments deleted and 2000-something comments read or skimmed, versus 1 comment deleted and 300-something comments read or skimmed (or not even read or skimmed, I guess, if nothing was flagged?)" seems like it gets at the issue better. Or, as Eyebrows points out, the word count and reading level differences (though I wonder if words per comment and reading level of comment is different in megathreads than in the rest of the site).
posted by lazuli at 10:14 AM on January 19


Hopefully the hyucking hyuck thread helps, and after hearing those ratios I'll definitely be bearing flagging in mind when I'm caught up to the springhead.

> What if there were a Politics Chatroom that was foregrounded as the place on the site for general US Politics discussion?

I think that could help. I sometimes lurk in chat when something has happened recently to see if people are talking about it, but I wouldn't want to personally drop "hey, how about that [bad thing]?" on the usually chill conversations there. Pointing people to a separate room specifically for politics, maybe with megathread regulars given op to update the topic, might encourage more casual comments to filter that way. I don't remember how moderated the chat is though, so that could just be another load.
posted by lucidium at 1:17 PM on January 21


There were a couple of deletions this morning I'd like to ask about if that's ok.

First, the mod note from 10:22am:
[One deleted. Just to address this, copying offensive stuff into the thread is something we'd like people to avoid in general, yes -- generally please don't unless there's some really really compelling reason why the actual quote is needed rather than a description of it. And -- on Covington Catholic -- if we really need to dig deeply into particulars about the one school, probably we're at the point where it should split off into a separate post.]
My deleted comment 45 minutes later:
@IngrahamAngle: EXCLUSIVE on the new #LauraIngrahamPodcast — the Covington Catholic students threatened by the leftist internet mob will be meeting with @realDonaldTrump at the White House as early as tomorrow.

@pbump: Honestly wasn't expecting so much of Trump's presidency to be dedicated to the adjudication of the behavior of students who attend all-boys Catholic high schools.
Rust Moranis's deleted comment 44 minutes later (links omitted):
Evidence of a struggle within the white house between the nazi and the only extremely racist factions: telling Laura Ingraham that Trump will be meeting with the Covington chudlings tomorrow, then almost immediately backpedaling to "Trump will meet them after the shutdown, maybe." Laura's not happy with that development.
I can't speak for RM, but when I read the mod note, I interpreted it to mean: don't copy offensive stuff into the thread; let's stop digging deep into the background of this particular school's history (which a couple of people were doing, discussing past incidents); and let's consider splitting the deep dive off into a new FPP if we are going to do that. I didn't interpret it to mean "do not in any way mention Covington Catholic in the megathreads, even in the context of an announcement from the White House, or your comment will be deleted." Maybe I should have read that into the subtext—I certainly took the mod note as an instruction not to dig deeper into the school—, but I didn't.

We discussed upthread the issue of people ignoring mod directions, and that certainly happens even when the directions are super clear. But in general, I think mod notes sometimes come off as a bit vague. Often, that's because they're trying to use friendly language ("we'd like people to avoid," "probably"), which I appreciate. But they're sometimes hard to interpret, so if the instruction that's meant is really "do not talk about anything related to this topic in here ever again," could the mods say that more directly?
posted by zachlipton at 12:19 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


It's not as strong as "never never ever again." But at the same time, it's not great to follow a mod note like that with incremental Twitter updates that amount to "something might happen on this topic, stand by."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:31 PM on January 22


It’s not a moderation decision. It’s an editorial decision. Which is a big chunk of the problem with what is going on with the moderation in those threads.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on January 22 [8 favorites]


"it's not great to [whatever]" is useless information for me as a commenter. lots of things on this site are not great. I have no fucking clue what is considered desirable content on the megathreads except for breaking news links. The last time I asked for clarification on what the mods consider to be a positive form of engagement with them, the answer was basically "post less," which is pretty telling.

while I'm at it, no offense to any of the participants there, many of whom crack me up regularly in other settings, but I ain't laughed once at the hyucking hyuck thread. the whole implicit "if you must be silly, go do it over there" reason for its existence is a bit of a wet blanket, and many riffs just aren't funny if you take them out of the inline context they would naturally occur in. from my recollection the megathreads started and continued because of a shared feeling of being in a ride to hell in the same handbasket together, and boy howdy is that feeling well and gone now.

when does the thread go up when we can really talk about killing these things.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:54 PM on January 22 [4 favorites]


It's not as strong as "never never ever again." But at the same time, it's not great to follow a mod note like that with incremental Twitter updates that amount to "something might happen on this topic, stand by."

I genuinely struggle to understand what guidance people are supposed to take away from stuff like this and agree with zach that the mod notes are often super-vague.

If you don't want people to report developments on a particular news story in the thread, just say so explicitly. I honestly thought "reporting developments on news stories involving the president" was like the one category of stuff that everyone agreed was allowed in the megathreads.
posted by lalex at 1:08 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


I'm generally OK with the MegaThreads as is (more or less) and I think I'm the one who fired up the latest round of "Covington Kids" (sorry), but I tend to agree with the point that a more straightforward "That's enough on Topic X for now barring real development" mod note would make things clearer. People can rules-lawyer "real development", I suppose, but it would make sense to me that "Trump is/whoops is NOT meeting these kids" and "here are more horrible things about the school/neighborhood" tweets & articles would plausibly count as not major enough to need to stick around.

The "don't copy offensive stuff directly in the thread" seems a separate thing.
posted by soundguy99 at 1:36 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


On this specific example:
Do you guys feel like this "maybe Trump will meet the Covington kids, maybe not" thing is - at this moment - a firm enough thing that it should be discussed in the main thread? It seemed not that way to me but maybe I'm wrong. Is there something more to say than "he's racist, they're racist, modern conservative identify politics are horrible, this is very bad"?

Like, there was an article about how these kids are some kind of PR setup by a GOP connected PR firm -- that would be a development. But a general thing about how their high school is bad, or Catholic boys's schools, etc, that seems like separate thread territory. And "there's a bunch of nebulous publicity stuff happening around them, like they're talking with hate-radio host, that exemplifies all the badness" is just.. not news? It feels like something likely to kick off a big round of general chatty "conservative racism is very bad"/"these kids are awful"/"it's the parents who are awful"/"they say they're Christian but they're really hypocrites" etc stuff. It's a thing that people will tend to take off running with, so I was pushing back on that a bit more than I would on another topic where a report of "someone said x on twitter" wouldn't kick off a big thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:52 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


(And yeah, "don't copy offensive stuff" was addressing a separate point, but related to the comments about the Covington kids and I didn't want to leave two separate mod notes)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:53 PM on January 22


Do you guys feel like this "maybe Trump will meet the Covington kids, maybe not" thing is - at this moment - a firm enough thing that it should be discussed in the main thread?

adding yet more subjective opinions into the mix is not going to bring clarity.

if the megathreads are to be kept alive, they need an affirmative mission statement or something, not this endless spiral into subthreads and off-limits topics and completely arbitrary determinations of what is or isn't an appropriate thing to discuss.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:09 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I thought that the specific story that Trump was going to meet with the kids (and at the time, it was being presented everywhere as an issued invitation that was happening as soon as tomorrow, though it later became a maybe/maybe not thing, and the reversal on that is itself mildly interesting) was directly about US Presidential politics in a way that other Covington stories weren't. At least two other people have posted comments about it this morning, that I happen to have seen, which I think is a sign that I wasn't alone in not understanding the guidance from the mod note meant not to post something like this. I explicitly wouldn't have posted about a GOP-connected PR firm, their high school being bad, other schools being bad, broader takes on boys/parents/racism, etc... because that would feel like digging deeply into particulars about the school and the incident, rather than something about Presidential political news. Trump extending a (cancelled?) invitation to meet with the kids, along with his tweet this morning, seemed to be of a different nature, not a huge bombshell news story, but something worth mentioning as a substantial escalation of the story.

