Megathread.org? r/megathread? megathread.dreamwidth.com? July 25, 2019 7:43 PM   Subscribe

The megathreads have been decommissioned, and many members of the subcommunity that has grown up around them have expressed that the return to normal Metafilter-style threads for political discussions will not fill the same role that the megathreads did. Let's discuss our options for finding a new space for this subcommunity to continue.

To be clear, this discussion is not about whether the decommissioning was a good idea, or for venting about the decision. It is also not about replacing political discussion on Metafilter entirely, or whether more traditional-style threads for political discussion are good for Metafilter. It's also definitely not about whether the megathreads were bad for Metafilter. Let's try to keep this focused on finding a solution for a new platform for those positive aspects of the megathreads that can no longer be sustained on Metafilter.

In the comments for the announcement thread, a few ideas were raised for off-site venues to host the megathread community, or at least some aspects of it, without the unsustainable burden on Metafilter's mod team. These included:
  • A Wordpress blog
  • A Subreddit
  • Dreamwidth blogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Slack
I registered the domain megathread.org as a possible domain for hosting whatever new venue the community wants to create. I believe I could set up a Wordpress blog on this domain relatively easily through my hosting provider, Dreamhost. However, I have no real experience as a web administrator and I am not especially willing or able to invest time in learning this task if it requires much more than some up-front configuration. I am also definitely not personally interested in running or helping to moderate such a site, but if it's possible for me to set up a Wordpress blog using my hosting provider and hand it off to other Mefites, I'm willing to look into that as an option. I am also willing to transfer ownership of the megathread.org domain to a Mefite or group of Mefites who have a solid idea of what they'd like to do with it; this would actually be my preference.

I have one proposal that would require some buy-in and time commitment from a few individuals, but given the number of people who have expressed their disappointment in the end of the megathreads on Metafilter, I'm sure there will be some who are willing to step up and contribute their effort. I propose that megathread.org be a group blog led primarily by those who have been most frequently posting hard news and information to the megathreads (including those who made the most FPPs according to Rhaomi's summary), with less frequent posters and those contributing primarily opinion and analysis keeping the conversation going in the comment threads of the blog. New posts can be made by the "core team" of bloggers, including link roundups and news summaries, with the comment threads continuing much as the megathreads have been on Metafilter. Note that if this is going to work at all, there will almost certainly need to be volunteer moderators in addition to the core bloggers, and expectations around moderation will have to change in response to the lack of Metafilter's professional moderators. And if the relatively small number of individuals who post most of the news content are not interested in this plan, that will make it a non-starter.

This is only one suggestion, however. I am less familiar with the structure of other options that were floated, but I think using this thread to discuss various alternatives and details of how they would be implemented could be beneficial. I also think that there does not need to be one single option; I think it would be great if Metafilter spawned a dozen child communities to spread Metafilteriness across the Web.

Let's collect and expand on ideas for the next phase of this experiment!
posted by biogeo to MetaFilter-Related at 7:43 PM (193 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Just a quick mod note to reinforce what biogeo said about the spirit of this post: please do let it be a space just for talking about offsite/spinoff ideas and not take it in the direction of a proxy thread about the megathread decision or MeFi or etc.

If you want to talk about MeFi policy re: the megathreads, the decision to decommission them, feelings about that in any direction, what the future on-site approach will be to US politics discussion, etc, head over to the announcement post I made the other day, give that a read, and follow up in there if needed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 PM on July 25 [4 favorites]


I have no particular stake in this discussion, but I do point out that MysticMCJ convincingly argued for Discourse as a possible platform as well.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:58 PM on July 25 [4 favorites]


Thanks, I knew I was going to miss one!
posted by biogeo at 8:16 PM on July 25


Was really hoping we’d hold off on this thread for a couple weeks so we could take time to gauge interest in an offsite solution both within the community and among the identified prolific posters, then SWOT maybe 3-4 of the stronger potential approaches before pitching them to the community with a quick pro/con list for each.

But fuck it, we’ll do it live? Or just use this space to begin brainstorming our way to that point?

There are two things I feel pretty strongly about:
1) I like having a single-channel source for being John Oliver on *every* US political topic, and the two people I know who manage that without Metafilter are pouring multiple hours a day into reading 12+ major news outlets, 10 political subreddits and hundreds of Twitter accounts. The goal of the megathreads as far as I’m concerned is crowdsourcing that labor so that it’s spread out over as many people as possible without compromising signal-to-noise ratio.

2) C/P my comment in the previous thread:
My own feeling is that any workable model for the megathreads requires threaded comments both to remove the practical reasons for corralling tangents as well as reducing the workload of pruning interpersonal shitstorms down to a single-click deletion close to the trunk (also: enabling users to more fully explore subtopics and tangents that do interest them).

I don’t think threaded comments magically solve the resource/sustainability crisis megathreads became for Metafilter, but I strongly believe they’re an essential component of the solution. It’s something that Metafilter can’t do given technical cruft/resources limitations, but any fresh start doesn’t have to suffer from the same lock-in/technical debt. So let’s not!

Aside: I’m willing to contribute financially to this. Say, $100 upfront towards setup and $15/month initially, maybe more if it really starts to cohere. But I’m a gamedev about to hit crunch so my contribution will have to remain largely financial for now.
posted by Ryvar at 9:44 PM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Put me down as against threaded comments in general. For reasons I've probably stated a few times over the last 19 years on MeFi... but threaded/non-threaded arguments are like pop/soda ones. Tough to convince any of us to change.

I was goofing off with this forum tonight. I haven't used that software before so I don't know how well it would work, but feel free to play with some test posts. Lots of stuff would need to be tweaked, still.

I actually like Dreamwidth most of the other options people have suggested. Most of the others are too different and would not fill the need. Reddit is problematic for multiple reasons including UI, which is a shame because it is pretty simple and loads quickly, etc.
posted by litlnemo at 11:06 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


I will add that the simplicity of MeFi's UI -- and, yes, I'm including the "flat" forum style without threads -- is a lot of its strength. We are here to read and post, and nothing else is here to distract.
posted by litlnemo at 11:08 PM on July 25 [7 favorites]


I'm open to using /r/metafilter for this unless or until a more permanent site is developed. It's already styled like the Blue, has an existing subscriber base of 600+ MeFites from the initial 2014 launch, and the association with MeFi and co-mingling with MeFi-related posts could both help keep dedicated megathreaders in touch with MeFi proper and signal boost the site more widely on Reddit (which is sorely needed). Some commenters there have cited the potential for the political stuff being lost in the shuffle, since the subreddit automatically syndicates content from the Best-Of blog, but if we're sticking with the One Big Megathread Every Week/Month/etc. model then that one thread can be stickied as long as it's the current active thread. (A dedicated sub would be better for a PoliticsFilter model of multiple independent posts for each topic, but I don't know if that's what megathread fans are after).

Other pros: It's got a built-in wiki for draft composition, or can import the MeFi wiki's HTML to Reddit markdown with free online converters. There are RSS feeds for people who want to keep up with posts or comments, even just for individual posts. And for anybody who doesn't like upvote-based threading, there's a free cross-browser add-on called Toolbox that can display threads in flat chronological order. You can even get an approximation of Recent Activity by running a RedditSearch.io query on the subreddit, which gives you the most recent comments in chronological order in an infinite scroll. (This would include all comments sub-wide; while it is pretty sleepy place otherwise, per-thread RSS is better if you wanted political megathread stuff exclusively.)

The only thing it really needs is more mod help, since it's basically just me at the moment (jessamyn is awesome but mostly honorary, and SplashyMcPants took a break). There is a versatile Automod feature, but that's more for automated filtering. I do get pinged for new posts and comments but can't respond all the time and that would get out of hand fast if it were suddenly much more active. MeMail me if you have Reddit mod/megathread editing experience and are interested. I've also got a flair system set up for tagging users with their MeFi handle (when confirmed through MeMail), so just let me know if you want in on that, too.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:10 PM on July 25 [14 favorites]


the association with MeFi and co-mingling with MeFi-related posts could both help keep dedicated megathreaders in touch with MeFi proper and signal boost the site more widely on Reddit (which is sorely needed)

Just to expound on this a bit: with the megathread on /r/metafilter, any non-MeFites directed to it or coming across it would find the thread stickied at the top of a page full of posts from the Best-Of blog, and a sidebar full of crash-course info on what MeFi is all about. That could be a real boon to the site if it really takes off, IMHO.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:22 PM on July 25 [6 favorites]


I'm glad for the creation of this post first on the basis that it's really helpful to the other thread to not have a lot of interspersed comments on this topic mixed in with a conversation that is otherwise quite different. IMO that alone would be good reason to put this thread up, even if it hadn't been planned two days ago or some feel it's premature.

I'll just say that I support the sentiment, would very likely visit the new resource, and would even try to help with low-key news aggregation to kick off. But I am just a reader of megathreads here.

I'm glad the following is mentioned in the post because I think it's the first question to be gauged (which is to say I personally didn't get a strong sense one way or the other in the main thread):
And if the relatively small number of individuals who post most of the news content are not interested in this plan, that will make it a non-starter.
posted by sylvanshine at 11:30 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


If there's going to be an off-site equivalent of the Megathreads, I would strongly prefer it to be on Dreamwidth because that site, in contrast to several other options, is based on principles that I can stand behind.

I like their Privacy Statement, their Guiding Principles and their Diversity Statement. I like how transparent the company is. These are people that I trust.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:11 AM on July 26 [17 favorites]


Could we cordon off posting to a/the megathread subreddit to actual mefites (but not lurking)?

"Put me down as against threaded comments in general. For reasons I've probably stated a few times over the last 19 years on MeFi... but threaded/non-threaded arguments are like pop/soda ones. Tough to convince any of us to change."

Yeah, I understand why many or most people prefer threading, but I've always hated it and that MeFi is flat has always been a huge reason I love MetaFilter as much as I always have. I really believe that the problem that threading solves inherently creates the opposite problem. I think threads segregate people. I'm the kind of person who reads every comment in every MetaFilter thread I follow, everywhere across the site. It's a group discussion, not people clustering around small or medium sized tables, conversing only amongst themselves. And I really think that's a sort of perverse benefit of the megathreads -- because to follow them, you have to read the thread or at least skim and bookmark comments. If they had been threaded, that would have made it much more manageable for many people, but then many of the same people, and others besides, also wouldn't have seen everything. Many different threads overwhelms me more than one gigantic thread. And, again, I just really like the sense that we're all reading this together. But I totally understand why other people feel completely differently.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:12 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


For reasons I've probably stated a few times over the last 19 years on MeFi... but threaded/non-threaded arguments are like pop/soda ones. Tough to convince any of us to change.

Yeah. As one of the few active users that surpasses my mere 17 years on Metafilter I almost feel like it would be wrong for me to even try to convince you otherwise?

I absolutely do not want to stray into the whole territory of questioning whether killing megathreads was right for Metafilter - given the resource crisis and the %age of moderator time the megathreads consumed it's obvious it was a survival imperative and not even a choice. But it's going to be necessary for people interested in continuing megathreads elsewhere to analyze the forces that lead to that state of affairs and make concrete plans to avoid recapitulating that outcome for any of this to work.

It would be fantastic to hear from the Metafilter mods about that in general, and in particular what, if anything, they would do to try and make megathreads work if they were starting from scratch. Especially things that are not possible within Metafilter and while saddled with the inability to make radical alterations due to its massive/arcane codebase.

The reason I'm pushing threaded comments is that many people in the prior megathread post mentioned their engagement fell off with the Expectations Reset and its survival-essential (again: not a choice) reduction in tolerance for tangents/wandering conversation. This is something any replacement is going to have to address, and threading is a relatively low-impact way of accomplishing that. This is particularly true with how Reddit handles threading - most deeply-threaded exchanges are default collapsed and only especially high-ranking comments are shown. This leads to a natural flat-ish user experience where the user can continue scrolling down and only seeing high-signal comments as they go. Or simply collapse entire conversation branches they find entirely uninteresting. I'm not convinced we'll find the moderator resources to effectively curtail tangential conversation and given the chilling effects on participants I'm not convinced it's desirable in the first place.

Similarly, the moderator experience of trying to unwind one of the interpersonal shitstorms that inevitably accompany political discussion must be absolutely hellish when it's juxtaposed with ongoing commentary unrelated to that argument. Threaded comments means the entire argument exists within a branch that can be pruned in a single operation, rather than painstakingly working out how to disentangle it.

Both of these things represent a massive reduction in moderator workload without significantly harming user experience. There are probably several additional structural changes that could be made, and I'd love to brainstorm some of them here. If all we do is reproduce Metafilter somewhere else we're certainly not going fare any better, especially given that Metafilter already had a battle-tested professional moderation team in place when the megathread trend began. Even if we manage to gather a larger moderation pool via volunteer modding, we're not going to have that advantage.

That's pretty much all I have to say about that. If the majority of comments in this thread indicate that's not what people here would prefer then hey, I'm wrong and I'll continue to support this effort however I can. But I think it's worth seriously considering what we can do from the outset to avoid a similar fate, and it's why I'm pretty heavily in the "move to Reddit" column despite, y'know...Reddit.
posted by Ryvar at 12:19 AM on July 26 [5 favorites]


Could we cordon off posting to a/the megathread subreddit to actual mefites (but not lurking)?

As someone who reads several subreddits for specific games I'm interested in on a daily basis but has never moderated a subreddit I'm also highly interested in the answer to this question.
posted by Ryvar at 12:25 AM on July 26


With Automod, it should be possible to automatically remove any comments in a megathread post from any user without a MeFi-confirmed username flair. Whether that's desirable is another question -- it would put quite a big damper on any future growth to require registering an account on another site and then reconfirming it with the megathread mods just to post comments in the thread. I'd advise against doing that unless trolling becomes a real problem.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:32 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I think before getting into the question of choosing specific technology platforms, it's worth taking a step back to ask what, if anything, people want to do, a question which I am deeply embarrassed to say, takes me 1,500 words to ask.

What is a megathread? It's a mix of US politics news links/summaries/quotes, commentary/reactions on the news, copy/pasted tweets, questions/answers about current happenings, short personal essays, experiences of offline action people are taking, political philosophy, state/local happenings at least one person cares about, complaints about the leaders of both parties, anxiety/The Justinian Current Panic Level/soothing, jokes/riffing, etc... And more nebulously, all of that is done in a way that's MetaFilter-like, which is to say it's a community, a moderated space, a space with shared expectations and guidelines explicit and implicit, a space broadly infused with MetaFilter culture. There's a fairly strong concensus in discussion around a particular band of political beliefs. A key feature is breadth and comprehensiveness: an extraordinarily broad range of news is presented both major and minor, with largely-unstated editorial standards for news/topics based only around posters' interests and an implicit "don't share stupid stuff." That's a lot of stuff. So the question becomes what pieces of that, if any, everyone wants to continue.

