Following up on last month’s discussions: immediate actions and planning July 8, 2019 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Let's talk about how the MetaFilter community can be a more welcoming, comfortable, and equitable place for our non-white members. It's work that's overdue, from the moderation team and the community in general. There's a lot of context here, so read below before commenting. And it's vital that the voices at the center of this discussion are the community members with the most direct stakes in these issues, so if you're a member of the site's white demographic majority, you need to mostly be listening rather than speaking.

~ Context ~

This is a followup on a couple of long metatalk discussions from the last month.

The first, Is it time to retire "outragefilter" as deletion reason?, began as a discussion of a post deletion and of deletion reason language, and then grew into a broader discussion of the ways in which MeFi as a community site has historically and continues today to fail to make the kind of space for people of color and non-white members that we should, and about the ways the site's majority white American userbase makes it hard for folks outside that group to feel heard and understood and cared for.

The second, Hearing from our members of color, was created as a space in which non-white members of the site could discuss these issues and more generally your experiences with and feelings about being on MetaFilter with the explicit expectation that you wouldn't have to encounter white voices interjecting.

Both are worth reading if you haven't already. The latter in particular if you haven't before considered in depth the ways in which participating as a non-white member in a majority-white space could be frustrating, isolating, dispiriting.

But core to this is that this isn't a new discussion. We've been having conversations in MetaTalk about various aspects of this problem of non-white members feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome for a few years in particular now, and the central issues extend back into the whole of the site's history. And one of the main points of frustration for folks is just that: we've been having these conversations for several years.

There are aspects of the stuff that’s come up in those conversations, and stuff we talk about below, that the moderation team has put a lot of work into over time; looking at the site five let alone ten years ago, there's a tangible difference in how posts and threads go overall. But it hasn't been as much progress, or as consistent, as it should be. Even if things are better by degrees, it matters a great deal that a lot of this feels to folks like it's in substantially the same place it was a few years ago.

And that's not okay. And I apologize.

There is work here that I as a community leader have failed to get done, that we as a mod team have failed to make enough of a priority, and that has left members of this community feeling hurt, feeling dismissed, feeling like you weren't represented or understood or included in a place that in principle aims to be a welcoming and inclusive community. We have to do better.

None of this has a quick fix. There's a temptation to rush to find something to hold up and say "here's the solution!", but what we're talking about here is slow, steady, ongoing work, on a lot of different fronts. Nothing in this community has ever improved overnight, but the things that have gotten better have happened because we all kept at that incremental work over time and didn't let all the other stuff going on become so much of a distraction that progress fell by the wayside.

And I feel that distraction, that waysidedness, is what's happened here. It's why a lot of things folks were talking about as problems on MetaFilter in 2015 are still problems here in 2019. It's no coincidence that the years in between have been unprecedentedly fucked up out in the world, but that's also not a justification for it: at a time when the world is getting scarier and more socially hostile to marginalized folks, it's especially important to me that MetaFilter be a good, welcoming space. I've fallen short on that goal at what feels like a critical time. I'm sorry.


~ What now? ~

There's a lot of work to do, and it's going to have to be a process. This is a followup discussion but it's not the followup discussion; there's too much for us to talk about all in one go and a lot of this stuff is going to take time and need checking in on periodically. We'll be having multiple discussions about this stuff over the rest of the year. I’ve started another thread parallel with this one to talk about some more long-term projects and collect further ideas.

But I want to check in on a few things we are doing right now or want to make some immediate progress on.


Improving mod communication and procedures

The mod team is working to retire jargon and old/habitual language from deletion reasons and mod notes and aiming to be more consistently detailed and explanatory with them. We're also going to make an increased effort to reach out via email to posters & commenters about framing/etc issues so we can support folks in finding a way to say or share the things that are important to you.

We are also making a point of giving some stuff that'd normally be a quick predictive deletion/cleanup/rerail decision more time to develop and assess right now, particularly for stuff centered on or affecting non-white and non-American people or groups.

There's complex implications of some of that—we have become more promptly reactive over the years in large part in response to concerns that crappy/ugly stuff was previously allowed to fester for the sake of transparency—but it's something we're reviewing for overcorrections, and we can evaluate as we go and take on community feedback about it. The full scope of the compromises and contradictions that can come into this may also need its own dedicated thread, but the team is thinking about it actively now, and we are eager to hear feedback on how it's going over the next several months.


Creating ongoing PoC-centric spaces on the site

A big takeaway from folks participating in the Hearing from our members of color thread was that it would be good to have an ongoing space like that, for discussion specifically and only for non-white members. I'm for making that happen and promptly.

There are two main idiosyncrasies of that thread that we were able to manage for a one-off but can't for an ongoing thing: future threads need to be threads where moderator presence and email communication is expected and accepted (if kept intentionally minimal), and where there’s a clear expectation that these threads are part of the site, which means they’re public and non-POC readers can still see everything. We can’t have unmodded threads, and we can’t encourage participants to expect more privacy or more-restricted readership than there really is. Maintaining a hard private-but-in-public firewall like we did with that one isn't sustainable. Either of those requirements would point to a private discussion space rather than a public on-MeFi one, and we can help facilitate sorting that out if it's useful.

But what we absolutely can run with is a new thread where the explicit expectation is only non-white/PoC folks will actively participate, with minimal moderation presence, and the spirit is of a discussion space that is not so much separate from MetaFilter-at-large with its own ruleset as of one specific sort of dedicated space within MeFi. I'm happy to talk out details more or work with folks to kick up a new one quickly.

And this especially is something that I'm really just interested in hearing thoughts on from folks who were participating in that thread, or who could have done if you'd elected to.


Outside consulting for the mod team

As part of trying to improve mod processes and identify and address unconscious biases and shortfalls in perspective/awareness in the mod team, I've been reaching out to potential consultant folks that MeFites have recommended in these discussions or that the mod team has identified in our own searches. The goal is to supplement the other site work we're doing and our self-education progress with some outside expertise on online community, anti-racism, social justice and diversity issues.

I've talked to a few folks so far, and have had some useful initial conversations and gotten references to additional candidates, but haven't yet found someone available for this specific kind of work in the next few months. I'll continue to work through the list we have, and further recommendations and resources for this are wholly welcome too.


~ Thank you ~

The last month of discussion has been intense and I'd guess fairly emotionally exhausting all around. It’s a failing of the site that it was necessary, but I really genuinely appreciate folks being willing to be here and hash all of this out in the face of that necessity.

As I said, this is going to be a process, and it’s going to involve a lot more MetaTalk discussion as part of that. See today’s other followup thread for discussion of more of the specific things we’re looking at based on the last month of discussion; we’re outlining in there some near-future additional posts about specific topics as well.

I’ll also be posting a State of the Site update on Wednesday to talk about funding and community stuff related to that. And I’ll have a post on Sunday the 14th about the site’s 20th anniversary, MeFi’s values and goals, and how this among other things comes into how I’m looking at the history of the site so far and what we want to do and to be in the coming years.

I care more than I can really communicate about the health of the MetaFilter community. The idea of this place is incredibly important to me and I want it to be a good and welcoming online space for everybody who wants to be here. Finding a way to work together to make this stuff work better, and to make a better site and build up a stronger sense of mutual trust and shared goals and expectations, is important to me. Thanks, everybody, for being willing to a part of figuring that out together.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 10:29 AM (142 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

Also, quick note on language in the post: it came up in the Hearing from members of color thread that "people of color" while in pretty broad use in American discourse isn't necessarily so much elsewhere and some folks were uncomfortable with it feeling exclusionary of non-white folks outside the US. I've primarily used the more general "non-white" in this post instead as an acknowledgement of that, though I don't love it either as a term that centers whiteness vs. the people-first language of PoC. If there's a consensus on a better overall approach for this language question for when we're talking about this stuff on MeFi, we're happy to move toward that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:30 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


I think this is a very promising beginning for making Mefi better for EVERYONE, not just non-whites. It's going to take lots of time and energy but I think it's going to be worth it in the end.

Ultimately, I would like to see Mefi becoming more nimble when it comes to change and community involvement but that seems like a much bigger project (e.g. being a community managed site).

Will a fundraising effort be required to cover the consultancy expenses?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:28 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Will a fundraising effort be required to cover the consultancy expenses?

I'll talk about fundraising and budget stuff in detail on Wednesday; putting money stuff in context is really gonna be necessary to dig in on that stuff.

In brief: ideally it could just come out of whatever headroom we end up with in our normal operating budget, but it may be something where doing mission-specific fundraising for that would indeed end up being helpful or necessary, depending on the scope of that work. But I've said in the recent previous discussions that if we don't otherwise have the normal budget or dedicated special funds for it, I'll find a way to pay for at least some amount of that work out of my personal savings.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:35 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Thank you for listening and for carving out a space for all of us to help make this community better. I look forward to helping in that process as well. Change like this is not easy and it takes time and energy, but it's not something this community cannot handle. We'll be stronger and better for it.
posted by Fizz at 12:06 PM on July 8 [21 favorites]


future threads need to be threads where moderator presence and email communication is expected and accepted (if kept intentionally minimal)

Is email communication about the content of metatalk threads a normal expectation? I've never gotten emails unless I proactively contacted the mods.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:14 PM on July 8


Is email communication about the content of metatalk threads a normal expectation? I've never gotten emails unless I proactively contacted the mods.

It's a normal expectation of participation anywhere on the site, yeah. It can be an important part of sorting through an issue with someone without putting them on the spot publicly in the process, or to get feedback or further details on a concern that someone may not want to get into mid-thread, etc. We don't do a ton of that on any given day, and for many discussions on MetaTalk and elsewhere on the site it might not come up at all, but it's a standard part of our work.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:22 PM on July 8


It's a normal expectation of participation anywhere on the site, yeah. It can be an important part of sorting through an issue with someone without putting them on the spot publicly in the process, or to get feedback or further details on a concern that someone may not want to get into mid-thread, etc. We don't do a ton of that on any given day, and for many discussions on MetaTalk and elsewhere on the site it might not come up at all, but it's a standard part of our work.

I read the thread for PoC without commenting (white woman here, hoping to better understand fellow MeFites' concerns for my own better conduct). And I was pretty alarmed to see that one of the mods had apparently MeMailed one of the threads' posters to respond to a critique they'd posted in the thread, and to defend themselves.

I appreciate that the mods may wish to sort through an issue without airing dirty laundry, but how can we be sure that a given situation is "sorting through an issue" as opposed to "someone feeling defensive"? I was actually pretty horrified to see that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on July 8 [37 favorites]


I've talked to a few folks so far, and have had some useful initial conversations and gotten references to additional candidates, but haven't yet found someone available for this specific kind of work in the next few months.

Not that it is a requirement but has there been any consideration for someone from within the MetaFilter community itself who is interested in this or are these all outside applicants? Maybe a job listing on the sidebar would be good to consider so that members can see this job is available.
posted by Fizz at 12:37 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I appreciate that the mods may wish to sort through an issue without airing dirty laundry, but how can we be sure that a given situation is "sorting through an issue" as opposed to "someone feeling defensive"?

My goal is for moderator communication to always be done in the spirit of being constructive and helping people have a positive long-term experience on the site. If someone is bothered by or concerned about some bit of moderation communication, I absolutely want them to let me or the team know so we can look at what happened and figure out what will work better for that user or that kind of situation in the future.

One of the reasons I prefer to do moderation-related conversations over email / via the contact form vs. MeFiMail is that it has the whole team involved and creates a sense of shared visibility. But not everyone checks or keeps up to date their email address on file, and some folks reach out to us individually via MeFiMail instead of the contact form, so that ends up being the way to go sometimes and in cases like that where there's concern on either end we just have to do the manual work to loop the team back in.

Ultimately, this is something that has to come down at some point to a basic level of trust in the idea of MetaFilter as a moderated site, where moderators are expected to interact with and be liaisons to members of the community. I can't promise no one will ever be unhappy or uncomfortable about an email from a moderator, and I want to know about it if it happens, but it has been a long-standing part of the site philosophy that we're here to address concerns, help stuff go better for folks, and help turn around or solve site problems or tense situations. We can't fully do our jobs without that shared expectation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:42 PM on July 8


Yeah, Fizz, that's a possibility. I'll add it to the list of stuff to follow up on as I work through the consultant search process.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:42 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


My goal is for moderator communication to always be done in the spirit of being constructive and helping people have a positive long-term experience on the site. If someone is bothered by or concerned about some bit of moderation communication, I absolutely want them to let me or the team know so we can look at what happened and figure out what will work better for that user or that kind of situation in the future.

Can they bring that issue back to the thread?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:56 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Thank you to cortex and the mod team in general for engaging with these difficult topics in what feels like good faith. I'm sure there will still be bumpy roads ahead of us, but respect has been seen to have been done, especially in the hearing from thread, and careful work has been observed, and I think it seems like everyone is trying hard and almost everyone in pretty good faith. It's on foundations like these that good, solid diplomacy work can be done, and hopefully lasting and beneficial change can be accomplished. Good work! May there be more!
posted by kalessin at 1:07 PM on July 8 [15 favorites]


Can they bring that issue back to the thread?

Mods try to make an effort to not do that from our end unless a user is advocating specifically for it, so the asymmetry involved makes for a weird and sometimes crappy/unfair situation. And in general I'd prefer if someone is upset about some mod communication they bring it to me or the team first so we can resolve it in a way that doesn't involve having to publicly analyze the interaction or sort through the actual text of mail vs. characterizations of the conversation.

There's been a few occasions where it's felt to me like it did make the most sense to go ahead and just sort out a chain of communication in thread publicly afterward, but that gets enough into the weeds of specific incidents that I don't really feel like I can generalize about it. We have long prioritized maintaining the privacy of users' communications and that carries with it a need to generally treat that as something that goes both ways.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:09 PM on July 8


cortex: "We can’t have unmodded threads, and we can’t encourage participants to expect more privacy or more-restricted readership than there really is. Maintaining a hard private-but-in-public firewall like we did with that one isn't sustainable. Either of those requirements would point to a private discussion space rather than a public on-MeFi one, and we can help facilitate sorting that out if it's useful."

This reminds me of an idea that came to me while thinking over the last few months about MeFi-like sites with diverse, progressive userbases and how they foster friendly spaces for everyone in the community.

