Following up on last month’s discussions: medium and long-term work July 8, 2019 10:29 AM   Subscribe

First, check out this other post today for necessary context and the immediate-term actions that the mod team is taking. This additional post is a roadmap for the future changes that we are considering, actions we have planned but haven't finished implementing yet, and some site issues that are not as directly related to the previous threads but tie into this process regardless.

Most if not all of the things mentioned in this thread will get their own full MetaTalk posts to discuss in more focused detail over the next weeks and months. What we're hoping for here is that folks will take a look at these and note things that we're missing and need to be added to the list, or that could use further elaboration or clarification, as we plan for that series of near future discussions.

The mod team’s focus right now is on figuring out next steps and forward progress. We have had a lot of necessary critical discussion over the last month about things that have gone poorly in the past on the site, and now I really want to focus as a team and as a community on the goal of doing better and moving forward. I appreciate everybody’s efforts toward that aim.


1. Diversifying the moderation team

Whenever MeFi ends up hiring any new staff, this will be a fundamental priority for that hiring process. Not just a consideration, not just one factor, but a key thing we will make central to our hiring goals. That that hasn't happened before is wrong, and I'm sorry.

I don't know when we'll be in a position to hire again, so I don't have a timeline for this, and I know that's frustrating. We’ll post a site finance/budget update on Wednesday to put spending discussions into context. Folks have asked about the idea of mission-specific fundraising and we can talk about that then as well.


2. Resetting community expectations, asking white/dominant-group members to change behavior, and providing social justice resources

Addressing and mitigating the impact of a white-majority culture and of ambient systemic racism on the site and on our non-white members is going to have to be a community-wide project. The mod team needs to lead and guide as we're able, but this is stuff that will only get measurably better when white folks on the site make the collective effort to make it better. We'll need to talk in more detail about the sort of things that involves, in terms of behavior and self-awareness and taking on the burden of education instead of leaving it to marginalized folks to volunteer to do again and again.

I'd also like to work with the community to put together a list of social justice resources we can host or link to, to be able to redirect folks on the site toward in lieu of having to re-have those various 101-level conversations so often.


3. Updating and supplementing the site's documentation

We're resuming work updating/rewriting/supplementing the site's public documentation, including the new user signup page, the about page, the guidelines, and the FAQ. We're also working on adding an explicit values statement and things like a formal privacy policy, code of conduct, etc. This is a big project and one we want community feedback and collaboration on as we go; we'll talk publicly about any new language we're adding, and we plan to have a dedicated thread for the overall project as well in the next few weeks. But if there are specific pages or pieces of text on the site you feel need attention and that haven’t been mentioned, let us know in here and we’ll add them to the list.


4. Documenting the specifics of moderation practice

There's no central, thorough documentation of day-to-day mod practice. We're going to develop some, both to help with team consistency and community understanding of the nature of the work, and as a tool to help with the process of any future hiring and to provide a starting point for any consulting that involves assessing our moderation processes for problems/bias/etc.


5. Limited resources and political megathreads

It came up a few times in the recent discussions, and so I want to acknowledge that an oversized amount of moderation resources has gone into maintaining the current approach to US politics megathread discussion, which was intended originally as a short-term approach to what's definitely not a short-term situation.

We've been talking as a team about more sustainable ways to rework that, both to move away from threads with unique moderation requirements toward a more consistent set of community expectations, and to assure that we're able to focus more mod attention on issues like the ones we're talking about in this thread. That's something we'll start a dedicated MetaTalk discussion about in the next few weeks.


This list is a work in progress; we very much want to hear your thoughts on it and your suggestions for other items that need attention. We have at least two MeTas on these topics already in the pipeline for the next week—the site finance update and a post about Metafilter's core values and how we see them guiding our decisionmaking—and we're planning more, so don't worry that we're not talking in detail about any of these things yet. Right now, we just want to make sure we've got all the important actions captured so that we’re able to more concretely schedule followup threads.

Thanks everyone for your help, especially to the non-white/PoC members of the community for expending the energy and effort to push this stuff back to the forefront. This is fundamentally a community-wide issue and it's going to have to involve all of us to make consistent forward progress.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 10:29 AM (83 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

I'd also like to work with the community to put together a list of social justice resources we can host or link to, to be able to redirect folks on the site toward in lieu of having to re-have those various 101-level conversations so often.

We're resuming work updating/rewriting/supplementing the site's public documentation, including the new user signup page, the about page, the guidelines, and the FAQ.

If folks want something to work on now, updating the MeFi wiki would be a great supplementary activity.
Some suggested areas of improvement: Keep in mind that the wiki is an unofficial document maintained by volunteers. Be bold, but kind.
posted by zamboni at 12:06 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Related to #2 and #4, I would be interested in how the mod team plans to change the way they deal with users who derail/disrupt discussions repeatedly or show some other pattern of bad behavior. Will there be a universal rule about “X strikes and you’re out,” what are the consequences beyond “take a break from this discussion,” how to deal with a user who claims to be clueless but keeps engaging in the behavior or is otherwise dishonest about the racism or other disruption, how the mods will track this, etc.

Similarly, I think it would be healthy to hear more from mods when they fall into these distractions or react in ways that reward the derailing behavior. We saw a couple examples of mods doing this in the outragefilter thread but didn’t hear too much from mods other than cortex. In the future I think more transparency is called for.
posted by sallybrown at 12:26 PM on July 8 [24 favorites]


Related to #2 and #4, I would be interested in how the mod team plans to change the way they deal with users who derail/disrupt discussions repeatedly or show some other pattern of bad behavior.

One the #2 side: this is one of the things we've been making a much more concerted effort on in the last few years, though definitely it's still a work in progress. We've been more deliberate about making notes on individual instances of this sort of thing when we see it, and trying to more actively identify recurring patterns. When we do see a pattern, we're trying to escalate to direct communication/warning about it—saying, hey, we see this thing happening repeatedly, you need to stop it—and then monitoring to see if the user makes a visible effort to improve there. If they don't, we'll escalate to temporary and then permanent bans.

It can be spotty and porous, but it's been effective in a lot of cases the last few years, in both directions: we've seen some folks actually turn it around and stop doing this or that problematic thing, and that's great. We've also seen some folks abjectly fail to do so, and we've either narrowly banned them from their problem topic entirely or just outright banned them from the site. It sucks when it involves someone who otherwise has been a good contributor to the site, but it's necessary and it's good that we've been doing it.

So on the #4 front, I think documenting in detail all the processes involved in navigating all that will help us better understand as a team where some of that spottiness and porosity comes in, and let us identify ways to be more consistent and to give the community better or more refined tools and processes for helping us identify those patterns of behavior so we can do this escalation process more consistently.