As Ryvar mentioned (and Quonab addressed in a different way in the other thread as it relates to whether things related to or targeting minorities have a place on MetaFilter), crowdsourced comprehensiveness is one of the main questions: it's something the megathreads mostly introduced (before them, the idea that you'd get all your US politics news from MetaFilter was absurd) and something that would go away without them. To define comprehensiveness, I mean that you could expect to read about anything from a study about the effects of the Medicaid expansion to a candidate putting out a climate plan to a death in ICE custody to a fake Presidential seal. It's the question of we, personally, note all the outrages or if we go back to leaving that to others. A number of people, including some who rarely/ever comment, have alluded to using the megathreads as their primary source of news and have expressed a desire for something similar to exist in the future. Others get their news elsewhere and care more about other community aspects of the megathreads and don't need, say, every racist thing the President says or does to be chronicled on MetaFilter or a MeFi-adjacent space.

There's a subtext in the "Decommissioning the US politics megathreads" threads among those interested in continuing the megathreads: some people are wondering if their news source is going to continue and where it could be found; some people are interested in where their discussions are going to live; some people are interested in where their subcommunity is going to go (if the answer isn't simply the rest of MeFi); and some are interested in all of the above.

We need to decide if comprehensiveness is something we even want and if it's something enough people will contribute time to. Comprehensiveness depends on a lot of volunteer labor that may or may not continue, and, roughly speaking, amounts to a curated version of Twitter. Mefites can use other resources in place of comprehensive megathreads, including Twitter (reading just the feeds of, say, @kylegriffin1 and @nycsouthpaw will get you most of what happens, really), email newsletters, or a subscription to your favorite news organization (unless your favorite news organization is the trade publication Pizza Today).

But to the extent any of this as a human endeavor is worth continuing——itself something every megathread participant will decide for themselves——, what forms could it take? A few possibilities, though there are certainly many others, ordered approximately from least to most ongoing effort:

- Do nothing. US politics discussion on MetaFilter returns to how it was pre-2015. People post FPPs, sometimes those relate to news or politics, there's some site guideline addressing NewsFilter (taking into account the outragefilter meta discussion) that determines what gets deleted, but not remotely comprehensive; people get their news elsewhere. We all enjoy the many other fine posts on the site. We all get cats stuck in our scanners, go for a walk outside, volunteer for good causes, and otherwise occupy ourselves.

- Casual social media engagement. Megathread people can follow other megathread people on whatever social media platforms they want and talk about US politics there. There's a MetaTalk thread to share handles. Everyone does whatever.

- Topical US politics posts on MetaFilter. There's some loosely coordinated effort to draft, sometimes collaboratively on a wiki, posts addressing themes related to US politics. Some may be intended to cover an upcoming event (debates, hearings, we'll have to figure out what to do with the conventions next year, etc...); some might be quick 1-2 link posts to address a major happening ("Mueller flips Gorpman!" "President signs executive order requiring all Americans to buy 500 plastic straws a year"); some might be single-link posts to news articles or feature articles (anything from SLNYT to a longform profile of a 2020 candidate to ICE raid know-your-rights info); and some might be multi-link topical round-ups of the sort found in megathread FPPs (here's what's going on with immigration, health care, climate, native rights, anything where there's a bunch of semi-recent links about one topic). An off-site space would be used for collaborative editing of round-up posts. Mefites can comment in the usual MetaFilter fashion below and post new links related to the topic as comments as long as the thread is open. The full-time professional moderation we all know and love. Is not just Not comprehensive; anything not fitting into a post is not discussed on MetaFilter and people find that elsewhere.

- Chat. This already exists in the form of MeFi Chat, which now has a politics room, and the PoliticsFilter Slack. People can post news in the form of links and tweets, talk about it, and talk about anything else. On Slack, there are channels for, among others, #us-politics, #news, #climate-change, and #2020, plus community spaces in the form of #boundless-void, #coping, #warm-fuzzies, and #random. Tweets and news URLs auto-expand on Slack, which saves a lot of time. Long conversations can (and occasionally even actually do) happen in a thread to contain them. Inherently ephemeral in nature. Promotes lots of idle, well, chatter with minimal expectations around topicality or noisiness and thus time-consuming to keep up with. Distracting. Not super-readable as a comprehensive news source (though Slack might be barely readable for that purpose only if strictly organized).

- Group Twitter account. Like the newsletter below, but updated to 2006 standards. Involves some small number of megathread regulars starting a group Twitter account where they post news, or multiple groups starting multiple accounts—there's nothing official here, which people can follow if they want. The group account can retweet other mefites and link to threads on-site, with discussion in the replies. Likely to be very news-oriented and depends entirely on a few people volunteering time and keeping it up. Could be a comprehensive news source if volunteers maintain it that way. Public and not contained as a Mefi-adjacent space.

- Newsletter. A MetaFilter-specific newsletter in the style of WTF Just Happened Today?, The Weekly List, or the Crooked Media newsletter. Published on a periodic basis. Some core group of editors are specifically responsible for it and have access to send to the list, which is hosted by a non-MetaFilter provider (tinyletter, Substack, MailChimp, etc...). Could contain links to MeFi threads, news round-ups, links to recommended reading, funny tweets, maybe some short analysis and commentary. Mefites could write longer bits on Medium or their own blog and submit them as links. Hard questions around who controls it, how and where collaboration happens, scope, and how editorial decisions are made (what happens when a mefite writes a 500 word essay on, say, how Congress should mandate cat declawing and says "copy/paste this into the next newsletter please"). Would not inherently have comments, but could be discussed in a chat space or other venue. Not real-time.

- Blog. As described by biogeo in the FPP. Could take a few different forms in terms of how posts and discussions are organized. Could turn into "the megathread, relocated" in a blog's comment section. Difficult questions around organization, who has posting privileges, moderation, and structure. Could be a comprehensive news source if people make it one.

- The megathread, relocated. A discussion platform with comments in descending chronological order (threaded or not, or perhaps this irreconcilable difference results in competing threaded and non-threaded megathreadren) in which something similar to the megathreads happens, hosted outside of MetaFilter. Could look and feel different depending on the choice of software and its organization. Volunteer moderation based on some set of shared expectations. Some megathread participants and readers would make the jump; others would not. The megathreads have always been cliquey, have become increasingly so as participation has dropped, and are likely to be even more so among those who'd continue elsewhere. May not be worth the effort of maintaining as a comprehensive news source if there's a small pool of people there. Difficult questions around moderation and guidelines.

I don't have a conclusion here. These are all things that megathread participants and readers could choose to involve themselves with or not, and it's really up to everyone what spaces we create and use.
posted by zachlipton at 1:06 AM on July 26 [30 favorites]


As an occasional megathread reader, I think my order of preference would be :

- Use the /r/metafilter subreddit :
Pros : no infrastructure costs, has moderation tools, is actually readable on mobile. can be up and running now and be a cheap/quickway to gauge interest
Cons : is reddit

- Use discourse or a forum software
Pros : has some moderation tools, tolerable on mobile
Cons : has to be operated and run. Upgrades (especially to discourse in my experience) can be tricky. There is significant configuration to be done to have it behave in a mefi-like way

- Use dreamwidth :
Pros : they look like a nice community
Cons : mobile experience, cost to users ?, is it actually achievable

- Use substack or an email + comment offer :
Pros : quick to setup, and can be made "free and paid" so people would be able to contribute, people are notified whenever a new post is up
Cons : not sure about how shared accounts would work, what moderation tools they have. Also they just raised a lot of vc money, so....

But well, I don't actively participate in megathreads, so I'll defer to what work best for posters/commenters
posted by motdiem2 at 1:58 AM on July 26


cost to users ?

Dreamwidth is free to use. If a paid account would be wanted for the community, in order to gain some extra tools and options, that would cost $35 or $50 a year depending on the desired account level (Paid or Paid Premium).
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:11 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Here's more about the specific benefits of paid Dreamwidth accounts for communities. I would say that a Premium account does't offer a lot extra in this case, so those $35 a year for a normal Paid account would be enough.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:46 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Too-Ticky!

I'm the person who originally brought up Dreamwidth in the previous MetaTalk and will briefly link here to comments in that MeTa discussing its pros/cons: Individuals can choose to read Dreamwidth comments as flat or threaded. Example of flat comments, and another example.

motdiem2 mentioned (regarding Dreamwidth): "Cons : mobile experience, cost to users ?, is it actually achievable". motdiem2, could you talk about what specifically about the DW mobile experience bothers you? I spoke about styling options a lot in that long comment yesterday, both for readers and for community admins. Too-Ticky just now covered cost to users (none), and as I mentioned in the money section of my long comment yesterday, I'll pay the $35 for the first year of the paid community, if a few folks want to try it. And could you talk a little more motdiem2 about the achievability concern? I'm not clear on why DW would seem less achievable than other options.
posted by brainwane at 4:06 AM on July 26 [7 favorites]


Forgot to add: Could we cordon off posting to a/the megathread subreddit to actual mefites (but not lurking)? Dreamwidth does make this possible. Post entries & comments could be public. Posting & comments could be limited to community members, and community membership could be moderated (anyone can ask to join, must be approved by an administrator).

Also, I'll reiterate: I have been a very infrequent megathread participant, so I defer to y'all regarding choices and platforms. Also, I am not volunteering to be a DW community admin on an ongoing basis. I am willing to temporarily be one of a set of admins for purposes of helping customize a new DW community and fiddle with options.
posted by brainwane at 4:13 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Was really hoping we’d hold off on this thread for a couple weeks so we could take time to gauge interest in an offsite solution both within the community and among the identified prolific posters, then SWOT maybe 3-4 of the stronger potential approaches before pitching them to the community with a quick pro/con list for each.

But fuck it, we’ll do it live?


Making immediate plans here to leave MeFi like this seems like an instinctual reaction to the news of the Megathread decommissioning. Moreover, this technocratic discussion is missing the human factor, which is what distinguishes the megathreads from other news aggregators like the Sift and What the Fuck Just Happened Today. Discussing software features and coding specs without first figuring out how to create a viable community and recruit a qualified mod team relegates this to literally a technical exercise, the way the engineers of Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter approach problems.

As I said in the Megathread Decommissioning MeTa (which isn’t even half a week old), we haven't so much as begun to workshop the first post-megathread focused US Politics FPP. The preliminary signs are reassuring that this transition could be comparatively smooth. The current megathread has cooled down considerably while the coincidentally timed "Mueller Under Oath" FPP has been running within traditional MeFi expectations for a thread.

Meanwhile in the megathread, box has floated the idea of an FPP on political developments with Facebook, the Trump 2020 campaign, and the DoJ's new anti-tech anti-trust inquiry. I'm trying to digest the Senate Intel Committee's newly released report to see if it could serve as the centerpiece of an election security FPP. I'm also mulling over an overview FPP of the Trump admin's numerous lawsuits against its various policies and how it's mounting its legal defenses. We haven't so much as started brainstorming on the new MeFi Chat politics channel. I would anticipate seeing multiple active US Politics FPPs on the Blue's font page.

The twin advantages that focused US politics posts on MetaFilter have are the dedicated mod staff (which hopefully won't be as overwhelmed with the new format) and the MeFi community (which hopefully won't fissure in response to the news of the megathreads' decommissioning). We’re heading into a traditionally quieter political period with the August congressional recess, which presents a good opportunity to step back and refocus on political discussions on the Blue.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:30 AM on July 26 [27 favorites]


It would be fantastic to hear from the Metafilter mods about that in general, and in particular what, if anything, they would do to try and make megathreads work if they were starting from scratch

(This is all me-as-career-community-manager, not me-as-Metafilter-mod)

Honestly, the tools available shape your community to a surprising extent, so there's only so much use you can get out of vague thoughts without implementation plans behind them. I was probably the mod who was most insistent that we'd accidentally created a subsite jammed into a single thread, and even I didn't spend a lot of time doing back-of-napkin planning to expand it out when I knew perfectly well we didn't have the resources. I think y'all could make something work given basically any of the options mentioned; they'll just all come out somewhat different. Honestly y'all might be best-off doing something like a newsletter with a group link-sourcing method and use that as the base to try several different methods of discussion group around it - moderation scales exponentially with group size, and you may find you've got the volunteers to run three thirty-active-poster spaces but not one ninety-person space, even if you only have enough newshounds to run one really top-notch info-collecting stream.

That said, totally happy to (publicly or privately) advise on things if you've got specific questions or scenarios. I've got less than zero personal interest in reading more Megathread than I already have, for reasons that are probably obvious, but I have a ton of sympathy for the difficulty y'all are in.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:45 AM on July 26 [9 favorites]


I think moderation guidelines and tech kind of go hand-in-hand here. One of the reasons I lost interest in the megathreads was that casual, fun, conversational comments were axed. It had to be only serious information posted. Which I totally understand. If your tech breaks at 2000 comments and you don't want a new thread every day, you can't let people be chatty.

But if we can't be chatty and fun and interactive, you may as well just go to twitter, is my feeling. So I'd be a lot more likely to participate (and I think a lot of people would) if the platform allows for a looser moderation policy. I think it's still a good idea to discourage relitigating lots of overly-discussed topics and to curtail catastrophizing, but the megathreads felt more like a community when we were allowed to have some fun (again, not criticizing the decision to nix that, I understand why it was necessary, just like I understand why it's now necessary to do away with the megathreads altogether).
posted by rikschell at 5:51 AM on July 26 [8 favorites]


Thank you brainwane and Too Ticky for the dreamwidth links.

I must admit that I don't know much about dreamwidth, and reading your recap make it a more attractive option. My experience with dreamwidth blogs was that they were hard to read on mobile, but the one you've linked to with minimal styling looks fine to me now.
posted by motdiem2 at 5:57 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Honestly, the tools available shape your community to a surprising extent, so there's only so much use you can get out of vague thoughts without implementation plans behind them.

And community comes before all that. As of this moment, nobody has any idea of how large the megathread exodus population would be. Will it be a coterie of a few dozen, top out around Dunbar's Number, or expand into something Metafilter-sized? What kind of scaling will be required, up or down?