One of the big themes here has been cultural friction in sensitive or niche topics between the knowledge and expectations of those most invested and drive-by comments from front-page readers who aren't. Mods can nip the worst of this in the bud, but it's difficult to avoid the basic fact that most of the readership is white/comfortable/Western/etc., and that this over-represented perspective is bound to make less-represented points of view feel isolated and struggling against the tide when they take issue with a thread being derailed by naive questions or 101-level arguments. It's also a recipe for sore feelings and alienation that irritates everybody, sucks up mod time, and distracts from the topic at hand.

Another site I read frequently, ResetEra, has dedicated user-created "community hangout" threads on a wide variety of topics, from US politics to hobbies to ones centered on race, gender, and other identities. These threads go on for hundreds of pages, have their own internal commenting culture, and can opt-in for being spotlighted by the mods to the broader userbase. Similarly, some folks in earlier threads here pointed to specific subreddits and Facebook groups (both private and public) and how their mod teams and guidelines handled race discussions better than MeFi. These examples suggest it's a boon to community to allow people to create their own curated spaces within the larger whole where they can feel more visible to folks like themselves and less burdened by entry-level questions, noise, derails back to broader topics, etc.

What if we tried to implement something similar? The foundations are already here, if a little obscure:
  • We have FanFare clubs for semi-private, user-curated discussion of media -- opt-in groups with their own calendar, posts, and chat threads not visible to the FanFare front page.
  • We have MyMeFi and MyAsk, an alternative front-page view that filters posts based on topics of interest and subjects to avoid.
  • And we have a long-running tradition of organizing contests and themed months based on tags.
Imagine MeFites could join up and make a topical club on the things in life they're most invested in: their race, religion, gender identity, domestic politics, health conditions, to recreational stuff like pro sports, knitting, musical instruments, photography, pets. Let them be opt-in so they're only visible based on subscriptions, or even invitation-only by existing members. Let club members appoint their own local mods, both to offload extra work from the sitewide mods and to better enforce the standards deemed appropriate for that group. Let folks collaborate on posts and discussions they can promote, Projects-like, to the front page (either as a read-only link or a full open-participation thread) if desired. And let them be consulted directly on moderation issues that affect them.

Like accessibility improvements that also make life easier for everybody, it feels like some system like this -- of dedicated, semi-private, user-created groups for focused high-level discussion -- would not only result in more welcoming spaces for less-represented users who feel smothered by the status quo, but also an overall improvement in the site as a whole, by promoting ongoing, long-term discussions with like-minded people around shared experience and interests that will foster further connections between users and give people more reasons to keep coming back. Doing this wouldn't preclude improving front-page commenting attitudes, and I don't think it would solve all our problems (and will probably create some of its own), but people were so enthused about the PoC thread that I think it's worth considering how to implement threads like that as a site feature with its own support system as opposed to an ad hoc thing that lives on honor rules for 30 days at a time on MetaTalk. It seems to work well based on where I've seen it in action elsewhere, but is it something you all think would be helpful or worth attempting here?
posted by Rhaomi at 1:12 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


cortex: in general I'd prefer if someone is upset about some mod communication they bring it to me or the team first

Is this already included in some site use guidance? I haven't needed to escalate concerns, but I don't recall seeing such feedback structure laid out explicitly.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:16 PM on July 8


It's a good question. On the general front of not bringing mail into conversations without permission, the FAQ entry about MeFiMail currently includes this:
Unless you have specific permission, reposting someone's MeFi Mail is a violation of site guidelines. Do not use MeFi Mail to harass or stalk or spam other users. Abusing MeFi Mail in this way can result in your account being banned.
There's similar language in the Privacy Questions FAQ entry. And the FAQ has a couple entries (who's in charge? and I need to get in touch with an admin) that talk in general about reaching out to the mod team, and the contact form vs. mefimail thing I mentioned.

But I don't think anything in the FAQ currently explicitly talks about escalating concerns about mod stuff to me or the team. That's something we've talked about a number of times in MetaTalk (I have the sense of it having been more of A Thing back in the 2008-2012 era) but one of the things I've been trying to think about more lately is where the sort of oral history tradition of shared MetaTalk-centric site knowledge can fall short for folks.

So this is an example of something we can look at being more explicit about as we work on updating and expanding the site's documentation this year.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:33 PM on July 8

We are also making a point of giving some stuff that'd normally be a quick predictive deletion/cleanup/rerail decision more time to develop and assess right now, particularly for stuff centered on or affecting non-white and non-American people or groups.
This is slightly confusing. I haven't been actively participating in these discussions because I'm a white European person, and I think that while there is an issue with the experience of non-American posters, it's a separate issue that's not as serious as the issues that have been discussed over the past few weeks. It's strange that the two have ended up conflated here.
posted by winterhill at 1:36 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I can't speak to whether it's published anywhere, but MetaFilter-as-employer seems like it would follow the usual escalation paths if someone is upset with the actions of employee-representing-the-company. So escalating to cortex is the right next step if something has gone awry.
posted by janell at 1:37 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


This is slightly confusing. I haven't been actively participating in these discussions because I'm a white European person, and I think that while there is an issue with the experience of non-American posters, it's a separate issue that's not as serious as the issues that have been discussed over the past few weeks. It's strange that the two have ended up conflated here.

there are non-white non-Americans; the conjunction there does a lot of the work.

it's actually discussed somewhat in the poc thread that was linked in the op.
posted by anem0ne at 1:44 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


This is slightly confusing. I haven't been actively participating in these discussions because I'm a white European person, and I think that while there is an issue with the experience of non-American posters, it's a separate issue that's not as serious as the issues that have been discussed over the past few weeks. It's strange that the two have ended up conflated here.

It came up a bunch in the recent discussions in particular from the perspective of non-white, non-American users: that not only is their the core question of how well the site accommodates the perspectives and experiences of non-white folks, but that US culture and the specifics of one's experience as a non-white person don't map cleanly to experiences in other parts of the world, of different cultural dynamics and the ways in which majority cultures, oppression, or even positive/neutral differences in experience frame discussions.

So, not particularly something that is about e.g. white Europeans, no, I agree (as much as that's it's own ongoing site conversation). Rather, something where the intersectional issues of being non-white and living or having your locus of experience or cultural heritage outside of US norms create additional challenges we need to be aware of and work on as a community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


janell, I agree, but that assumes a user knows that there's a hierarchy at MetaFilter-as-employer, and understands the "typical" corporate hierarchy. cortex's "badge" here is "staff," just like the other mods.

On the topic of creating threads for non-white members, what is the threshold or timeline for re-starting those? Are you looking for a certain number of non-white members to say "we're OK with limited moderator presence and potentially receiving direct emails"? Or are you looking for some specific structure to get hashed out first? I ask because those thresholds to create new threads aren't clear yet.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on July 8


On the topic of creating threads for non-white members, what is the threshold or timeline for re-starting those?

I'm comfortable getting going on it basically whenever, if folks feel like the stuff I outlined in the post is acceptable. I don't need to do a poll or hit a threshold; it's enough for me if someone feels like that set of expectations I outlined is workable and wants to get going with it today. I'd like it to be a mostly self-determining thing, with the mods supporting it rather than directing the whole thing. I'd expect someone other than a mod to kick it off this time, though we're happy to facilitate somehow if it's helpful.

So I guess my only potential holdback is, if there's a serious consensus objection to those expectations, we should talk about that first and figure out how to go from there. But if folks mostly feel like, hey, sounds good, then that's where I am too, and we can work together to iron out any additional wrinkles as we go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:22 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Is it just going to be a new category of MetaTalk post? That seems like it would be simple (other than deciding what to call the category).

flt - you're right. I was making a lot of assumptions.
posted by janell at 3:07 PM on July 8


So I don't have a strong objection to modifying how the first/original poc thread worked (in that it was mod-free, with no mods emailing people about stuff they said on the poc thread, after an initial hiccup) to moving to having it lightly modded, with perhaps some mod-to-user email/memail if needed.

But I do want to say that having the first/original poc thread the way it was made it feel, honestly, a bit like Wakanda, or another country. The boundary there was clear and explicit and felt like it was supporting a diplomatic cause - that the mods were implicitly acknowledging there that something was fucked up and we poc needed space in isolation of expression to say and vent stuff about it without any interference at all. That boundary in the first thread was quite meaningful to me, and seemed meaningful to the few folks I communicated about it privately with.

That said, changing the rules, if we are going to change them, makes sense for the second thread. And I'm personally okay with making those changes. But I'm also not that marginalized, and though I am highly intersectional (belonging to many marginalized groups), I am also well assimilated, and sometimes conditionally enjoy privilege even from within those marginalized identities, so I don't think my voice should have any authority here beyond being part of a larger consensus.
posted by kalessin at 4:29 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


Can you clarify why you would think outside consultants will help and what the mechanics of those discussions would be, when there are already several vocal, active members of people in this community who are pretty into participating here? Seems strange and not very community-minded from my viewpoint, tbh.
posted by yueliang at 4:35 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


> But what we absolutely can run with is a new thread where the explicit expectation is only non-white/PoC folks will actively participate, with minimal moderation presence, and the spirit is of a discussion space that is not so much separate from MetaFilter-at-large with its own ruleset as of one specific sort of dedicated space within MeFi. I'm happy to talk out details more or work with folks to kick up a new one quickly.

I'd be down! Minimal moderation presence sounds reasonable in such a subsequent thread, while still maintaining that dedicated space for non-white/POC participation (especially if it involves mulling over/drawing attention to issues that might not otherwise be addressed due to fatigue from dealing with MetaFilter-at-large).

There's a lot of items brought up that I'd like to chime in on once I've mulled them over (probably not while semi-distracted in the middle of a Weird Al nostalgia marathon). On preview, I agree w/ kalessin regarding the modding in the original thread, which I viewed from the perspective as more of a place to vent and share than to focus on "what next?" - it was great having that stark POC-only boundary in place, but yeah, changing the rules going forward for the subsequent threads sounds fine, since there will be a different purpose and focus to the sharing.

In any case, thanks for following up on both threads, cortex! It's reassuring seeing steps towards working on really engaging with the issues brought up to make MetaFilter a better community for everyone. I'm already seeing you jump in to provide more thoughtful explanations in this thread when you can, instead of leaving them unaddressed for others to expend the energy to address, and I appreciate it.
posted by rather be jorting at 4:55 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Can you clarify why you would think outside consultants will help and what the mechanics of those discussions would be, when there are already several vocal, active members of people in this community who are pretty into participating here? Seems strange and not very community-minded from my viewpoint, tbh.

In case there's any doubt: I am deeply grateful for the knowledge and insight folks in the community have brought to these discussions and the guidance we've been able to take from that as a team and as a community, in small and large ways, over the years. I'll continue to welcome that and at a basic level my conception of MetaFilter as a community is based on the idea that this kind of collaborative discussion and education as a group works well and makes a place healthier and stronger. In my ideal world this stuff would be accomplishable entirely within the sphere of the MeFi community itself. And a lot of it is. The site's come as far as it has over the years on the strength of that.

But folks have also made the argument that (a) the mod team just trying to take what we can from discussions here may be falling short in terms of the kind of education and growth we'd like to manage as a team, and (b) it's not really fair to make it the duty of community members to do all of that work. And so folks have suggested a number of times that we reach out to someone doing specific professional work in these areas, to work with in a paid consulting context, to supplement the other work the mods are doing and the community is doing.

So, I'm trying to explore that too, taking on specific suggestions and general search strategy advice from folks in the recent discussions. I believe there may be things an outside pair of eyes can help us identify and work on that aren't as visible from an intracommunity context, or that can help us reinforce and improve the way in which we do all the community-engaged work that already happens. Casting a wide net beyond just the confines of the MeFi community means a lot more possible candidates for that work, though as Fizz noted above there's no reason we can't also try and run that up the flagpole internally as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:09 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


FWIW, I think casting a wide net for folks who might be able to help with mod-team-training and making the priority that the work done be paid are compatible and ethical and just, and I think you might consider, if possible, hiring minority-owned consulting concerns or marginalized folks as consultants for this job. An outside eye is also good. My recommendation would be that you'll need to be super actively engaged in this effort, cortex. There won't be a time you can drop the vigilance. You'll need to know what training/assistance you want/need and need to be on it regarding seeing to getting the assistance you need, as the effort evolves. I know you are working on it already, but assume that you'll need to be actively engaged with the training process, with designing it, with designing and adjusting responses as conditions change, etc. It won't be a fire-and-forget consulting engagement if you want to get the most out of the work and the contract.
posted by kalessin at 5:16 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


Thank you for clarifying, and I will state that I genuinely disagree with these approaches. You cannot only hire an outside consultant and then not elevate the voices of those who have already been putting forth the effort in the original threads (along with several others who probably are watching and seeing how this is handled.) I also disagree with the idea of paying outside consultant money when that still requires non-white members to educate the consultant on what is going on, because it still requires volunteer labor from those involved. Why not compensate them? Just how is the information going to be sorted and assessed and how is it gathered and how does it relate to the compensation of those involved? There are lots of design issues that I find shortsighted and I genuinely think will just reproduce the same dead end results that people have been talking about for years.

I come from a feminist participatory research and community organizing background, which has already written several times about the pitfalls of an outside organizer. I also think you are overlooking the financial and ethical challenges of choosing an outside consultant for this and not considering enough the potential negative impact of your approach. If anything, I would suggest that y'all talk to feminist researchers, community organizers, and facilitators on Metafilter and elsewhere and get a consultation on your "why and how" and your methods, because this is a really complex topic that has several different metholodogies involved, and may be outside of the scope of your expertise. We are right here.
posted by yueliang at 5:24 PM on July 8 [14 favorites]


also apologies on using 'shortsighted,' shouldn't use it -- trying to use less ableist language. I would instead say that I have several concerns with the design issues, which is said in the rest of my comment.
posted by yueliang at 5:33 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Maybe it should just be "hiring a consultant," and MeFites should feel free to point out anyone they feel would be a good person for the job? It might be a MeFite, it might not be.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:39 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


I like Rhaomi's idea of a subsite-like system for community threads, and was going to suggest something very similar. Throughout the PoC thread I kept wishing we had made similar caucus-y threads for other identity axes, such as gender or transness. Hell the recent Belle Delphine thread made me feel that one for sex workers would be handy, though I understand that in this specific case people may be wary of outing themselves.