The instructions I've seen, now across a couple different mod comments in two threads, boil down to don't "dig deeply into particulars about the one school" and also don't post incremental twitter updates with news from the White House about this topic, but at the same time, discussion about this topic isn't entirely prohibited. Which, yeah, all becomes increasingly subjective and it's hard to know what space is left in between not digging deeply and no incremental updatelets, and that's if you're actually reading all this guidance.

I'm not worried about this specific case. The world will be the same whether or not this bit of news/not news is mentioned in a MetaFilter thread, and someone else has posted it again now, so that's fine too. I can see decent arguments for the editorial decision to mention/not mention it either way, and if we were a newsroom, we could have a whole long discussion about its news value or lack thereof. But we're not an actual newsroom, so in terms of moderation of the site, if the aim is for us to be able to self-moderate in deciding what to post, it's hard to turn everyone's subjective editorial judgements, as opposed to specific instructions from the mods, into actionable decisions we make when commenting. It would be fine to just say "let's not discuss the Covington story anymore" or "let's take everything about the Covington story to its own thread now" if that's the decision.
posted by zachlipton at 2:36 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


from my recollection the megathreads started and continued because of a shared feeling of being in a ride to hell in the same handbasket together, and boy howdy is that feeling well and gone now.

Mefites are never going to come to a consensus about what the megathreads are for or why they were started. I continue to read the megathreads not for shared feelings of being the same ride to hell, but to get current political news information and to read discussion of current political news.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:46 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


to get current political news information

one can use the megathreads for this purpose, certainly, but they are a terribly inefficient setup for this, and seem to involve far, far more work for the mods than a simple curated news feed.

and to read discussion of current political news.

and here we are debating what form that discussion should take, because this, too, we have yet to reach a consensus about.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:58 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


The Covington Catholic kids, as an active front on American culture war, needs its own thread at this point something more substantial than "look at these assholes being assholes" (I read an illuminating Twitter thread about Nathan Phillips's attempted deescalation and protest march strategies, but of course, I can't find it at the moment).

Meanwhile, until Trump definitively commits (gawd help us) to wading in on the issue—and Laura Ingraham is not an official WH spox, not yet at least—it's not technically #USPolitics. Right now it's more of an adjacent topic, as well a distraction from the pressing issues like the shutdown. Naturally, the rightwing noise machine has embraced it, even if the original viral video was posted by a now-suspended fake Twitter account.

Incidentally, now that the current megathread is over 500 comments, would it be possible to receive a readout on the number of deleted comments and their categories? The earlier feedback about this from restless_nomad and Eveybrows McGee was very instructive, if rather dispiriting, but an update on the new thread might help us going forward. Many thanks,
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:00 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


I can give you a count really easily: of 621 comments posted so far, 105 have been deleted. Categorizing them is a lot more work since it involves reviewing each comment and making a call on how to bucket it out. It's something we can revisit in the long run but not something we're going to want to do one thread to another every time. But at a glance I see a familiar mix of things falling into those various kinds of territory EM enumerated upthread.

My general perception is it's been a weird busy long weekend even by current politics standards and so folks have had a lot to react to in all sorts of ways. But that's also a general perception only because I have been more distracted than usual from both politics and day-to-day site stuff the last few days.

So I have for example caught lots of bits and pieces of the Covington stuff going by on social media without seeing how it found its way into the catch-all thread. And my impression from a distance is that it's the perfect sort of topic to be a weird muddled mess in how it might interface with the catch-all: it's not US politics in a direct way; but of course the March For Life stuff is inherently political and the young fuckos involved were wearing MAGA hats and how can any of this not be basically a reflection on US politics; and yet also how can we expect the catch-all thread to accommodate everything touched and tainted by the state of US politics without becoming more unwieldy yet and so "racists being racist in Trump's racist America" doesn't seem like it inherently needs more than passing mention; and yet in turn Trumpian machinery seems to be getting involved, meet and greet with POTUS as reward for being regressive shitheads is in fact a kinda high-profile twist; and yet that in turn even being proposed looks like PR/media fuckery rather than something meaty; and yet...

One of the frustrating realities of this, mod- and user-side both, is that with the weird muddy "is it or isn't it" stories we are gonna have our first reactions before everything's settled and as stuff develops those might end up getting revisited and reversed and so on. A mod asking folks to maybe drop something or put together a post vs. a mod flatly insisting that only x may happen or that y is forbidden is in part a reflection of that difficulty. There's some topics that are already baked enough that we can more confidently make a hard call on it, but some of it is gonna be hazy and let's-see. I still don't know if there's really going to be any content to the Covington bullshit to justify a post or not, though in the end if someone chooses to put one together that will make it easier to say definitively "there's a place for this, go _yonder_" vs. being stuck with "maybe not so much in here, maybe make a post".

It's a hard example and I'm tired just parsing it out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:04 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]


I can give you a count really easily: of 621 comments posted so far, 105 have been deleted. Categorizing them is a lot more work since it involves reviewing each comment and making a call on how to bucket it out. It's something we can revisit in the long run but not something we're going to want to do one thread to another every time. But at a glance I see a familiar mix of things falling into those various kinds of territory EM enumerated upthread.

Many thanks, Cortex, that is useful to know, even if that's pretty much the rate of deletions that restless_nomad reported (and we can take it as a given that they will fall into about the same categories). I don't have any bright ideas about how to get the message through about the deletion rate, but I'll try to brainstorm it.

(By the way, I found the thread about de-escalation in the context of the Covington kids confrontation by Dr. Susan Schorn: "One goal of nonviolent protest is to make structural violence visible. This incident is a prime example of the value and efficacy of peacekeeping skills like those of Nathan Phllips--and of the need for structural change to truly end violence.")
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:21 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


one can use the megathreads for this purpose, certainly, but they are a terribly inefficient setup for this, and seem to involve far, far more work for the mods than a simple curated news feed.

Sure, but (imo) similarly dismissive things could be said about any reason that anyone uses the Megathread for. The Megathread seems like a terrible delivery system for shared feelings of despair, but some people use it for that. My point wasn't that the way I use the Megathread should be THE way to use it, my point was more that there are different ways to use it.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:56 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


Artw: "It’s not a moderation decision. It’s an editorial decision. Which is a big chunk of the problem with what is going on with the moderation in those threads."

Moderation is an editorial action.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:37 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


“The thread of record!”

