R_N returns, MetaTalk process changes July 23, 2020 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Hi. I'm back.

I'm not gonna be modding. I'm going to be handling the administrative work behind the scenes, managing policy discussions, and processing user feedback. For those of you who don't know or remember, this is my professional background - I've done community management for companies large and small, and I'm excited to be putting those skills to use more directly than I did when I was concentrating on moderation.

The way Metafilter manages its workflow and communication is not working any more. It used to work better, but the internet has changed, our userbase has changed, and our staffing levels have changed. Communication has become infrequent, unclear, and unsatisfying. Expectations aren't clearly set; progress isn't visibly tracked. Staff are burning out to a frankly terrifying degree. This isn't helping the site or the community, and it needs to change.

So we're gonna change it. It's going to take a while to establish new systems and win back trust. It's going to take a lot of work, communication, and intentional visibility. There are going to be hiccups and unforeseen problems; there's going to be friction. But it is my firm belief that we can get to a much, much better place by putting in the work.

--

The first new expectation is regular update posts here on MetaTalk. Expect to see the first one next Friday; they'll be monthly at least. They'll contain a running list of what changes we've made, which ones we're working on (with timeframes!) and what's been requested. The first one will be long; we have a lot of requests, especially from the PoC and trans communities, and also especially about privacy and safety. These posts will be closed, because they're going to be so broad, which leads into the second new expectation.

We will be handling policy MetaTalks differently in order to improve responsiveness and effectiveness. I'm going to come in every weekday morning and read them, do my best to summarize the problems and proposed solutions, and then step back again. When it's clear that all the suggestions and discussions to be had are on the table, I'll close the thread with a summary of our takeaways and action items. Those will go on the to-do list, and you'll be able to track them on our regular updates. It's my ultimate goal to be able to reduce or eliminate the queue with this system.

Chatty MeTas will go on as they have; questions or clarifications will generate documentation to-dos where needed. This particular thread we're in now is gonna be a bit of a wildcard, but I'm planning to treat it like a policy MeTa. Remember: daily updates every weekday, probably nothing more than that, but you can count on that.

There are a lot of other things on my list; we'll get to them. I've got a lot of chatting to do with mods and Mefites both. If you want to reach out to me directly, restless_nomad@metafilter.com is the best place. And the contact form is always open, 24/7.

It's good to be back.

Summaries:
July 24, 2020
July 27, 2020
July 28, 2020
July 29, 2020
July 30, 2020
July 31, 2020
August 6, 2020
posted by restless_nomad (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 9:03 AM (150 comments total) 140 users marked this as a favorite

I am also... around a little more regularly. Not quite back, but visiting.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:09 AM on July 23 [125 favorites]


Welcome back to both you, and thanks for this clearly-explained post.

Will the update posts include updates on the site’s financial status? I’m a broken record on this topic, but to me, improving the site’s finances with a concrete plan is the baseline task needed to address pretty much everything else. I’d be profoundly disappointed if financial changes, and updates about those changes, were not to be part of this process.
posted by cheapskatebay at 9:12 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Your new role sounds great for the site R_N. Welcome back
posted by biggreenplant at 9:12 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Sweet, big welcome back to both of ya! All of this sounds really good, thank you!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]


welcome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on July 23


Welcome back!

I just want to comment briefly on the burnout thing. I would not begrudge any of the MeFi staff taking some time off to recover, regardless of what's happening with the site and the community. I know it's probably obvious, and I'm not trying to speak for anyone but myself here. I just wanted to say it explicitly anyway: take care of yourselves.
posted by FishBike at 9:17 AM on July 23 [59 favorites]


Welcome back! Those sound like promising steps.
posted by JenMarie at 9:18 AM on July 23


Welcome back! I worry about staff burnout A LOT. I feel very deeply on the topic.
posted by theatro at 9:35 AM on July 23 [17 favorites]


Thanks, this... actually sounds like a workable way to keep the ideal of MetaTalk intact while making it a more functional aspect of the site that hopefully leads to less hurt and fewer users leaving. I feel for everyone here - the site does have issues with race, class and trans stuff and people have reasonable concerns there. But it is also managed by a small number of individuals with limited resources. Everything in the world is hard right now and probably going to get harder. I would like it if this place could continue on and offer some refuge from the stress and horror; we all have to try to be kind to each other.
posted by Lonnrot at 9:48 AM on July 23 [11 favorites]


I hope that visibility and transparency is sustainable. It is an excellent intention.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:55 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Heya, just a note of acknowledgement and endorsement on this and then I'm gonna aim to stay out of this discussion.