One note there: the newish "flag with note..." functionality has helped with this specifically. We've had flags on incidental bits of behavior that included a short note pointing to a pattern of that same behavior we hadn't clocked previously, and that's allowed us to step along the shape up or ship out process. I really appreciate folks helping out with that kind of community-wide awareness.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 PM on July 8 [11 favorites]


One further thought on that: we've been more active about identifying and escalating the last few years, but one of the tricky bits is that MeFi's been around for a couple decades. So it's been easier for us to identify patterns of behavior from someone who's been active (and actively Doing That Thing) lately, and harder for cases of someone who has been around for a long time but pretty quiet on average.

So we've definitely had a few cases this year alone where someone leaves their first notably bad comment in like four years, and we make a note of it and then look closer and realize: oh, this person's been pretty terrible for a long time but also hasn't been around barely at all for a few years. And the mod team ends up having a "why haven't we warned/banned this person before?" conversation before and we realize it's because...we didn't really warn/ban for this stuff nearly as readily years ago when they had previously been active. Changing times catching up with us (and with long-dormant jerks).
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:16 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Regarding #5, has any consideration been given to limiting the # of daily posts a user can put in a thread? There is a lot of double-posting, cross-talk, and tangentially-related material dumped in there by a relatively low amount of active users. If we're already breaking format by allowing these monster info dumps continue, then functionally they can break the typical format as well.
posted by Think_Long at 1:26 PM on July 8 [20 favorites]


Are the U.S. politics mega-threads still as active as they were in the past? It seems like there's fewer active commenters, and less active discussions, but that might be an incorrect read on my behalf. In other words, how much are these moderator time-sinks as they were in the past? Or is there still a lot of work going in to keeping the threads more on updates than discussions, as is possible without shutting down all discussion?

And on the MeFi Wiki, much of it is rather dated. Is there any reason to not do some heavy edits, almost starting from scratch in some instances? As noted in the "hearing" thread, the "good posts" page is not particularly helpful, especially to new users.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


It seems like there's fewer active commenters, and less active discussions, but that might be an incorrect read on my behalf.

I randomly picked a few threads to compare Thread from 2017, 2018, 2019. This is super not exhaustive but I'm at work, so

2017 (All bets are Ossoff): 422 commenters
2018 (His direct object is the establishment etc.): 409 commenters
2019 (To see nose etc.) : 283 commenters

In other words, how much are these moderator time-sinks as they were in the past? Or is there still a lot of work going in to keeping the threads more on updates than discussions, as is possible without shutting down all discussion?

I suspect the load has not decreased in simple proportion with the active commenters.
posted by Jpfed at 2:24 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I just want to echo Think-Long in yearning for a daily post limit for the megathreads in particular, especially as it's still basically daily mod notes not to relitigate X (currently, what seems like about 6 people determined to argue about Pelosi until the end of time) which don't get heeded very well.

As for other threads, I'd mentioned in the POC thread that I think the RIP threads are a good example for thinking about what values/expectations are reinforced, since controversial figures almost always get a "this isn't the place to critize!" pushback in the threads in ways that silence marginalized members. Additionally, I definitely think things like the "ew, durian is weird!" post is a good example of where mods probably could do a better job at pushing back on "[non-white/"foreign" thing is weird!]" posts in general.

And thanks for both of these follow-up posts, cortex.
posted by TwoStride at 2:28 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


Regarding #5, has any consideration been given to limiting the # of daily posts a user can put in a thread? There is a lot of double-posting, cross-talk, and tangentially-related material dumped in there by a relatively low amount of active users. If we're already breaking format by allowing these monster info dumps continue, then functionally they can break the typical format as well.


Seconded. There appears to be a major uptick in link dumping, for the most part done by a select few users, some of whom frequently post 10, 15 links and excerpts in a single comment. Is not readerly and is inconsiderate of others and their time on here, in my opinion.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 2:44 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


I take full responsibility for broaching the subject of megathreads in the post here, and I appreciate the spirit of brainstorming, but I do want to avoid turning this into a defacto thread about primarily that subject.

We'll do a dedicated post on Megathread stuff in the next few weeks and talk it all out at greater length then; for now I'd like to treat this more as a prompt to consider the subject in prep for that future thread but otherwise try to keep the focus in here more broad and more about identifying stuff not already captured in the post's outline.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:49 PM on July 8 [11 favorites]


Regarding 2 and 4.

Racism and discrimination are systemic and cultural issues, not just individual ones, and building systems that help counteract that seems like a useful avenue not fully addressed above.

I'm unsure to what extent this already exists, but non user facing technology may be helpful to decrease mod work load and reinforce values that support a diverse and inclusive community. Standardized mod letters, showing information on past flags to catch repeat offenders, flag to comment ratio, etc.

As well, user facing site changes that reinforces the expectations of a diverse and inclusive community could be helpful. Additional flagging reasons, some incorporation of restorative justice, surfacing appropriate faq or wiki entries or warnings where appropriate so that people don't have to seek them out, or including suggested resources/educational material when a user misbehaves, when onboarding a new user, maybe even when these rarely active users come back after a while.

I also don't think it's sufficient to make changes now or in the future without planning for and incorporating future discussions of the efficacy of those changes in the eyes of non white/POC users, and that will mean building tools and/or systems for better and more regular engagement.

I'm giving examples to clarify what I mean, but I think any actual changes should be centered in the advice of a hired consultant and inclusive of thoughts of non white/POC users and staff.
posted by gryftir at 3:24 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Geek Feminism's Code of Conduct evaluations have been considered something of an industry standard in some circles and could be used as a starting point.
posted by divabat at 5:48 PM on July 8 [17 favorites]


In some ways, it sounds like strategic planning is happening, e.g. assessment, values statement, formal policies and codes of conduct, and core values guiding decisionmaking, but especially the part about involving the community in the development process.

A book that opens with the quote "If you don't know where you're going, any road will do" and may be helpful to review (at least for its first chapter about the strategic planning process) is The Complete Guide to Nonprofit Management by Smith, Bucklin & Associates, Inc. It may be helpful that the book is geared for nonprofit organizations, given the undertaking outlined in this MeTa, which seems much more inclusive than a typical for-profit corporate approach.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:09 PM on July 8 [11 favorites]


In some ways, it sounds like strategic planning is happening, e.g. assessment, values statement, formal policies and codes of conduct, and core values guiding decisionmaking, but especially the part about involving the community in the development process.

This. Formalizing this process, at least somewhat, might help keep the process focused and on track. You can get completely caught up in making things too elaborate, which isn't good, but an overarching structure to the process is beneficial.