It’s a self important, delusional scam.
posted by Artw at 8:07 PM on January 22


One of the things that struck me about the Covington situation is that while it's a developing story, it's not really "breaking news." It's definitely something that will be worth reading more comprehensive write-ups of as they're put together, but I'm not sure that tracking every development in the right-wing outrage cycle is worth it. Trump inviting this kid to the White House is hot garbage, but it's not hot garbage I need to follow minute-to-minute like I do the Mueller and Congressional investigations. A lot of the rightwing ragebait works better in the megathread as slightly more distanced round-ups that gather a whole day or few days of news and reactions, rather than the exhausting moment-by-moment following of whatever culture war battle Fox News is fighting today. I agree that the existence of the culture war battle is itself important, but I don't think it follows that we need to track every single twist and turn of it as it develops.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 8:15 PM on January 22 [11 favorites]


the angle I'd find interesting would have something to do with watching an Outrage meme evolve and mutate, which, of course, is what's currently happening in real time. So I guess what I'm looking forward to is a journalist (or nine) taking the time to do the legwork, trace all the threads and ultimately answer the question that was recently posed (in ANGER) on a Facebook thread I've been following.

WHY does this moron get a soapbox?

The moron being the smug, smiling kid. The soapbox being an appearance on tomorrow's Today Show.
posted by philip-random at 8:27 PM on January 22


So I guess what I'm looking forward to is a journalist (or nine) taking the time to do the legwork, trace all the threads and ultimately answer the question that was recently posed (in ANGER) on a Facebook thread I've been following.

I agree, and it seems like that used to be the standard for "news" on MeFi, and I miss it.
posted by lazuli at 8:36 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


but I don't think it follows that we need to track every single twist and turn of it as it develops.

:/
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:06 PM on January 22 [15 favorites]


Trump inviting this kid to the White House is hot garbage, but it's not hot garbage I need to follow minute-to-minute like I do the Mueller and Congressional investigations.

The Mueller investigation is so opaque that their issuing any statement was national news.

Congressional investigations are not actually happening yet.

Trump inviting this kid to the White House was walked back immediately because of the public outrage, and yet we're told -- and it was enforced -- that telling Mefites about the invitation was bad for the thread.

Why are a black box and a ghost more newsworthy than a thing that was evolving in real time?
posted by Etrigan at 5:15 AM on January 23


Someone should probably make a post about the Covington kids then. Ideally it wouldn't just be a "get your hate on here" thread, but we don't need hundreds of comments about how horrible they are in the big thread making it harder to get to news about stuff happening in the WH. I suspect that the powers would love for us talk A LOT about the high school kids and less about other Trump / Republican news, so I'm thinking let's try to thread the needle and not dilute the main thread with a flood of (deserved) outrage about how bad these bratty highschoolers are.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:01 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Ultimately an asshole MAGA teen being an asshole is less newsworthy than stories about actual #USpolitics, certainly compared to the shutdown negotiations—and individual stories of affected government workers—or even 2020 Democratic presidential run announcements. It does, however, have a literally in-your-face human interest angle that's irresistible to mainstream media, particularly cable news and Internet sites, and a readymade antagonist whose smug smirk deliberately invites a hate pile-on. That doesn't make it "best of the web", though.

If someone would like to create an FPP that addresses the Covington Catholic punks in context, say, the MAGA hat-wearing teen phenomenon as Trumpjugend, that would be preferable to drip-by-drip updates, with comment chorus, in the current megathread. Maybe we could workshop something separately in chat?
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:08 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


I feel the newsworthiness of the Covington Catholic High School story is something that Mediates will disagree about, but the story's thinness is not debatable- if the Megathread had never existed, this is exactly the kind of story that would make a solid post to MeFi- there's lots of things to link to and discuss about the story.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:14 AM on January 23


I suspect that the powers would love for us talk A LOT about the high school kids and less about other Trump / Republican news

Generally, I’m disappointed that “Ignore the 11th-dimensional chess DiStRaCtIoN!” seems to have official sanction

But specifically, I was talking about the literal Trump news around the Covington kids. Y’all deleted all of yesterday’s initial mentions of Trump inviting them to the White House and then walking it back. Not a hundred comments of hate. Not a flood of “These kids are bad!”

Oh, and harping on how they’re “kids” and “high schoolers” is part of a very distinct and deliberate whitewashing (yep, using that word intentionally). Please take care with that as well.
posted by Etrigan at 7:17 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Someone should probably make a post about the students then.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:41 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


But specifically, I was talking about the literal Trump news around the Covington kids. Y’all deleted all of yesterday’s initial mentions of Trump inviting them to the White House and then walking it back. Not a hundred comments of hate. Not a flood of “These kids are bad!”

But you know that a big part of the moderation work we have to do for fast-moving threads is preventative and predictive. A lot of how avoiding a hundred chaining comments works is trying to make a call early. That's the tradeoff of trying to be responsive to stuff instead of just letting whatever constantly just happen and seeing shit fester and get weird and out of hand.

We've already acknowledged in a few ways up-thread that this one has felt muddy because of the weird stew of some very clear shittiness by the Covington crew and the lack of a clear throughline for discussion beyond "that was in fact really shitty, fuck these hat-wearing goons" and a slow drip of attempted Trumpland PR and media zags on it; I don't really know yet, still, that there's meat for a post about it but we've said it's okay to make one if someone thinks long-form conversation about this makes sense. In the mean time, we've allowed some of the stuff in the catch-all to stand after all because clearly it's still got some topical oomph for folks.

If the complaint is that we haven't gone back in time and made a different decision during the initial reactions, I can't do anything about that. We have to run with this stuff on the fly. If "talk about it slightly later, and make a dedicated thread if it's worth it" isn't a reasonable outcome for MeFi, I don't know what your expectation here is.

Oh, and harping on how they’re “kids” and “high schoolers” is part of a very distinct and deliberate whitewashing

Let's not conflate people on MeFi who think these high school kids were gleefully racist regressive shitheels and 100% in the wrong with right wing media people using "but they're just kids" and "boys will be boys" and so on to defend or excuse their fucked up behavior. They don't stop being high school kids just because they suck; it's going to be very hard to square a circle of referring to them in any kind of shorthand without noting that they are students at a high school when the whole deal is that they are students at a high school who did what apparently is one more thing in a long line of shitty things students at that high school have done. I don't feel like the vibe on MeFi has been particularly ambivalent about any of that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on January 23 [10 favorites]


On a tangential issue, what do we do when there's a related thread that's has a different conversation than reporting news? I'm thinking specifically of The Whelk's shutdown and strike thread, in which the latter is being discussed far more than actual shutdown-related news. I'm happy to post links about shutdown-affected workers there, but I'd rather post articles on how the shutdown affects politics (and national security) in the megathread. (Similarly, could the Covington Catholic teens incident could go in the March for Life thread since it's a direct consequence of that gathering?) Thanks,
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:18 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I think there's a couple different tactical approaches to those questions, which I'd break out like this:

1. If there's a non-catchall thread to discuss the details of something with direct ties to US politics, take the details there but the occasional major update or development getting mentioned in the catch-all is okay. Ideally with a pointer to the other discussion so folks know that that's where followup and such fits best. The catch-all acting as a condensed, top-level digest of, and ad hoc index to, lengthier discussions in other threads would be a pretty good outcome pretty much every time in my eyes.