We talked with r_n a bunch this week, as a team and in particular LM and I, about ways we can break out of some of the loops of dysfunction we've had as a team and a site, and r_n stepping in to take up this organizational and administrative project feels positive and necessary. I appreciate tremendously her willingness to take it on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 AM on July 23 [58 favorites]


<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 10:13 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Yesssss! Change is good from time to time, and it's also cool to have the old gang back on board—this is truly the best of both worlds. Welcome back, r_n, and thanks for bringing the clipboard and stopwatch with you.
posted by heyho at 10:15 AM on July 23


This is a pretty big change, but the right one. Good call.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:15 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]


FishBike: I just want to comment briefly on the burnout thing. I would not begrudge any of the MeFi staff taking some time off to recover, regardless of what's happening with the site and the community. I know it's probably obvious, and I'm not trying to speak for anyone but myself here. I just wanted to say it explicitly anyway: take care of yourselves.

I'll echo this, and go a step farther - if it means putting the site "on hold" to give everyone a chance to have a vacation, then do that. I think everything could be put on pause, except MetaMail, in case people are having private discussions and only speak through MetaMail. I think this was done in the past when there were fewer mods, but I still think it could be valuable, if not necessary.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:16 AM on July 23 [35 favorites]


Thank you all for your efforts keeping Metafilter a welcoming and functional place or all.
posted by bondcliff at 10:34 AM on July 23 [5 favorites]


I would appreciate a financial update for the site as well. Given that the site has always had consistent financial issues, adding 3.5 or so staff seems like a drastic increase for a site that has declining revenue. Perhaps this is being made up with by donations or the site staff are moving towards being closer to volunteers than staff - but if so, I'd like to know.
posted by saeculorum at 10:45 AM on July 23 [8 favorites]


as my mom once put it, change is inevitable. The question is whether the change makes you, or you make the change.

This feels like a positive step toward the latter.

Thank you.
posted by philip-random at 10:46 AM on July 23 [7 favorites]


I just want to say good luck, we're all counting on you.
posted by briank at 10:54 AM on July 23 [15 favorites]


This seems like a good move.
Is there an expectation of about how long the policy MeTas will stay open? If it is for, say, 3 days or less, then it might be nice to have a way for users who don't catch the thread in its open state to still reply (via contact form, or in the next policy MeTa, or.. ?)
posted by nat at 10:57 AM on July 23


One thing that we need to discuss is how permanent are accounts going to be going forward. I think at this point we need to change to a system where a user can wipe all of their contributions here somewhat automatically without mod intervention. I'd like the expectation to be that people are doing it for serious reasons, and not just because they realize they've been an ass and want a fresh start, but we all know our own situations best so I don't think there should be any gatekeeping on this. If a user wants to do a full delete of their stuff they can do it, no questions asked, within a short timeframe, and they're welcome to come back and make a new account at any time. This will potentially fundamentally change the site and how people use it and I know from the other threads that there are differing opinions on this but we really need to figure this out so people can re-calibrate their risk-tolerance for this site.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:12 AM on July 23 [18 favorites]


I have been worried about the mods' possibilities to handle things here and stay happy, or at least motivated, or at the very least sane. They are so few, and the issues are so big, and also, almost everyone has been angry for almost four years and many have been extra frustrated (masked, thinly veiled, or otherwise) since March. That's just to say I hugely welcome* this initiative and welcome back, both of you!

* I think I've heard that in RavelryNewSpeak I should say "I updick this."
posted by Namlit at 11:27 AM on July 23 [6 favorites]


This is wonderful news.

I've also been super worried about staff burnout. There's so much good work to be done here, all of it deserving of time and resources. Balance is a big part of that. This is the way to make that happen.

Viva la evolution!
posted by mochapickle at 11:37 AM on July 23 [6 favorites]


One thing that we need to discuss is how permanent are accounts going to be going forward.

We should discuss this, but it should be in a different thread. Suffice to say, I don't think your opinion is universally shared, and I feel like we should be allowing all voices (not just certain groups) to contribute to site policy. However, I'm not going to derail this post to have that discussion here.
posted by saeculorum at 11:49 AM on July 23 [52 favorites]


Thank you restless_nomad. I appreciate the intent and I think this sort of change is what Metafilter sorely needs and is in my opinion embarassingly overdue.

I look forward to the first of your regular update posts, but more than that I'll be looking forward to the tenth or twentieth.

Its not going to be easy. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by Soi-hah at 12:37 PM on July 23


Welcome back.* This seems like a big step in the right direction.

*Still not holding a grudge at your deleting my very first FPP.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:53 PM on July 23 [6 favorites]


Just a clarifying question about regular updates:

"The first new expectation is regular update posts here on MetaTalk. Expect to see the first one next Friday; they'll be monthly at least. "

and then "Remember: daily updates every weekday, probably nothing more than that, but you can count on that."

Are those in contradiction?

I'm a newish member who has been ~very~ quiet in the ongoing discussions about how Metafilter does/n't serve all its communities - but they have been a big part of my reading on the site over the last year, and I have been struggling to stay optimistic about how things will continue. I think that this announcement is hopeful, and I will be following along closely.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:56 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forwards to what this brings.