Honestly y'all might be best-off doing something like a newsletter with a group link-sourcing method and use that as the base to try several different methods of discussion group around it

That's sound advice of testing the waters before diving in. And having e-mail sign-ups to gauge interest could be more attractive than asking people to commit to a predetermined platform up front.

moderation scales exponentially with group size, and you may find you've got the volunteers to run three thirty-active-poster spaces but not one ninety-person space, even if you only have enough newshounds to run one really top-notch info-collecting stream

This. This is the cautionary lesson that Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube refuse to learn. As the biggest gorillas in the tech sector, unfortunately, they've collectively set a bad example that everyone follows out of habit.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:08 AM on July 26 [6 favorites]


What is a megathread?

That's a fantastic description and really captures why it's irreplaceable. It's literally impossible for something else to be that.

(That's not to say that I disagree with the decision, and I'm glad we're talking about what might come next.)
posted by diogenes at 6:35 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Purely on the technology side, Discourse feels like a decent solution since you could have single-threaded megaposts but also easily make new posts, plus it's designed to operate well with extremely long threads.

It is true that upgrading can be a pain. One option is to pay for hosted Discourse installs, which will handle all the security and upgrades for you. Hosting from Discourse.org begins at a steep $100/month but there are cheaper third-party solutions available a quick Google away.

Disclaimer: I was an avid reader of the megathreads for a couple of years, but only a very occasional participant as someone who lives outside of the US.
posted by adrianhon at 6:36 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Just hopping in quickly — before heading out this morning with family — to offer a few brief thoughts:

1. I’m definitely interested in seeing how the MeFi approach to separating out topic posts will work, and am hopefully optimistic that it satisfies most of our felt needs for news/commentary/community that we experienced in the megathreads, The rest of my thoughts are simply contingency planning, should an alternative prove necessary after ample evaluation.

2. Of the contingency options suggested, I am really warming up to the Dreamwidth option. My reasons are well enumerated in brainwane’s excellent compilation of links, posted in her comment above (free, solid, configurable, not evil, etc.). I’m especially pleased that DW can let the reader toggle between flat and threaded views, so each can experience the discussions as they prefer.

3. Even though I greatly prefer flat chronological display, moderators may find it very useful (as Ryvar noted above) to work in threaded view to quarantine derails/arguments/trolling comments for deletion. It probably wouldn’t be advisable to default to pruning close to the trunk, because there could be golden apples hidden in one of those subthreads. But by viewing the subthread, it might indeed make it easier for mods to track down relevant follow-up responses to the deleted comment.

4. Brainwane has also volunteered to pay for a year on Dreamwidth, but I suspect would be rather more engaged in helping us set up and configure the community, given brainwane’s greater familiarity with it than most of the rest of us. So to distribute the load a bit, I’d be happy to pay for the first two years of our Dreamwidth account, to at least take us well into the next presidential term. As mentioned before, I’d like to serve on the admin board and as a volunteer moderator. My time availability might be a few hours a week, but I would want the commitment similarly time-bounded (two years), so I don’t risk burn-out or disappoint anyone for eventually stepping back from it.

5. I very much like the idea of anybody and their cousin being able to read the comments, but only members being able to post a comment. And at least until the community gets established, it would be good to have members who are from MeFi, so they can establish culture and norms in the discussions before (if and when) membership is opened more broadly. Because having a good news aggregator is one thing, but it’s that special MeFi sauce that’s kept me coming back to the megathreads that I’d especially want to recapitulate, to the degree it’s possible.

6. Again emphasizing: this is thinking about contingency plans, should the megathread decommissioning initiative (MDI?) to chunk up the megathread discussion into multiple smaller MeFi posts not quite scratch where megathreaders are itching, or meet the goal of mod workload reduction. I’m happy and eager to see how MDI works out, and will enthusiastically participate, but want to be ready with a viable alternative plan, as well.

Welp, off to breakfast with the fam! Thank you all for your continuing thoughts, insights and research on this. I’m cautiously optimistic!
posted by darkstar at 7:02 AM on July 26 [6 favorites]


box has floated the idea of an FPP on political developments with Facebook, the Trump 2020 campaign, and the DoJ's new anti-tech anti-trust inquiry

I don't really have time to write this post today, so, if someone else would like to take it on, please feel free--this comment has a few links that might get you started.
posted by box at 7:03 AM on July 26


I realize I'm not a major megathread contributor but I'd like to second everything Doktor Zed has said.

Also, when people talk about gauging interest among prolific users, note that there are at least four hyper-prolific commenters (who were prolific in at least 50% of the megathreads) that have not commented in either this or the previous megathread MeTa. And of course many more that have been prolific, but in fewer megathreads. It might be appropriate to slow down a second to give people a chance to notice these MeTas before landing on any hard and fast decisions.
posted by Jpfed at 7:06 AM on July 26 [10 favorites]


Doktor Zed makes an excellent case that people are putting the cart before the horse here. Why are people bikeshedding off-site megathread replacements before we've determined that a reversion to the pre-megathread handling of political discussions isn't workable?

It's also frustrating that the general "what do we do post-megathread" discussion is being fragmented between the original decommissioning post and this one. I guess the other one will fizzle out, but having a discussion of what to do in a MeTa that was supposed to be focused on an off-site alternative seems like it's going to bias the discussion.

It seems like some folks want to frame the challenge before us as a content management problem. There's a bunch of links, and people want to read those links in a collaboratively-edited way, and then have a discussion of them. Maybe that's how some people view the megathreads, but I'm going to fess up here with perhaps an embarrassing admission, which is that I rarely read megathread links, and basically only skim the FPP content just to enjoy reading a summary of the current state of things. I follow events closely enough that I'm rarely seeing a new link in those FPPs. The FPP content is a nice summary, but it's not what I'm here for. What I'm here for is the community discussion, and the up-to-the-minute posting of links in the comments. If the megathreads over the past few years consisted of nothing but "This is the new megathread" with a link to the latest MeTa about how to behave in those threads, I'd be okay with that. A well-crafted politics post is nice to read, but I'm just not the audience for it because I'm already "extremely online" when it comes to politics.

This, along with my comments in the other MeTa, is why I have zero interest in an off-site alternative. Setting aside the long odds of being able to pull something like this together in a reasonable timeframe, the feel of MetaFilter to me isn't something that can be replicated off-site. It's not the platform, it's the community. In my view, this rush to do something off-site feels like an attempt to vulture in and hijack a portion of the community to build something new under a different leadership structure. That's almost certainly not how it's intended, but it's how it looks right now.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:43 AM on July 26 [15 favorites]


I am all for people setting up their own websites to discuss politics. I lurk on the megathreads and enjoy them. But trying to recreate them outside of MetaFilter is going to be an uphill battle. The technical problems discussed here are tiny compared to the social problems. Metafilter has a select population and even then the moderators have their hands full dealing with problems. This MF Culture that is talked about is (to a large extent) fostered by the moderators - any new site will be starting from scratch.

Even if you could import users from MetaFilter wholesale (which I doubt the admins would allow), the site would have little visibility to the larger MF population and will have a different "feel" (especially if it is open to the public). This goes double for the political posts your are proposing.

In conclusion, starting you own website is good, I recommend it to anyone. But don't underestimate the huge amount of work that goes into make MF MF. Be prepared to manage and moderate your creation like a hawk or else you might as well call it 8filter.com.

[Luke Skywalker]This is not going to end the way you think[Luke Skywalker]
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:43 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


It would be fantastic to hear from the Metafilter mods about that in general, and in particular what, if anything, they would do to try and make megathreads work if they were starting from scratch

I am unlikely to spend any time in an offsite megathread, though I do appreciate their importance and I have spent some time modding the ones here (though much much less time than r_n) and have a few thoughts....

The big deal for MeFi megathreads was that a lot of the interactions had ripple effects on the rest of the site and they were moderated nearly in realtime partly to manage that issue (i.e. there were a host of things that were not-okay but were managed more by mods than by self-restraint or other community tools, primarily because of how MeFi is structured). So the biggest issue for an offsite tool would be more like "Can people keep an eye on this 24/7, even a little?" versus "What combination of software/hosting is best?"

And, since you're starting from scratch you can do some things that are more difficult for a creaky site like MeFi like have better representation on the mod team, a potential omsbudsperson, rules about inclusivity and what's gonna constitute a banning from the get-go, code of conduct, etc. I would hasten to add that NOT doing these things, knowing what you know about how things have gone on MeFi, would be a clear signal of what sort of site you were trying to set up. And hey, it's a free internet and you can do what you want, but I'd strongly suggest some tighter rules to get started, ones that can be relaxed if it turns out you don't need them.

As one example, MeFi had a pretty serious guideline about "We're all gonna die" type comments. Which, personally, for me only as a site users, I felt was the bare minimum of what you'd need to not start a thread that was all panic and doom. On the other hand, it can have a silencing effect on vulnerable people speaking their truth. The "fucking fuck" MeTas were set up to address that, a space for people to blow off steam. But! Because of how MeFi historically has worked, the fact that mods weren't always 100% reading along with those (or were, let's be honest, getting a lot of secondary trauma from having to) was a site issue. So think about a few things

- what's encouraged behavior (i.e. is pro-social in the way you want the site to run)
- what's against the rules (i.e. causes sanctions)
- what's allowed but discouraged (i.e. over time might incur sanctions but isn't deleteworthy or bannable)
- what are the mechanisms of both positive and negative enforcement?
- who decides?
- how can people redress grievances?

MeFi had a pretty stable and mature way of dealing with a lot of these things which didn't always scale to the megathreads but at least was a solid foundation (albeit not without flaws) as you set up a new place for people to talk politics, it's worth at least keeping this stuff in mind. I say this not to be daunting in any way but just to break it down into a few manageable chunks. Realistically, dealing with a community of a few hundred is SO much simpler than dealing with a community of multiple tens of thousands, I think just getting going is the way to move forward. Happy to give more advice over email or whatever.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:58 AM on July 26 [44 favorites]


It would be fantastic to hear from the Metafilter mods about that in general, and in particular what, if anything, they would do to try and make megathreads work if they were starting from scratch

Jess's comment right above is a good take on thinking through what trying to holistically recreate the MeFi megathread experience—as a busy, ethically moderated social space—could involve thinking about. I think she captures a bunch of important framing issues for replicating that kind and scope of place from the ground up.

The main thought I'll add is that the other way to look at this is trying to figure out what not-strictly-a-replacement would look like. One of the things I thought about a few times over the last few years was trying to reboot/replace the megathreads with something very stripped down and functional and not really social the way MeFi threads are, of moving to essentially nothing but a blotter of news items without any framing discussion. Providing the feed as a collaborative aggregation project and that's all.

Which is a different sort of thing, but it's a thing that gets away from most of the challenges that came with moderating the threads. If I were building a "what's going on with all this shit?" tool now, to be group-driven but without the enormous load of managing it as a full-on social and discussion space, that's what I'd build. Requires mostly just curation and aggregation, not nearly so much moderation; requires just enough tech to manage a flat feed of entries with datestamps a submission/drafting tool; and then that can be an organizing principle around whatever additional social/discussion space emerges or is built out around it.

Another advantage of that approach is that it lets a smaller core group of folks feel like the test of success is putting that content together, not reaching some critical threshold of social feedback. If it's utility driven, all it has to do to succeed is be a useful aggregation of content. If it's socially driven, it can be useful as all heck but a lack of a surging crowd of folks discussing it can still feel like failure. Speaking from my own experiences with and my observation of other folks' experiences with spinoffs and side projects over the years, matching expectations to scope is the most important thing to the health of that kind of project: expecting a small crowd and getting a small crowd is very sustainable, building for a large one and getting a small one (or having an initial burst winnow down to a small crowd) can end up feeling like "well, what's the point?". Even if both small crowds are the same size.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:25 AM on July 26 [11 favorites]


> Providing the feed as a collaborative aggregation project and that's all.

The problem is that whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com already exists. There are many others. What value is the strictly-news part of this project going to add beyond the many other US politics aggregators out there already?
posted by tonycpsu at 8:38 AM on July 26 [8 favorites]


The big deal for MeFi megathreads was that a lot of the interactions had ripple effects on the rest of the site

I thought the big deal was that the MegaThreads consumed a disproportionate use of moderator resources and was burning them out? It's frustrating to hear about these nebulous interaction-based ripple effects that were harming the rest of MetaFilter. If they were the big deal, why didn't cortex cite them in his rational for closing the MegaThreads?
posted by diogenes at 8:40 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


It's frustrating to hear about these nebulous interaction-based ripple effects that were harming the rest of MetaFilter.

Moderation in megathreads had as a central concern that these threads existed as part of a larger site, within a larger community. A specific megathread-only site would not have these concerns, or not in the same way. If you wanted to recreate megathreads elsewhere the ripple effects, if any, would be super different.

This is not me speaking to the issues that led to the megathread decommissioning, this is only me trying to offer moderation advice for a future megathread-only site.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:53 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]


diogenes, I see those two points as connected. Before the intensive moderating for the megathread got worked out, the negative tone and behavior of some of comments in the megathread did ripple outward to MF at large. As greater and greater resources went into moderating the Megathread, that stopped because it was nipped in the bud or at least contained in the thread itself, for the most part.
posted by sallybrown at 8:57 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


"In my view, this rush to do something off-site feels like an attempt to vulture in and hijack a portion of the community to build something new under a different leadership structure. That's almost certainly not how it's intended, but it's how it looks right now."

What I thought I heard a lot in the other thread is that the megathreads were basically irreplaceable on Metafilter itself and a bunch of grief and anger because of this. I personally rarely read the megathreads and while I'm resource limited and administrating something like this has about the same appeal to me as licking an alpaca's asshole, I felt badly about the grief and wanted to help. After some of the comments here and in the other thread, I now could not possibly care less.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:00 AM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Since I didn't see it in zachliptons otherwise fine summary/analysis of the nature of megathreads and it doesn't seem to have come up so far...

As I've pointed out in the decommissioning meta there are some of us for whom the megathreads have been sort of a low visibility underground information railway.

If a replacement was established on one of the major social media or forum platforms such as twitter or reddit, as has been suggested above, then people like myself, who are potentially subject to the new rules about surrendering 5 years worth of active and inactive accounts and passwords to BP/ICE/INS agents, are by default out and can't participate.

One of the advantages of MeFi is that it is probably not at the top of the checklists, if it's on there at all. And there is no MeFi app on my phone since it's just a website.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:08 AM on July 26 [16 favorites]


I am extremely unlikely to participate in offsite megathreads, but I did for years lurk on a dreamwidth anonmeme that was contentious and extremely fast-moving. It worked great! The flat/threaded view options were very useful. Downsides: it's hard to search a post or, worse yet, the whole journal (the anonmeme in question built its own search function but it was externally hosted), new posts had to be created every few thousand comments. Also if you don't have an account, posting links is basically broken.