2. If it's ambiguous whether something should go in one thread or another, or whether a topic-specific thread can really accommodate a busier-than-expected sub thread or side discussion, it's fine to check with the mods for an opinion, and it's fine to spin up a new post without doing so as long as you keep in mind we might say "nah" after the fact. It's also okay to just explicitly nudge the thread with the issue with a brief rationale of "btw, not sure if this would better go here or there or newthread" and try to sort it out socially as long as that bit stays brief rather than turning into an extended meta-discussion in the middle of a thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:36 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the feedback. I was thinking in particular about the WaPo's story on IRS workers not going in. On one hand, this undercuts how the Trump administration has been playing politics by ordering select "essential" groups of federal employees back to work based on avoiding the political fallout from their absence. On the other, some (but not all) of those IRS workers are engaging in a coordinated protest, which is definitely of interest the Whelk's thread but which I didn't get into in the megathread. Is there any problem with cross-posting links to emphasize different aspects of a news story?
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:57 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


No problem with that as a "this is an unusual intersection of these two lines of discussion" exception case, yeah. I would want people not to get in the habit of routinely cross-posting stuff to multiple threads—we've asked a couple people over the years to stop reflexively doing that—but as a purposeful, now-and-then thing it's fine (and can be another opportunity to explicitly mention and link to another discussion for readers' sake).
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:02 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Honestly, frimble's pulling some data, but my gut feeling is that most of those deletions are absolutely from megathread regulars who should, by now, know better.

If this is in fact the case, the logical consequence would seem to be timeouts or bans for violating site rules. If these serial violators aren't facing consequences for their actions, where's the incentive to stop?

I mean, as nice as it is to think that people will behave like evolved primates because they respect the site, it sounds like these problem users are unrepentant about the additional load they're placing on an already overloaded moderation team. And if they can't be bothered to stop, why, exactly, are they being repeatedly permitted to shit all over site norms?

Enough second and third and fourth and fifth chances and assumptions of good faith. I've said this before and I'll say it again: there's a big difference between extending the benefit of the doubt to people and bending over so far to accommodate jerks that you fall on your own ass.

In general, the mod tendency to be lenient and non-draconian is great. But in the specific, with the megathreads and the megathread regulars, I think the mod team would be far better served by a much, much more drastic "once is an accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action" policy.
posted by scrump at 4:33 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I cannot think of a more counterproductive idea than turning the megathreads into engines of bannination. We have lost the plot so badly with these things.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:40 PM on January 23 [3 favorites]


There's a big difference between folks being huge assholes on the site and folks failing to be consistent about reining in their chattier impulses. We have been and will continue to poke folks who are doing the latter in the catch-all threads because it is something they variously need to work on, but I don't want to let that get mixed up with a comparison to the kind of bad faith fuckadoos we have in fact taken to banning over the last several years for actively crapping up the site. It's two very different kinds of user behavior issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 PM on January 23 [10 favorites]


LOL at the notion the insane deletion rate is a sign the users are disfunctional.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Yeah, totally, those threads were way better right after the election, when they were 0.05% useful content.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:44 PM on January 23 [6 favorites]


For the sake of the above conversation I gave posting on megathread a rest over the weekend and most of this week, and just read it. Today with the Wilbur Ross gaffe and Pelosi's twitter response I was inspired to take some time away from my work to create this. It was a lot of work. I posted it and hoped someone might even put it on twitter. But it was unceremoniously scraped off rather quickly.

I was told it belongs in the joke thread. But it's not a joke. Are political cartoons allowed in the politics catch-all thread? Or only those by well known cartoonists that are linked to in major newspapers? I think when someone goes to the trouble of creating something themselves it should get a little extra allowance. I recall people fawning over some other poster's political caricatures with the pimples and festering sores all over people's faces. Would they be deleted now too? I don't think so. Moderators play favorites and that is autocratic.

Also, I have no time for the joke thread. But even if I did have the time I would still not go there as I don't like being pushed off into a ghetto.
posted by M-x shell at 2:52 PM on January 24


That seems exactly like the kind of creation that could go in the Hyucking Hyuck thread. Phlegmco(tm) posted one of their portraits in there the other day.
posted by zachlipton at 3:04 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Yeah, totally, those threads were way better right after the election, when they were 0.05% useful content.

I'm not sure I can point to any particular point in time when the megathreads were "good," but they were at least organic messes for a whole, and now they're being codified into officially sanctioned messes, which is where I think we've gone wrong.

I recall people fawning over some other poster's political caricatures with the pimples and festering sores all over people's faces. Would they be deleted now too? I don't think so.

I think I saw that guy posting that he was told to redirect his caricatures to the Hyucking Hyuck thread. But yeah, I agree with you. It's really disappointing to see reposted content given priority over original creative work from actual Mefites.

And looking at the thread now, I see that a really insightful comment that looked to me like an entirely appropriate, on-topic contribution to the discussion of how Pelosi has been handling Trump got nuked, but there's a comment quoting it still standing -- maybe because it goes on to quote some news blurbs from Twitter?
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:12 PM on January 24


I recall people fawning over some other poster's political caricatures with the pimples and festering sores all over people's faces. Would they be deleted now too? I don't think so.

I have flagged as noise every one of those that I have seen posted to the megathread for the past two years. They have never added anything and do not belong. Imagine my joy when one was finally deleted the other day.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:45 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


And looking at the thread now, I see that a really insightful comment that looked to me like an entirely appropriate, on-topic contribution to the discussion of how Pelosi has been handling Trump got nuked, but there's a comment quoting it still standing -- maybe because it goes on to quote some news blurbs from Twitter?

That set of comments spanned a shift change which is one of the trickier times to manage continuity about little details like that; I'm still catching up to everything from this morning and the more major work areas from the previous shift.

It is helpful for us if you drop us a line at the contact form about stuff like that—"hey, I thought that comment I read was really good, what was the issue with it?" or whatnot—so that we'll much more reliably be able to (a) understand the specific concern and (b) be responsive to it, vs. just kinda driveby bemoaning it in MetaTalk. In this case I think the thread of conversation that ended up coming out of it is okay so long as it doesn't turn into a giant derail, and the simplest thing is to bring the comment itself back to make everything more coherent, so I've done that. But I only knew that that was a point of concern because I happened to see this thread while doing a couple other things; nobody had flagged the comment-quoting-a-deleted comment either.

I know there's all sorts of things that frustrate people on the site and in a dozen different conflicting directions with the megathreads in particular but folks using the tools we have to work with us is gonna be a lot more helpful than just throwing up their hands and repeating over and over that they don't like how things are. I don't like how things are either, the world is in a shitty place and we're coping best as we can.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:46 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


"driveby bemoaning" is a crappy way to characterize someone bringing an issue to an active conversation on MetaTalk, the place we are told to go with site concerns.
posted by lalex at 3:50 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


Also, I have no time for the joke thread. But even if I did have the time I would still not go there as I don't like being pushed off into a ghetto.

The idea that the catch-all threads are THE place to be and that anywhere else on the site is by implication a ghetto is one of the more pernicious problems with the status quo and one I am going to continue to encourage people to step back from. If you don't want to post in a different thread, don't post in a different thread, that's your prerogative and I'm not going to oblige anyone to read or comment in any thread on the site they don't want to. But that dispreference doesn't translate to getting to decide for yourself what the moderation goals of the catch-all threads are; we are being as clear as we can that we'd like folks to help us reduce the overall level of chatter and riffing and "let's just put everything here" reflexivity of those threads, and redirecting various kinds of riffing to a thread where they are welcome and won't get deleted is part of that right now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:52 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


In this case I think the thread of conversation that ended up coming out of it is okay so long as it doesn't turn into a giant derail, and the simplest thing is to bring the comment itself back to make everything more coherent, so I've done that.