Bringing in the right consultant (external or internal, as being discussed in the other thread) should be a help in creating that structure.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 PM on July 8


I'm a bit confused about this thread and the other one, what is the distinction?
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:17 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Mrs Potato: One's for actions that can be taken immediately, the other's for things that will need to be worked on longer-term.
posted by divabat at 1:42 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


While we are recommending resources, I want to re-link here to Chelsea Troy's Rubric for Evaluating Team Members' Contributions to an Inclusive Culture. As I've said before, this is written for a tech company context, but it has many links to other useful resources and is itself a tool that can be used in other kinds of companies and efforts.

As I mentioned in the other thread, the work ahead of us is a long, hard slog through difficult terrain and will require personal sacrifices. Having a rubric will help, even if it doesn't change outcomes that much. It can serve as a framework to help understand how people are performing and whether, and if so, how, team members are not measuring up to expectations. It may even help provide a framework that managers like cortex can use to evaluate themselves and others, and also to provide effective remediation and career paths for folks having difficulty.

(And of course I wouldn't insist that this particular rubric be used, but it is a good one and one that might be used to measure other rubrics going forward in this effort.)
posted by kalessin at 4:48 AM on July 9 [12 favorites]


Also I wanted to elaborate a little here on an observation I made in the shorter term thread: There are interpersonal tensions that exist. Personal histories that moderators know about we community members, or that we know about them, that will make this work harder. In the other thread I talked about it as being burned out/having burned bridges. It's (part of) why even though we're trying to operate as water-under-the-bridge, there remains some tension between cortex and me. Figure it'll probably be fine in the long run, with time? I hope?

But I mentioned personal sacrifices here, and I've said before that I'm moving beyond 101 work, so let me just say this outright. I've had years of therapy to get through PTSD and other psychological disorders sourcing from racial bias and being a victim of same. And I've said before that I enjoy a lot of conditional privilege within my own marginalizations. I think it's not unrealistic to assume that white folks could probably also use a little therapy. I know a lot of white folks don't like the term and the work done in therapy, because white folks are understandably worried that therapy will stigmatize them (because a lot of folks still believe that therapy almost makes you sick, or they believe that if you're strong enough, you don't need therapy, or other happy horseshit). I'm here to tell you that almost all of my strong, self-reliant, activist friends (mostly in the US) have required significant therapy about these topics and this work to get to the positions of strength they have today.

So I would be surprised if mods get through this without some counseling of some sort. A good consultant can help build a framework that makes the work less backbreaking, but there will be times when mods get stuck, and therapy may be the right answer, so keep that in your back pocket, please. At the very least, a therapist will give you a 3rd party objective view of yourself and a sounding board so you're not burdening friends or relatives with your simple need to vent.

Self-improvement will make mods stronger, better leaders, not weaker ones. We need to see you do the work to have it be convincing that you are strong, reliable people. Leadership grows out of that. Not just out of authority. We are beyond the point where just running the site is qualification enough. Mods need to acquire more skills, and more than likely a lot of these skills will need to be gained the hard way. We're here to help build your community, but you have to build yourselves. And we have to see you do it, in many senses.
posted by kalessin at 5:17 AM on July 9 [17 favorites]


And on the MeFi Wiki, much of it is rather dated. Is there any reason to not do some heavy edits, almost starting from scratch in some instances? As noted in the "hearing" thread, the "good posts" page is not particularly helpful, especially to new users.

A fair amount of the content dates back to 2007, when the wiki was started. MeFi's changed a bunch in the last 12 years, but the wiki hasn't always kept up with it.
posted by zamboni at 9:53 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Updating the wiki is absolutely fine, yeah. As priorities go, I consider it pretty far secondary to working on onsite documentation itself because of the pretty loose, ad-hoc nature of the wiki's relationship to the site; there are a couple of pages on it that mods point folks to as concrete references (most notably the There Is Help page, probably once a month on average) but otherwise it's not something I expect folks to be expected to read or rely on.

So in thinking about what work to do in updating it, I'd size that up accordingly: figure out what's going to be the most useful core pages to bring up to date, think about when and how referring folks to those pages would happen.

I also saw folks talking about using the wiki as a place to model up potential language for future on-site documentation and I think that's a reasonable idea. I want to keep expectations in check there so we don't end up with anybody putting a ton of work into the cart before we figure out where the horse goes, but as a staging ground for brainstorming and outlining ideas it definitely has the advantage of being an existing, visible collaborative workspace.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


I think if we're going to really take this seriously, we need to think about a hard reset. As in, no one gets posting privileges until they do some work first (unless this requirement is waived on an individual basis by mods/consultants for users who have already demonstrated that they're past 101). This could be simple, as in agreeing to a code of conduct. But I think it might be more useful to build out some training and resources for users who haven't engaged with the concept of systemic racism before. In this case, I think it would be great to tack on another $5 fee to help cover the costs, and to make (particularly white USAians) front some skin in the game (and again, for people that might present a hardship to, mods could waive).

Perhaps that would scare too many members away, and in this day and age MetaFilter might not be able to afford that. But I think it's wrong to not explicitly ask people to be accountable here, and I feel like that should include a community-wide opt-in that means something, not just a clickbox for new terms of service that no one will read. Because this is not primarily a Mod Problem, it's a Community Problem.
posted by rikschell at 2:17 PM on July 9 [10 favorites]


I think if we're going to really take this seriously, we need to think about a hard reset. As in, no one gets posting privileges until they do some work first (unless this requirement is waived on an individual basis by mods/consultants for users who have already demonstrated that they're past 101).

I agree that this is a community/norms issue, and not a modding issue. I am totally behind your proposal for better training/resources on racism in particular (and I would probably include other topics "Metafilter doesn't do well" in general).

However, I believe all the training and resources in the world will not change the dynamic that some (probably white-or-otherwise-privileged) posters have where they are much more interested in talking than in listening, and in sharing their own personal experience rather than trying to relate to others. It takes a lot of emotional energy and investment to try to turn around people on this one, and I believe that many on MF are opting out of doing the emotional labor here--which is totally their right to do.