I don't know what it was like on the moderator end-- back when I was a heavy Dreamwidth user and screening comments, etc, it was a bit of a pain, but that was maybe a decade ago.
posted by peppercorn at 9:28 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


zachlipton: "it's worth taking a step back to ask what, if anything, people want to do, a question which I am deeply embarrassed to say, takes me 1,500 words to ask. "

It *says* this is by zachlipton, but I suspect Ivan has hijacked the account.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:58 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Before the intensive moderating for the megathread got worked out, the negative tone and behavior of some of comments in the megathread did ripple outward to MF at large

I did not know that. I assumed that if you turned off the politics threads, the rest of the MetaFilter experience was unharmed outside of the decrease in overall moderator resources. I didn't realize that MegaThread behavior had infected and corrupted MetaFilter so thoroughly.
posted by diogenes at 10:08 AM on July 26


In my view, this rush to do something off-site feels like an attempt to vulture in and hijack a portion of the community to build something new under a different leadership structure. That's almost certainly not how it's intended, but it's how it looks right now."


I certainly hope I haven’t given that impression. I’ve taken pains to explicitly say I am optimistic about trying out the new MeFi way after decommissioning, and that my discussion of alternatives is simply contingency planning.

Additionally, the initial decommissioning thread by cortex explicitly suggests having an alternate, off-site option as an alternative. So it was baked in to the conversation from the beginning.

And when this thread was created, it was immediately followed by an exhortation from cortex to let this thread be focused explicitly on off-site alternative ideas.

So if there are people that are digging into the subject matter, I don’t think it’s trying to “vulture in and hijack a portion of the community”, but rather a response to explicit prompts for discussion proposed by MeFi’s owner at the outset.

Nevertheless, to reiterate: I’m hoping that the decommissioning process on MeFi will leave us with a satisfactory adaptation — on MeFi. But the purpose of this thread is to discuss alternatives, so that's a major theme of the comments in it.
posted by darkstar at 10:16 AM on July 26 [11 favorites]


My preferences, for what it's worth:
1. The thing that's a non-starter that we're not supposed to talk about, even though everyone's already here
2. The Politics Filter Slack space, because a lot of people are already there, too, and the balkanization via Slack channels would be helpful. Plus it would be nice to see comment threads under somebody's post. It's a good experience on mobile, too.
3. The Metafilter subreddit as a distant third, only because the reddit interface is horrible and Reddit seems like a much more public space than members-only Metafilter and Slack. The mobile experience is OK
4. A brand-new site. I looked at Dreamwidth, for example, and found their mobile design severely lacking,
posted by emelenjr at 10:39 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


> the balkanization via Slack channels would be helpful

FYI
posted by tonycpsu at 10:41 AM on July 26 [10 favorites]


Can subreddits be private, visible only to approved members?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:51 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Yes, absolutely.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:26 AM on July 26 [2 favorites]


It's not the platform, it's the community. In my view, this rush to do something off-site feels like an attempt to vulture in and hijack a portion of the community to build something new under a different leadership structure. That's almost certainly not how it's intended, but it's how it looks right now.

I'm honestly speechless because of how uncharitable this is. If brainwane were giving me advice FOR FREE about how to create a decent space for my highly-valued community project I would be pissing myself with delight. And yet.

(I know brainwane is not the only person pitching in just noting the particular irony)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:53 AM on July 26 [13 favorites]


But all those coming up with off-site solutions have done so because we think the "more topic specific posts" is a fail plan.

I have thoughts, but expressing them gets me called an asshole, so...
posted by Windopaene at 12:17 PM on July 26


Perhaps do some preliminary work to set up an alternative in the event it is necessary, but wait and see if the "fail plan" actually fails?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:24 PM on July 26 [9 favorites]


I don't see it quite the same way as tonycpsu but I agree that the sense of community is the heart of what made the megathreads important and valuable to me, and I admit that I also feel a little dismay at the prospect of y'all pulling up stakes and setting off for parts unknown. Your presence and contributions here would certainly be missed if you all ended up elsewhere. I was really hoping we could see how tenable the new path forward would be, just returning to a traditional posting model for political news, before making any big decisions here. But obviously we wouldn't be in this thread if everyone felt like I do.

Of the models proposed -- I think r_n has an important point, that the tools shape the community, and I don't know enough about a lot of these tools to understand how they would do that. I worry a little that we won't really be able to tell until we've committed enough time and energy to one of these options, such that it becomes a one-way trip. That said we've got folks here way more experienced than I am at building and maintaining stuff, so I guess I'll defer to the majority. I do have a little experience in webdev and various software tools and would be willing to contribute some time and effort (and $ if needed) towards setup once we get going.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:28 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


> I'm honestly speechless because of how uncharitable this is. If brainwane were giving me advice FOR FREE about how to create a decent space for my highly-valued community project I would be pissing myself with delight. And yet.

I was hoping that using words and phrases like "in my view", "feels like", and "that's almost certainly not how it was intended" would make it clear that I was speaking to the optics and not the likely intent of those involved, but I guess I failed.

Does being charitable require ignoring the fact that people are rushing to build something new that would take at least some of the community's energy and attention away from MetaFilter and redirect it toward something that isn't MetaFilter? Or that there was a specific request that we not start planning the new thing until we've had time to try some things out here on site within the confines of the blue?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:33 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Two unicycles and some duct tape: I admit that I also feel a little dismay at the prospect of y'all pulling up stakes and setting off for parts unknown.

I'm not even considering that. I would be interested in reading a Megathreads 2.0 elsewhere, depending on where, but that doesn't mean I'd leave MetaFilter. MetaFilter is so many things beside the Megathreads.
I'm just one user, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:11 PM on July 26 [8 favorites]


You know how sometimes you don't realize your own preferences or constraints until something brings you face-to-face with them? I have today come to a new understanding of my own brand as a consultant, as I both wish to add "If brainwane were giving me advice FOR FREE about how to create a decent space for my highly-valued community project I would be pissing myself with delight." to my website in the endorsements section, and think it would make people think I'm a much more entertaining vendor or colleague than I actually am.

More seriously: thank you for the compliment, ifdssn9.

posted by brainwane at 1:18 PM on July 26 [21 favorites]


Yeah, I've been on MeFi forever, I can't leave now.

Basically we've been told -- Megathreads can't exist on MeFi anymore. Period. The old style of political posting on MeFi was not the same. And Old Style 2.0 isn't likely to fill that space, either. So many of us have found the megathreads valuable for a variety of reasons, so of course people are going to talk about keeping them around in some way, even if that is not on Metafilter.

My preference would be a PoliticsFilter subsite, but obviously that is not a possibility right now, so what's left? Yes, the more focused threads, but they are not going to provide all that the megathreads did.

Moving the megathreads to another platform/site will change them, even if it keeps them alive, and that is saddening. Metafilter is a unique community. But what else can be done?

(fwiw, newsletters and listservs that some have mentioned seem like an odd solution for this -- they are really nothing like the megathreads. I don't know about others, but it's not the collection of news alone that makes them valuable, it is the discussion around them, discussion by a lot of really smart people who help make some of the rest of us smart, too. If we can do more humorous riffing again along with that on another site, that would be wonderful.)

I don't want to pull people away from Metafilter, either. But the megathreads have been an important way for some of us to deal with the firehose of insanity that is going on. A way to understand better what is happening, a way to know we aren't alone.

Some people find the megathreads make them worse, not better. Which is fine. We're all different. But, damn, for those of us who aren't in that situation.... the threads are vital. Most of my IRL friends don't want to talk about this stuff because they are dealing with mental/emotional weariness over the situation.
posted by litlnemo at 1:24 PM on July 26 [10 favorites]


...Old Style 2.0 isn't likely to fill that space, either...a PoliticsFilter subsite [could, ed.], but obviously that is not a possibility right now, so what's left? Yes, the more focused threads, but they are not going to provide all that the megathreads did...

What's that phrase we use? 'Assumes facts not in evidence.' I like tonycpsu's take.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:33 PM on July 26


My apologies for the ignorant word choice, doggod. It makes total sense how that usage would offend, and I'm sorry. The term was used earlier in the thread. I picked up on that, but hadn't seen your request.
posted by emelenjr at 1:35 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Eh, I kind of agree that a return to pre-megathread handling of politics threads is unlikely to have the same feel. For one thing, we know this is being driven by moderator resource exhaustion, so the staff certainly isn't going to let the same dynamics that they say are taxing them in the megathreads repeat across any number of open threads.

Furthermore, if the guidance is distinct, focused topics, with comment threads to match, then the natural ebb and flow of conversation around whatever new links are posted in comments is going to be similarly isolated. People are going to be less interested in posting in a 10 day-old politics thread, since it'll have scrolled off the front page, and won't have as many people following it as we had with the megathreads.

With that said, I want to at least see it in action, and see if we can't as a community improvise our way to something that works maybe 75% as well as the megathreads did, but still comports with the revised guidelines. And it'd be great if, while we were trying to grapple with that challenge, we didn't have our attention divided between that and this attempt to do something that's externally-hosted, or perhaps several different approaches that are externally-hosted.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:48 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


I think, if the decision is to go off site instead of just trying to revert to pre megathread posts, than a discussion of governance and community involvement should happen soon, before any technical decision on how to proceed is made, and before any decision on how to run things is made.

Enlightened Despotism is how MeFi currently does things, but it's not the only option, and it may not be the right option for MeFi, much less this.

If you don't have that discussion first, you are basically defaulting to a structure and decision making method that reinforces and calcifies existing systems of power and existing levels of involvement, without leaving room for change and growth save in ways that privileges those who currently have power.

As well Bus Factor should be considered in any organization.

Relevant links with attributions to who introduced me to them:
Tyranny of Structurelessness via a class with Professor and Author Cynthia Kaufman
A Rubric for Evaluating Team Members’ Contributions to an Inclusive Culture via kalessian
The Ladder Model of Participation via Tha Contender
posted by gryftir at 1:53 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]


I think in the current political environment a reversion to pre-Trump political discussion on Metafilter will prove to be utterly impossible and I think the mods are fooling themselves if htey really think they can make it happen. We'll find out if I'm wrong, I often am, but I don't think it can work in an era of Trump. So I'm fully in favor of moving that sort of thing to an offsite megathread thingie.

I'm not invested in any particular platform, but I'll toss in a few bucks for whatever winds up being picked. I figure just about anything will work just about as well as anything else, if it works at all. I've not seen many successful internet migrations.
posted by sotonohito at 2:11 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


"What's that phrase we use? 'Assumes facts not in evidence.'"

I disagree -- by definition a smaller, more focused thread cannot be everything that the megathreads are. For some people that isn't a bad thing, I suppose -- consider the folks who couldn't read the megathreads for various reasons but would be able to participate in the smaller topic threads. All things to consider in this discussion.
posted by litlnemo at 2:12 PM on July 26


Looks like I was aiming for a target that had already moved--I made a big long wall of text post about how a DW community based megathread would compare, technically, to the MeFi one, and a potential plan of action for . If it's something people wanted to move forward with, I imagine we could use this post on DW or make another post on the metafilter comm there.
posted by foxfirefey at 3:29 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


The problem is that whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com already exists.

To that end, talk.whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com also already exists, and seems to have community guidelines that are ... thin, but in the right initial spirit? It also doesn't appear to have a large enough active user population to make any external judgements about moderation issues.

It's discourse-based, though, and is actually quite pretty for the modern era. (I know, i blaspheme against MeFi here.)

The DreamWidth option above also sounds promising, and I heartily concur that the real problem here is not "what kind of crib are we going to put this baby in" and actually "who's going to change it's diaper and sit up with it all night when it's colicky." I've run small community BBSes, decades ago, and even then the bickering and infighting was rediculious.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 3:52 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Goodness, I didn't manage to link to the right thing: this is my megapost on Dreamwidth functioning
posted by foxfirefey at 4:55 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


If anyone else is lost, foxfirefey's great comment digging into the details of Dreamwidth can be found over here.

I think a compelling case has been made that Dreamwidth is a powerful platform that supports posting and commenting in ways that would appear to satisfy the technical requirements if a sufficient number of people wanted to attempt to move the megathreads wholesale to another site in something approximately resembling their current form.

Identifying that technological solution is very useful work, and I appreciate everyone who has spent time researching it. That said, I fear it's putting the cart before the horse a little. Do enough people firmly want to keep doing all this in roughly the same way somewhere else?

Just personally, I can't say I'm incredibly enthusiastic about that, and fear that the combination of Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick's colicky baby and cortex's "well, what's the point?" of a small isolated community are significant barriers. The megathreads were already a pretty exclusionary space, and became more so over time, and I'm concerned a new replacement site is likely to start off that way and soon become extremely insular. When you get tossed out of the bar at closing time and say you'll regroup in someone's living room, some people split off and go home, the norms and rules are different, someone puts their bare feet on the couch, it's just not the same thing anymore.

But as biogeo says, "it would be great if Metafilter spawned a dozen child communities to spread Metafilteriness across the Web," so if those that are enthusiastic about relocating the megathread want to run with it, I hope it's a wonderful success. But I also think there are other models for how we can move forward that are worth exploring too.
posted by zachlipton at 5:00 PM on July 26 [8 favorites]


For those considering a publicly visible subreddit, there's the possibility of the seedier parts of Reddit noticing it and doxxing or otherwise griefing posters there.
posted by Candleman at 7:22 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


the political tab of chat.metafilter.com might work if it kept all the history visible instead of just the last page before you entered the room
posted by Jacqueline at 9:00 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


gryftir: "Enlightened Despotism is how MeFi currently does things, but it's not the only option, and it may not be the right option for MeFi, much less this. "

If I've been reading the megathreads correctly, I believe we're supposed to move towards militant workers' soviets.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 PM on July 26 [16 favorites]


I don't really have a technical recommendation, but I would recommend making whatever is used look and function as much like a Metafilter thread as possible. Any differences: images, profile images, threaded comments, etc. will probably be experienced as barriers to entry.

Also, there may have only been a small number of super posters on the megathreads, but there were a large number of readers. If the super posters do not want to participate in the new megathreads, there may be other users who step into the role.