I'm happy to hear that, I wouldn't have thought that reinstating the comment was an option. I remain perplexed as to why it was deleted in the first place, though.

I'm only "bemoaning" it here in this thread because it's directly relevant to what we're discussing here, and one of the points I am trying really hard to get across is that the moderation in the megathreads is so inconsistent and seemingly arbitrary that it has become very frustrating and demoralizing to post there, and this particular incident seemed to illustrate that fairly well. This is not a driveby, I'm following this thread, I'm interested in discussing this because I care about this site, and I remain eager for a MeTa where the central topic will be discussing the megathreads on an existential level.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:52 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


"driveby bemoaning" is a crappy way to characterize someone bringing an issue to an active conversation on MetaTalk, the place we are told to go with site concerns.

That was ungenerous phrasing on my part. I am pretty seriously frustrated at this point by a number of folks, pbo included, who are spending an outsized amount of time in MetaTalk discussions of this stuff basically repeatedly taking a dump on the state of the site and efforts to manage it under shitty circumstances, and ragging on the failure of threads we are already very clearly struggling to find good solutions for to satisfy their personal preferences about just how that hard problem that people disagree on basically every detail of should clearly be solved. At a certain point saying the same kind of thing over and over again grumpily stops reading as "bringing an issue" and looks more like, yeah, just kinda reflexively complaining without any real attempt to be constructive. That shit drives me crazy and it is hard to be muster generosity about it when I'm already feeling pretty fried. It's not my best look but it's not coming out of nowhere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:57 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


The idea that the catch-all threads are THE place to be and that anywhere else on the site is by implication a ghetto is one of the more pernicious problems with the status quo and one I am going to continue to encourage people to step back from.

I said the joke thread is a ghetto. I visit many FPPs. It's wrong of you to mischaracterize what I said.
posted by M-x shell at 4:00 PM on January 24


I haven't necessarily found every single piece of artwork people have drawn to be to my personal taste, but since it's been something like 10 drawings (out of 100,000+ comments?) over the course of years, I'm not really sure why we need to go out of our way to disparage them and take glee in the deletion of another mefite's work that they wanted to share with the community.

Whether you personally think they belong in the megathread, the Hyucking Hyuck thread, or not on the site, I don't really like describing the pretty darn occasional art people produce as "noise."
posted by zachlipton at 4:06 PM on January 24 [4 favorites]


I said the joke thread is a ghetto. I visit many FPPs.

It is a general issue that goes well beyond you or your comment here. I apologize for the ambiguity; I disagree with the characterization of the riffing thread in specific as well and encourage you to accept that it's part of the plan, but I didn't mean to generalize that to you in particular talking about the site as a whole.

The riffing thread, like the venting threads and the topic-specific politics posts we've had, is part of the ecosystem we're trying to make work with this. Accepting that and working with it will help avoid dealing with frustration about deleted comments.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:07 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I am trying to be constructive. I've mostly stopped commenting in the megathreads, for one thing. I don't have much defense to offer anyone who finds me tiresome or repetitive, but I am not hanging out in the tail end of an eleven day old MeTa for funsies.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:21 PM on January 24


I didn't disparage the art, but someone's personal art therapy project doesn't belong in those threads and never did.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:32 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I apologize

Thank you, accepted.

The riffing thread, like the venting threads and the topic-specific politics posts we've had, is part of the ecosystem we're trying to make work with this. Accepting that and working with it will help avoid dealing with frustration about deleted comments.

I've never considered visiting the venting thread. Why would I? It's full of venting. It's the stuff you don't want on your nice site. Okay I get it! But the same applies to the riffing thread. Why should I read something you yourself say isn't good enough? I never minded the riffing in megathread as much as some people, it's actually nice to break up the mood. But I have no interest in seeking it out.
posted by M-x shell at 4:53 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


I will say in turn that as real and genuine as my frustration about some of this behavior is, it mostly does not come with a belief that the folks getting up my shirt are making a deliberate effort to do so. It is a lot easier when someone seems literally monomanically bent on just shitting on the site without any real motivation of care for it behind that; we can just show those rare folks the door at that point and good riddance.

But I will ask that if you're someone that finds yourself spending a lot of time in MetaTalk, and having strongly-felt opinions about How Stuff Should Be Done, to try harder to stop and check in about whether your pattern of commenting is actually staying consistently constructive or manifesting some or a lot of the time as essentially negative or nihilist or doomsaying. Because even people I think are coming from a place in their hearts of hearts of wanting this place amid this political clusterfuck to work are really, really capable of sliding into a mode of habitually griping or letting their frustration translate into skipping right past the "I think x could help" parts to just operating in a rhetorical territory where shit being wonky or dysfunctional under these shitty, shitty conditions is inevitable and unfixable and by implication intentional and desired, and where complaining after the fact or just in abstract about this or that aspect of the site is bad or going badly displaces actually making a solid and consistent effort to help make it better.

I don't have a simple solution for how bad the world is or how much of a fucking strain it has been on the MetaFilter community the last few years. I really, really wish I did. We are muddling through and it is a tremendous amount of work, and at that mostly in service of just treading water because we cannot, no matter how cleverly compromising we are in the face of everyone's understandable but often wildly contradictory frustrations and wants and needs for this place to, just manage our way out of this situation into one where the prevailing conditions of world aren't impressively fucked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:54 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I just caught up on this thread. Something is seriously wrong and needs to change. A 1/6 comment deletion rate is, quite simply, terrible for the moderators and the community. This is absolutely unsustainable.

There are researchers who study the health of online communities. CivilServant is a nonprofit geared toward moderation on Reddit but maybe they could consult with the moderators here, or their team may have ideas about good people to consult with. I know the mods are working really hard to solve this problem, but sometimes when you are too deep in the problem you can't see it clearly. I'd urge y'all to consider finding a "fixer" to strategize around the problem of the megathreads.

And I really hope the mods are doing things to center and relax themselves when they are off duty, as this kind of pressure leads to awful burnout.
posted by sockermom at 4:57 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


Why should I read something you yourself say isn't good enough?

This is a big misapprehension of what we are saying or trying to do, is the core thing. It's not an issue of riffing, or venting, or detailed discussion of some side issue, being "not good enough"; I think all of those things have value and are worth making space for. It's an issue of trying to use one monolithic thread to contain all of that being unworkable in practice, something that has become increasingly clear over the last couple years.

It is specifically because I recognize the value in the multiplicity of commenting flavors that jockey for room in the catch-all threads that I want to provide spaces where those things can be at home. Venting in the venting thread; topic-specific deep dives in dedicated MetaFilter posts about those specific things; riffing in a thread where it's explicit that riffing is 100% okay. The idea is that all the things that have some value but nonetheless put us in the position of having to clamp down extensively in a sprawling, fast-moving catchall, can have a home where that volume and pace and scope problem isn't present. Where you can riff with other MeFites and folks will be fine with it; where you can vent without bumming out literally everyone keeping up with politics without warning; where you can go 200 comments with other folks on the details of some policy issue or major race or developing story without it crowding out all the other stuff going on.