I wonder what others think about the idea of trying to make it a MetaFilter norm to comment something along the lines of "Hey, this conversation isn't really About You and there are some other people who might have something valuable to share here, so maybe listen for a bit." I think I would assume such a comment would be deleted by the mods as it stands, but I could be wrong.
posted by thegears at 2:31 PM on July 9 [11 favorites]


I wonder if metafilter might be a good venue for academic research in the efficacy of interventions against racial bias and discriminatory behavior, and partnering with a research institution to study what works best might be mutually beneficial. Has that been considered?
posted by gryftir at 4:46 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


As in, no one gets posting privileges until they do some work first (unless this requirement is waived on an individual basis by mods/consultants for users who have already demonstrated that they're past 101).

that's not what i signed up for in 2002 and i won't be signing up for it in 2019 - keeping quiet in certain conversations is fine - having to pass some kind of approval process after 17 years

no
posted by pyramid termite at 4:56 PM on July 9 [20 favorites]


Has making our marginalized members the subjects of research been considered? I don't think so, no. We seem mostly to be considering listening to their stated needs and responding to them.
posted by thoroughburro at 4:56 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]


I wonder if metafilter might be a good venue for academic research in the efficacy of interventions against racial bias and discriminatory behavior, and partnering with a research institution to study what works best might be mutually beneficial. Has that been considered?

While we've worked with academic researchers several times over the years, it's always been something brought to us as an idea (usually by an active MeFite, at that), and that we've presented to the community to discuss up front. So, no, it's not something I've been considering initiating; that sort and scope of research project would definitely need to start as a community discussion and come from a desire within the community to make sense, I feel like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:05 PM on July 9


no

So, folks are brainstorming and hashing out ideas here, which is the idea, and I think part of that is there's gonna be reasonable disagreements about some of those ideas. And talking that out in "hey, here's where I disagree with that or think that doesn't work" terms is an okay part of the process. But we're not voting on stuff in here; I think it'll work better if the aims to stay more on just the conversational side.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:16 PM on July 9 [6 favorites]


I would agree there are very good reasons to be leery of research to be conducted on marginalized individuals. I sincerely apologize for my failure to acknowledge the harms that academic and medical research have visited on POC/non white people and other marginalized groups.

I believe strongly that POC/non white people need to be directly included in the decision making processes and assessment processes of our efforts as stakeholders, consultants, staff, researchers, etc. They should be empowered to respond to their own needs and to shape Metafilter on an ongoing basis.

Like I said, up thread, " I think any actual changes should be centered in the advice of a hired consultant and inclusive of thoughts of non white/POC users and staff."

I was thinking more like the research of broockman and kalla where they partnered with LA LGBT Center and SAVE in South Florida on assessing their methods in combating transgender bias among cis people, that is, not a study of marginalized MeFi users, but of the efficacy of interventions and education on those with white privilege.
posted by gryftir at 7:13 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Perhaps that would scare too many members away, and in this day and age MetaFilter might not be able to afford that.

A $5 hike in the sign-up fee won't hurt members but may prevent potential members and that, MetaFilter cannot afford.
posted by clavdivs at 8:09 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I seem to remember a group I was a part of (I don't remember the nature of the group but it felt like something that was both online and offline) at one point updated their code of conduct, and they required every member to read and agree to the new code of conduct if they want to keep their membership. Come to think of it, this is something I've seen in a LOT of groups, and it's really not that dissimilar to websites where they want you to read and agree to new TOSes or change your passwords before continuing.

I could see a "hey, here's a code of conduct now, read before continuing" layer being pretty useful. No need to charge extra - just give people that page the next time they log into Metafilter.
posted by divabat at 10:22 PM on July 9 [36 favorites]


I've been on MetaFilter 18 years (a few months fewer than cortex), and if there were some hard reset where we updated core expectations and there was some activity I needed to do to retain membership, I would absolutely be willing to do it. I would read updated codes, terms, etc. I would read and sign a thing, click a checkbox, even pay some nominal fee. Whatever.

I consider things like that a "civic" duty, part of the price of having membership in a community. In no way do I consider such things a dealbreaker, and it seems like a weird boundary to have (very fragile), but I also know everyone should be able to draw their own boundaries. It just seems like it's a shame to draw it there - it would be a pity to miss out on continued membership from long-time members over such a thing.

But I also feel like communities need baselines of expectation, which is why codes and terms exist, and it's not super weird for communities to have baseline documents that articulate that, and not weird for communities to expect every participant to at least nominally agree to a common set of rules and expectations. Even if it's 18 years into a membership I hope will fit me for a a good while yet.
posted by kalessin at 4:42 AM on July 10 [21 favorites]


I think it could be interesting to do a voluntary survey about these issues to assess where people are at. Maybe that would be part of training/consulting.
posted by snofoam at 6:55 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what you want to survey and to what these issues refers. Current attitudes, or some kind of elucidation of specific problems? In either case, I'm very wary about a survey in this context. A wealth of qualitative data on both of these things already exists and more could be collected if needed. A survey prioritises a positivist definition of "truth" or "reality" that is, itself, a colonialist way of thinking/organizing thought. I'm not sure what numbers or quantitative data would tell us that we don't already know.
posted by sockermom at 8:31 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]


*I should clarify that "what we already know" is evolving and will continue to evolve as a result of discussion/work over time/etc. but I don't think a survey will at any point actually help us develop "new knowledge."
posted by sockermom at 8:39 AM on July 10


I'm not sure what numbers or quantitative data would tell us that we don't already know.

I generally agree, but I think there could be value in a net promoter score approach (one question, likert scale) to surveying that also captures some demographics so you can pivot the numbers from an intersectional perspective. The goal here being not to get "truth", but to get something that's directionally correct and can help with measuring impact of changes.

There's a big conversation to be had on the wording of that question and whether people would even feel comfortable with a survey. I don't want to derail with that discussion here. And measuring monthly counts of "flagged as 101" may be easier and more effective to start. Just want to point out that quantitative is good for measuring how far the community has gone.
posted by bfranklin at 9:29 AM on July 10


A note on that "flagged as 101" notion: without trying to formalize it or set it as an explicit expectation or anything, I'll say that it'd be wholly welcome for folks to drop quick flag-with-note annotations if they see something like that in a thread. That's something we can immediately make use of to look closer at recurring issues.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:32 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


A survey might generate some opinions from POC folks who either did not see the threads or did not feel comfortable commenting in them (a few people in the short-term solution thread noted they felt this way).

I wouldn't see the outcome as "Well, only 37.2% of POC-identifying members want a new mod, so we don't need to do that." But rather, "Here's some interesting points that we didn't hear about earlier."
posted by Chrysostom at 10:39 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


I agree that we are already aware of issues, and I don’t have a pro-survey agenda, but it could be a proactive way to find other issues that people have. It could also be a way to get input from people who aren’t comfortable posting here. For example, it could be done anonymously/not connected to peoples’ mefi accounts. It just seemed like a tool that is worth considering that hadn’t been suggested yet.
posted by snofoam at 10:42 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Like what Chrysostom said, I was thinking more of information gathering, not a way of voting on ideas or generating data to justify decision making. I think it is already clear from these threads that the site is interested in improving because it should be better not because there is X% of support for being better.
posted by snofoam at 10:48 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Sorry to post again, but one other reason is to simply reconsider the idea that Metatalk is THE channel for feedback on the site. I guess messaging mods and flagging are the other two, but each of these things has limitations.
posted by snofoam at 10:57 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]


We need some tools for processing ideas. For example, to be really basic, a spreadsheet that lists vategories of issues already identified and collects the potential actions suggested for addressing them.