I can see the arguments for and against outside consultants. I think there would be some value in hiring an outside eye who's also PoC and has some experience with online community management to give a more holistic perspective and suggest ideas that may not necessarily be obvious to people who've been on Mefi long and have a set idea of how it should run. At the same time, we do have a lot of people with those skills within here, and having some kind of institutional knowledge is useful.

(I know you're looking for people with specific professional experience in this area, and fair enough. Just to put it out there though - I end up doing this kind of work a lot and for free mostly out of circumstance, despite it not necessarily being my Job Description as such, so if you're willing to hire me to do this or will put up a job posting for it I'll apply.)
posted by divabat at 5:43 PM on July 8 [15 favorites]


"Maybe it should just be "hiring a consultant," and MeFites should feel free to point out anyone they feel would be a good person for the job? It might be a MeFite, it might not be." I agree with this. If the entire process of hiring a consultant and the participation process is thorough, transparent, and communicative with the community and open for input during the process, as well as connecting it to feasible outcomes and implementation, this would be very helpful.

Just being on Metafilter for so long, I've been surprised at the range of jobs, careers, and expertise here. With this chance to really improve what's going on, there's a wealth of resources here and a chance for flexible and myriad approaches. It just seems a little strange to not utilize that awesomeness.
posted by yueliang at 5:48 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


Whoever does it and however they do it, it should be paid work. This should not be fueled by goodwill and solving it should not be expected to be the users' problem.

There may be people here with expertise in this kind of training (and I'm unclear whether we're talking about implicit bias training for the staff, which I think would be helpful, or community management training for working with the site users, or both (probably both)), but if they do happen to be here and agree to do this, they should be paid a fair rate. And it should not be heretical to say that the specific cross-section of needed expertise may not actually be here on the site. These topic areas are in fact professional specialties and it would help to have practiced and deep expertise applied; those of us who work on inclusion as an aspect of our jobs often and eagerly seek outside consult for a head check, to stay current, and because those people can be, simply, much quicker to see the problems and have tools for breaking them down. Thinking we know everything we need to know and already have everything we need to have to get the job done has historically been part of the problem.

If people with skills are indeed on MetaFilter it would be great if they make themselves known. What might be good is hearing kind of an RFP of what the staff thinks they need (which might not be the same as what they actually need but would be informative) so that people who do have the relevant skills can identify themselves and perhaps propose their services and rates.
posted by Miko at 7:27 PM on July 8 [26 favorites]


Thanks for this, I appreciate it. I'm traveling and on my phone so I will leave a more extensive comment in a few days. I understand the people who don't like term POC as vague or lumping disparate groups. I don't use it to self-identify unless I'm in a vague or disparate setting like commenting on the internet. I use more specific self descriptors that may change depending on who I am with. I never use non-white because that's stupidly offensive. Non white is what white people use to specifically point out that I am not included as regular. Obviously others will disagree but it is exclusionary on its face. Hate hate hate.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:33 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


I like the idea of community-specific posts, with a rule that people who are not in a specific community can't participate, but I don't think they should be hidden like Fanfare Clubs are. I actually didn't know Fanfare Clubs even existed until seeing this post, and many of the clubs are very small and end up relying on the labor of a single member. Making community-specific posts easily discoverable would let them reach more of the people who need to be reached.

Re: lumping everyone together as POC, it's not an either/or situation! We could have both threads for everyone under the POC umbrella and more specific community groups. Hell, I'd enjoy having a QPOC group, or a East Asian diaspora group, or a women of color group, etc.
posted by storytam at 7:48 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I appreciate these two Metatalk posts, and think it's a great start.

Cortex: There are two main idiosyncrasies of that thread that we were able to manage for a one-off but can't for an ongoing thing: future threads need to be threads where moderator presence and email communication is expected and accepted (if kept intentionally minimal), and where there’s a clear expectation that these threads are part of the site, which means they’re public and non-POC readers can still see everything. We can’t have unmodded threads, and we can’t encourage participants to expect more privacy or more-restricted readership than there really is. Maintaining a hard private-but-in-public firewall like we did with that one isn't sustainable. Either of those requirements would point to a private discussion space rather than a public on-MeFi one, and we can help facilitate sorting that out if it's useful.

This is very confusing. What is the "private-but-in-public firewall" that you are talking about? Is this the fact that white people's comments were deleted from the poc-only Meta post?

Just to be clear, this is my translation of what you're saying:

1) "In future PoC-only threads, I want mods to be able to comment in the thread and email users directly"
2) "Future PoC threads are great, but we're unwilling to delete comments by white people in the thread. If you want a completely PoC-only discussion space, let's talk more."

Cortex - please correct me where I'm wrong or misreading your comment!
posted by suedehead at 7:53 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


With respect to the logistics of finding and hiring a consultant to help the MeFi mod team figure out where they stand and what they ought to learn and how to tweak and improve current mod practice, documentation, and continuity planning, I'm kind of undecided. I think ideally they would hire someone from the community they thought they could work with, who mutually thought they could work with the mod team. And I think hiring from the community makes sense from many angles, including not having to spend an inordinate amount of time bringing the consultant up to speed. But I get the sense that like me, a lot of the most qualified people in the MetaFilter community have already burned out and/or burned bridges with the mods such that the mod team may find it a difficult proposition to hire one or more of us to help out.

I think that part of the problem is MetaFilter's long-time commitment to not allowing any of us to profit from our work via the site. I know I'm not the only one who's been discouraged from putting their shingle out on certain parts of the site (blue, green, grey). I get why, given that the site has to be for-profit for the mods so the mods can get paid. But I think that pattern of thinking may represent a philosophical hump that cortex/the mods may have to get over if they take a path that includes hiring a consultant from within the MeFi membership.

I did want to say too that this is going to be long-haul work that will be iterative and difficult, and by iterative I mean that the mods will likely have to try more than one thing, possibly have to hire more than one organizational consultant, and tolerate and persevere through false starts and possible outright failures, and embarrassing apologies. One of the reasons I was (and others were) at pains in both the outragefilter thread and the first poc thread to really try to interrogate and vet and test mods' and cortex's commitment to this direction is that we know the work is a long, hard, slog through some very emotionally demanding work, and it really cannot be half-assed. It has to be done with full heart and full mind, and full passion. So I hope we're all up to it, and that we can carry it through.
posted by kalessin at 8:07 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


1) In future PoC-only threads, I want mods to be able to comment in the thread and email users directly

Right. I don't expect that we'd be doing much of it, and it'd be in a moderation work capacity not a "just dropping by to chat" mode, but being able to communicate in-thread and over email's a necessary part of the work we do.

2) PoC threads are great, but we're unwilling to delete comments by white people in the thread. If you want a completely PoC-only discussion space, let's talk more.

Ah! No, not at all. So, I think the basic organizing principle of "this is a discussion thread for PoC folks only" is a given; it's the whole concept behind the thing. I would expect white folks to stay out of commenting in it entirely, just as we expected with the "Hearing from" thread. If someone steps over that boundary, I'd expect folks to flag it and we'd delete it.

But we also had expectations develop over the course of it that that thread wasn't up for e.g. discussion or even favoriting by other folks on the site, and folks expressing in some cases a desire for it to not be really visible at all or finding the basic premise of discussing this stuff in public uncomfortable. And those are all issues that a genuinely private discussion space can answer, but public threads on MetaFilter can't.

We could manage that as a one-off thing, but it's unsustainable to maintain an artificial sense that a thread is in some sense private, when the threads on the site are by design fundamentally public and open to broad readership.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:10 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


But we also had expectations develop over the course of it that that thread wasn't up for e.g. discussion or even favoriting by other folks on the site, and folks expressing in some cases a desire for it to not be really visible at all or finding the basic premise of discussing this stuff in public uncomfortable. And those are all issues that a genuinely private discussion space can answer, but public threads on MetaFilter can't.

Whatever subsite sort of solution that's eventually created needs to be private, IMHO. Not every PoC feels comfortable being publicly associated with contributing to PoC-only spaces. Visibility of participating in those spaces, sadly, make our interactions with non-PoC a lot more complicated. That might seem like a revolting thing for someone who's openly and obviously a PoC to say, but there you go. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
posted by blerghamot at 8:38 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I see. Then I have one followup question:

From my perspective, the PoC thread went very very well without moderation (save for deleting comments by non-poc members), and created a very good, open, and vulnerable space that held and acknowledged everyone's perspectives.

What different outcome is desired by having a modded PoC thread, compared to the one we just had?
posted by suedehead at 8:49 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


storytam: "I actually didn't know Fanfare Clubs even existed until seeing this post, and many of the clubs are very small and end up relying on the labor of a single member. Making community-specific posts easily discoverable would let them reach more of the people who need to be reached."

IMHO, FanFare clubs are small because they haven't really been promoted much beyond the initial MetaTalk post announcing them and the little tab on the FanFare subsite (which gets relatively little traffic anyway). Plus the fact that they're basically scheduled book/movie clubs, which has limited appeal. I think a more fully-fledged Groups feature built on the same model but intended for entire sub-communities of interest would get more participation -- and would incidentally make a cool landing page for new users if it really took off.

As for privacy, I agree not everybody would want their more intimate/vulnerable posts visible by default to the entire site (and web). Better to give people the option of limiting what's visible -- just group members, just logged-in users, anybody. And give people the ability to share threads with the broader site (read-only or not), if they feel comfortable that it's developed into something they want all other MeFites or the internet writ large to see or participate in. I could imagine compelling discussions like the Emotional Labor post developing in a given community of interest -- even more easily, given the focused, filtered nature of a Group -- then being shared fully-formed with the broader userbase. The biggest question mark for me in that scenario is who should have the ability to do that -- the thread creator? A group mod? Let members flag them for curation by the sitewide mods, like the Sidebar/Best Of stuff? In any case, controlled gradations of privacy in any Group-esque subsite would be important to forming spaces where people feel safe expressing themselves without feeling like the whole world is watching.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:50 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


cortex said: We could manage that as a one-off thing

Hmmm, I'm getting the sense that you're envisioning a second POC-only MeTa that's in some way different from the way the first one went down, but I'm not really clear on what the differences would be.

If the first POC-only MeTa would have been modded in the way you're envisioning the second will be modded, what would have been different about the first POC-only MeTa?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:10 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


If the first POC-only MeTa would have been modded in the way you're envisioning the second will be modded, what would have been different about the first POC-only MeTa?

We had a few cases of things where folks were upset about, or asking questions about, specific real-time stuff happening on the site that we couldn't help with. There was one pretty major misunderstanding that led to folks flagging a comment a dozen or so times with notes, asking for action or attention that we specifically were expected not to take action on.

Basic moderation presence and responsiveness is core to how MeFi works and its preclusion from that discussion created a few unnecessarily bad or unresolved situations and complicated significantly the stuff we were able to, by chance and by workaround with the parallel thread, help some with.

I don't want to change that original thread; like I said, this was manageable as a one-off thing, and I think in the moment that thread was basically what people needed and wanted and I'm glad we could help let that happen. And I want to support the idea of a similar sort of space since folks have asked for that that happen. But that specific model of a no-moderation, no-discussion, no-reaction public conversation on the site isn't sustainable; we need to align this idea more closely with normal MeFi expectations if it's something happening on the site on an on-going basis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I feel like there's a difference between (1) folks participating in the thread affirmatively seeking mod help vs (2) mods stepping in without express help requests (or in response to requests from non-participants). Is your intent to only change the modding approach for the first situation, or both situations?
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 10:50 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Just a note to let folks know that cortex is done for the night; by all means comment and ask things and he'll be back to read and answer in the morning.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:05 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


“We had a few cases of things where folks were upset about, or asking questions about, specific real-time stuff happening on the site that we couldn't help with.“ if folks had wanted help or interaction from the mods on those issues, they would have reached out or said them in the other MetaTalk thread. I understand that it can be uncomfortable to read things and feel like your hands are tied, but everyone in that thread was well aware that things they said there wouldn’t be acted on by mods. It’s a feature not a bug.

There’s an urge to put on a fix-it hat, especially when it’s basically your literal entire job to wear one. But sometimes things don’t need active fixing, and active interaction from people in power would actually make it worse.

I would advocate for future threads to work in a very similar way - no quoting to other threads and no sense that the mods are going to step in unless things are going very differently from that first thread. I don’t care what people favorite, and since that’s never been a modded activity before, I can’t see adding it to any sort of expectations going forward. That doesn’t seem reasonable, especially since it isn’t something there’s consensus on.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:48 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


I don't know how much of a technical headache this would be, but if we do have a Groups subsite, we could have different levels of privacy, like Facebook or Slack groups. Public, closed (searchable but you have to ask for membership and only members can see content), secret/private. The Fanfare Clubs model is a good start; I know we don't really have much of a precedent for semi-private spaces here in Mefi, but perhaps it's worth a try?

We could also have groups decide their own moderators too, with limited powers for things like deletions or edits. It'd likely need to be volunteer run coz there's not going to be enough to cover every group (or the groups can decide to pitch in to cover a stipend). Then if things really get intense we can get the core mod team involves, but that should at least bring down the amount of work because smaller stuff can be dealt with quicker. If the group is OK with it, the mods can scan every so often to see how they're going, but they don't have to keep such a close eye if there's other people to take care of that.

The Groups subsite would also be a pretty good place for the US Megathreads, esp if specific sub-mods can be elected to manage that. Again, workload on the core mod team is lessened because smaller stuff can be dealt with quicker.
posted by divabat at 11:49 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


I should have said first that this post was well written and thoughtful. I appreciate the obvious work that went into it, and the tone it sets.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:50 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


divabat: "The Groups subsite would also be a pretty good place for the US Megathreads, esp if specific sub-mods can be elected to manage that."