We have said "not here, over there instead" about a great many things on MetaFilter over the years in this same mode. The riffing thread is a new thing, but the idea is not new. In no sense is it a judgement on the thing; it's guidance on where to put it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:02 PM on January 24 [8 favorites]


I don't have a simple solution for how bad the world is or how much of a fucking strain it has been on the MetaFilter community the last few years.

Hey, I apologize for if this seems like a Pollyanna-ish thing or whatever, but I've been thinking about this very piece, and also how I've been managing it myself (mostly through volunteering at literally everything I can think of that will help), and I'm wondering if maybe there would be value in making some 'nationwide' IRL threads for some of the stuff people are taking action against? My potentially totally incorrect idea is that it might encourage people to feel like they're all together in the fight. I remember some of the greatest moments of solidarity in the megathreads were before our doom had come and a bunch of us were volunteering and doing things and it was really inspiring and motivating.

And also maybe it might make people feel less alone in this thing, while also not clogging up the megathreads?
posted by corb at 5:03 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering if maybe there would be value in making some 'nationwide' IRL threads for some of the stuff people are taking action against?

That sounds like a great idea, and I'd be happy to include that with the links to other pages on the Blue, Green, and the Gray in the typical megathread FPP language. (I've been trying to redirect more of my attention to threads other than the mega, and I can at least say that the Hyucking Hyuck has cheered me up greatly as a nonstop source of MeFites' sense of humor.) Do people find these links at all helpful?
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:15 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


One thing that I have brought up more than once, which has not really been engaged with by a mod, is the idea that if the megathreads are going to continue, we desperately need affirmative, positive guidance as to what would be considered useful, desirable, not-likely-to-be-deleted comments. Because we keep getting a lot of guidance as to what we're not supposed to post, complete with spinoff threads that have made it so that previously acceptable comments (like the drawings) are now fit only for the spinoffs. The vast majority of megathread content that isn't links to breaking news stories is basically in a grey area of speculation/jokes/tweets/rehashing/same ol' argument/etc that might or might not get deleted depending on factors outside the commenter's control. Of those comments, which are properly aligned with the mission or vision of the megathread, and which are just barely acceptable? Hell if I can tell.

As much as you don't like reading me bringing up the same old shit in these threads, I have no idea what to do with the "ugh, these threads suck, the world is horrible, but what can you do" attitude from the mod side.
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:24 PM on January 24 [2 favorites]


"One thing that I have brought up more than once, which has not really been engaged with by a mod, is the idea that if the megathreads are going to continue, we desperately need affirmative, positive guidance as to what would be considered useful, desirable, not-likely-to-be-deleted comments. "

And as I told you seven days ago, let us talk about that a bit. I spent most of the past week combing through past megathreads and metatalks about the megathreads to collect the questions that have been asked, the mod comments that have been made, the discussions and guidance that have occurred, and those have gone into a draft document that I'm working on compiling and organizing that will form the basis of a document with information, FAQs, and guidance, in line with what you have requested. I'm simultaneously going through 500 deleted comments and categorizing them (I shall do social science to it!) to pull out commonalities and provide a clearer picture of what deleted comments look like.

I'm sorry I'm not doing that fast enough, but it's only been seven days, and when I'm working I'm trying to keep up with the megathread and when I'm not working I've still got three children who demand to be fed on the regular, so I'm trying to work on it for, like, an hour or two starting at 11 o'clock at night after my kids are asleep, before I collapse, and then get up with them again at 5:30 a.m.. I can only get this done so fast! (And the other mods all work way more than I do and are much more worn out by the megathread, I'm the one with bandwidth to compile this all, but I don't have all that much spare bandwidth. Or time.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:35 PM on January 24 [11 favorites]


I hear you on wanting positive examples; that's something that LM always tends to helpfully poke me on when we're building out a policy-related MetaTalk.

As a starting point, stuff I laid out in the big Resetting Expectations post back in late 2017 basically holds. That includes both the list in the first section about stuff to avoid and the list of stuff in that same section of things that we specifically think are useful.

The post we're trying to get put together to update folks on the US politics stuff, catch-all and otherwise, will in part attempt to update and expand that outline some, as well as take into account some of the shifts in thinking we've had about the overall strategy for corralling this stuff. I'll try to refine and build on that previous list of stuff that's a good fit for that new post.

Some of this stuff is gonna be kinda grey area, though. We can tell you stuff that's definitely consistently causing problems, and stuff that never is, but there's gonna be stuff in between where we have to play it by ear and adjust to the flow of things as they come. That's why we've talked and will talk more in terms not just of explicit lists of dos and don'ts, of yesses and nos but of general strategic stuff, including the idea of erring on the side of caution or reining it in in what we all know to be very busy threads.

I need to emphasize that a codification process is basically never going to suffice on MeFi and no list of positive and negative examples is going to do as much to reduce the overall burden of those threads as having folks collectively make an effort to cut the pace a bit and to redirect some of the stuff that has traditionally landed in there to other places, on-site or otherwise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:37 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


What about just taking a megathread vacation and declaring, say, February to be No Politics Month. Everyone takes a break, mods noodle over how they want future megathread-like content to be managed, and if anything really earth-shattering happens, an FPP can be made for it. As in, we declare war on someone, there’s a terrorist attack, someone gets impeached, martial law is declared, shit like that. Not “The latest thing this shitty person said that would be an impeachable offense in a normal world”.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:43 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Also, I don’t know if this is possible in regard to site functionality, but if a record of event continuity is valuable, I’d suggest that the leading megathread post format could continue, just with comments turned off. Then people can catch up on what happened, but you don’t have to moderate it.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:51 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


That's awesome, Eyebrows McGee, and I'm intrigued to see what comes out of all that effort. I knew something was happening, but didn't really know what, and as someone also lacking the guidance pbo mentioned, I'm looking forward to it. I knew a new MetaTalk was coming in the future, but I didn't really understand the scale of the task you were taking on or what really we could expect. I don't think anyone was looking for a rush job; I just didn't understand really that this particular large effort was happening behind the scenes. If there's any way we can help with that, by all means shout.

At least for me, the Slack has been helpful in terms of discussions that are too in the weeds for the thread (including some primaries stuff), sharing tweets that are of somewhat marginal news value and/or likely to provoke grar, or screaming into the void. I also know that isn't and never will be an official MeFi thing and isn't a viable option for everyone, and if everyone went over there and replicated an unmoderated megathread in Slack, my head would explode, but as a complement to the fucking fuck and hyucking hyuck threads, it's effective.
posted by zachlipton at 5:54 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


If it’s not for all users then i don’t see it as something that should be on the site. Maybe it just goes somewhere else, taking its core users and mods with it, and fulfills its true destiny as a Joe Manchin-centric version of “r/the_donald”?
posted by Artw at 5:56 PM on January 24


There's an undercurrent of subtweeting grudge slinging in here that sucks.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:08 PM on January 24 [10 favorites]


A threas that nature moderated in that manner is practically a factory for grudges, yes.
posted by Artw at 6:20 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


" I knew a new MetaTalk was coming in the future, but I didn't really understand the scale of the task you were taking on or what really we could expect."