I mean this really needs to some process management and planning, and I grow increasingly more infuriated by the day that it is not emerging.

We are stuck in a pattern of circular talk, which is one fantastic way of stalling real change forever.
posted by Miko at 11:00 AM on July 10 [19 favorites]


There was a bit of discussion on the problematics of data collection/analysis in the outrage thread, starting roughly here. I do agree with Miko that process management is urgently needed and a sheet of all the identified issues and proposed solutions would be a great place to start. I also now realize that people are talking about questionnaires, which allow for free form responses, which is less concerning than a survey which is a quantitative measurement instrument. But effort should be expended on processing and organizing the information already at hand.
posted by sockermom at 11:22 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see more clarification of how a user can bring up complaints about a mod (I mean the mods were the ones that caused the original "outrage filter" to be deleted) when it's the mod's behavior that is sending off this person doesn't know 101 issues. Not targeting any certain mods by this comment but as it is I and I assume new people assume that the contact form goes to everyone. There has to be IMO a person responsible to holding the mods to account and for the user base to know that. I think unfortunately that if we want to combat this and make this more welcome then we need to formalize some of this stuff in a way that we are not used to.

I disagree about raising the fee but then maybe I am the only one were $5 is a huge expense.
posted by kanata at 11:38 AM on July 10 [14 favorites]


On the membership fee -- I know that there's a line in the FAQ that states "If the signup fee is a financial or logistical hardship, you can drop the moderation team a line via the contact form to ask about a complimentary signup," but that's not mentioned in the new user sign-up page, so you have to poke around the site to learn this fact, and the FAQ isn't linked from the new user page as part of the general text. In short, it's something of a secret fact.

And based off of my loose recollection, because I can't find a specific mention in a prior State of MetaFilter MeTa thread, that membership doesn't bring in that much money compared to other revenue flows. If doubling the entrance fee doubles a small figure, but also decreases the number of new members we get, I'd consider that a net loss.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:51 AM on July 10 [9 favorites]


I do not see how raising the fee would help. If anything we need to make clearer that the fee can be waived, as filthy light thief suggests.
posted by Miko at 11:53 AM on July 10 [7 favorites]




Yes, we're not raising the fee ever. One of the things on my list of revisions to site documentation is making it explicit in the signup process that we can waive the fee if it's a financial or logistical hardship.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:05 PM on July 10


Sorry, when I suggested an extra fee, it was not for new signups, but for going through the process of training in order to get posting privileges again, with the intent that it would be waived for non-white members and act as a sort of reparations fund that could help pay for the training that many of us need in order to make this a healthier community. I understand many long-time users might see this as outrageous and insulting (to pay another $5 once-in-a-lifetime fee!) but I also understand that many of our non-white members see our constant micro- (and, face it, macro-) agressions outrageous and insulting as well. Sorry I was not more explicit. I don't know what the point of just raising the new user fee would be, I agree there's no point to that.
posted by rikschell at 12:15 PM on July 10


[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 did want to say that even though I'm out of town until the 14th, when I get back and finish my homework for the class I'm currently in, I would be very interested in going through the outragefilter thread, the and the first poc thread (basically any timed out/locked ones) and gathering up all the ideas and discussions into a single document, with attributions, links, summaries, etc. if it hasn't already been done. That's the kind of manual analytic work I love doing. And certainly if I did it I would ask permission of the folks whose ideas and contributions I were collating (that was one of the lessons learned by the folks who collected and annotated the Emotional Labor thread).

That said, as I've mentioned before, one of the reasons I think there might be difficulty there is that there still remains tension here in this whole situation. Even looking at it as if it were all a brand new day, cortex is seriously under the microscope, as are the rest of the mods (and rightly so), but this kind of situation can lead to hypervigilance and hypersensitivity, both of which are strong precursors, ime, to fragility. I think situations like this are prone to folks feeling under the microscope making short term, reflexive changes with no long-term strategy, that don't last.

I wouldn't want to do the work if because of who I am, there would be difficulty trusting the output as being true and complete. I'd only want to do that work if it were considered useful. And would be happy to share the work, or have it independently reviewed/etc. while creating it, but I worry that wouldn't be enough to consider it trustworthy by all parties. Trust is a difficult thing in the best of circumstances. It's much harder to forge and retain under intense scrutiny.

I can't remember which thread (immediate or long-term) I mentioned burned bridges/being burned out in, but one of my concerns in this effort is that if, e.g, an independent committee of PoC members (and possibly even our accomplices/allies) formed, and if that committee did work off of MetaFilter (for privacy concerns) or even on MetaFilter (with Groups) or something, would the mods/cortex consider the work valuable and listen to recommendations/requests?

For my part, that's one reason I don't want to move forward with any committee work right now, because I want work I participate in to be valuable and I want the output of the work to be valued at some level. I'm not asking for a guarantee here, but one of the reasons I was talking about having work be paid is that in our capitalistic society, paying someone means granting them some authority to advise you. For sure there are situations where independent, free, advice can be useful, but IME, consulting about antiracism is not one of these situations. White fragility often plays a key role in devaluing volunteer work and advice provided by PoC and other marginalized people.

Collectively, for sure, as independent voices on MetaTalk, but collectively wanting more from the mods and the site, I feel like we PoC (and some other marginalized communities and sub-communities) have made some progress. We've gotten through, and cortex and mods seem to be listening. And I think it's important to keep that momentum. I am less convinced that if we parcel ourselves off to some entirely independent work, that when we come back with recommendation and requests, those will be listened to or given a fair amount of attention.
posted by kalessin at 4:53 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


One of the things on my list of revisions to site documentation is making it explicit in the signup process that we can waive the fee if it's a financial or logistical hardship.

Can adding that single sentence of text to the new user signup page's code be done today? Instead of waiting on a list? It seems important to welcoming new folks and should be a quick and easy HTML change at a single location, no?

I suggest this: "If the signup fee is a financial or logistical hardship, please let the moderation team know via the contact form and we will waive the $5 fee for you." It's less vague than the current language, which implies the answer could occasionally be no.
posted by mediareport at 6:21 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I like the idea of just getting that change done. I'll check in with frimble today and see if we can get new text up on that page.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:50 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure if this should go here is the other thread, but I thought of it while reading this thread, so I'm leaving it here.