The megathreads had a lot of readers, and a lot of participation, even if one just considers the favorites. I don't think we'll know if another site will draw that level of participation without giving a new site a try.
posted by xammerboy at 10:28 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I am a reader, rarely a poster, in the megathreads. But I don't see how anyone can read all of the megathreads. I usually just skim the items with the most favorites. So, whether it is threaded comments or another method, I prefer some way to most easily see the highlights, however that is determined.
posted by NotLost at 5:28 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I've read all, or nearly all, of the megathreads, and contributed to a lot of them. I'm probably not in the top quintile of megathread commenters, but I imagine I'm in the second. This has meant, among other things, that I spend less time reading Twitter, or going to the front page of politico, nytimes, washingtonpost, etc., because the megathreads are the best-curated source of political news I've found. I am aware that one of the costs of this resource is significant time spent moderating it. I am also aware that megathread culture has become somewhat more insular than the rest of the site.

I haven't commented much in these MeTa discussions, because I don't have a lot to say. I don't want the megathreads to go away, and, while I think a subsite and/or volunteer moderation may be viable, it doesn't seem like either are on the table. I don't think creating another site is the best option (moderation time, insularity, barriers, etc.), and I have no intention of signing up for a Reddit account. I'm optimistic that there are ways to move forward with political discussion on Metafilter, even as I recognize that something will be lost as megathreads go away, and I am not at all ready to add politics to the list of things that Metafilter does not do well.
posted by box at 6:59 AM on July 27 [9 favorites]


Does being charitable require ignoring the fact that people are rushing to build something new that would take at least some of the community's energy and attention away from MetaFilter and redirect it toward something that isn't MetaFilter? Or that there was a specific request that we not start planning the new thing until we've had time to try some things out here on site within the confines of the blue?

No but it probably requires not using words like vultures and hijacking. The “optics”...to who?

There is already a ton of offsite energy going into megathreads. The slack, the wiki...ultimately you don’t want an offsite thing and that’s fine, but you can argue your case for it without making it as morally charged as this.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:11 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Or that there was a specific request that we not start planning the new thing until we've had time to try some things out here on site within the confines of the blue?

I thought Cortex suggested users make a megathread alternative if that's what they were interested in? My feeling was this conversation about building an alternative is something that is being encouraged by the site owners and mods?

My strong preference would be keeping the megathreads at Metafiter with volunteer mods and separate funding. Perhaps moving the threads to a different URL, but using the Metafilter infrastructure to support it? If Cortex is comfortable with that experiment I suspect that would work for a lot of people, but I can understand if he's not. No one's trying to take anything away from Metafilter.
posted by xammerboy at 7:39 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


> No but it probably requires not using words like vultures and hijacking.

Those words describe how the rush to build something offsite looks from my vantage point. Folks need not be intending to hijack the energy of the community when they are trying to build something new, but intent isn't magic. If the net result is people being pulled away from the blue toward something external, then the MeFi community has, in my view, been hijacked, and I need not know what's in the hearts of those building the new thing to make that assessment.

Nobody has to be intending to take away from the community in order to end up doing so. They may think they're salvaging something from a bad situation, that the end result will feed back into MetaFilter and make it even stronger, that it will reduce the burden on mods without negatively affecting the community discussion on-site... Those are all valid beliefs to hold, but I just don't see it that way.

My view is that everyone should give the blue a chance for a while -- with "micro-threads" such as the Mueller thread and the impeachment thread and my own thread about the concentration camps -- before we start making plans to move things elsewhere. That people are jumping head-first into technical solutions to non-technical problems says a lot, to me, and I'm not going to shy away from describing how it looks when that happens.

> The “optics”...to who?

To me and anyone else who sees the same things I'm seeing, barely a couple days after the announcement was made. I haven't done a poll, and I don't care to. I'm explaining how it looks to me, and it's a bad look.

> There is already a ton of offsite energy going into megathreads. The slack, the wiki...

Well, the wiki is just a collaborative editing space for posts and a place to keep some historical artifacts. That's not really taking anything from the community.

As for the Slack, I was never terribly fond of it being a quasi-official thing outside the auspices of MetaFilter proper. I expressed this concern (complete with the requisite "cabal" reference) in a recent MeTa. My concern was validated just a few posts later when a Slackling came in and shared the grandiose plan for fixing MetaFilter that they (and presumably some other Slacklings) had come up with over there. It was... not well-received.

So yeah, I get that these MeFi-adjacent external resources are already being used by some, but not all uses of external resources are created equal. The important thing to me is that the content and the discussion comes back to this community, with this user base, with the benefits of those discussions redounding to this site's membership and owners, not some other site's membership and owners.

> I thought Cortex suggested users make a megathread alternative if that's what they were interested in? My feeling was this conversation about building an alternative is something that is being encouraged by the site owners and mods?

That is correct. What I was referring to was the polite request expressed by Doktor Zed here. I get that a directive from the owner of the site is going to be more compelling than the wishes of some members, but it's not like cortex demanded that planning for the external solution begin immediately. All some of us were asking for was some more time to try micro-threads here on the blue before jumping head-first into a new thing. It didn't seem like that big of a request.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:27 AM on July 27 [11 favorites]


"All some of us were asking for was some more time to try micro-threads here on the blue before jumping head-first into a new thing."

Well said and correct. I really don't want to wade through a megahread to read this.
IMO, a perfect example of tonys point on micro. As to a new community...call it MegAfilter™®©, not sure about drain in community spirit/userbase but my metric is 2001-2010. Sub-sites, IRC ( which was a fucking blast), and subsequent platform releases FB, Reddit, wiki, chat 2.0. all have/had there thing.

Monkey filter was created to divert the never ending thread.

Your welcome.
posted by clavdivs at 1:44 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I was also an avid megathread reader, and want to also express concern about rushing towards an off-site solution. I share and endorse the comments by tonycpsu above.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:42 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I think at this stage it's not "rushing", just brainstorming and working on ideas in case they are needed.
posted by litlnemo at 4:36 PM on July 27 [10 favorites]


I’d like to urge folks to recall that there are two MeTa threads related to his subject.

One is the decommissioning thread, which was for processing what it meant and discussing the question of whether an on-MeFi solution or an off-MeFi solution might be better. That’s not this thread.

This discussion thread was specifically posted so those who wanted to brainstorm off-MeFi contingencies could do so. It was set up by the poster specifically to brainstorm off-site contingencies, and then followed up with a specific exhortation by the owner of MeFi to focus on off-site contingencies.

So I kind of feel that when people are coming into this thread and crapping on the whole idea of an off-MeFi contingency solutions, and using highly charged language to discourage the discussion, they are working to derail the whole stated purpose of this thread.

If folks strongly believe that an off-MeFi solution shouldn’t even be discussed right now, I respect their opinions. And I truly appreciate the points tonycpsu is making. But I think perhaps make those arguments in the decommissioning thread, and leave this one to the folks trying to use it as a forum to do some brainstorming on contingencies.

Because if we have to keep defending ourselves on whether contingency planning is immoral, or hijacking, or whatever, then it undermines our ability to use our time and energy to be effective in brainstorming options.

Unless that’s the whole point, in which the “optics” of who is hijacking MeFi discussions shifts significantly...
posted by darkstar at 8:18 PM on July 27 [10 favorites]


Well, on reflection, that sounds rather more confrontational than I’d intended. If some folks still wish to debate in this thread whether this thread should discuss off-site contingencies, then I can respect that. We can let this one serve that purpose, and create another one.

Or, perhaps it would be better to post an AskMe to ask for viable off-site options, as the expectations in AskMe threads are rather more constrained.

My point is, for those of us who wish to have those discussions, it would be good to have a forum in which we could do so. But I don’t want to get too Inception-y, trying to discuss possible alternative forum options in which we can discuss possible alternative forum options, etc.
posted by darkstar at 9:18 PM on July 27


Nah, you're right. This is your space. I'll leave y’all to it.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:22 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I think most of us are familiar with how the political threads on Metafilter work, and why we preferred or did not prefer megathreads. I don't expect to learn anything by waiting and seeing how things shake out. Moreover, I see dangers in waiting. It will be harder to corral interest, volunteers, and momentum. Waiting seems to me a good prescription for making sure a new megathread site doesn't happen.
posted by xammerboy at 11:39 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


I feel like discussing possibilities, pros/cons of platforms, etc. is a good idea, but like tonycpsu I hope we don't pull the trigger on execution too fast.

In any case, I think discourse has a lot of the functionality out of the box that gets closest to the mefi experience. Flat comments, not threaded, flagging and modding tools, likes that don't rearrange the conversation order, etc.
posted by ctmf at 11:39 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


The closure of megathread is a business decision. That's fine, MetaFilter can't run at a loss for very long. But of course, treating it like the business it is leads to another option that I have not seen identified yet.

@cortex: How much would it cost to buy MetaFilter?
posted by M-x shell at 11:59 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Discourse is encouraging...scrolling page, flat text, searchable. I haven’t given it a trial run yet, but based on others’ experience, sounds like it should be a real contender for our attention.

The first tier of service is $100/month, which is easily doable with $5/month from a committed group. I’ve lost track now - who here is familiar with Discourse on the admin side? (Ctmf? MysticMCJ?)
posted by darkstar at 5:19 AM on July 28


At some point, does a point person organize people in putting this together? How does that happen? Offline? It's kind of hard for me to believe that roles and responsibilities, etc. can all be hashed out in Metatalk threads. I'm curious about how planning works, though I may be raising this question too early.
posted by xammerboy at 8:30 AM on July 28


I was a pretty heavy user-side-user of Discourse for a while, but only got a hint of the mod-side features. You can have graduated trust levels that lets newbs have limited rights for a while, then automatically graduate to "full" users after [criteria]. You can have even higher trust levels and delegate power-users some limited mod powers if you want, like having flagged posts get hidden pending admin review, instead of the default shown. That kind of thing. I have not seen the flag queue or the "user control panel" if there is such a thing.
posted by ctmf at 11:05 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


There was some negativity inserted into this thread, and I would just like to remind everyone of this comment from the Decommissioning thread which stuck with me:

I've been reading Metafilter assiduously for 18 years or so, and this is my first post. The megathreads have been the first thing I check when I wake up and the last thing I read before I go to bed, virtually every day, for the past several years. They have been incredibly important to my mental and emotional health at a time when the world is burning around me. They are a place to be informed, educated, persuaded, and comforted in my outrage, knowing that there are… [more]
posted to MetaTalk by Gadarene at 6:40 AM on July 24, 2019 [71 favorites −]
posted by xammerboy at 7:37 PM on July 28 [7 favorites]


Thanks, xammerboy. It was comments like that one which motivated me to try to get some kind of discussion started, pretty much exactly like Ivan Fyodorovich described above. I've been pretty disappointed at how much pushback there's been to even the idea of discussing this issue, and how uncharitably some people seem inclined to read it.

I really don't have much skin in the game myself. If the megathread users create a spin-off group blog, I'd be thrilled to have something to add to my regular reading list, and will happily transfer the megathread.org domain for that purpose if it's wanted. (If no one ends up wanting it, I guess I'll have to start an online sewing supply business or something.) If the megathread users decamp into something more like a discussion forum, I will probably not read it myself but I'll be glad that those who value the style of discussion that arose in the megathreads will have a place to continue it. Regardless, I'll be continuing to read and participate in politics-related FPPs on MetaFilter, and glad that they're not in the megathread format which eventually became unreadable to me personally.

And if no one is actually interested in stepping up to keep going those aspects of the megathreads that so many people identified as irreplaceable, and as being impossible to replicate with more conventional discussion threads on MetaFilter... Well, all I can say there is that for those who reacted to the end of the megathreads on MetaFilter not with disappointment or sadness, but with anger and hostility, I hope they're willing to ask themselves why they feel they're owed the labor of the mod team, and whether they're engaging in the same kind of labor exploitation that is usually decried by the leftists and liberals in the megathreads.

But as for how we move from the ideas phase to the action phase, I think that's a good question. I believe Ryvar had plans to reach out to some individual megathread "prolific" posters to suss out their thoughts, and I think that's a good strategy. Maybe if folks want to pursue their own avenues of investigation and give occasional updates here, that will help avoid duplication of effort. If people are moving forward on that, we may want to have a follow-up discussion in a few weeks to assess how things are going in the politics FPPs on MetaFilter, who has pursued what so far, and who is willing to actually take leadership roles in establishing a new home (or homes) for the megathread community.

Regardless, I think if this is going to work at all, it's going to need to be a "do-ocracy," led by those willing to do the work.
posted by biogeo at 10:41 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


ctmf I hope we don't pull the trigger on execution too fast.

I disagree strongly. Pelosi et al have shown us the dangers, in this time, of being cautious and hesitant and waiting around and dragging our feet.

MeFi doesn't want the megathread, fine that's their right. Their site, their rules. But if want a replacement we need to get moving **NOW** and get something new in place and going **NOW** or else it'll never happen.

Tomorrow is too late. Next week is far too late.
posted by sotonohito at 10:55 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


I think of myself as too biased and volatile to be running things, but if we don't get something started soon I'll just pull the trigger on Discourse despite my reservations about myself. This needs to have been done when Cortex first announced the end of the megathread. We may already be too late.
posted by sotonohito at 10:56 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


The current megathread has another 10-ish days before it closes.
posted by Jpfed at 11:16 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


And luckily (for the accessibility of the thread), only 1374 comments currently. I think it could continue to work for a few more days, while alternatives are tested or set up.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:43 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


It's plainly disingenuous to call what y'all are up to 'contingency' planning.

I think at this stage it's not "rushing", just brainstorming and working on ideas in case they are needed.

Not seeing it. Per sotonohito, this is in motion.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:32 PM on July 29


I'm a regular megathread reader even if I'm only an occasional poster. I just want to offer my support and encouragement to everybody willing to take on the project of finding a new home for the mega political junkies.

If possible, I'll follow you and read it. I don't know if I'm willing to sign up for a reddit account in order to post, but I don't need to post. I'm happy just taking in all the aggregation of sources (especially social media and twitter sources) I don't have the time or energy to follow on my own.
posted by sardonyx at 6:13 PM on July 29


I don't see the harm in trying something offsite sooner rather than later. I don't feel like I owe the MetaFilter solution a trial period. Especially since the "micro-threads" solution is really just MetaFilter without the MegaThread.
posted by diogenes at 6:21 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Per sotonohito, this is in motion.

Actually per me it's not in motion and I'm worried that means there won't be any motion.

But yes, I think the megathread people should immediately go offsite for their megathread needs. Not to leave MeFi entirely, but it's been explicitly stated by the owners that megathread is no longer a thing MeFi will do, so if we want it we need to go somewhere else.