That's how it works on ResetEra; actually, the userbase there is large enough to support multiple long-running political megathread hangouts (among myriad other topics), including US, UK, Australian, and Canadian politics, a Brexit thread, and dedicated threads for liberalism, socialism, leftism, and even conservatism. Their main US politics hangout is gargantuan -- they're on their 20th consecutive megathread in three years, each with hundreds of pages and thousands of comments -- but because it's contained in its own (paginated) group, it doesn't overwhelm the main off-topic board. I also love how they also have a tradition of in-jokey thread titles, such as:

US PoliEra 2017 |OT2| Tinkle Traitor Soldier Spy
US PoliERA 2018 |OT3| In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Ryan
US PoliERA 2018 |OT7| Tell Me The Bad Things That Happened Since I Fell Asleep
US PoliERA 2018 |OT11| The Hunt for Blue November
US PoliEra 2019 |OT3| YOU WERE AT MY WEDDING, DENISE

As for governance, most OT threads are tended to by the original poster (whose first post sets the tone for the group and contains a lot of useful info) and a passel of regulars, and the site mods depend on "report-with-note"s from participants to deal with problem content, as threads there are too numerous and fast-moving for their larger-but-not-sprawling volunteer staff to stay on top of themselves. Still doesn't spare them from being dinged as overly-moderated from the usual suspects, but it largely works and the OT/hangouts have been thriving and both entertaining and informative to read.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:45 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this thread, cortex. I appreciate this follow up and what I see as genuine willingness from you to commit to action on many of the things talked about in the “hearing from PoC members” thread.

Re: hiring a consultant—I support opening the posting to the Metafilter community and also yueliang’s suggestion to read up on and seek out knowledge regarding feminist participatory research and organizing methods.

Re: using PoC vs specific terminology vs “non-white”—this is a tricky one. Personally, I don’t mind the term “people of colour” and tend to use it when talking about commonalities shared by a large group of disparate ethnic and racial identities (though I do generally self identify as “mixed race Chinese and white”). But I know there are many folks who do not like it and don’t use it when they self identify, preferring specific identifiers, and I absolutely respect that. I really don’t like the term “non-white”; as you acknowledged, it centres whiteness, and grates on me for that reason.

Finally, I just want to say I think one of the best things about this post is the lack of defensiveness. This is one important thing you and the mod team will need to watch for most as you all do this hard work to learn new patterns—the temptation to slip into knee-jerk defensiveness, as your biases are pointed out. I have experienced this in myself (eg when facing my own complicity in the colonization of First Peoples) and it’s uncomfortable. But part of the hard work is to learn to let it go and really listen with open ears and hearts to what others are saying. I think non-defensiveness is like a muscle; it works better and easier the more you exercise it, and extensive practice is the only way to improve.

Thank you and I look forward to reading updates. This is a good step you are taking.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:04 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]



“We had a few cases of things where folks were upset about, or asking questions about, specific real-time stuff happening on the site that we couldn't help with.“ if folks had wanted help or interaction from the mods on those issues, they would have reached out or said them in the other MetaTalk thread. I understand that it can be uncomfortable to read things and feel like your hands are tied, but everyone in that thread was well aware that things they said there wouldn’t be acted on by mods. It’s a feature not a bug.

There’s an urge to put on a fix-it hat, especially when it’s basically your literal entire job to wear one. But sometimes things don’t need active fixing, and active interaction from people in power would actually make it worse.

I completely agree. I feel like if you read that thread again, a lot of people expressed how much they liked it and how effective it was.

I also think, not necessarily stoneweaver's point, that you are not quite getting why people were bothered by a mod contacting someone about their comments in that thread. It wasn't because it was mefimail vs. email, it was something else (which they discussed in the thread).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:31 AM on July 9 [14 favorites]


cortex, thank you for this post. I appreciate how you've made this plus the medium/long-term work posts to start two different discussions, and the promise of the State of the Site update, and your apologies.

suedehead said: From my perspective, the PoC thread went very very well without moderation (save for deleting comments by non-poc members), and created a very good, open, and vulnerable space that held and acknowledged everyone's perspectives.

internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 said: I feel like if you read that thread again, a lot of people expressed how much they liked it and how effective it was.

I did not feel that way. I am a person of color who felt mostly unable to participate in that thread, who did not feel like it was a good, open, and vulnerable space for me to share my experience. And I could see, as the people speaking in that thread requested (and received) reductions in the level of moderation, that in some cases commenters were not treating other commenters with the basic level of respect due to any other commenter. That bothered me, and I would prefer that, as cortex said, "future threads need to be threads where moderator presence and email communication is expected and accepted (if kept intentionally minimal)".
posted by brainwane at 6:12 AM on July 9 [16 favorites]


divabat: "The Groups subsite would also be a pretty good place for the US Megathreads, esp if specific sub-mods can be elected to manage that."

OMG what an amazing idea.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:26 AM on July 9


Thank you for this.

I would still prefer to see a paid consultant come from within the MeFi community.

As a white Jew, I didn't participate in the PoC thread, because I am not a PoC. I have an obviously Jewish last name and have gotten the "look Jewish" thing (which is something that needs extra unpacking because that Jewish nose that gets commented on is a carbon-copy of my non-Jewish father's) so I especially like the Groups idea because I feel like my identity is adjacent but out of place in a PoC space.
posted by Ruki at 6:35 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Various thoughts:

future threads need to be threads where moderator presence and email communication is expected and accepted (if kept intentionally minimal)

I have no problem with this, seems reasonable. Fire up the thread!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


There’s an urge to put on a fix-it hat, especially when it’s basically your literal entire job to wear one. But sometimes things don’t need active fixing, and active interaction from people in power would actually make it worse.

I hear you, and that's something we're trying to think about in general mod side; I talked in the post a bit about us trying to give stuff a little more room where possible in that same spirit. And I reflected on that a lot during the "Hearing from" thread; there were I would say dozens of things that came up in there, with folks bringing up this or that past site interaction or event or worry, that fall into the normal range of stuff I'd normally want to reach out to someone about to talk through. And...I didn't need to. It wasn't the space for it and as much as I'd like to work directly with any given person to better understand and resolve and help avoid a repeat of a bad experience, that thread wasn't an invite to do that and I don't have a problem with that.

There were a smaller number of things that actually were a mess in the kind of problematic way where not having any mod involvement made it worse. Doesn't mean I don't think the whole of the thread wasn't a good thing as just what it was, or that I don't think most stuff can probably be worked out in conversation without moderator involvment, but those problem bits were starkly illustrative of the unworkable knock-on effects of the no-moderation expectation that emerged early on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:12 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


Various thoughts:

*MeFi PoC only space is fine! There may be future issues about creating more than one such space or defining who is and isn't a PoC, but that can be handled down the road if the problem arises.

* Outside vs inside consultants: Why not both?

* Private or semi-private groups threads seems against the public nature of MeFi and I'm pausing at that idea. I do like and prefer the open public nature of MeFi. Changing this feels wrong, IMO, because MeFi is ultimately about sharing information, links and ideas, so hiding some of that isn't good for the character of MeFi. Ultimately the site can't be everything to everyone and keeping its mission focused is important.

* Thanks Cortex.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:20 AM on July 9 [25 favorites]


Said once again: one of the primary reasons I enjoy Metafilter is that there isn't self-imposed segregation by topics or groups. The lack of topic/group identification remains the characteristic of Metafilter that distinguishes it from Facebook, Reddit, and many other sites. Please maintain that feature.
posted by saeculorum at 7:36 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


To clarify - the reason why in the past I express my concern with outside consultants is due to my own experience with seeing how using 'outside consultants' can lead to a lack of accountability and a lack of transparency that results in ineffectual change and then the POC have to either teach the white people that they're not implementing it, doing it wrong, or it wasn't even a good consultation and they were excluded, all of which ultimately impacts who is inside of it. I have good faith in the mods, don't get me wrong, but because historically POC have been hurt by white organizations because of systematic racism and biases, and it is reflected in how they go around getting problems fixed, even with consultants, I just think even the very act of hiring a consultant and making the certain rationale for it needs to be questioned, discussed, and clarified with transparency to a community website like this. This is also a new precedent for the website, so I think it's important to be detailed and paying close attention to how this is done.

Here is an extraordinary link with tons of sublinks on this topic that I think would be very incredible reading.
Why Your Efforts to Make Your Company Inclusive Aren't Working
posted by yueliang at 7:42 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


Said once again: one of the primary reasons I enjoy Metafilter is that there isn't self-imposed segregation by topics or groups. The lack of topic/group identification remains the characteristic of Metafilter that distinguishes it from Facebook, Reddit, and many other sites. Please maintain that feature.

FWIW, I suspect very little, if MeFi becomes a bunch of self reinforcing cliques like the politics thread I am done with it. Very much not a model of success as far as I am concerned.
posted by Artw at 7:53 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


On the idea Rhaomi's putting forth: I want to go ahead and be clear that that kind of significant restructuring and fragmentation of MeFi and expansion and complication of the site's rules and expectations about privacy and visibility isn't at all in the realm of stuff we're looking at. I do appreciate the spirit of the brainstorming, but it's a very broad scope of proposed change both technically and culturally that for all that touches only incidentally on most of the stuff we've been talking about the last month.

My focus through all this is looking at the idea and structure of MetaFilter that already exists as on open and cohesive community space, and figure out what we can do to make the way it works more consistent and more welcoming. That's about looking at how the moderation staff do the things we do, how the community does the things it does, in the basic structure we have. And truing up a support beam or widening a doorway may be part of that process; building a whole new wing full of private suites isn't.

I think the PoC-only thread idea is worth exploring because it has a very specific scope and folks found a lot of concrete value in that first experimental go last month. I don't consider it a model for a more aggressive reworking of how MeFi operates conversational spaces, and that's in part why it's important to me that we do some of the realignment of expectations/rules stuff for future ones.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:36 AM on July 9 [11 favorites]


cortex said: Basic moderation presence and responsiveness is core to how MeFi works

I dunno if I agree with that. I think there's a general sense of moderation presence and responsiveness to how Metafilter historically has worked, but I think recently the rolling FuckingFuck and HyuckingHyuck MeTas really highlight that not all MeTas (or threads in general) get the same amount of mod resources- if/when another POC-only MeTa arrives, I hope it gets modded closer to how the FuckingFuck and HyuckingHyuck MeTas get modded rather than how a typical MeTa gets modded.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:59 AM on July 9 [6 favorites]


brainwane - thank you for speaking up. I appreciate hearing your perspective, and I can understand why you weren’t willing to share it in that thread. I would like it if the future threads felt like safer places to participate in, especially for the people who stayed away the first time.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:01 AM on July 9 [9 favorites]


I express my concern with outside consultants is due to my own experience with seeing how using 'outside consultants' can lead to a lack of accountability and a lack of transparency that results in ineffectual change

I understand and have also seen consulting gone wrong. But the bigger issue you raise isn't about whether the skilled trainer is from inside or outside the site. . It's about the leadership intentions of the owner(s) and manager(s). Any consultant and organization can work with complete transparency and accountability - that's a matter of will and intention.

There is such a fundamental inherent tension in the way the site's user community thinks of itself as having import, centrality, identity, power, and ownership, and the site's closed leadership model in which there is no true consulting of the community on long-term planning, culture, budgeting, moderation rules etc., - not even a sense that those processes have any real value - and I am not sure it can be overcome, because it is a huge mindset shift you have to want to make. And there seems to be little experience with alternative models to help those possibilities be imagined and feel feasible. This site changes basically only when there is a user rebellion of some kind, and even then, incrementally and inconsistently. It is a site with a strong community, but not a site governed by or even very deeply influenced by the community. So it's really not about where trainers and strategic planning helpers come from - that is a fairly straightforward question once intentions are clear - it's about re-imagining the relationship between users and owners/managers. How thoroughly or radically can that be done? Does anyone want to do it?
posted by Miko at 9:02 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]


Artw: FWIW, I suspect very little, if MeFi becomes a bunch of self reinforcing cliques like the politics thread I am done with it.

General response/ thought: aren't topics by definition catering to different cliques? Plenty of people self-separate into focusing on AskMe, Metafilter, FanFare, and Music. And within the Blue, not everyone likes to talk about video games, or archaeology, or food, or families, or dogs, or cats, so they don't participate in all threads.

And more broadly, the framing of posts often elicits initial replies, particularly on topics where members (think they) know enough to comment without reading or viewing the linked material. Though on the other hand, as tallied by Jpfed in the medium and long-term work thread, Politics mega-threads have had a reduced number of participants, which may indeed be from self-reinforcing cliques further winnowing down membership via active user actions and comments.

But MetaFilter is structurally "flat" by default -- not made of separate parts, but all mixed together, within the sub-sites. It's up to individual users to participate or not, no need to join spaces. Even with these loose cliques, there's no barrier to entry.

That said, the "hearing" thread was a much different space by design, and unfortunately for the health of MeFi as a dynamic an welcoming community, by need, and that need is still present.


A thought: instead of making semi-private spaces that require to be invited or allowed to participate, perhaps "topical" moderation, where volunteer moderators step in for politics discussions? Official mods still have over-arching controls, but they could delegate oversight in mega-threads, where the actions of volunteer mods could be overturned by official mods.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:18 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Not a PoC or Woman here: the MeFi 101 syndrome.

One of several difficulties I encountered as fledgling MeFite is the "101" syndrome, where I'm directed by commenters to quit requiring them to explain basic tenets, so they can get on with explaining their advanced views on Topic A. We do this in an open forum. Now and then I have to step back and try to determine where my paradigms are outmoded, superseded, just plain wrong-headed. I am told to try to educate myself on some of these issue if I want to comment in a thread. Fair enough. I am learning to realize that a comment may be more about "me" than I realized--that a defensive posture isn't what the conversation needs. I get a clear picture of how frustrated, how exhausting, it must be for people who have to swim upstream in our society nearly every day to have to keep trying to explain a basic thing to someone who hasn't seen the light, who perhaps never will.

Please don't assume that I'm trying for snark here, because I am serious. I have had to step back from what I assumed to be certain social or cultural axioms to account for someone's considered opinion. If you try it sometime, you probably won't like it either.

In reading through most of both these threads, I realize that people are out there in our community who have done detailed research, held numerous discussions about the theme of this thread, which I take to be: how to make this site more welcoming to "PoC." In addition, this site enjoys the participation of not a few non-Americans. Their comments often cause me pause. Any who've read my comments may remember that I'm not one to wave our flag over any issue, so their comments may not be as jarring to me as they are to others.