Could we create some privilege 101/systematic racism 101/feminism 101/LBGTQ 101/similar topics 101 pages on the wiki? Either writings or links. And have any post with certain tags have an automatic first comment with links to the 101 resources? It would help the occasionally truly clueless and be a quick way of giving the mods something to point to when shutting down bad actors?

In the other thread, there was a presumably well intentioned complaint about little insisting on 101 knowledge and this could be a part of the solution. My initial thought for these pages was mostly links so that we're not asking non white/non cishet/non male presenting folks to do hand holding, us privileged folks can gather links without speaking for someone else.
posted by Hactar at 9:58 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]


OK, Hactar and anyone else who is so inclined, here you go. I added a subhead called "Doing our own work" to Interesting Topics on the Main Page of the Wiki. There are links there to some boilerplate stubs for White Privilege 101, Systemic Racism 101, Feminism 101, LGBTQ 101. Edit, revise, delete if need be, but we've talked about this for a long time. Maybe they will stay there. Maybe they are just work spaces that will turn into something else. (Not sure why the links are red. They work.)
posted by Gotanda at 4:45 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]


It's morning in Austria and frimble had a few minutes, so that change to the signup page's paypal step is in place now. For the moment we've added this block of text:
If the $5 payment is a financial or logistical hardship, that’s okay: drop us a line at our contact form instead and we can waive the fee for you.
Might bear a little tweaking, but at least it's putting the idea there unambiguously at the spot where it most matters. But we've also got plans to overhaul the overall language of the sign up process later in the year, so it'll get a second look then in any case.

And it's night in Portland so I'm off to bed!
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I am having a rough mental health week and can’t engage as fully with the thread(s) as I’d like, but this seems like the time to request that if someone is putting together some 101 links, please include fat liberation. If you need any help memail me and I will be happy to put together a list of 101 and even 202-303 level topics as soon as I can.

Fat hatred has deep roots in with white supremacy, sexism, and classism and it’s one of the “Metafilter doesn’t do well” topics (that myself and countless others have been doing a shitload of labor to change.) I’d really like to see the 101 include this intersectionality.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:14 AM on July 13 [16 favorites]


I would like to suggest not to continue using 101, 201, 090.
These descriptors are familiar only to people who know or went through the US school system.
As alternative i would suggest using words like basic knowledge, advanced level or similar. I am not a native speaker but surely there are alternative solutions to 101, 201 etc?
Anything that would make it easier to tell what you mean, the number system is very US centric.
posted by 15L06 at 6:47 AM on July 13 [21 favorites]


A note on that "flagged as 101" notion: without trying to formalize it or set it as an explicit expectation or anything, I'll say that it'd be wholly welcome for folks to drop quick flag-with-note annotations if they see something like that in a thread. That's something we can immediately make use of to look closer at recurring issues.

I'm not optimistic about getting out of this by adding more implicit knowledge and unwritten norms. If "this is 101" is a form of feedback that you value, you should reify that valuation in the drop-down menu. Otherwise, you effectively do not value it.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 12:34 AM on July 14


Dan Luu has an excellent blog which is largely irrelevant to this conversation except for highlighting this gem:

>>> as the ext3 authors have stated many times over the years, you still need
>>> to run fsck periodicly anyway.
>>
>> Where is that documented?
>
> linux-kernel mailing list archives.

Probably from some 6-8 years ago, in e-mail postings that I made.


A comment in a MetaTalk thread is about as discoverable as an email to the linux-kernel mailing list archives 6-8 years ago.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 12:39 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Flag as 101, to my outside observer eyes, isn't working. Because a metric shit ton of 101 bullshit has been allowed to stand in the 3 current active threads, most especially the State of thread.

My guess is that 101 has to be recognized as systemic violence/bias by the mods to register even if flagged, which is at root a competency issue. Which goes back, again, to the urgent need for training within the mod staff.
posted by kalessin at 6:35 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying "hey, informally flag that stuff, there's our solution, end of work". I'm saying it's okay, right now, to do that as an element of everything going on. I don't care if it's literally trying to take a "this is 101" approach or just specifically describing the problem; the latter is probably going to be more useful. But doing it at all helps. Flagging is one of the tools we have; it's helpful for folks to use it, and it's helpful for them to do so even without having completed larger scale site documentation projects first.

From a mod perspective, flags with notes have been enormously helpful since we launched them. Folks tossing a couple of words of context onto something has helped us be more responsive and with better nuance to concerns. Nobody has to flag anything. But when folks do, it directly helps accomplish some of the things folks are asking to accomplish. We don't need to perfect a new framework before that's true, and I don't mean to suggest that "just flag some more" is a high-level solution to the stuff we're discussing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:15 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


If I am busting ass to express my poc viewpoint in a contentious thread and then I also have to flag? For me I put all of me into the comments and rarely flag. We're asked to take on faith that someone else will flag? But that doesn't seem to be happening where I think it's needed. It's too much and makes me feel like I'm running the entire show. Which sucks because I'm not a mod, not getting paid for the labor, and have other commitments.
posted by kalessin at 7:21 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I've always flagged stuff, but I've very much increased the amount lately, especially because I can add context. I frequently add a whole paragraph of context, and generally at least a couple sentences. And I really have seen more mod action result than I used to. It's been encouraging.

That isn't to say anyone else should have to, especially if they're also doing a lot of rhetorical work. I just want to assert that there are people out there flagging stuff, even subtle stuff, and while it's not perfect, it's definitely working better than before.
posted by thoroughburro at 7:39 AM on July 14 [4 favorites]


I used to flag a lot. I have gotten more wary of doing so lately specifically because I worry the mods will come in and stomp on the marginalized person/group rather than the person committing "polite" microaggressions. I also feel it is a job for all non-marginalized community members to try to at least attempt some of that 101-educating and re-railing, and I worry about flagging because I do not want that educating deleted as a derail. I feel like I am having to anticipate the heavy-handed moderation as well as fragility responses from the commenters.

As someone who (if I remember correctly) advocated heavily for more deletions during the BoyZone days, the comments I wanted deleted were of the "I’d hit it" variety, or looooooooong chains of sea-lioning. Now it feels like even a two- or three-comment back-and-forth in which real work is happening (the 101-educating that people keep saying they want) will get deleted. I realize there needs to be a balance of not letting the 101-educating derail the 201 conversations, but right now it feels unpredictable about whether moderator conflict-avoidance (and probably commenter conflict-avoidance, if there is flagging) is going to shut down a conversation rather than facilitate it.
posted by lazuli at 7:39 AM on July 14 [8 favorites]


If I am busting ass to express my poc viewpoint in a contentious thread and then I also have to flag? For me I put all of me into the comments and rarely flag.