I'm not at all understanding why some people, apparently mostly people who hated the megathreads, seem to see the people who liked the megathreads going to a different service for them to be somehow wrong or bad.

What else are we supposed to do?

I think perhaps you're conflating "have megathread style stuff elsewhere" with "everyone leaving Metafilter for all things forever"?
posted by sotonohito at 6:29 PM on July 29 [4 favorites]


I'm also onboard for hearing about and helping with an off-site option, whatever that shakes out to be.
posted by odinsdream at 6:55 PM on July 29


I'm not usually one to feel anything, but I'm feeling a lot of tension here.

My love to everyone in this thread.

I'm of the camp that we should wait and see, and we should all wait and see if off-mothership fora will suffice/ persist.

My feeling is that Metafilter will survive and continue on without MegaThreads and most everyone will adapt to the return to topical threads. There's going to be mod overload until the new norm is established, but this feels like a strategic shift by the mods (who make this all work as well as it does).

Lets let the experiment run. Lets run a bunch of parallel experiments if there are people who are willing to run them in good faith. We'll see.
posted by porpoise at 7:09 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Again, in order to fund 3 fulltime mods at a mere $40k/ year each, we need do to raise $340 a day, meaning that we need 67.5 people to donate $5 a month like I do to MetaFilter, every single day (or slightly over 2000 people donating $5 USD a month). This is just for adminstering MegaThreads.

Can an external site raise $120,000 a year to support US Poltics MegaThreads?

Maybe we should be looking into PAC money.
posted by porpoise at 7:22 PM on July 29


That's assuming the replacement site tries to do things the same way metafilter is doing them now, with regard to moderation and such. The replacement has a chance of being something else while serving the same (small) community of people. It's kind of a classic schism or split like you'd have in a religious congregation. Neither entity is the same as they were before the split, and that's okay.
posted by odinsdream at 7:44 PM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Off the top of my head, I think two things will happen with an off-site site that could make it work without being a copy of MetaFilter: first, we'll have less people there, because it's another site to participate on (and log into), and second, it can have direct volunteer moderation, which was discussed as a way to shift or change how MetaFilter operates, but is a more complicated thing when you have people being paid to do the work alongside volunteers. It's not impossible, but definitely more complicated.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I'm also of the opinion that if we get to the point where heavy moderation is needed that will probably indicate the new site is a success. The first hurdle will be getting people to post content and participate. That said, I want a t-shirt. :-)

I also volunteer to help. MeFi Mail me.
posted by xammerboy at 9:35 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I feel it necessary, once again, to point out that this thread was SPECIFICALLY created with the stated purpose of discussing and brainstorming off-site options.

Yet we still have people that don’t want this to happen coming into this thread trying to derail it by arguing we shouldn’t even be having the discussion, and accusing people of ulterior motives.

So...can you folks please respect us enough to let us have a constructive conversation without constantly threadshitting?

Every word that has to be written — in THIS thread — to respond to people accusing us of ulterior motives or disingenuousness or whatever is just that much time and energy that is diverted from discussion and evaluation of constructive alternative megathread solutions.

So, seriously, please kindly consider expressing your opinions about the morality or disingenuousness of people in this discussion back in the original decommissioning thread, so that this thread can be used for it’s stated purpose. Many thanks for your consideration.
posted by darkstar at 10:11 PM on July 29 [11 favorites]


One point for Just Doing Something: I mentioned this before, but I was part of a group of former Discogs volunteer moderators who got angry about a major site shift made suddenly by the site owner, and we discussed starting our own site.

We had a private forum for discussions, and tried to figure out all the details. We had sub-committees to look into legal matters, we hashed out a site name and organizational details, and probably about a dozen other things, but we only came up with a few final answers. Needless to say, our effort died, and Discogs lives on.

The difference here being that we're not looking to replace or replicate everything that MetaFilter does, but create a new space to replicate one temporary aspect of the site. But trying to get Everything Right can lead to this whole effort falling apart or dissipating.

Trying to recap this thread, we have a domain (megathread.org), and 6 options being discussed* for platforms:
  1. [Existing] Dreamwidth blog -- Too-Ticky wrote: I like their Privacy Statement, their Guiding Principles and their Diversity Statement. And brainwane gathered other comments and thoughts in a prior comment
  2. [Existing] r/metafilter -- Rhaomi wrote: It's already styled like the Blue, has an existing subscriber base of 600+ MeFites from the initial 2014 launch, and the association with MeFi and co-mingling with MeFi-related posts could both help keep dedicated megathreaders in touch with MeFi proper and signal boost the site more widely on Reddit (which is sorely needed)
  3. [Existing] Using the MeFi Wiki -- not discussed much here, but more in the decomissioning thread -- personal take: helpful for drafting political posts, but that could get messy for tracking news. Pro/con: non-linear editing/ commenting.
  4. [Existing] Slack channel-- con: a number of MeFites raised issues and concerns with a more closed platform like this, and some already participate in a number of Slack groups
  5. [New] Custom forum -- pro: able to build from the ground up, or customize an OTS solution / con: maintaining code and membership can be problematic, to keep out spammers and scammers.
  6. [New] Wordpress blog -- see above re: new forum
On Dreamwidth, my one (silly?) comment is that the formatting appears bulky to me (example), compared to the sparse layout of MetaFilter, and even Reddit. Can the formatting be simplified to look less like a standard forum with significant padding around each comment, to support everything on one page, either as a subdomain design standard, or user-set preferences?

* I didn't include Twitter or Facebook, because no one posed those as potential platforms since biogeo's OP.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:33 AM on July 30 [9 favorites]

On Dreamwidth, my one (silly?) comment is that the formatting appears bulky to me (example), compared to the sparse layout of MetaFilter, and even Reddit. Can the formatting be simplified to look less like a standard forum with significant padding around each comment, to support everything on one page, either as a subdomain design standard, or user-set preferences?
So, the formatting can be made much more sparse; we have control over HTML/CSS that is used, but not JS (security). I'm making a custom layout that'll be much closer to what Metafilter displays for my own personal kicks and because I think it would be fun to put it on the metafilter community itself even if DW doesn't get used for megathreads. I made a community for it here (blank styling right now, will be putting it in piece by piece) so I would have a place to play around and test, if anybody wants to test anything out in the sandbox, and then I could clear out the testing stuff before any handover if it's decided that people want to use it. I put two months paid time on it so people could evaluate it with all the options.

What can't be done is supporting everything on one page, at least not natively, and that could be a dealbreaker. (I do know there are communities like this one that pretty much operate in megathread style, so it's not undoable at least.)

Even Discourse doesn't just load everything on the page in one go, it just has infinite scrolling implemented and does the pagination natively behind the scenes. I think the upside of all on one page is the easy searching and seamless going back and forth, and Discourse does give that--you can search within a topic using their search interface instead of the browser one, and the infinite scrolling gives you the feel of being able to go back and forth across the whole thread easily. The upside to not having everything on the same page is that towards the end of the thread, browsers aren't going to break down like they did on the Metafilter megathread.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:35 PM on July 30 [6 favorites]


Can we please borrow the mobile CSS from here? The pages work so will on both desktop and mobile.
posted by odinsdream at 1:41 PM on July 30


I can't borrow the mobile CSS from here exactly, but I can do my best to do responsive styling and mobile first, and use its rules to guide the CSS I'm making.

I did a sprint of styling work last night, it's not ready for review yet since I have basic stuff still outstanding but it's getting there:

>>>>> megathread <<<<<

I'm linking to it again before it's quite ready because people could actually help if they wanted--I need to make a bunch of comments to this entry, so I can make sure the style works for pagination. Community membership is open to everybody, as are comments! Anonymous comments are currently allowed, so you can do this even if you're not interested in having a Dreamwidth account--your comment will just be screened if anonymous and I will unscreen them as they come in.

I have also started writing a technical guide.

All of this is work I should be doing anyway for the metafilter Dreamwidth community so it won't be wasted if someone sets up a megathread Discourse instead, I know that way has a lot of advantages this one lacks.

If you need to backchannel anything to me, megathread@dreamwidth.org will work.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:00 PM on July 31 [11 favorites]


Looks good (at least at first glance)!
posted by sardonyx at 2:49 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


I've tried to figure out where to help comment to test and done so. Let me know if that's not right. I'd also be glad to be more involved if you need any help.
posted by odinsdream at 3:40 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Looks like the Treaty of Westphalia might even work....
posted by riverlife at 3:55 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


I don't know what that stuff is but I like it so far.

Now if only you could set it up to run on nntp...
posted by Justinian at 4:37 PM on July 31


I just joined the megathread community on DW, foxfirefey, and left a comment. Is there something else we can do specifically to assist at this stage? It’s looking really good!
posted by darkstar at 4:47 PM on July 31 [3 favorites]


I realize opinions will likely vary on this, but if there's a consensus that we'd like to do so, is it possible to disable to posting of images on Dreamwidth? I don't have any real issue with any of the other stuff that differs from what's available here, but would greatly prefer not having images as part of threads.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:17 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


So I checked out the r/metafilter discussion about Decommissioning the US politics megathreads, and I was saddened to see what appears to possibly be my comments mischaracterized by someone who claims to have lost their password and doesn't seem to want to participate here anyway.

Nevertheless, to the extent that anyone here believes that anyone on Metafilter has ever stated that future US Politics FPPs must be workshopped collaboratively, please note this is not true at all. There are many of us who have worked collaboratively in the past and enjoy it, and it can help round up a wide variety of links quickly, but it was never suggested that this would be the only way to do it. In that same reddit comment, there also seems to have been a misreading of what cortex said in the Decommissioning MeTa about future US Politics FPPs on Metafilter, i.e. "Sometimes that may be a couple paragraphs of roundup of links on a complex topic; sometimes that might just be one really good link worth discussing in its own right," so I don't think there should be so much concern about 'thin' posts, especially when we have moderators here who are available for questions.

So I suppose this may be a vote against reddit, because this kind of trolly grar is exactly the kind of thing that can make a forum feel like hostile ground and untenable to consider as a community home. Similarly, I encourage everyone here to think hard about the challenge of moderation, and especially any assumption that megathread participants will take new volunteer jobs simply because they are passionate about politics and the megathread community.

I personally don't think we have to consider ourselves in danger of losing the megathread community on Metafilter, and I think our challenge is more about adapting to the new interface here, but that's a discussion for a different MeTa.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:32 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


Similarly, I encourage everyone here to think hard about the challenge of moderation, and especially any assumption that megathread participants will take new volunteer jobs... and I think our challenge is more about adapting to the new interface here

Again, this thread is for brainstorming off-site options. The other thread is the correct place for questioning the premise.
posted by diogenes at 4:01 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


In the final line of my comment, I was trying to acknowledge that questioning the premise is a discussion for a different MeTa, but it is in the context of off-site brainstorming that I'm calling for caution with any assumption that megathread participants will be capable of managing moderation on a volunteer basis, and pointing at recent research and discussion that suggests this could be problematic for a number of reasons.

I care about the megathread community a lot, and I feel it is helpful to share how I actually feel about the community so there is accurate context for my comments, and regardless, the part of my comment about moderation is very much directed to this thread and the planning being discussed here.
posted by Little Dawn at 4:24 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I’m a little confused, tbh.

Are you saying, essentially, “moderation is harder than you imagine, so it probably won’t work out to have an off-site solution, and besides, I don’t think an off-site solution is a good idea because of how I feel about the MeFi community”?

Or are you saying “moderation is harder than you imagine, so here are some factors to consider so moderation can be facilitated in the off-site solution, which I’m trying to help you design”?

It sounded like you were saying the former. But if it’s indeed the latter, I’d very much welcome any insights you might have into how to improve/facilitate the moderation of a viable off-site solution.
posted by darkstar at 5:16 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


FWIW, though, I definitely agree with your point that not everyone who is passionate about US politics would necessarily also be passionate about moderating an off-site US politics forum. And that therefore we will need to give moderation significant thought as part of designing any such experience.
posted by darkstar at 5:21 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that I see a lot of interesting exploration of the technical side of things, but not as much discussion of the community aspect, which includes the moderation question.

I also feel like it is important to disclose my position about the megathread community, so you can know that I'm rooting for #Remain, and have that context available when assessing my comment. Not everyone is being so clear in this thread, and at least one commenter has said unkind things about the megathread community in another thread, so their comment here was able to be taken as compliment because it was missing the context. I'd rather not be misinterpreted, because I actually care about the community.

But if there is going to be an off-site community, besides my warning about trying to rely on volunteers, I would also offer that I thought it was unhealthy for the megathread when a moderator would take off their moderator hat and then participate in the megathread in a way that seemed, at least to me, to violate the guidelines and/or just set a poor example for conduct in the thread. I think moderators should be mindful that they don't ever really take off that hat, and they set a standard as a role model whether they are wearing their mod hat or not.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:07 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


For people who are interested in an offsite solution, I think there's been enough interest in a Dreamwidth spin off to start making specific plans on how to operate it; you can comment on it without signing up for a Dreamwidth account, you'll just need to wait for me to unscreen the anonymous comment.

I'm going to have the site style ready for feedback by Friday evening. I think sotonohito is right that if this is going to be attempted it needs to be sooner rather than later and a megathread transplant should be set up before the last one closes. I think Dreamwidth is a decent platform for this, even if it's not perfect, and I'm willing to moderate it while the community figures out the details. (I've moderated lively conflict-prone communities on LiveJournal before, so I do have some experience in this area. And I'm not really a megathread contributor, so my moderating won't take away from somebody being able to participate in the way that Little Dawn finds detrimental.) brainwane is currently a co-admin as well, since they offered to help set it up and I'll be away for a day and a half this weekend.

I don't think having an offsite place to try out a megathread transplant is going to hurt Metafilter (I mean, I imagine a transplanted megathread is going to be linking to all the political posts happening on Metafilter, along with all the other stuff, and people can participate in both), and I think it's up to the people who want it to happen to show that it can work. Since we won't know how it goes until we try, trying to figure out all the details around moderation in advance is what feels a little cart before horse to me, though I know people justifiably think the opposite--the most foreseeable outcome is that there won't be enough interest to have something viable. Getting to the point where there are moderating problems will indicate a smashing success, and even Metafilter with its paid moderators has had to figure out how to deal with moderation problems and solicited community feedback for them as it's gone along, because living communities are always a moving target.
posted by foxfirefey at 7:43 PM on August 1 [5 favorites]


#threxit
posted by Marticus at 8:28 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


Are you saying, essentially, “moderation is harder than you imagine, so it probably won’t work out to have an off-site solution, and besides, I don’t think an off-site solution is a good idea because of how I feel about the MeFi community”?