Sometimes wearing cloak of entitlement in America draws frightful reactions from the non-entitled who live here. It's easy enough to say that I've never owned any slaves, but not so easy to try to empathize with Americans whose ancestors were considered chattel. Our combined history has manifested itself into disgraceful and not so subtle systemic racism. So prevalent is that multi-faceted set of "...isms" in our white, paternalistic society that to a large segment of us entitled whites it's invisible. Can you grasp the notion that racism is often blind? That it comes as a surprise when we hear complaints about it? Contemplating this encourages us to grasp at tokenism, or outright denial to put a firewall between us that contemporary reality. Likewise, our country is founded on looting and genocide, of marginalization of the cultures that existed in the "New World" prior to 1491, to the extent that where we acknowledge our horrific deeds at all we caramelize Native Cultures to point of being cartoons, while ignoring the contemporary dastardly way we still treat them as not quite real people. Maybe we could expiate our transgressions if we gave all their land back and apologized. The former is clearly not an option and the second is too terribly precious to consider. My hope in this regard is that we, at least, can somehow un-systematize these wrongs.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. I fail to see value in the underlying logic of dividing the MeFi community into "Us" and "Them" pages. How many pages must we use? One for each "racial" version of non-white? Do we divide the LGBT community into every version of sexuality that presents itself? Do non-American readers get a special page?

I may be naïve. My notion is that requiring commenters to respect their fellow contributors is the basic tenet that glues MeFites together. We disagree on pretty much everything-- with agonizing, often tedious, nuance we shade our dissent--but we have agreed to thoughtful moderation. I've benefitted in the past by a back-channel effort from a couple of the mods to reconsider certain of my comments. I have had a comment to two removed--I didn't agree with these deletions, but I came to understand the reason for them. I lick my wounds and carry on.

I certainly wouldn't try to read a "PoC only" post. I just don't see how that fits into the spirit of the Blue. If "we" are to understand things about "them," how can we strive for that by putting "us" into different rooms." From my (admittedly entitled) perspective, could not those to whom this discussion is directed benefit from seeing insensitive comments being handle by a thoughtful community that strives to broaden its notion of humanity? In this unicorn-friendly paradigm moderators have the task of keeping systemic "...isms," as well as unmasked vituperation, at bay.

Behind that miasma of fuzzy reasoning, I still support efforts now underway to come to grips with something that 250 years of insanity has yet to learn how to handle.
posted by mule98J at 10:12 AM on July 9


I certainly wouldn't try to read a "PoC only" post.

I don't know to what extent PoC-only posts would be a thing on the blue, but it sounds like it could be a good thing on the gray. I encourage you to try reading Hearing from our members of color, and at first just pay attention to the relief some commenters feel on being given their own space.
posted by Jpfed at 10:23 AM on July 9 [22 favorites]


mule98J said: I certainly wouldn't try to read a "PoC only" post. I just don't see how that fits into the spirit of the Blue.

There is no "spirit of the Blue", whatever that means. If you don't want to read a POC-only post, whatever, but the POC-only MeTa we already had didn't violate anything that Metafilter stands for, and if/when the next POC-only MeTa happens, that MeTa won't violate anything that Metafilter stands for either.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:28 AM on July 9 [32 favorites]


mule98J, if you read cortex's comment above, I think it addresses your question and concerns. Metafilter will not be divided in the way that you are talking about.

For the rest of your comment, I have to say that it's hard for me to follow but it does read as rather defensive and very focused on your feelings, and also goes into a slippery slope argument at the end. I would recommend reading the previous threads that got us to this point and exploring the concept of white fragility. I truly think that will help you get a better sense of what is being discussed.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:29 AM on July 9 [27 favorites]


I’d totally read a post geared towards people who are not like. Gay, Asian, Spanish, whatever! If the topic is interesting, I’ll check it out, it’s what we’re here for!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on July 9 [13 favorites]


My notion is that requiring commenters to respect their fellow contributors is the basic tenet that glues MeFites together.

Respect is the heart of it. We want to be a community where people respect each other enough to have more-or-less reasonable conversations on a wide range of subjects. But what does "respect" involve? Our community's ideas and standards on this have evolved a lot over time, driven by members talking about how things affect them.

If certain topics always attract predictable comments from dominant-group members (white, Anglo-American, etc), made with fine intentions but in ignorance, where it might be the hundredth time a marginalized person has had to reply tactfully to that same ignorant comment... it's not respectful for the site to let that happen the same way over and over. One of the ways the site can help is to push a little harder and more consistently for white members to start recognizing when, for example, one's speaking beyond one's experience/expertise, or in a discussion where it'd be better to just listen. I do think our white members want to be respectful and good to fellow community members, and it's a matter of listening to people of color on what respect would really look like. (Not that everyone's going to agree on the exact details, not that we'll reach one correct set of answers, but we can clearly move further in the right direction.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:09 AM on July 9 [11 favorites]


I see the POC-only threads (of which we literally only have one so far, so let's not pretend like it's the beginning of a massive era of increasingly granular closed-off communities), as providing a place to step aside and have some breathing room from the rest of the site. It's like when you need to take a break from the mosh pit at a concert, where almost the entire standing room is mosh pit and it can get tiring standing there for the whole time, but you still want to be at the concert, you just need a break from most of the other people. The others in the pit don't intend to shove you around specifically, but the pit can get a little much regardless of their good intentions, so, y'know, it's nice to be able to have some room to get away from the wilder spots without having to leave the whole gig.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:23 AM on July 9 [23 favorites]


I fail to see value in the underlying logic of dividing the MeFi community into "Us" and "Them" pages.

You sound like you're trying to be open to new ways of stepping back and looking at things you've overlooked in the past, so here's something to think about: Why do you feel that your notion of "value" is what's important here? Why is it not enough to say "several people from a marginalized community have expressed that this thing would have value for them, and I accept that without requiring them to expend their effort in convincing me of it"?

Not something you need to answer here, but something to think about. You can just believe people when they tell you what would have value for them. You can push back in pointing out ways you think that thing might have other harmful consequences, maybe, but there's very little reason to push back in telling people that they are wrong about the value of their own wants and needs.

FWIW, I would enjoy the hell out of some additional community-specific spaces to discuss various identity issues. But that feels like something we could discuss in the future, maybe, after some norms have been settled into for the POC-only threads. This shouldn't be a "People of color can't have the thing until we figure out who else gets to have the thing too" discussion.
posted by Stacey at 11:28 AM on July 9 [36 favorites]


The only way I learn anything important is by reading about people not like me--and reading the stuff people not like me write.

(This is a completely technical aside, but I wonder if a "this is 101" flag might be helpful, and especially if enough of those flags are thrown on a thread that the comment box grows a link next to the post button that says "If you're posting a basic question, here is a 101-level FAQ for _____" where ____ is the four or six topics we "don't do well", and a small collection of orientation links has been collected? Dunno, spitballing, and this is a minor technical aside to be thrown into a future practical measures thread, not meant to derail here.)
posted by maxwelton at 11:31 AM on July 9 [10 favorites]


@Miko: "But the bigger issue you raise isn't about whether the skilled trainer is from inside or outside the site. . It's about the leadership intentions of the owner(s) and manager(s). Any consultant and organization can work with complete transparency and accountability - that's a matter of will and intention."

I thought I made that pretty clear, but I guess not? Thanks for speaking and parsing it out what I was thinking - yeah I don't feel like there is community ownership of the users, it seems to always be in deferment to the mods. Maybe I'm still too conditioned to censor myself in situations of white authority. Thank you, and I'd like to continue discussions more on this part.

"So it's really not about where trainers and strategic planning helpers come from - that is a fairly straightforward question once intentions are clear - it's about re-imagining the relationship between users and owners/managers. How thoroughly or radically can that be done? Does anyone want to do it?"
posted by yueliang at 11:45 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


From my (admittedly entitled) perspective, could not those to whom this discussion is directed benefit from seeing insensitive comments being handle by a thoughtful community that strives to broaden its notion of humanity?

there is a fine balance when it comes to insensitive comments. leaving them up can often enrage/hurt/infuriate/alienate those who are already on the margins; it's actually a problem we've seen before where comments like that lead poc (or others) to not comment, or even button.

that is, incidentally, part of problem; when you have mods whose ears for dogwhistles like that might not be as well tuned, or haven't seen that kind of pattern, they might let bad behavior slide for too long; alternatively, as in the case of the original deleted post, they might exclude the marginalized person further to prevent *harm* instead, and that's not great.
posted by anem0ne at 12:15 PM on July 9 [13 favorites]


Would there be value in changing any part of this MetaTalk's intial

"And it's vital that the voices at the center of this discussion are the community members with the most direct stakes in these issues, so if you're a member of the site's white demographic majority, you need to mostly be listening rather than speaking"

instruction to boldface text?

Seems like some of the content here would be better suited to the medium and long-term work thread.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:23 PM on July 9 [13 favorites]


I think it's also worthwhile reconsidering the "delete any and all comments replying to an insensitive comment" framework, especially when the replies are thoughtful and/or honest. Years ago, I was all for "delete immediately, pretend it never happened," but I think that mindset has led to artificially papering over problems, as well as erasing real work done in rebuttals. I don't want things to go back to the Wild West, but having moderators more aware of dog-whistles who can step in and rerail early, without just nuking things out of existence, would be better, in my opinion.
posted by lazuli at 12:25 PM on July 9 [26 favorites]


I dunno if I agree with that. I think there's a general sense of moderation presence and responsiveness to how Metafilter historically has worked, but I think recently the rolling FuckingFuck and HyuckingHyuck MeTas really highlight that not all MeTas (or threads in general) get the same amount of mod resources- if/when another POC-only MeTa arrives, I hope it gets modded closer to how the FuckingFuck and HyuckingHyuck MeTas get modded rather than how a typical MeTa gets modded.

So the Fucking Fuck threads are a good example actually of the challenges of having differing expectations about moderation involvement and of doing a fairly unstructured experiment with new kinds of threads rather than clearly laying out expectations.

We created them as a venting space branching off the US politics megathreads, that in theory didn't need direct moderation attention. That basically worked. Then they slowly morphed into more of a catch-all venting thread about life stuff, and that led to some cases where folks were talking about e.g. self-harm or ideation, which very much required moderator intervention. And then from there they morphed more to include a sort of realtime sub-metatalk component where folks where actively discussing posting strategies or moderation decisions, with an assumption that moderators would be closely monitoring and reacting to that discussion.

So revisiting and resetting expectations for the Fucking Fuck threads is itself something on our to-do list; they aren't really examples of something that's consistently working well with a hands-off approach, and we're gonna need to work with folks to sort that out at some point soon.

My ideal case for those threads, and for future PoC threads, and really most threads in general on MeFi, is that moderator intervention is light and infrequent, and that it assisted by prompt flagging and contact form stuff so that we can come help as needed without constantly monitoring a discussion. I don't want us to be, or to have to be, constantly present. But I also need for it to be normal and expected that we're around and available and keeping an eye out for "hey, come take a look" signals on stuff, that a basic moderator presence is a consistent expectation on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:31 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]


cortex said: My ideal case for those threads, and for future PoC threads, and really most threads in general on MeFi, is that moderator intervention is light and infrequent, and that it assisted by prompt flagging and contact form stuff so that we can come help as needed without constantly monitoring a discussion.

I think that adding boilerplate language to sequelled MeTas like "Remember: mod intervention in this thread will ideally be light and infrequent. If you feel a comment requires mod action, please use flags or the contact form, as mods are not constantly monitoring this discussion." would help set expectations about exactly what sort of moderation people can expect in those kinds of repeating threads.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:59 PM on July 9 [17 favorites]


Said once again: one of the primary reasons I enjoy Metafilter is that there isn't self-imposed segregation by topics or groups. The lack of topic/group identification remains the characteristic of Metafilter that distinguishes it from Facebook, Reddit, and many other sites. Please maintain that feature.

Respectfully, topic/group membership segregation seen at other sites can indeed lead to both terrible Facebook groups and subreddits. But that same segregation has also led to quite wonderful Facebook groups and subreddits that do a MUCH BETTER job discussing any number of topics compared to what you get here at MeFi.

In the best case MeFi as a whole will, on occasion, get that there's real expertise present and maybe they should shut up and listen. The problem is when there's confusion around who is closer to an issue, and who is further. As it stands, MeFi gives me the graduate degree version of takes that really aren't that far removed from what I'd see on /r/all. That's really not that interesting to me and directly informs my lack of engagement and declining participation.

In fact, I'll phrase it even more strongly: posters who know what they're talking about supported by mods who know what they're talking about lead to much more incisive commentary than that seen in genpop forums precisely because they're not saddled with the labor required to craft comments for the 101 reader. All this dithering about is maybe eventually getting to a better genpop forum. I don't know how to reconcile that with the fact that there's a reason 201 and 301 classes have prerequisites other than to get my 201/301 fix elsewhere.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:17 PM on July 9 [23 favorites]


one of the primary reasons I enjoy Metafilter is that there isn't self-imposed segregation by topics or groups.

so, i've been thinking about these comments; aside from sorta suggesting the authors haven't read the other linked meta threads, it also feels like an argument for the status quo? what these comments seem to miss is that self-imposed segregation doesn't occur so much here, but a lot of self-imposed censorship/avoidance/lack of participation occurs instead.
posted by anem0ne at 1:39 PM on July 9 [35 favorites]


It's kind of like this: people don't usually comment on Fanfare threads unless they've seen the show the thread is about, right? Imagine if every time you posted a Fanfare thread you had people coming in like, "What's this show about? I haven't watched it, but my coworker talked about it once. He's a dick so I assume anyone who likes his favorite character is stupid. Can someone explain the plot to me? Why won't you just give me a summary? Don't you want me to understand?".

People who haven't watched the show wouldn't comment in a FanFare, but people who haven't had the lived experience of being a POC often feel entitled to comment in threads about being POC based on: having friends who are POC, having once dated a POC, their assumptions from having watched a few movies that starred POC once. Making a POC-only space would just be ensuring that commenters wouldn't have to slow down and explain the plot again. I don't want every post about POC topics to ban all white people, but can we just have one 201 space?