I don't know if it'll be pre- or post- the MetaTalk about megathreads qua megathreads ... as we get a bit further in, it may make more sense to have a MetaTalk to get some feedback on questions we want to address in the "guidance document" (and then have a second MetaTalk after we get it all polished up and incorporate what we learn). Or it may make more sense to say "here's where we are" and have the MetaTalk address the draft document straight away.

Right now it's more a hot mess of ungrammatical bullet points, though. :D
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:24 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


And whilst I’m making myself unpopular: pagination the fucker already.
posted by Artw at 6:33 PM on January 24


When the new MeTa goes up, will suggestions like Autumnheart's be on the table for serious consideration?
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:51 PM on January 24


Artw, a whole lot of what I was getting at with this comment shortly upthread applies directly to the kind of comments you're regularly making in MetaTalk, as much or more than pretty much anyone. You seem to care about MeFi at some level but this endless cycle of bursts of angryman tellin-it-like-it-is thing sucks and it's not like this is the first time I've had to say something about it. Just cut it out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:11 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


I'm glad to see that you are looking closely at the deleted comments and will "do social science to it!" There are many community members, myself included, who are full-time social scientists employed at research universities who are experts in analyzing data from online fora in order to develop frameworks, make best practice recommendations, etc. Please do call on us. The moderators have been trying to solve the problem(s) of the megathreads on their own for years, now, and it seems to be reaching emergency levels (I personally would say that a 1/6 comment deletion rate is an emergency). Please ask the experts who are part of your community, or even those who are not (I suggested a nonprofit above that studies the health of online communities) for help.
posted by sockermom at 6:49 AM on January 25 [11 favorites]


I'm so sorry I just thought I'd post the Ojeda story because I thought there wasn't anything discuss about a candidate nobody cared about dropping out of the race absurdly early and now people are saying who they want for 2020 and I'm sorry I created a monster.
posted by zachlipton at 11:45 AM on January 25


At least your initial comment should not have been deleted. Ojeda dropping out is news.

Freeform "who I like" is fine to delete.

(PS: The whole Ojeda thing is still weird, but there's some chatter he's setting his sights on WV gov).
posted by Chrysostom at 12:16 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Yeah, wait, I wandered away and my comment with the news story about Ojeda dropping out was deleted?

I realize more guidance is coming, and I don't in any way want to seem impatient or unappreciative of the amount of work that's going on to produce that, so if the answer is "sit tight while we work on it," I entirely understand, but from my end, what I keep seeing are calls from the mods for us to self-moderate, and then deletions that leave me with just no idea what that means anymore. If a straight news story about a declared candidate dropping out of the race is something we don't want, I don't know what we do want. And if that's the case, I can't self-moderate.
posted by zachlipton at 12:49 PM on January 25 [8 favorites]


And meanwhile, a bunch of live-blogging about the Trump press conference is left standing, including someone patting themselves on the back for a prediction that he would change his mind, even though that hasn't actually happened yet.

Consistency is really hard to get to when a bunch of different individuals have to make snap decisions on interpreting a set of vaguely-defined rules , but if anything, I'm seeing far less consistency since this MeTa opened.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:54 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Did the Ojeda comments get flagged? His stunt candidacy had come up once before in the megathreads, so it didn't strike me as un-newsworthy in itself (I didn't pay enough attention to the follow-up comments to notice a derail building up or breaches of the 2020 discussion guidelines).

I work under the assumption in the megathreads that mod deletions are driven by community flagging, as usual. That would affect the consistency of deletions, but there's no way for us to tell from the front end.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:59 PM on January 25


Today has been an actual hairball and I am desperately trying to keep my head above water. Some of this is because folks are flagging more - which is great! But it does not make things easier in the immediate term, only the long term. The Ojeda things absolutely got flagged, and I made that call not because the initial comment was a problem but because it spawned a several-comment derail about election strategy that we just can't manage on a super-busy day. This is why the catchalls are hard to balance - if the Ojeda candidacy is a big deal, if it seems like there is actual financial hinkiness or fallout, that'd be a totally great separate thread. Otherwise it doesn't seem like news we need to spare bandwidth on yet. I'm sorry that that's not totally clear - I would love for today to have been a good example of a focused, restrained catchall, but that is absolutely not what's happening.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:07 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's like, if anyone would like to drop the Trump folks a line and ask them to tone it down with the being a vortex of absolutely maddening nonsense, that would super helpful, but in the mean time it's a fuckin' gale out there today folks.

Totally fine to come back to the Ojeda thing during a non-crazy moment; I think people are just too whipped up by today's Busy Even By The Current Standards energy for it to be worth worrying too much about navigating one more little burp and people digging in on it, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:11 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the clarification about flagging on the Ojeda comments, r_n. Flagging and moving no doubt reduces heated discussions/derails in the megathreads, but since the community doesn't see how many flags a given comment may attract, it's hard for us to determine when one has crossed a line but another one has stayed below the threshold for deletion. (And I appreciate how much of this is a judgement call, on top of that.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:26 PM on January 25


Not to relitigate my comment deletion, but just to point out I flagged a one liner the entirety of which was "its_happening.gif" and not even a link and that's still there.

Ok whatever, but while I'm here I'll just say I hope your new policy tells us what you want the thread to be and not just what you don't want. Tell us your vision.
posted by M-x shell at 4:31 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I mean. I think what we’ve learned in these megametas is that we really shouldn’t take comment deletions personally.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:38 PM on January 25 [11 favorites]


If people didn't take comment deletions personally, there would be about 85% fewer MeTas over the years.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:43 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


I'm not taking any of this personally, I just don't feel like it makes sense to keep bringing shrubs to the topiary party when y'all are trimming them with machetes.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:56 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


its_happening.gif is a warhorse of a meme, it made my day.

Sure, it's a dumb joke, but its virtue is in what it doesn't do. It doesn't cause a cascade of new fighty comments, it doesn't liveblog airport delays, it doesn't veer into fan-fiction about what should happen next, it doesn't tell us why their candidate is the best one, it doesn't invite an endless riffing game on what to call the wall or a wealth tax, it doesn't pretend to be a DCCC strategy session, it doesn't make anyone think now is a good time to solve the abortion debate, and it doesn't complain on metatalk if it gets deleted.
posted by peeedro at 5:04 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering what's going to happen after the Mueller report drops, because according to NBC, Mueller may submit a report to the attorney general as soon as mid-February, and it may be the kind of supernova event that will have its own dynamic as a thread, and maybe considering it as a distinct event in advance could help manage the discussion and address some of the concerns raised here.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:07 PM on January 25


I'm not taking any of this personally, I just don't feel like it makes sense to keep bringing shrubs to the topiary party when y'all are trimming them with machetes.

Okay, I believe you when you say you're not taking it personally, but it does seem like you're placing a lot of importance on comments not getting deleted, maybe too much importance (imo).
posted by 23skidoo at 5:20 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


The issue isn’t just that comments are deleted. The issue is that we’ve had conflicting and arbitrary direction about what kind of comments to make, or not make, and repeated complaints that too many posts are off-topic or derailing, and therefore it’s a lot of work to moderate. How is anyone supposed to know that a news item about a candidate’s campaign is “off-topic for now” in a thread that was specifically created for this subject matter? It’s not substantive enough for a FPP, I presume, and according to the last few hundred posts in here, it should be on-topic, but yeah—now the news item gets deleted, but the meme jokes stay?