Regardless of intentions, it's inevitable that warnings are going to come across this way from people who don't support anything off-site. I guess the best solution is that if you don't support the off-site plan, any warnings or doubts should come with help for solving that problem. Otherwise it's going to feel like you're trying to discourage us rather than help us.
posted by diogenes at 7:17 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Or better yet, skip the warnings and doubts and jump right to the ideas for building something that will work.
posted by diogenes at 7:24 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


This is a challenging thread for me, because it begins with a proposal: "that megathread.org be a group blog led primarily by those who have been most frequently posting hard news and information to the megathreads (including those who made the most FPPs according to Rhaomi's summary)," and I've published many of the most recent FPPs in collaboration with other frequent posters, and I've been a frequent poster of hard news and information for the past six-ish months.

So I feel a sense of obligation to the community to review the alternatives and consider the options, and similarly to also point out when it looks like this thread is getting trolled by commenters from both within and outside of Metafilter. It is the megathread way to be critical of where information is coming from, and that is one of the megathread community features that I will miss the most.

I'm also tending to feel glad that we don't have such easy comment deletion here, because it can make it easier to hold posters accountable across Metafilter threads. Now that the reddit comments I pointed at have been deleted, maybe accountability is something to consider with regard to the Dreamwidth feature that also allows users to delete their own comments.

This may sound like warnings and doubts, but I am trying to offer constructive feedback. If I had been contacted directly like Ryvar had previously talked about, I could have also shared why some of Metafilter's features provide crucial support for my participation here. But now the early part of the Neurodivergence MeTa includes a lot of feedback about the importance of the color scheme and font options, flat commenting threads, and lack of images (for me, it's especially the lack of gifs or anything that flashes) can be in creating an accessible space, and I think that MeTa offers a lot more constructive feedback about site design than my own personal experience. The offers of help for solving the problem of accessibility are in the comments about site design in that thread, and in the discussion of how important those features can be to the community.
posted by Little Dawn at 2:06 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


wow, so much has happened. i came here to catch up on megathread after a couple weeks away and now it's this.

i'm definitely one of many who found the megathread structure, format, community, etc uniquely valuable and i am excited to participate in the offsite megathread attempt. thank you to all for putting this together.

i am strongly seconding what Little Dawn says above about neurodivergence and how refreshing Metafilter is for the flat commenting, color scheme, etc. i also fully agree about no images or gifs.

i just went and checked out the dreamwidth site and have to admit i am very sad that there's no favoriting. the megathreads were super valuable to me because of my inability to keep up on the news on a day to day basis. my job keeps me busy and exhausted most of the time, but when i'd have a few free hours on a weekend or other random free time i'd crack a beer and settle in for a few hours of megathread catchup. i have the greasemonkey script that makes a little sidebar that is wider the more favorites a comment has. this made it super easy for me to skim a week's worth of megathread in a few hours, as any seriously important breaking news, really thoughtful insight, most hilarious jokes, etc would have more favorites and stand out visually against the background noise. i mean i think this approach worked better because i was usually a couple days to a couple weeks behind on the threads, the number of favorites is less meaningful when comments are fresh. but i liked how it was chronological. i get how favorites may be perceived as cliqueish or whatnot but from my perspective it truly did distill things down to really quality comments. and it was really valuable for not missing important news and developments while skimming.

it would be nice if something was available to serve this same function. sorry, i really don't know about computer and internet things and how they work. but are there add-ons we could use or make for dreamwidth to do favoriting or other metafilterish stuff?

again thanks for doing this and see you on the offsite blue (can it be blue? i think i need that for continuity/ soothing my addiction)
posted by robotdevil at 7:18 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Okay, for now, it looks like the DW site might be the option gaining momentum, with the best likelihood of providing a good, MeFi-adjacent (yet unaffiliated) megathread forum.

To that end, and considering that MeFi’s last megathread is winding down, we need to begin crafting the next megathread post (to be the first on the DW site).

Can we collaboratively craft the megathread post here on MeFi, the way we’ve been doing, and then just paste it to the DW site? Would someone like to begin?
posted by darkstar at 12:17 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Hey y'all, head on over to megathread.dreamwidth.org and make an account so you can get onboard with the next megathread. It's a simple account creation process. You can try to get a username that matches, but I'd bet they're more picky about length and other stuff than mefi is. Hopefully that's not too much of a problem.

The layout and styling of the page is under development, so if you need some pointers, look for the "Flat" link next to the number of comments, that'll load a page that looks very much like a metafilter thread of comments: new ones at the bottom, people's handles and such below the text of their comment, etc.

It's not that big a difference, and the more we can get the ball rolling over there with people willing to help out and try and make this work the better.

See ya'll there.
posted by odinsdream at 6:38 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


How picky are we being about starting up a specific DW account related to our MeFi IDs. I have a DW account under a completely different name (no cross-pollination of my social media accounts occurs if at all possible). I don't know if it's worth staring a second one, just in case I want to post over there, or if I can just post under my current DW idea and have that not bother anybody that I'm not a known MeFi entity.
posted by sardonyx at 9:45 PM on August 4


I don’t think it’s an expectation that folks must use their MeFi handles. I was going to use mine, but someone already took it on DW, so I’m now “Darkstar_the_Mefite” on DW (which sounds like an arch-nemesis in a Pathfinder campaign, or a character in an Oglaf story arc, or something).

Could someone direct me to the wiki where folks have been collaborating on new megathread posts? I’ll get something started and welcome assistance from anyone interested in helping flesh it out. Alternately, it doesn’t need to be so detailed/elaborate, and maybe we can just kick off the post with a short paragraph...
posted by darkstar at 11:54 PM on August 4


I don’t think it’s an expectation that folks must use their MeFi handles.

Agreed. I think using your current DW account would be fine.
posted by diogenes at 6:55 AM on August 5


Here's the U.S. Politics FPP Draft, which is pretty skeletal at the moment.

Just a note -- that page is useful for collaboration, which isn't wholly necessary for politics posts. In the past, I've looked at What The Fuck Just Happened Today and went back a few days, if not all the way to the day after the prior post, and cherry-picked what I thought were major topics.

After all, the threads are somewhat about the OP, but mostly about the discussion and sharing of links after the post goes up.


Tangental question: one of the thresholds for new posts was when the first one got too long and started reducing usability for folks. What'll be the threshold for DW? X number of pages, to make skimming manageable? Number of days? A cluster of new events, related or not, worth making the focus of a new thread? I don't know how DW runs, tech-wise or user-wise, so I can't suggest or even hazard a guess.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Ah, perfect! Thank you, flf, I’d forgotten about that.

My two cents RE crafting posts: We don’t need to have an exhaustive post, in the way the MeFi megathread lists have become. But it will be nice to still pre-craft the posts, so the DW mods can just cut and paste it in.

As for the technical limitations, I’ll have to defer to those more familiar with DW. But it sounds like, since DW paginates discussion threads, there would be no inherent technical limit to their length. So maybe once a week or every two weeks might be sufficient. Depending on the amount of participation, one new thread a month might be adequate, especially if MeFi’s scheme if multiple topic-related threads really takes off.
posted by darkstar at 12:09 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Um, the U.S. Politics FPP Draft isn't really 'skeletal,' it was reworked after the Decommissioning MeTa to become a launch page for future collaboration on topic-specific US Politics FPPs on Metafilter. It is still under construction, but it is not currently designed for megathread collaboration.

If there is interest in creating a wiki page for off-site megathread collaboration, there are instructions on the U.S. Politics FPP Draft page for how to create a new wiki page. The original megathread outline is also still available at the bottom of the U.S. Politics FPP Draft page and could be incorporated into an off-site megathread wiki page. In addition, a note could be added to the U.S. Politics FPP Draft page to let people know where to find the off-site page.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:13 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Little Dawn, sorry for the mis-characterization of the draft page, and thanks for providing more context.

Also, good idea on the off-site linking -- done and done!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:40 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


It is still under construction, but it is not currently designed for megathread collaboration.

It says "This page may still be used to draft posts for Dreamwidth." Dreamwidth is now the megathread. In what way is it not designed for megathread collaboration?
posted by diogenes at 12:49 PM on August 5


To help reduce confusion and to maintain the current purpose of the US Politics FPP Draft wiki page, I will go ahead and create an off-site wiki page for you and link it to the US Politics Draft wiki page. It really does not seem workable for the US Politics FPP Draft wiki page to become a launch page for all topics, particularly with its title, so I'm going to remove that conflicting direction.

Other wiki pages can always be created for additional collaborative projects, and linked to the Main Page in the same area with other projects. Everything does not have to happen on the US Politics FPP Draft page, but links can be created to help direct traffic.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:51 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


It says "This page may still be used to draft posts for Dreamwidth." Dreamwidth is now the megathread. In what way is it not designed for megathread collaboration?

Because flt just added that language, but it is now removed, as noted above. Please stay tuned, and I will build you a wiki page and link it to the US Politics FPP Draft page.
posted by Little Dawn at 12:55 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this additional work, Little Dawn!
posted by filthy light thief at 1:13 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Here's the new wiki page: Dreamwidth FPP Draft, and I added a note to the US Politics FPP Draft wiki page as well.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:15 PM on August 5


Since the mega-dreamwidth-thread is a separate project, doesn't it make sense to use a separate wiki entirely? I'm a bit surprised Dreamwidth doesn't have a wiki function by now—I'd have thought it essential for fandom lore. (Reddit, of all places, has wiki options for its subreddits.) And at the moment, those of us composing focused uspolitics/potus45 FPPs are trying to adapt the MeFi wiki to the new policy.

In any case, Wikidot, TiddlyWiki, and OurProject are popular options wikispaces, as I mentioned in the previous MeTa, and one could simply run MediaWiki on a private host.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:17 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit surprised Dreamwidth doesn't have a wiki function by now—I'd have thought it essential for fandom lore.

There's a wiki about the development of the Dreamwidth software itself and, separately, the Organization for Transformative Works already stewards a FanLore wiki!

I'm in favor of having the megathread Dreamwidth community and any other megathread offshoots feel free to use the existing MetaFilter wiki instead of starting up a whole other wiki. Wikis are large and, in my experience, can contain lots of different pages and hives of activity without bumping into each other. I see no reason to make new wiki-hosting chores. But maybe I am missing something! Doktor Zed, could you share more of your reasoning for why it would make more sense to start a new wiki?
posted by brainwane at 2:42 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


brainwane, you may want to ask Pronoiac if it is okay to use their resource for an off-site project or whether it makes sense to start a new wiki, because from the MeFi Wiki main page: "The purpose of this Wiki is to produce and maintain a general guide for the community weblog called MetaFilter."

Also, from the MeFi Wiki About Page: "This wiki intends to provide a comprehensive and up to date resource about every aspect of MetaFilter that reflects the dynamic nature of the MetaFilter community. In doing so, it should hopefully make the lives of MetaFilter readers and members much easier. However, this wiki is not a general discussion site, nor is it a dumping ground for things that MetaFilter members find interesting. Please respect the fact that Pronoiac (this wiki's generous host) doesn't have unlimited bandwidth or webspace."
posted by Little Dawn at 3:06 PM on August 5


Ah, sorry for missing that - thanks for the heads-up, Little Dawn. Will drop Pronoiac a note now.
posted by brainwane at 3:23 PM on August 5


Perhaps using a SyncFiddle for this round would work? It'd be easy and shareable among the people doing the work, and has nice HTML support and previewing.

Given that Metafilter is deliciously decadent in what it allows as a user handle, and that Dreamwidth limits it to 25 characters of [a-z0-9_]+ because the platform uses them as subdomains, it means that not everybody could transfer over the MeFi handle even if they tried; additionally that username could already be taken by somebody else (see: darkstar). So it can't be made into a requirement, and of course some people will already have accounts with different usernames over there. People can put their Metafilter usernames in their profile if they like and I think I could probably make a case for Dreamwidth to have it as an "Other Sites" option like, say, Etsy or Pinboard and get that implemented.

I myself am not concerned with whether or not somebody connects Metafilter identity with their Dreamwidth identity, though I'm sure other people feel differently about it.

The hard limit on comments for a post is 10K, but after 5K people start getting captchas to prevent automated posting of huge numbers of comments to an entry, so that's usually when people make new posts for things they're doing.
posted by foxfirefey at 3:36 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Perhaps using a SyncFiddle for this round would work? It'd be easy and shareable among the people doing the work, and has nice HTML support and previewing.

Thanks for the link, foxfirefey—that looks like a interesting very shared workspace! (Much better than good old PasteBin. I may consider it for some personal projects.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:44 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Oh you're welcome! I also ran across wiki.js and it looks kind of slick! I've run MediaWiki installations in my time but locking them down is always a pain (and you have to because they are spam MAGNETS), I think next time I need to set one up I'm going to try that one.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:24 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I also ran across wiki.js and it looks kind of slick!

That does look intriguing (bookmarked for later). And, yes, MediaWiki's drawback is its default openness. At least there are a few anti-spam extensions available, but for a project like this with a small number of initial users, the simplest thing to do would be to restrict editing from the start and confirm all sign-ups.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:59 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


So. When are we planning to launch the DW megathread?
posted by odinsdream at 1:23 PM on August 6


If DreamWidth is the (first) alternative, how should this information be disseminated? An FPP specifically about the site (rather than for discussing political content)? A special sidebar link? What would the mod team be comfortable with?
posted by biogeo at 3:05 PM on August 6


If folks feel like they're in good shape to more or less say "hey, we're doing a thing starting....now!", we can make a sidebar post about it, yeah. MetaTalk post about it being open for participation would be fine too.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:11 PM on August 6


Welp, I guess we should specify a time when we’ll pull the trigger on it and go live with posting whatever we have crafted at that point, as the first Megathread on DW.