I'm also all for many different x group-only posts. (I'm also still for a "white people educate yourselves thread" tbh.) Why don't we have a special post for non-American MeFites? It would probably have an interesting perspective that's not as US-centric as many internet spaces can be. And the more you examine things intersectionally, the more you realize not that there are groups labeled Us and Them, but that there is no monolithic Us in the first place. There are billions of different people with billions of different identity iterations, and no default way to be human.
posted by storytam at 2:48 PM on July 9 [66 favorites]


I've rewritten a couple times here so hopefully this is at least marginally clear:

what these comments seem to miss is that self-imposed segregation doesn't occur so much here, but a lot of self-imposed censorship/avoidance/lack of participation occurs instead.

This is a major thing that keeps good discussion off of Metafilter on many topics. I'm going to pick my own personal white MeFiite pet peeve that I don't think is actually important, but maybe can illustrate the issue for any other white posters reading this thread.

MeFi consistently does terribly on any threads about aviation safety or aviation technology. Commenters by the dozen post half-baked theories that aren't supported by actual aircraft construction or laws of physics. More than anything else, technical terminology from the posted articles gets horribly misunderstood.

None of this is exactly because anyone is posting in bad faith--they're doing the best with what they have. But no one with technical knowledge thinks it's fun to tell a bunch of people they've completely misunderstood, especially when said people respond defensively to technical corrections that shouldn't possibly seem like a personal attack on them--"fly-by-wire is not autopilot" has gotten me an earful a couple of times, despite being completely uncontroversially true.

So no one posts that, and the conversation is dominated by people who don't have a clue what they're talking about, while others with some knowledge move on to /r/aviation or PPRuNe or wherever else they want to go.

Add to that racist dogwhistles, attacks on one's identity...no kidding no one wants to tell white commenters that they're missing the point.

I think we as a community (and particularly the white part of that community) really need to step it up with not commenting with Authoritative Tone on issues we're just spitballing about, and to step back and read what other people have to say when it's not something we know much about.
posted by thegears at 2:49 PM on July 9 [51 favorites]


[Comment and a reply removed. There's gonna be times and ways to talk about more general discourse and disagreement stuff but this isn't when and that wasn't how. I'm gonna ask white folks in particular to remember that there's a ton of context from the last month of discussion at the base of this thread and to make the effort with your engagement, if you are gonna engage in here, to respect that vs. jumping to any isolated "okay but" kind of argument. That's pretty key to the idea of working toward the goal of this feeling like a respectful conversational space.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:14 PM on July 9 [19 favorites]


storytam: Why don't we have a special post for non-American MeFites?

Yes! Or/and maybe a special post for US American MeFites.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:30 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I think it's also worthwhile reconsidering the "delete any and all comments replying to an insensitive comment" framework, especially when the replies are thoughtful and/or honest. Years ago, I was all for "delete immediately, pretend it never happened," but I think that mindset has led to artificially papering over problems, as well as erasing real work done in rebuttals. I don't want things to go back to the Wild West, but having moderators more aware of dog-whistles who can step in and rerail early, without just nuking things out of existence, would be better, in my opinion.

Hmmmmmmmm.

My knee-jerk reaction to this idea is, "Yikes!" but on further consideration I do think it's possible that easing up on the "delete all" tendency could work, if only because a lot of the commenters likely to react badly to being replied to when their original comment has been deleted (by digging in and defending themselves in thread, or by starting really contentious "Silenced All My Life!!" MetaTalks) have either calmed down or left.

But it also feels to me like we (generally speaking) wound up in "delete all" territory at least partly because various marginalized/minority members stated a preference for having those kind of comments gone, no matter how good a rebuttal might be. (Just my impression from reading a variety of MetaTalks over the years - as someone not a member of a marginalized or minority group I feel like I don't really have much standing to weigh in on the question of what to leave & what to nuke.)
posted by soundguy99 at 4:02 PM on July 9


I feel like back in the worse days when I, as a marginalized commenter, would often have my well-reasoned responses to shitty comments deleted along with the shitty comments, I just sort of got used to that, because the mods reassured me at the time that it was better for the site.

But then I started wising up to how it was in fact silencing me and sweeping the conflict under the rug, where it didn't have to be processed or addressed by the rest of the site. And as I became more convinced that delete-all was the wrong call, I got more and more vocal about my frustration with that moderation practice with the mods (along with getting vocal about other things that we are currently discussing in these threads).

I think it's absolutely fine and to be expected that as we discuss these topics, we get to change how we feel about things and how things should be done. After all, as we discuss and make real change and progress, context changes, and conditions change. How I felt about delete-all a couple years ago is very different from how I feel about it now.
posted by kalessin at 4:11 PM on July 9 [15 favorites]


"it also feels to me like we (generally speaking) wound up in 'delete all' territory at least partly because various marginalized/minority members stated a preference for having those kind of comments gone, no matter how good a rebuttal might be"

Have you read the Hearing From thread? The request to not throw out the labor of the rebuttal along the shitty thing it addressed was a recurring theme argued from multiple viewpoints. You might disagree, but don't dismiss a clear request from marginalized people on the basis that you feel they want the opposite.

If it feels unfair because how could you know what they've asked for recently... well, reading and processing that thread is assumed to be a baseline in here, I think.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:46 PM on July 9 [14 favorites]


It's my impression that people wanted those instigating comments gone, certainly, but that happening was established to be contingent on responses also disappearing, even if they were generally helpful and represented real labor. The proposal is that that strict rule be relaxed to allow those more thoughtful responses to remain.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:50 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


My impression is that US Americans make up a strong majority of MeFites, and I'd be curious to have that impression confirmed or denied with data, if that's something mods have and are able to share (even knowing it's incomplete). If so, a post specifically for US American MeFites along the lines of the POC post last month is at best unnecessary because it's not US American MeFites that are marginalized here. Rather, most posts on the green where location matters have assumptions built in that unless explicitly stated, the Ask is for Americans. American MeFites don't, generally speaking, bother to specify that they're looking for someone willing to ship to the US unless they're outside the Lower 48, whereas Canadian and EU and UK posters almost always include that specification in the question if not the title, rather than a followup or not at all. The top of the sidebar on the blue is a semi-permanent collection of links to threads about US politics, for heaven's sake.

My point is that the dominant culture here *presumes*, systemically, that most people on MeFi are (white) US Americans, caters to that assumption; and we US Americans do *nothing* to discourage that assumed default. It's like men complaining about why International Women's Day is such a big deal when the reality is that society caters to men in every other thing.

A big part of this work to make POC feel more legitimately welcome on MeFi is going to be utterly blowing up the idea that one can assume MeFites are a specific race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc - and blowing up the idea that any MeFite can assume that of you, as well. Think about how cis people are starting to include their pronouns in their profiles, email sigs, etc, for example. Doing this to support trans and nonbinary people, to make them feel welcome, to make the environment comfortable for non-cis people to feel safe stating their pronouns. If you're white, think about how this matters when you post Asks - is this a question where a POC would need to be explicit about their race to get useful responses? Probably time to explicitly state that you're white in the question.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 4:59 PM on July 9 [17 favorites]


There was some discussion at one point in the previous threads about the idea of a having a focused thread about white folks talking specifically through their experience/awareness of being in the dominant culture or being the unmarked default. Not as a dedicated space in the PoC thread sense we're talking about but rather a sort of group processing/learning thing. It's possible that's what Too-Ticky was referring to, I don't know; might have been more a wry comment on the idea of marking the unmarked. I believe in any case they're speaking from a non-US perspective.

But, yeah, regardless: I agree that we have no need to set aside a space specifically for the comfort and solidarity of white Americans on the site right now; that that's kind of the ambient, assumed default too much of the time just because of the demography of the site is a big element of what all this discussion has been about. If there's any kind of discussion to have about demographic-specific threads other than the PoC thread idea discussed in the post, I think that needs to just be for another day and a different thread. We're not trying to solve a general problem there, just talking about one specific thing central to the last month.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:32 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Not surprised that some of the old school, white folks are threatening to leave. So be it.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:52 PM on July 9 [14 favorites]


I've been working with a couple of other members on setting up a separate Google account to support Google Drive-based/Google Docs-based private, semi-private, public brainstorming and collaborating resources toward these efforts for poc (and potentially for other marginalized members). We're still proofing out some ideas, and haven't done any real conceptual work except trying to design a shard-community supporting infrastructure or platform that could easily be transferred (ownership-wise) to any authority or governing body that shows up in the future. So basically a new Google account (with recovery options I currently control) and a couple proof of concept documents.

But the account and its docs/forms could be used to collect names/emails of folks interested in participating, to set up a suite of collaboration tools and artifacts that could help poc work together toward these common goals. And of course, there are other options to collaborate, brainstorm, create and collect ideas. Lots of them. But someone has to run it, and other people have to use it, for there to be any utility.

I just wanted to put it out there that I (and some others) have been thinking about it, and trying to plan for such things. Not actually doing anything aside from laying out some basic design/infrastructure and proofs of concept. And likely we could use some help (given that I'm still not in my home country for another week), and community to join us, whatever we decide to do, if separate, possibly private or semi-private spaces are called for.

And of course by no means does Google need to be the core platform of such an effort. But I think that service platforms as a whole have matured enough that even the "free" level of many of them might be put to use to give us spaces of controlled privacy/visibility to do our work if need be.
posted by kalessin at 7:35 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Pandora Kouti: a post specifically for US American MeFites along the lines of the POC post last month is at best unnecessary because it's not US American MeFites that are marginalized here.

I know. I was partially being flippant (probably not very useful in this thread, so that may have been a bad idea) and partially thinking: what if we put the whole thing on his head by stating that the site is first and foremost international. After all, that's a choice that could be made.

Then again, this is a derail, as it's not what the thread is about, so this is the last I'll post in this thread about this subtopic.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:37 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Seems like moderation is a big issue. To create POC "safer" spaces w/o being all like "POC safe space here, special, don't touch" which is a problem in a public community, and making a deal out of it, there should be blind tags to front page topics. The submitter flags it as a POC issue, it's not public, and mods treat it differently, but it's otherwise open. Mostly just to monitor closely, and to heavily cull typical white people comments so the POCs commenting on the topic at hand don't have to address all the already addressed issues that one particular white person doesn't know. Anyway, just signing onto blind tags over public for the short term improvement of both the public and mods.
posted by ixipkcams at 1:21 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I may have missed this, but in reading the original thread there was a sustained request for at least one moderator who is not white. What happened to that idea?

I’m white - just skeptical of “diversity training” for white people, and I think even the most well meaning of us have blind spots. I think diversity in the actual employees of the site is crucial.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:11 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


rainydayfilms, take a look at the medium-to-long-term work post!
posted by brainwane at 3:50 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Another takeaway I had from outragefilter and the first poc thread is that despite, yes, a few not great comments, and some derails and personal agenda problems in both threads, it seems to me like most of the commenters in both threads have a sense that we can do better in discussion, and were able to take on and grapple respectfully with new ideas, and we were even promoting ideas that moderation as-is isn't always the greatest fit for where we want to go next, as a community.

I want mods to internalize what feels to me that there is a growing minority of core members (poc and not) who can mostly be trusted to handle their own shit, whose average responses don't need as much heavy moderation, who might be trusted to write about and grapple with complex concepts and discussions without immediate mod response or mod influence. Because to me, that kind of response to difficulty is severely limiting to my ability to make conceptual progress while writing. Having to prioritize, for lack of a better term, mod fragility (or even more abstractly, moderation-rules-fragility), necessarily limits the field of what I can say while working out complex ideas here with, for instance, anem0ne, or divabat, or Ivan, or cybercoitus interruptus, or lazuli, or suedehead, or 23skidoo, or jj's.mama.

In other words, there are concepts and ideas that would be MetaFilter-worthy (exploring how we work, exploring 201+ concepts and ideas from activism and general progressive politics, toward having MetaFilter do more than just talk the talk about social justice), that I don't bring up here, and that friends and acquaintances of mine here don't, because the process of working them out would almost certainly be nipped in the bud before the discussions even gained traction, by the super aggressive, normalizing, and protective impulses of moderation guidelines. And I feel like MetaFilter saw that difference, that potential, in the first poc thread, and it was my sense that many users gained a lot of valuable insight there.

So what I'm saying is, moderation impulses and guidelines ought to change for that reason alone - because the poc thread was valuable, and future ones will be too, but not if the moderation impulse continues to quell those discussions before they even gain momentum.
posted by kalessin at 4:35 AM on July 10 [21 favorites]


With regards to the possibility of other minority-centered spaces:

The worst things I've heard said about Queer/LGBTQIA folks on this site that were let stand were said by other Queer/LGBTQIA folks who identified differently, and having a space where we talked to each other with even less moderation seems like an unappealing idea. It took a couple of tries, but I've learned to not click on the comments for some links. I'd be ceding even more space.

I don't know if this level of agita exists along other lines - I'm assuming it doesn't exist across race on this site, as the 'hearing people of color' thread seemed to be fine and people want it to happen again - but there might be people who don't feel comfortable participating either in the majority dominated spaced or the minority-centered ones.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:52 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


dinty_moore, I do agree that there's a potential for reductions in moderation to lead to the kind of dynamic you discuss. And I would not agree with people whose assessment is that the "hearing people of color" thread was fine.
posted by brainwane at 5:14 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I want mods to internalize what feels to me that there is a growing minority of core members (poc and not) who can mostly be trusted to handle their own shit, whose average responses don't need as much heavy moderation, who might be trusted to write about and grapple with complex concepts and discussions without immediate mod response or mod influence. Because to me, that kind of response to difficulty is severely limiting to my ability to make conceptual progress while writing. Having to prioritize, for lack of a better term, mod fragility (or even more abstractly, moderation-rules-fragility), necessarily limits the field of what I can say while working out complex ideas here with, for instance, anem0ne, or divabat, or Ivan, or cybercoitus interruptus, or lazuli, or suedehead, or 23skidoo, or jj's.mama.

In other words, there are concepts and ideas that would be MetaFilter-worthy (exploring how we work, exploring 201+ concepts and ideas from activism and general progressive politics, toward having MetaFilter do more than just talk the talk about social justice), that I don't bring up here, and that friends and acquaintances of mine here don't, because the process of working them out would almost certainly be nipped in the bud before the discussions even gained traction, by the super aggressive, normalizing, and protective impulses of moderation guidelines. And I feel like MetaFilter saw that difference, that potential, in the first poc thread, and it was my sense that many users gained a lot of valuable insight there.