If the goal is to delete fewer posts, and to have fewer off-topic spam posts that add to the bulk of the thread, then there is a vital need for consistent guidelines and consistent application of same. Not “What’s on-topic at 10am is a derail by 11:30”. If the megathreads are indeed supposed to be a catch-all, then it doesn’t make sense to limit news posts to a single event based on whatever is occurring at a given moment in the news cycle.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:19 PM on January 25 [7 favorites]


How is anyone supposed to know that a news item about a candidate’s campaign is “off-topic for now” in a thread that was specifically created for this subject matter?

Maybe they weren't supposed to know, and that's okay. (It's not the best, it's not the worst, it's just okay.) We're never going to get List Of Comments That 100% Definitely Won't Be Deleted from the mods. We're hopefully going to get imperfect guidelines, but there's no way that we're going to get guidelines so clear-cut that every single Mefite can perfectly predict whether any given comment will be deleted or not.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:29 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Presumably we could get guidelines that result in a better ratio of deleted comments to undeleted ones. I don’t think anyone’s expecting perfection. But there are best practices for implementing content strategy, and if the moderation of the megathreads is becoming a burden, then it’s time to stop winging it and formulate something different.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:34 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Well, for a specific example, consider the "Bernie is preparing to announce a 2020 run" news item. I gather (from notes in the PoliticsFilter Slack, since I wasn't refreshing the megathread today) that it was posted, then silently deleted, then posted by somebody else, then silently deleted, then posted by a third person, etc. a number times before a mod note finally told people not to post about it until there's an official announcement.

If this was indeed the case , then after the original comment is deleted, then how is anyone to know that the news item is off-limits (or off-limits for now, or...)?

If the first deletion came with a clear mod note, there would have been less confusion for commenters and less deletion work for the mods, I think.
posted by ragtag at 7:37 PM on January 25


I mean. I think what we’ve learned in these megametas is that we really shouldn’t take comment deletions personally.

I think this is fairly perfect. I remember around when I got my first deleted comment. I was like, "Hey, didn't I say something else in this? Like, a funny joke maybe?" and then it dawned on me. I realized that it was a sign that I was getting comfortable around here -- maybe too -- and that these deletions were merely me bumping up against the boundaries of the community.

Regardless, this was good!

I don't need MeFi to be all things to me, I got other sites that are way more tolerant of threadshitting, jokesteriness, fightitude, etc., and they each have their aspects that are missing from here and the others. So, I guess in conclusion, the internet is a land of contrasts, and MeFi is but one shade within it.

I've wondered what my rate is here, because if it's more than like once per week (or worse, more than once in a thread) I would hope I'd be mortified. I think it probably has been over the past couple years (might be an interesting infodump graph), but it's hard to tell because we don't get notified of deletions and I don't run a script for it (if in fact anything like that exists).

Anyhoo, deletions make me listen to the room a bit more.
posted by rhizome at 7:45 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I can remember thinking after a deletion of a political joke or sputter, "well, I can always throw it on Twitter."
posted by rhizome at 7:46 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


It was just posted twice, fairly rapidly, I'm not sure I could have made the mod comment before the second post (there were flags in another thread at the same time so my attention was split). We have been fairly consistent in asking people not to do "preparing to announce candidacy" things since "actually announces candidacy" will be coming up and be much more solid. We've also been pretty upfront that our willingness to moderate an lot of discussion about the 2020 Democratic primaries is very limited given how the 2016 round went.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:47 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]


Thanks, Eyebrows. I must have misunderstood the side comments, then.

It was just posted twice, fairly rapidly, I'm not sure I could have made the mod comment before the second post (there were flags in another thread at the same time so my attention was split).

I wonder if a way to help handle this kind of "frantically delete all the things before more problems come up" problem could be handled by being able to put a "moderation lock" on a thread that pauses people from being able to comment to the thread. This would give you the time to carefully evaluate and delete problematic comments and also post a note without more spinoff comments popping up in the meantime. When you're done, just remove the lock and things are back to normal.

That's just an idle idea, but I would happily put up with having to keep my in-progress comment waiting around for a bit if it makes your moderation work less hectic.
posted by ragtag at 8:02 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I don’t think anyone’s expecting perfection.

I'm hope you don't infer that I'm calling you out or anything (because I'm not), but I do get the feeling that some people *are* looking for near-perfection because the way they talk about the guidelines makes it seem like they want guidelines that leave no room for mods having to make judgment calls, which they are going to have to make daily.

Presumably we could get guidelines that result in a better ratio of deleted comments to undeleted ones.

Totally. This makes me think of how on AskMe we have very imperfect guidelines that are still helpful for not getting a question deleted- there's a guideline that encourages avoiding questions for which any answer is an acceptable answer, and yet "Help Me Name This Cat" questions are basically that, but nobody cares and everyone loves those questions. So "avoid posting questions for which any answer is an acceptable answer" is kind of an inconsistent guideline, but it's still useful as a general rule of thumb, and it makes AskMe a better place (imo).

I think that's the kind of guidelines that we're hopefully working toward for the Megathread: something straight-forward-enough that can serve as a good guide to help people decide what kind of comments to leave, but loose enough to allow for the reality that they won't be enforced perfectly 100% of the time, so that mods can make judgment calls (which they will have to do, regardless of the guidelines)
posted by 23skidoo at 8:06 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]


Christ, threads like these make me so glad I'm not a mod. They have the patience of angels.
posted by schroedinger at 8:15 PM on January 25 [9 favorites]


I would just like you all to know that I literally dreamed about this problem but don't worry, it was solved by an in-person town hall where Eyebrows unfolded a four foot long by four foot long tiny print sheet of every user who's participated in the megathreads by level of problematic comments.
posted by corb at 8:42 AM on January 26 [10 favorites]


I assume the prohibition on not mocking primary candidates even applies to Howard Schultz? Because it probably does but... he's making it difficult.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Would that he were not mentioned at all.
posted by rhizome at 5:39 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Watching the current thread and the deletions/non-deletions, i dont envy the mods their attempt to thread the needle on primary discussions. The balancing act required to allow some factual commentary about policy positions, announcements of candidacies, etc while trying to clamp down on arguing about who would be best/worst is going to be a tough one... which looks to last about 18 months.
posted by Justinian at 1:19 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


the arguing-about-the-primaries comment still hanging out directly below the "we're not going to argue about the primaries" mod note is like one of those ironic "no fighting" signs riddled with bullet holes in an old west saloon
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:31 PM on February 1 [4 favorites]


Further to Celsius1414's suggestion of Politics Chatroom, maybe we could have one specifically dedicated to breaking news that people want to talk about, such as 2020 candidacy announcements and updates or developing stories like the Northam imbroglio? Some people really, really want to discuss these kinds of topics, no matter how many mod notes appear in the threads (and people apparently don't want to make full-fledged FPPs about them, presumably since the reporting about them is pretty thin.)

How much labor and expense would go into a new Chat channel? Since MeFites use the existing one Chat on a regular basis, having a separate one specifically for politics seems only fair to them.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:40 AM on February 2


That's pretty much how Slack gets used now. Which doesn't mean I'm opposed to a channel in Chat for that purpose too, especially as it's on site. If anything, it demonstrates the usefulness of the idea.
posted by zachlipton at 11:51 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]


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