For lack of a preferred time, and to give folks at least one full day to process the news, how about Friday, August 9, at noon EST?
posted by darkstar at 11:36 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


That sounds good to me, but maybe shift it three hours forward to 3PM EST so we can start it on my noon PST lunch break.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:26 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


That sounds good. And it’ll be in time to pick up end-of-the-week participation.
posted by darkstar at 9:50 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


No funeral service for the Metafilter based megathread? It has kept me sane.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:21 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


For me, it's about traffic. MetaFilter is a site with a large community, and that is why the Megathreads were so valuable to me. The knowledge that I could interact and converse with a significant number of people. I wish good luck to those creating a new off-site solution, but I see the challenges of building a large user base rather than a handful of dedicated posters to be daunting. With the arcane and chaotic deletion policies of Facebook making it untenable for sincere political discourse, I'll probably end up on Reddit, a site I currently barely use.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:39 PM on August 7


I could also check out 8chan, that's been getting a lot of press lately. /s
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:44 PM on August 7


Another reminder: this thread is not for sharing why folks think the off-site option is a bad idea, or why they won’t be using it. I’d go more in depth explaining this, but it’s literally been repeated several times in the thread already, so I’ll respectfully direct folks upthread for more detail.
posted by darkstar at 1:50 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I'm literally endorsing one of the initially suggested solutions, a subreddit. I hope that's within the bounds of the conversation!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:51 PM on August 7


Ah — my apologies. I totally misread the intent of your comment — please forgive me!

So am I understanding correctly that you’d prefer to use the MeFi sub on Reddit as the off-site megathread forum?
posted by darkstar at 1:57 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Likely. I think the chances of a growing user base on a subreddit are much greater than on a more niche site, sadly!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:01 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I get you now, thanks for clarifying.

Yes, you’re quite possibly correct about the numbers on Reddit. Just by dint of it’s greater name recognition and longevity, it may entice people more readily. I do like that aspect about it. And Rhaomi has done really good work on it, too.

As others have pointed out, Reddit has some systematic challenges, though. One of the big ones folks mentioned was the whole culture of Reddit administration/ownership making it feel less secure or supportive an environment. I’m not sure how or whether that would affect participants in a MeFi subreddit, but it was an expressed concern.

I just took a look at the r/Metafilter, and noticed that there are only a few posts that receive anything more than a handful of comments. So I’m not sure that the Reddit sub would be starting out with an advantage in community size. Wherever we go, it’s going to start out small. Growth, if it happens at all, will have to develop over time.

To that end, the more options we embrace — and fragment into — the worse it will be for the growth of any one of them. As many have noted, the very fact of decommissioning the megathreads and discussing off-site options has made folks threaten to leave MeFi. If there are multiple off-site options that become destinations, that will lead to further fragmenting. Which is why it’s important to determine the best possible option, make it as good as possible, and then support it as much as possible, so we can develop that spirit and synergy of community to which you’re referring.

Honestly, at this early stage, I don’t know if a DW community is better than a Reddit sub, or vice versa. The only way we’ll know if either of them is a viable solution is, ultimately, to give it a good solid try.
posted by darkstar at 2:23 PM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Speaking of which, if we are going to go live with the DW option this Friday at 3pm, then we need to begin crafting the first FPP.

Little Dawn has kindly made this wiki available for us, here.

As mentioned before, it doesn’t need to be as detailed or elaborate as the megathread posts have become in recent days. A single paragraph with a few key links could be sufficient to provide the fountainhead for the thread.

I’d therefore like to propose a shorter FPP, something along the lines of...

——-

Title: Long live the US Politics megathread!

Description text: The country reels from another wave of mass shootings, drawing increased focus on President Trump’s use of inflammatory and racist rhetoric, undermining his own call to unity with continued attacks on immigrants and political opponents. The escalating trade war with China is resulting in significant upheaval of global markets. Meanwhile, the Democratic Presidential Primaries are only six months away, with only eight candidates so far qualifying for the next round of debates in September.

——
posted by darkstar at 3:09 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


A brief apology for my burst of interest followed by sudden complete silence: I wasn't supposed to transition from 70 hours/week crunch to 90~100 for a further six weeks (through to EOY), but... *shrugs* game development. Major data migration failure last Friday sealed the coffin on my time.

My offer to donate stands if there's a Patreon/Ko-fi/whatevs to kick some money towards; Megathreads have been my lifeline for remaining politically informed under these conditions (capitalism). I was hoping to contribute a little more directly in the six-week window before uber-crunch began but it simply wasn't possible. Apologies again for flaking and best of luck: I'll be reading in the minutes spent waiting for the compiler to finish, same as I have been the past three years. Cheers.
posted by Ryvar at 3:51 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


I’d therefore like to propose a shorter FPP, something along the lines of...

That works for me. I'd like to include the latest news on the impeachment front. Right now it's "House panel sues to force testimony from former Trump White House counsel."

I'll add it to the wiki for now.
posted by diogenes at 5:34 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


The DreamWidth MegaThread is up to 42 members :)
posted by diogenes at 5:53 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


East Manitoba: I hear you; I agree that a subreddit would have a greater potential for growth, depending on how it was run? But a lot of people were talking about a locked down subreddit to make it easier, which while super understandable would also cut down on growth. And I'm honestly surprised nobody made a subreddit and just ran with it, was it just because Ryvar got swamped? (That's just a brutal work week, Ryvar! Take care of yourself!) I don't mean to just...waltz in here and possibly prevent what people might prefer through coincidental timing and Ryvar's bad luck.

A Discourse seemed like the best technical solution because its features mesh well with the ones Metafilter has. and it's a modern codebase. But somebody would either have to host it or it would be $100 a month and people would have to coordinate the funding somehow. WordPress has some similar downsides and also WP installs just...always ending up compromised if someone doesn't stay on top of them, ugh! I think Discourse would be better.

The PoliticsFilter Slack seems to have a decent chunk of activity with some very familiar names in there! Its "weekly members who are active" and "weekly members who have posted" have gone up over the past month and I'm seeing more activity in the channels I'm in now than I was previously. It's mobile friendly, a lot of people know the interface. But it's always going to scroll off eventually into the ether, and the more active it is the faster that happens. And people can't lurk unless they sign up, and you can't link an outsider to anything happening in it.

MetaChat is quiet enough that days can go without any messaging, and it's got no scrollback, so everything will be very ephemeral if it's sped up to megathread territory.

Dreamwidth might not be the best technical fit, but it's the one I know how to work with, so it's the one I've been testing out because at the very least I can use it as motivation to make a decent style skin and technical guide for the wee offshoot comm there and it's gotten decent reception overall so things kept rolling forward. And I know that if everybody drops it like a hot potato for something else, any megathread activity that happened there can merrily chug along reference wise without anybody personally being responsible for keeping it up, and that's kind of a relief.

Also can't neglect to mention that the single topic threads here will still have a rich variety of participants talking about relevant events, and they're happening fairly frequently from what I can see, so we can't discount that.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:32 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


The Dreamwidth Megathread Offshoot Experiment: here we goooo!

Here it is in:

* Flat comment viewing mode
* Dark mode
* Dark and flat
posted by foxfirefey at 11:58 AM on August 9 [10 favorites]


Nice job everyone 😊
posted by odinsdream at 7:47 PM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I'm liking it!

(This is a verbal favourite, such as we'll have to use on DW.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:15 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Made a DW account, just read Megathread #0001. Thank you SO much - the set up looks great!
posted by faineant at 3:23 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Soooo, not a lot of interest, eh. But. There's also not been a lot of messaging about "hey, go here for megathread needs" as far as I can tell?
posted by odinsdream at 5:27 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Don't forget lurker interest! I'm encouraged by what I've seen thus far, and definitely hope other folks start making their way there.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:06 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


Soooo, not a lot of interest, eh.'

It's definitely too quiet right now. People aren't going to keep checking a thread with one or two posts per day.

I'm somewhat optimistic that it will perk up when there's a major development or an event that generates conversation (like a hearing).

On the bright side, by not saying anything, we're avoiding many of the potential problems like doomsaying and re-litigating old arguments ;)
posted by diogenes at 6:18 AM on August 13


Maybe we should use Dreamwidth only to relitigate old arguments and refer all old arguments there.
Meanwhile we could have general purpose Megathreads on MeFi. I'm saying this because I feel disconnected. If I do one of my things like Dow Jones averages at 2 and a half years of presidencies, I don't feel people will see them in Dreamwidth. And it doesn't necessarily fit in with the other MeFi threads.

Or maybe this is relitigating an old argument.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:28 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


diogenes: I'm somewhat optimistic that it will perk up when there's a major development or an event that generates conversation (like a hearing).

Unfortunately for the MegaThread Dreamwidth effort/ community, it seems like those scales of events are suitable for their own posts on the Blue, as seen with the mass shooting in El Paso, Trump Trade Wars II, and the mega ICE raids in Mississippi.

If anything, I think closing MegaThreads sooner, particularly before Is it time to retire "outragefilter" and the wreck that was the state of the site, which both seemed to deflate MetaFilter activity.

In other words, MetaFilter isn't what I'd consider to be "healthy" in levels of activity now, and trying to spin off a group at this point seems like the worst time to catch on-site energy and re-direct it. This is no slight or criticism of the work done by people on Dreamwidth, but my recap of where we are as a community.

But we can't go back in time, and we're not getting MegaThreads back (and this isn't a thread to discuss that topic, that one's over here).

Going forward, it could help to have a link to the MegaThread DW site in general, the new MegaThread specifically, and maybe a link to a "How To Dreamwidth" page, on the sidebar for U.S. Politics. I'm imagining formatting looking something like this:

DW MegaThread #1 [MT DW intro] {that's also a link, but for now, it's just example.com

Of course, that needs buy-in from cortex (and the mods?).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:18 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately for the MegaThread Dreamwidth effort/ community, it seems like those scales of events are suitable for their own posts on the Blue, as seen with the mass shooting in El Paso, Trump Trade Wars II, and the mega ICE raids in Mississippi.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. That post isn't just about Mississippi. It's about Trump's evil immigration policy in general. But what happens the day after that thread closes and there's some fresh new horror on that front? Another open-ended immigration thread? Every thirty days? Same thing for trade wars, or impeachment, or the Democratic primary. It's a rolling dumpster fire, and I don't see how "standalone" posts are going to keep up.
posted by diogenes at 11:00 AM on August 13 [2 favorites]


To use another example, is there going to be a new FPP every time there is a hearing in the House? Or one thread about hearings in general, and a new thread about hearings/impeachment goes up when the previous one expires? I think DreamWidth is going to function as an overflow valve if the idea of standalone posts on the Blue starts to break down over time.
posted by diogenes at 11:13 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I honestly just don't get what the fuck is going on. Why remove the megathreads and just shift them to topic-focused threads that include the same commenters, same topics as the megathread, just spread across posts? It's infuriating.
posted by odinsdream at 11:51 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]


It's definitely too quiet right now. People aren't going to keep checking a thread with one or two posts per day.

I would reasonably guess that 95% of the megathread posters will probably not migrate over to Dreamwidth to comment when the site literally moves somewhere else. So I'm not surprised at that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:29 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


> To use another example, is there going to be a new FPP every time there is a hearing in the House? Or one thread about hearings in general, and a new thread about hearings/impeachment goes up when the previous one expires?

> I honestly just don't get what the fuck is going on. Why remove the megathreads and just shift them to topic-focused threads that include the same commenters, same topics as the megathread, just spread across posts? It's infuriating.

This thread doesn't feel like the right place to address these concerns, but we are talking about these issues in the Decommissioning MeTa.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:33 PM on August 13


This thread doesn't feel like the right place to address these concerns

This sees like an ok place to talk about the intersection of DreamWidth and the New Blue.
posted by diogenes at 1:40 PM on August 13


I mean i was expecting some help or efforts to get megathread participants over to the replacement, not just a sly way to discourage participation and water it down with "topic specific" threads. That just spreads out the participation group and makes it look like the megathread is gone even though it's just been broken up.
posted by odinsdream at 1:43 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


I mean i was expecting some help or efforts to get megathread participants over to the replacement, not just a sly way to discourage participation

Yeah, there's definitely a bit of a turf war breaking out.
posted by diogenes at 1:47 PM on August 13


I would reasonably guess that 95% of the megathread posters will probably not migrate over to Dreamwidth tomment

59 people have migrated so far. I suspect that's way more than 5% of the megathread posters.
posted by diogenes at 2:01 PM on August 13


I am not, in any way, interested in a turf war.

I’m posting on the DW site (as of now the by-far major poster) because it affords an alternative locale to have a megathread experience.

If some folks don’t want to click the extra two clicks to get there, that’s entirely up to them. If MeFites are enjoying the new experiment of splitting up the megathread into a dozen separate threads, then that’s perfectly understandable. If others feel that they’re so burned out on the whole “how will MeFi manage this next round of drama, tune in tomorrow” thing, and decide they want to get their news on Reddit or wherever, that’s understandable, too (though unfortunate).

It is obviously not in cortex’s best financial interests to promote shifting discussion or participation to Dreamwidth. So I am reluctant to push him to spend his time and energy promoting, say, the DW megathread instance. I’m simply grateful that he’s been so gracious for allowing us the space to discuss the alternatives.

Will the DW megathread last? Who can say? But, for now, the DW megathread is there, for any who are interested. Feel free to lurk, post a link, or comment on someone else’s post.

Cheers! :)
posted by darkstar at 2:52 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]


It is obviously not in cortex’s best financial interests to promote shifting discussion or participation to Dreamwidth. So I am reluctant to push him to spend his time and energy promoting, say, the DW megathread instance.

Cortex wants to "adjust downward the overall weight of US politics discussion on the site." What better way to do that then to send people who want to discuss US politics to another site?
posted by diogenes at 3:04 PM on August 13


I am also super not interested in having folks characterize any of this as a turf war. I'm totally fine with the DW experiment (and am happy to toss a pointer on the sidebar this afternoon, still sorta catching up from out of town travel this weekend), and am happy with folks doing their best to adapt to new expectations on MeFi itself, and both of those things can happen together without a problem.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:30 PM on August 13 [7 favorites]


FWIW, I'm on vacation this week, but will be putting any ELECTIONS NEWS updates in the DW going forward.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:54 PM on August 13 [10 favorites]


That's fantastic. Thank you!
posted by diogenes at 5:23 AM on August 14


cortex, I for one think a sidebar link to the new DW megathread would be great, plus:

+ a link this thread (maybe starting at foxfirefey's comment?), and
+ a link to the the MT DW "technical guide" that lays out the basic functions of MegaThread (thanks foxfirefey!).

The benefit of foxfirefey's write-up over the official Dreamwidth FAQ is that the FAQ is GIANT, and the technical guide is succinct, and is tailored to the MegaThread DW sub-site/ community.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:22 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


I'd better go actually finish that sucker! Things have come in based on feedback that I need to add.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:28 PM on August 14


Hi there! brainwane's Mefi Mail went to my spam filter. This feels Mefi-adjacent enough to continue using the Mefi Wiki. Sorry if the delay was inconvenient.

mefi mefi mefi
posted by Pronoiac at 11:47 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


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