So what I'm saying is, moderation impulses and guidelines ought to change for that reason alone - because the poc thread was valuable, and future ones will be too, but not if the moderation impulse continues to quell those discussions before they even gain momentum.


Could not possibly agree more with this
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:24 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


dinty_moore, I do agree that there's a potential for reductions in moderation to lead to the kind of dynamic you discuss. And I would not agree with people whose assessment is that the "hearing people of color" thread was fine.

Good point. I should have said that I am in no way the arbiter of whether or not this dynamic exists along other intersections and left it there.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:29 AM on July 10


I think it is worth remembering that this entire process started with a moderation issue. (Deletion of a post.) Many of the possibilities discussed relate back to moderation: changing how it is done, improving mod skills, diversifying mod backgrounds, providing spaces where moderation is less heavy handed, etc.

I feel like the general trend over the years here has been to solve all problems through more moderation. I think it has improved the site in some ways, but maybe has been too much of a focus. Some of the effects of focusing on real-time moderation may include: not updating documentation about the site, not evaluating and adapting moderation techniques, feeling like moderation coverage is too urgent to allow time to make diverse mod hires, etc. (I am not trying to say none of those things have happened at all, but I would imagine that every aspect of running the site has been negatively impacted by a perceived need for a constant, high level of moderation. Financial stress also ties in closely to the need to have so many paid mods, I would imagine.)

Anyhow, I feel like some rethinking or experimentation is in order. If there are ways to keep civility without as much active moderation it would seem like a win in a lot of ways. Also, until the mod team is more diverse or has better training, a lighter touch probably makes sense, especially in known problem areas.
posted by snofoam at 5:55 AM on July 10 [17 favorites]


Also, until the mod team is more diverse or has better training, a lighter touch probably makes sense, especially in known problem areas.

This is my feeling. In terms of LGBTQ+ issues I've seen the dynamic discussed here where intracommunity* fights get really nasty and unacceptably hostile. I've also seen the same in feminism/sexism threads. The takeaway I think is that heavier moderation that is not super informed is worse than a lighter touch.

Two issues I've noticed are (1) siding with whoever seems most pissed off because you don't really get the dynamics, which sometimes means siding with the party being nasty/abusive/exercising privilege and also tends to feel like bullying/piling on; (2) deleting responses in way that means that someone gets the "last word" on a really contentious issue, which seems to indicate that it's *the* truth or that disagreement is *ist.



*(I feel weird saying "community" since it's not exactly one but go with me here)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:27 AM on July 10 [22 favorites]


The POC thread also felt uncomfortable for me because of racism within BIPOC communities. I don't believe the mods have a sufficient understanding of those dynamics to effectively moderate them.
posted by yaymukund at 6:51 AM on July 10 [10 favorites]


The takeaway I think is that heavier moderation that is not super informed is worse than a lighter touch.

Yeah, I don't know if that's my takeaway? The same level, maybe, but the only benefit of knowing a contentious post would be a free-for-all from the start is that I sure as shit wouldn't bother to interact in the first place. Which might have saved me a little bit of hurt at the beginning but doesn't seem any healthier for metafilter as a whole.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:53 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


I don't want to encourage the moderation team to stay out of contentious intracommunity fights. I would much rather encourage them to be better at figuring out some of the history and nuance.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:56 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


the only benefit of knowing a contentious post would be a free-for-all from the start is that I sure as shit wouldn't bother to interact in the first place

I think this brings up an interesting point. Not everyone is going to be interested in or comfortable in any given discussion/post. Some topics can be hard or triggering even if the discussion around them is civil and constructive. We've already seen how marginalized groups can be silenced by moderation that shuts down tough topics ("metafilter doesn't do X well").

I think there are certainly some standards that should apply across all of metafilter. But I also think that trying to have a metafilter where everyone is comfortable in every discussion would be impossible. It would definitely preclude having discussions about many important topics.

I think moderation on metafilter is good, and the site is actively working to improve, but it will never be perfect. And even the very best moderation can't solve the great problems of our time. The idea that $5 membership and paid moderation are the secret sauce of metafilter is true to a degree, but we have thankfully moved past some of the really low hanging fruit as far as improving discourse. At some point, the expectation that things will improve just by mods modding better is unfair.

I think it is healthy to try out different modes of discussion, like PoC-only conversation, or threads with less moderation. I think it is also good to hear the feedback of people that weren't comfortable in that thread. Some issues might require multiple threads to give as many people as possible comfortable spaces to speak out. Setting expectations and posting warnings can help people find the discussion that is right for them.
posted by snofoam at 7:22 AM on July 10 [8 favorites]


Two issues I've noticed are (1) siding with whoever seems most pissed off because you don't really get the dynamics, which sometimes means siding with the party being nasty/abusive/exercising privilege and also tends to feel like bullying/piling on; (2) deleting responses in way that means that someone gets the "last word" on a really contentious issue, which seems to indicate that it's *the* truth or that disagreement is *ist.

A million times this.

1) Start with vague, unspoken, and inconsistently applied site norms.
2) That lets you chase off posters who very much get they're not welcome here. Or course this is mostly implicit.
3) Then use flags from the curated population that still actively participates as a proxy signal for something not being ok.
4) Delete a bunch of shit you don't really understand.

This is exactly the process that led to this meta discussion, in the first place.

I guarantee that if you're knowledgeable about any topic at all, whether it be aviation or some piece of pop culture, or race - whatever - that topic when discussed at MeFi will have commenters (if they're smart) author their comments to center the experience of the predominant demographics here (else flags and pile-ons), who also just so happen to coincidentally share the demographics of the mod team. As a test, cross compare when some link is discussed here vs. a dedicated subreddit or Facebook group.

Look, I get there's an effort to improve here. At the same time, it would be completely unacceptable in today's world for a mostly white, mostly male, mostly heterosexual executive team to claim they're fixing the dynamic that put them there by staying there, but now all the wiser due to some consultation or diversity training. Yet that is, in essence, the plan here.

Real fixes go towards 1) actively cultivating a more diverse - in all senses - userbase (an idea that's basically completely untouched over all these discussions) and 2) actively recruiting a more diverse moderation team (an idea that's entertained, but considered impossible in practice due to lack of funds and/or an unwillingness to change the pre-existing structure to allow for volunteer mods). People are spinlocked on mod team identity, but this is fundamentally a structural thing. Userbase informs flags, then flags inform mods. The structure of this place in practice and over time was engineered with varying degrees of intent to achieve the current state. You don't really escape the current state with what are fundamentally tuning or knob twiddling exercises to the existing structure. Even one black or brown paid mod with same-ish political, educational, geographical, temporal, pop cultural, etc. viewpoints doesn't remotely begin to fix this set of problems (a tactic, btw that's beyond what's in the immediate plan, regardless).

It's not just race. To steal another poster's point from another discussion - this place has evolved such that certain viewpoints shouldn't even be voiced, let alone discussed now. All this mostly feels like an exercise to thread the needle so that most of that dynamic is kept, except for the unintentionally racists bits. I guess that's better?

Let's jump forward in the timeline. (A mostly unchanged in terms of membership and behavior) userbase informs flags, then flags inform (fresh from the consultant) mods. How much does that really move the needle?
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:15 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


Morning! Wasn't able to get to this yesterday, about leaving stuff up vs. deleting comments and replies:

It's my impression that people wanted those instigating comments gone, certainly, but that happening was established to be contingent on responses also disappearing, even if they were generally helpful and represented real labor. The proposal is that that strict rule be relaxed to allow those more thoughtful responses to remain.

So this is something we've been trying to look harder at, and as I mentioned in the post we're giving this stuff some more active examination right now as we mod some threads. I understand the spirit of the request and it's something that we're trying to lean toward where it's doable. I think the frustration about having a comment disappear is really understandable and I'd like us to find an overall mod+community approach that better avoids or mitigates that frustration.

There are a lot of complications that come into those deletion/cleanup decisions in practice, so we can't just flip a switch on and say "okay, we'll delete comments but not replies" or anything close to that. Outlining the actual decision process of these situations is something we'll do formally as part of the mod process documentation project I talked about in the medium & long-term thread and for which we'll have a dedicated post in the next few weeks. I started to summarize it in here and realized even a summary gets long fast and would be probably too distracting to dig in on in this thread, but we can discuss it in detail later.

But, yes: for all those complicating factors, one thing we're doing right now is trying to look at where and when we can nudge more toward e.g. leaving more stuff and/or supplementing with a more detailed note, rather than just cleaning up and leaving a perfunctory notice. I'm also aiming for us to reach out more often to folks who had otherwise substantial replies deleted in a thread if it's something where the bulk of that comment would be fine without the quoting-a-deleted-thing framing.

Early flagging on initial comments that do need deleting is really super helpful for avoiding these frustrating situations all around. If something really needs to go and people are putting substantial effort into replying directly to it, that's where most of these things play out, and I'd rather see that initial thing flagged quickly (and flags with brief notes are great for this too especially) so we can nix it and save folks the frustration. If there's something that would have gone into a reply that's worth just saying as its own standalone comment, giving folks a better chance to just decide to make it a standalone comment in the first place is a good outcome.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:15 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Might be worth noting here that prioritising mod diversity is discussed in the other thread on this subject, in case comments here (or similar info) would also be useful there.
posted by howfar at 10:28 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I am hating having 2 different threads on basically the same thing.
posted by Miko at 10:53 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


Okay, I would like to try to summarize some of the comments made here and in the PoC / outragefilter thread to discuss some of the changes to moderation process.

All of these comments have been mentioned by other people. I’m sorry for not linking you all directly - I’m on my phone.

Main mod frictions / issues relating to race

- “outragefilter” / conflict avoidance: Posts or comments that discuss race are often seen as “outragefilter” or conflict-inducing, and are deleted by the mods (which is currently an all-white group). Emotional expressions of exasperation and anger at racism, not directed at any person, are interpreted as attacks and deleted. This follows racist or whiteness-reinforcing patterns of white fragility, tone policing, under ideas of “civility” and “politeness”. Because only white people are part of the mod group, the mods are not equipped with the knowledge or familiarity in holding or moderating discussions about race, or to identify racist dogwhistles, etc.

- chain deleting: When a racist or offensive comment is (rightfully) deleted, the mods usually also delete the chain of comments replying / rebuking / educating the offending poster. This has the effect of sweeping things under the rug / silencing posters who have spent emotional labor in commenting here.

- “Let’s fix it now”: In the early part of the PoC thread, the mods would respond over MeMail and in-thread to specific issues that PoC posters would bring up. While it may be understandable as a mod response, this response mirrors a “let’s fix it right now” knee-jerk attitude that is a very common conflict avoidance / white fragility pattern when white people discuss race. It’s a method of hoarding power. Change is important, but should happen through listening, empathy, solidarity, sharing power, and giving agency. Taking time to slowly build consensus is also important.

- flags: Mods will use flags to discover posts or comments that might need their attention. If white posters flag a post/comment about race, this biases the mod team towards acting in the interests of whiteness. As mentioned above, an all-white mod team means less cultural and racial literacy in being able to interpret comments.

Suggestions/explicit action steps for future PoC threads, immediate-term:

(This is a list of my suggestions).

- Mods who are white (currently the entire group) do not participate in the thread. That is, they don’t respond to points made by PoC members & discuss ideas, site policy, etc.

- Mods have minimal moderation - mostly deleting comments by white posters and to note their deletion, or leaving notes clarifying an issue regarding the thread itself, mods leave a note.

For example, I think this mod note is okay: “[Hi everyone, we’ve received multiple flags about this comment by X above, but this poster is confirmed to be a poc. MeMail us for more discussion.]”

I don’t think this comment is okay: “Hi, so in your comment you mention the deletion policy; in the past we’ve always done this or that....” The second comment is part of a discussion. The first comment is a mod note.


- Posts and comments are not deleted from the PoC thread just because they express strong emotions, including anger or conflict. Emotions are not attacks on people.

- If comments are deleted, don’t delete a chain of comments. If other posters’ comments absolutely have to be deleted, then MeMail those comments to the other posters so they can have a chance to repost them. (someone else came up with this idea in a comment I can’t find!

- Any time a comment is deleted, a mod note is made. In the PoC thread, this is especially necessary for maintaining a sense of trust with the mods.

- Quoting specific comments from the PoC thread in other threads is strongly discouraged and moderated. This isn’t to make the PoC thread “private”; it is to ensure that other threads don’t become ways in which white people try to participate in the PoC thread by proxy.

==

I would love to hear from other PoC about the list of suggestions I wrote above.I think it’s a first stab at what I think a synthesis of many of the comments have been, and I expect/hope revisions / edits / disagreements with it.

I also especially appreciate brainwave and other PoC folks who had critiques of the structure of the PoC thread, and would love to hear what changes you would all want for it for future PoC threads to be a welcoming & open environment.
posted by suedehead at 11:54 AM on July 10 [23 favorites]


Also, I will note that the best way to collectively request mod practices for PoC threads would be a collective facilitation method based on consensus, where everyone listens to everyone’s arguments and collectively drafts a document. I have experience facilitating in cooperative / collective contexts, and can help with this. Perhaps we could use the set of docs that kalessin mentioned above. We can do it in a way that is respectful and careful with everyone’s (volunteer) time and labor, and also makes sure that everyone is heard- I’ve done it before. I also know that there are other folks with organizing & activist background, such as divabat!

Is this something that PoC folks would be into - to discuss and brainstorm together a ‘request for PoC thread mod practices’ in a more structured, collective way?
posted by suedehead at 12:13 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


[Quick note that the state of the site/funding update I mentioned planning for today in the post is now up.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:34 PM on July 10


I would be into PoC brainstorming. Maybe we ought to set up a Slack for short term chats/discussions? Or just work on Google Docs with in-doc chats and comments and revision tracking? I'm capable of most modes of collaboration with contemporary services. There are lots of tools and platforms available, of course, and I don't want to impose my will/preferences on folks if people have more favorite tools. Maybe I should do a Google Form to do a survey to figure out what people want? Or is all that too informal and we should keep it to emails? What are people's comfort levels and interest?
posted by kalessin at 5:07 PM on July 10


P.S. I'm out of the country with limited time and Internet access until July 14th, so if immediate action is necessary, I'm happy to hand off access to whoever's got more time and inclination.
posted by kalessin at 5:08 PM on July 10


suedehead, I think the just keeping X-only thread rules to
1. lightly modded with as few comments from mods as possible or deletions.