A fundamental goal here is to help get people working together in numbers to accomplish systemic improvements on the site. Like I've said and like you've said, that's a whole process, it's slow step by step work. No one thing or one person is going to accomplish it. It's going to have to be the sum of a bunch of things, done by a multiplicity of users, pushing over time toward better outcomes.

It's not on you personally to flag or not flag. It's not on you personally to comment or not comment. You can make reasonable choices about your personal use of time and energy, and that's fine; that's what everybody's going to have to do, and we're working on ways to help make what energy there is go farther and to better support this whole collective effort.

Flagging is useful. It helps with the things folks want us to do better on. You don't have to flag anything, and you aren't obliged to believe other people will either if that's where you are. You can do what works for you and that's fine.

But from my end I can't make the mission to convince any given person to flag, or to hang the usefulness of the feature on whether any given person believes in it. I have to remind and encourage everybody to flag stuff, because I know from direct positive experience that some folks do already, and I know that it has specifically helped with these things, and I know it happening more will help more with the goals we've been talking about.

Again, that's in and among everything else. It's not a sole solution to things. And, per lazuli's comment, it intersects with other stuff we need to and will soon be talking about more in finding a balance between wanting comments gone and wanting substantial responses to have a way to stay. But flagging is, absolutely, a valuable part of it making some of this stuff work. Flagging with brief notes especially so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:43 AM on July 14


I'm saying it's okay, right now, to do that as an element of everything going on.

I'm saying, you're not even saying that right now, because you're "saying" it in the sixty-something-th comment of one of three concurrent threads on the Metatalk subsite.

What proportion of potential flaggers do you claim to be reaching with this guidance? How will the subset you reach differ from the population at large? Did you even consider these questions before I asked them?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:43 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I want to be clear that my previous comment is not a claim about flagging, but a claim about communication and documentation and choice architecture and your apparent belief that useful fractions of the site's users (registered or not) are following every one-off comment you make.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:48 AM on July 14


That's one of the reasons that we've got a bunch of documentation rework stuff on the above list - we don't expect even a plurality of users to be reading any given MetaTalk.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:49 AM on July 14


Exactly. That we talk about stuff in thread sometimes or answer people's questions isn't in opposition to the larger-scale documentation projects I talked about in the post above. I don't know how to answer the idea that by discussing stuff in real time sometimes I am revealing some failure to have thought about it on any other scale or understood the limited audience of any given thread; that is just, I dunno, weirdly condescending and dismissive of the effort we're putting in on this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:52 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I don't know how to answer the idea that by discussing stuff in real time sometimes I am revealing some failure to have thought about it on any other scale or understood the limited audience of any given thread

I'm tired of giving you the benefit of the doubt.

that is just, I dunno, weirdly condescending and dismissive of the effort we're putting in on this.

This is tone policing.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:19 AM on July 14 [4 favorites]


meaty shoe puppet, could you talk a little more about the assumptions you're working from? I think I'm missing something -- it seems to me like cortex was responding to a question/set of questions in this thread, and thus elaborating on his existing thinking regarding the role of flagging. When you said:

I'm saying, you're not even saying that right now, because you're "saying" it in the sixty-something-th comment of one of three concurrent threads on the Metatalk subsite.

What proportion of potential flaggers do you claim to be reaching with this guidance? How will the subset you reach differ from the population at large?


that doesn't make sense to me, because to me it's clear that -- in that particular comment -- he was speaking to you and to others who were discussing the role of flagging. I agree that the guidance in that comment properly belongs also in far-more-discoverable documentation, but to say that a speech act made as a sixty-something-th comment in this thread is not actually a person saying that thing because too few people will see it doesn't make sense to me -- maybe you're engaging in hyperbole and I'm reading it more literally than you intended?
posted by brainwane at 1:25 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I have a question/suggestion for the mod team: can you talk a little about how you advise members to gracefully temporarily disengage while processing criticism? And -- this followup is for everybody -- do we have some tips on ways people can say that that's what they're doing, in a way that other members will understand and respect?

When someone criticizes a white person for bias in something they've said, the recipient of that criticism often ought to take a moment to process that. I've noticed that in heated conversations online, in general -- not just here -- it can be hard to communicate or to understand that someone else is trying to say: I'm not flouncing, but I will need to take a little while to go away and reflect on this, but I will be back; I value the work you have put into this criticism, and I do want to let you know my response when I've developed it, because we are in community together. (This occurred to me as I was reading about the Recover step within Collect Yourself, Understand, Recover, Engage.) I wouldn't want to create more jargon, but maybe we could find or wordsmith some phrases that, to our understanding, genuinely communicate this sentiment? And we could try to normalize the behavior of stepping away for an hour or a day, not to "flounce" or "lick your wounds," but as a really common and healthy part of emotionally laden conversations on the site.

(I think this isn't something we can necessarily figure out really fast, and might come with the longer-term work of resetting community expectations, asking white/dominant-group members to change behavior, providing social justice resources, developing documentation, and maybe working on systematic Welcome Wagon/Teahouse stuff like people have been discussing in the State of the Site thread.)
posted by brainwane at 1:56 PM on July 14 [4 favorites]


My point is exactly that he was speaking to me and a few others in this MeTa. If he intends to do something more useful about it, he hasn't said (or, more importantly, done) that.

The first mention of 101 as its own flag comes from bfranklin:

measuring monthly counts of "flagged as 101" may be easier and more effective to start

To which cortex replied,

without trying to formalize it or set it as an explicit expectation or anything, I'll say that it'd be wholly welcome for folks to drop quick flag-with-note annotations if they see something like that in a thread.

I see this as the latest in a long line of people proposing plausible changes to the governing structure or the processes or norms or UI affordances, and being diverted with, well, how about instead we let whichever people care enough take it upon themselves to do a bunch of work without any tools or support?

As if we haven't had long conversations on this site about the relative power of structures and institutions over individual willpower.

This one's extra counter-productive because cortex wasn't even proposing bfranklin et al. go do the thing bfranklin suggested. Flagged-as-101 was brought up as a metric we could track over time. Mixing flagged-as-101 into flag-with-note makes that goal harder to achieve.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 3:12 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


In the State of the Site thread, a MeFite mentions that they posted self portraits from a young artist, and the comments got sexual. I read the comments, and even where they're not overtly sexual, there's a lot of grar for a series of self-portraits. And it's all still up there, almost a decade later. Those comments are not Best Of The Web, and not welcoming, as WaspEnterprises notes. I assume that "random" old threads rarely get the visits that AskMe does, those comments, some of them pretty toxic, are still part of the site's history.