I personally am a bit leery of setting hard and fast rules about what mods can and can do in the X-only threads. Mostly I just ask the mods be more "measure twice, cut" with those threads and use their best discretion. If they goof, someone will let'em know and folks can learn from that situation, hopefully.
Just my opinion, obviously.

In my ideal world, the mods would have various X group members they could ask for more context when dicey situations arise. Not sure how that would work logistically, just an idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 PM on July 10 [6 favorites]


Also, in that ideal world, there would be quarterly or twice a year (or some regular interval) check-ins about these issues from the mods. Something were they throw up a MeTa along the lines of "Hey, about those PoC issues, how we doing?" and then refrain from responding for some agreed upon time (like 3 days to a week), to give them time to listen. Rinse and repeat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:29 PM on July 10 [13 favorites]


I really like suedehead's suggestions! Ideally I would like mods to be able to intervene if a POC made a comment that was racist towards another POC group or even their own, but like yaymukund I don't necessarily think that our current mods are equipped to do that. Even with X group members giving advice, no advice group can possibly know everything about all lived experiences.

In terms of making future POC threads open and welcoming spaces, it might be better to brainstorm up a set of general community guidelines, and have an anonymous way to request more. Even basic stuff like 'no making generalizing statements (i.e. "Asians aren't activists") about communities that you're not a part of' or 'adoptees and people of mixed-race heritage are welcome in this discussion, please be respectful of their identities' would make future POC threads better than like, 90% of places to talk about race on the internet.
posted by storytam at 9:03 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: I personally am a bit leery of setting hard and fast rules about what mods can and can do in the X-only threads.

Maybe we can think of them as communal expectations, not hard rules.

I agree with you generally - community is complicated and people are wonderfully messy and so in my experience, rules don't work very well in a social context. Expectations, do, though. So I do think that collectively knowing what some expectations are helpful, so we're on the same page. If exceptions happen, then we can at least talk about them in the same way together.

==

kalessin: Maybe we ought to set up a Slack for short term chats/discussions?

I think Slack is be a really good idea. While in my organizing circles Slack can be seen a little exclusive, since everyone on Mefi is by definition comfortable with the idea of online forums, I personally lean towards discussing via Slack or on Meta.

Does anyone have any objections or hesitations to the idea of a Slack to get things started on short term chats/discussions? If we don't have any objections, maybe we can start one / join one by this Sunday evening (July 14th) (by this website time). And if we have objections, let's discuss and brainstorm more from there.

I also know that 23skidoo, aielen, divabat, and others have been organizing a bunch & talking already - I want to recognize that and am happy myself to be a helpful facilitator in making discussions happen the way everyone might want them to, and also totally happy to step back anytime if needed or if it makes sense.
posted by suedehead at 2:09 PM on July 11


I'd be willing to sign up for Slack with the dedicated Google account I already created for this effort. Another thing that would help would be to know a name or name suggestions for the Slack. Examples would be short names, anything that would be suited for a web site, the first word in the server name, since all slacks except super expensive enterprise slacks end in slack.com (I think). So, e.g. mefipoc.slack.com or mefimarginalized.slack.com or whatever.

It's also just fine if someone else wants to sign up with an account they control. That signup account, unless we involve the Slack customer experience team to switch it out, will have all the rights on the slack and be able to see all the channels (except perhaps the private ones). I know I keep bringing up trust, but it remains important to me, and I think about it a lot as a tech security person. I want folks to be able to trust that whoever's running the places we set up is trustworthy, and if that isn't me, that's fine. Happy to transfer the mantle of access and responsibility to someone who's more trustworthy (in the eyes of the mods, the community).
posted by kalessin at 3:37 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


MetaPoC already exists, we can just join that. And yeah, aielen's already working on something.
posted by divabat at 3:40 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Looks like MetaPoC requires an administrator to create an account. Do you know how to drop a line to an admin, divabat?
posted by kalessin at 3:58 PM on July 11


since everyone on Mefi is by definition comfortable with the idea of online forums, I personally lean towards discussing via Slack or on Meta.

I don't think everyone is necessarily super comfortable or able to join other places like Slack (myself, for starters). So as much as many of us were upset with the problem-solving discussions that started up on Slack last month, I'd encourage the POC group to remember to keep transparency and communication open here as well.
posted by TwoStride at 4:57 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Maybe we can think of them as communal expectations, not hard rules.

Sounds good!

So as much as many of us were upset with the problem-solving discussions that started up on Slack last month, I'd encourage the POC group to remember to keep transparency and communication open here as well.

It's not the same situation, but I do find the desire to create a Slack to discuss PoC issues off of MeFi somewhat ironic. We'll just have to see how it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 PM on July 11


I don't usually use Slack, but I'd drop in to a MeFi POC Slack to see what's up. My concern with Slack would be accidentally excluding users who live in non-US time zones: with MeFi it's easy to do asynchronous communication because most people will read the comments, but my experience with chats on Discord is that sometimes people who don't live in the main time zones log on in the morning to find that things have all already been decided, or that their ideas will get buried because nobody's around to read and boost them.
posted by storytam at 7:40 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


That problem with asynchronous Slack chat is something Zulip does better (disclaimer: they used to be a client of mine). Here's their pitch for working groups and communities.
posted by brainwane at 7:51 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'm not inclined to join a Slack for brainstorming for various time/energy/logistics reasons, but support the general effort to figure out more inclusive community guidelines. I hear brainwane's comment upthread about not feeling like the original POC thread was a safe enough space to discuss further or be more vulnerable, and I would want MeFites to figure out a way to create safer inclusive spaces for discussion on Metafilter itself (as in, how to make Metafilter threads feel like safer spaces, which doesn't necessarily mean such planning would need to happen only on Metafilter), but also I understand this figuring out may need to happen off-site for the time-being. Strategizing effective community guidelines is beyond my ken, so I'd want to leave it up to people with experience/willingness to really think deeply about such organizational efforts and are already doing so (much appreciated, btw!).
posted by rather be jorting at 11:39 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


Please stop using the term "non-white".

That term positions whiteness as the normal default, and the rest of us (which is actually most of the world) as the weird lacking marked outsiders.

Do you call men "non-women"? Do you call lesbians "non-straight non-men"? Are you a "non-fish"?

Please call people by what they are, not by what you, in your biases, think they aren't.

It's frankly shocking to me that people can just casually say "non-white" and feel good about characterizing ALMOST EVERYONE IN THE GODDAMN WORLD as a "non-default", without any self-awareness of the massive and deeply disrespectful bias that's glaringly inherent in that term.

Please be aware of whom you centre in your terminology.

Here is my personal take on a few better options (I'm sure there are lots more but these are 3 that pop up a lot)

- Racialized people - This term acknowledges that being a specific race is the default in some places and is a marked thing in other places. So for instance a Black person in Utah USA would be seen as marked, whereas a Black person in Jamaica would not be marked. The trait of Blackness is neutral, it's the dominant group of people in a given environment who decide to mark the trait. White-dominant American society "racializes" the Black person- marks them as "other". Black-dominant Nigerian society, for instance, probably wouldn't "racialize" the same person.

- PoC - This term is supposed to be an umbrella term that puts together all the racialized people. But it's a bit problematic in its common usage, because a lot of people are uncomfortable saying "Black" or "Indigenous" so they say "PoC" when they specifically mean "Black" or "Indigenous" (for instance you see a lot of Black activists being called PoC, which erases their Blackness). If it's not used carefully, the term PoC often ends up contributing to Black and Indigenous erasure.

Also, "PoC" is kind of a "racism 101" term. It's simplistic. It erases nuance because "proximity to whiteness" is a real thing, so some races experience more privilege and some races (Black and Indigenous people in particular, as well as some skin shades and hair textures among other races, and so on) experience more vicious racism. So one lumped umbrella term doesn't really account for that range of experience.

Hence:

- IBPoC or BIPoC - Black, Indigenous, AND People of Colour. This is a more inclusive and more respectful umbrella term that recognizes the fact that Black and Indigenous people face more vicious forms of racism than other PoC, and deliberately names them so as not to erase them.

And to clear up some confusion that popped up in another thread- IBPoC does not ONLY mean Indigenous and Black people. So for instance, an Asian or Latinx or mixed-race person who identifies as a PoC DOES also fit into the IBPOC group.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:24 AM on July 13 [7 favorites]


Doesn't the very first post in this thread explain why the term was chosen???
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:59 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I mean, we can be aware of the problems with the term and it's still ok for pseudostrabismus to talk in more depth about why the term has problems; it doesn't need to be a conflict, it can be an elaboration -- more info for people who want it or who might not have gotten the picture from cortex's first comment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:08 PM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The term is not ok. I don’t care why it was chosen, people should quit using it. If you have any hope of becoming less racist you should listen to IBPOC who say things are racist. At least 2 other IBPOC in this thread also said they dislike the term. Think about why those voices hold no weight for you.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:42 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


pseudostrabismus: hey, please don't presume you're speaking for all of us. There's plenty of us who use (even prefer) 'non-white' for many reasons. And here it's especially relevant because it's noting that this space is White-centric.
posted by divabat at 3:59 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


Agreed with divabat.
posted by tavegyl at 4:00 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Any time a comment is deleted, a mod note is made. In the PoC thread, this is especially necessary for maintaining a sense of trust with the mods.

Yes, especially in the PoC thread, but also elsewhere.

The deletion of that thread by jj's.mama was a tipping point in my respect for the mods' judgment. There are very clearly topics where the mods are not well-calibrated. I no longer trust the mods' decisions to go utterly without review, as comment deletions presently do.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:37 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm. I hear TwoStride, Brandon Blatcher, and brainwane’s hesitation towards Slack. I definitely think making everything super transparent and clear and accessible to anyone who wants to participate is super duper important, at least to me.

I also want to quickly mention that while a bunch of people seemed to have joined the MetaPoC slack, to my knowledge there has been very little discussion yet in the Slack (other then general chat). So nothing has started!

==


Here’s a personal thought. Perhaps one way this could work if there is two ways to be part of this: “participating” and “facilitating”.

- People who are facilitating (consisting of any IBPOC who wants to) could collectively create a feedback and co-listening structure through google docs, google forms, etc. This discussion is on Slack and visible to anyone who wants to see. The intentions of the structure is to find a nice method that really listens to everyone. Then:

- People who are participating (also any IBPOC who wants to) collectively use the structure created by facilitating to share and consolidate and discuss. This discussion happens on MeTa / Google Docs and forms linked here. Most of all of the discussion and listening happens here.

Anyone can facilitate or participate or do both, switch at any time, so that there’s an open structure, prioritizing openness, cooperation, transparency, and communal decision making. Some of the discussion happens on Slack, but only to help facilitate the structuring of discussion forms and documents. Most of the discussion can find a home in a doc or here, keeping it accessible and convenient for MeFites.

===

Part of my reason for wanting to try a collective decision-making process is to model some of the community-driven practices that Miko has written well about elsewhere in many threads. I also am part of a few cooperatives and model collective facilitation and holding space for each other, and feel like it can be really nice and opening and optimistic and positive. I also feel like it would be so awesome to have a collective letter / draft some solid community expectations for he IBPOC community, by IBPOC!

I’d love to hear anyone and everyone’s thoughts on this! Does anyone have modifications / suggestions to change and tweak certain things?
posted by suedehead at 12:18 AM on July 14


Honestly, I think we have a leadership vacuum. Part of that is morale-based and part is commitment-based. I posted a strongly worded comment of concern about off-site efforts coming back to little or no positive reception and there were lots of favorites but no official response. Without an official commitment to take external recommendations and advice seriously, why would I go on with the process?

It just seems like faffing right now.

Part of it is also that leadership needs to kick off decision-making and contributing process, if there is an apparent failure of consensus. One (or a committee) certainly can lead or kick off a collaborative process but it takes the right kind of person/ality to kick it off and then step back into the collective once momentum spins up. I'm personally okay at that but not the greatest. I tend to work better in a situation where I am consulting to leadership or a leading body.

This is the time for a leader to step up, set things up (I can make some time available to, as you say, facilitate, but I won't have time to even attempt leadership until at least next week, and I'm not sure mine would be acceptable anyhow), and kick off these processes.
posted by kalessin at 6:46 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


Without an official commitment to take external recommendations and advice seriously, why would I go on with the process?

We're happy to take recommendations and advice from the community, yeah, that's part of why we posted this thread. If folks get together and create a package of ideas, that'd make a great MetaTalk for the community to engage with. We get into stickier territory when we start to promise to take offsite recommendations from a self-selected subgroup *over* the opinions and recommendations of members for whom that offsite organization is not something that works for them - that's too close to requiring people to leave the site and join another organization to be taken seriously here.

(And to be clear, the "people" I'm talking about are "people for whom these specific issues are personally relevant", whether that's non-white people, PoC, BIPoC, or whatever collective noun you identify most closely with. I very much do not feel qualified to pick one when there are obvious disagreements here.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:52 AM on July 14


Given how the skirmishes in the State of MetaFilter thread are currently going, I'm officially taking myself out of the running as "leader". It's clear there's a core of users who have no use for my opinions or output, and in that context I don't feel like I have anything valuable or lasting I can contribute.

As I've stated before, I'm happy to help facilitate. Aside from activist/social justice/civil rights stuff I am also quite technically competent and happy to help set up services or communities or whatever's needed to help support a coordinated effort. But I am distinctly uncomfortable providing the leadership that I feel is needed here, since it's so directly obvious that some users have no use for my input. (This is fine, it's certainly not like that's not a normal fallout of white fragility, or even of pure and simple dislike/personality clashes. I just don't have the time to try to patch that tension over, and take whatever leadership is required to kick on over to doing stuff rather than just talking about it, and start getting things done.

Also, given the skirmishes in the State of MetaFilter and my competing non-MetaFilter priorities, I'm gonna take a MetaFilter break. Feel free to drop me a MeMail or a GMail (which can be found in my profile here) if my services or support are needed for any ongoing projects. Best of luck to everyone.
posted by kalessin at 9:25 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


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