And in the "hearing" thread, other members pointed to toxic comments that made them realize that there was a clear double standard, hopefully more in the past than the present, that allowed certain discourse to stay up, while other comments disappeared. Members pointed to fucking awful comments that are still up, years and years later.

I realize this is a huge, gnarly proposal, but have we thought about cleaning former comments? It would mean setting clear thresholds for what to remove, how to unravel related comments, and figure out how to mark the changed threads -- perhaps with a generic text block below the OP itself, stating something like "this discussion was modified on [date] to meet community discussion standards at the time."

Looking at jessamyn's first comment in this backtagging MeTa, it sounds like the "backtagging superstars" were a hand-picked bunch, so that volunteer structure sounds like it could theoretically work, without getting into the technical aspect of how a select set could edit old threads. There could even be two- or three-tiered editing, with a large group of initial reviewers, flagging comments for deletion, with the second, smaller group approving or denying those deletions, and the mods overseeing it all. Each user could even flag their own comments from the past, if they're so inclined to review their comment history, for consideration by the 2nd tier editors.

Alternatively, folks could go through and flag old threads, relying solely on mods to review old discussions, which means no new technology to roll out, but it'd all be on the mods. Are flags sorted by the age of the content being flagged, or is that possible? Because if the mod squad decided they wanted to take this kind of thing up as a "slowly but surely" task, knowing the flag was on something old could help prioritize current fires versus old toxicity.

Given that the mods are overtaxed as it is, I realize this is definitely a far distant, if ever, idea. And if there is heart-ache over "editing the past" or "losing MetaFilter history," Archive.org has old threads archived, and I'm guessing there's a static archive or two of past threads.


And speaking of Archive.org, perhaps that is another viable example of how volunteers are handled. It's a much different platform, but something worth consideration, if it hasn't been looked into before.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:08 AM on July 15


Erasing the history of oppression is often well-meaning, but it usually winds up undermining the oppressed. I think that would be the case for cleaning up Metafilter's history, as well. For one, the marked difference between past threads and current are a mark of progress, and one that is often pointed out to people who feel we've lost more than we've gained with our increased awareness.

I do think it can be discouraging for new or existing users who stumble across those old threads. At most, a disclaimer at the top of particularly nasty threads might be a good compromise. Like how old cartoons with racist content are played with a warning at the front.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:06 AM on July 15 [9 favorites]


Good points, thanks.

At most, a disclaimer at the top of particularly nasty threads might be a good compromise.

I like that idea, and it'd be less work. It could also reference current community standards [once they're vetted and in place], highlighting that such comments wouldn't be allowed now.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:13 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I think that's a pretty good idea, actually, and I really like having it link back to whatever community standards or code of conduct comes out of all of this! I also agree that it'd make a good volunteer project for a team of selected members.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:17 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's a set of ideas we've talked over a couple times as a team in the past to at try and identify some of the possible approaches and the pros and cons of those variously. Visibility of old crappy stuff is a two-way street, as thoroughburro notes; the surface level upside of not having something old and crappy on the site, the more complex downside of erasing that part of site history as a measure of where we've been and where are, and of seeming to pretend that those problems didn't exist.

As compromise approaches go, treating the archives as something worthy of disclaiming (whether generally or in a targeted way) with some kind of "hey, this site's been around a while, and standards have changed; you're looking at a fairly old thread right now, be aware that some content in here may not be up to current site standards for discussion" communication would probably be the least destructive to the historical continuity of the site.

Anything beyond just a blanket disclaimer on older-than-n-years threads would as flt says be a big project, so more a discussion for another time. But it is a problem very much worth thinking about as the site's historical timeline gets longer and longer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:38 AM on July 15 [3 favorites]


I have a question/suggestion for the mod team: can you talk a little about how you advise members to gracefully temporarily disengage while processing criticism?

Also, brainwane, wanted to acknowledge this as a good question and worth answering even though I don't have the shard of attention for it right now apparently. And really I think it's a good example of something we want to highlight in the documentation rework stuff we're doing, for both new and existing users. Because that's a huge part of how stuff doesn't escalate in online conversations. Finding and using good personal strategies to both be the person stepping back and being the person letting someone step back is hugely important.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:40 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


Not sure if more contributions are welcome on this thread, but in case so, I have an idea for a site feature involving comment deletions.

Most of the on-line spaces that I participate in, and that (imo qualitatively) do better that MetaFilter in terms of inclusivity have a code of conduct (CoC) and use features like threaded commenting, freezing problem branches, and downvoting. Usually, a problematic discussion branch gets frozen by a mod with an explanation from the CoC, and/or it is vigorously downvoted by users, also often with explanations. The branch remains visible or eventually gets hidden under users’ downvote thresholds.

One way to mimic that behavior in a flat thread environment would be to: 1) provide users with a show deleted/hide deleted option; 2) use HTML to clearly mark deleted comments (so that users with 'show deleted comments' turned on don’t accidentally respond to them); 3) have the default, non-logged in site view always show deleted comments.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it might help improve site user experience.
posted by skye.dancer at 11:35 AM on July 16 [12 favorites]


Contributions are welcome, yes - and thanks for the idea. It's really good to hear specifics about how other spaces handle this stuff in ways that people find effective.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:41 AM on July 16


I think a Code of Conduct is long overdue. The “not rules but guidelines” ethos has run its course now that a whole bunch of guidelines have hardened into rules (e.g. threadsitting).

I think also a short list of basic community principles might be a good thing to have, like what warriorqueen mentioned in the “immediate action” thread. It would be something to point people to, both old MeFites and new.

It shouldn’t be too long, half a dozen or a dozen entries. Things like “everyone needs a hug” and “hate speech and hateful imagery is not permitted”.
posted by Kattullus at 2:50 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


Longer term to possibly not feasible: make commenting easier. I honestly don't know if there's a "fix" here, because as more users shift online activities to smart phones and tablets, many have noted it's harder to comment, but perhaps they're talking about commenting like "old MetaFilter," where people did (and still do) write paragraphs for comments.

The only "fixes" I can think would be to actively support shorter comments and suggesting people use speech-to-text in their devices to facilitate longer thoughts. I'm not sure how that would happen, other than PSA-type posts in MeTa, which feels weird.

Otherwise, it might just be part of the discussion on how MetaFilter is changing with technology trends. We won't get different emoji reply buttons like Facebook does, but it may also be good to embrace the idea of more passive listening and less jumping in to comment when you don't have anything informed and constructive to add.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:42 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


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