Lawn- I understood this as regular POSTS, with updated within those posts on weekdays. Is that right?
posted by Braeburn at 12:58 PM on July 23


welcome back!
posted by supermedusa at 1:04 PM on July 23


Welcome back, r_n and jessamyn. I really appreciated your responsiveness and empathy in the recent conversations and I'm glad you'll both be back in some capacity to help influence and impact the direction the mod team will take.

I do hope that moving forward there will be greater transparency, especially about things like account bans. I'm still unsettled by what precipitated these changes; it's not clear if real restitution or explanation has been made, and so frankly, it's going to take even more time for me, as a long time user, to trust in the mods again. I'm glad, at least, that cortex and the other mods have recognized the type of help they very obviously need, and the kind of voices that are necessary to even begin. But it's only that, a beginning. I'm sure I'm not the only person who is a little too wary now for genuine optimism.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:07 PM on July 23 [15 favorites]


Lawn Beaver, I think what R_N is saying is that there will be new state of the site MeTa posts at least monthly (locked posts with status on ongoing projects, etc) and that when there's an active site policy discussion going, she'll be adding daily summary comments to that post, with information that would then influence the next monthly status post.
posted by duien at 1:10 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


I think this is a really good step, and hopefully the start of a much more proactive approach to improving the site.

I do want to call back to an incredible comment suedehead made in the anti-racism thread, which I think really gets to the heart of the issue. I hope that the new emphasis on community management takes the collaborative approach suedehead describes, rather than the policing approach. That is, I really hope that "management" means managing the site to actively identify, look out for, and be responsive to the needs of its members, rather than managing the members. That it feels like real facilitation.
posted by trig at 1:13 PM on July 23 [24 favorites]


Sounds good, godspeed.
posted by dmh at 1:39 PM on July 23


This seems like a positive development. I look forward to learning more!
posted by Wretch729 at 1:56 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


This is such a welcome (and unexpected) development. Welcome back, restless_nomad! I hope this new role is really soul-nourishing for you, excited you’ll get a chance to put the skills you already had to use for the benefit of the site. And it’s been wonderful to see Jessamyn’s mod notes, too!

I hope it’s helping everyone be able to avoid continuing the unsustainable schedule that’s been needed. It would be nice if the site could take a week’s break so you all could, too, but I imagine finances make that impossible.

On that note, agreeing with previous comments that a discussion about finances would be really helpful. It’s been hard to see members comment that they will be canceling their financial contribution because changes that clearly will require resources aren’t being made. This isn’t on those users and it’s understandable no one wants to fund an organization that is harming members; it’s on staff for not always making the financial situation clear when laying out expectations for changes.

It feels like a lot of members are unaware that, at least to my understanding based on previous Meta posts, that Mefi’s financial situation is very precarious.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:03 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


An idea you may already have had/ discussed: given the many ideas and suggestions from MeFites, and the topics or focus-areas of interest and concern raised in MeTa discussions, is schedule of weekly topics to be addressed, and if so, could this be posted?

This way, it could help people, myself included, know that 1) certain topics will be addressed and/or open for discussion in the future, and 2) when to expect them, so I will hold my tongue on a matter until it's brought up. I realize many topics are intertwined, so trying to only talk on one topic but not another may be hard, or seem impossible or not realistic, depending on the topic and circumstances, but this could help focus discussions.

Related: I hope there is some framework, or more direct and timely feedback, or both, regarding technical matters, because lots of people have good ideas, but it seems like the unique construction of MetaFilter (and limited staff time) mean that some fixes would be more of overhauls on this platform. Without framing discussions, we can (and I think have) gotten into very heated discussions about what could and should be done, without having response about what can be done in a reasonable fashion.

A final tangent/ suggestion/ idea: I also think it would be informative to get ballpark figures for some achievable, but more expensive, solutions. MeFites have stated that they're willing to fund a solution, if it would improve the safety and security of the site, for example.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:28 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


As much as I think Jessamyn and Restless nomad are excellent at their work, I have concerns that old blood fosters old solutions, and that it will continue some of the entrenched systems that have made mefi difficult. I also would appreciate transparency about the finicals.
posted by PinkMoose at 2:32 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


Yes, exactly, we should transition 'the grey' to a dynamic immersive real time nerf combat stage with haptic (nerf bat) immediate feedback. How can we fully assimilate the frustrations of various members without a whack aside the virtual head? Get it all worked out real time!
posted by sammyo at 2:48 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


💜

I would support pausing the site, or even "Commentless Wednesdays" or something to build in a regular thing.
posted by lucidium at 2:50 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Fishbike > I would not begrudge any of the MeFi staff taking some time off to recover, regardless of what's happening with the site and the community...

the thorn bushes have roses > It would be nice if the site could take a week’s break so you all could, too...


lucidium > I would support pausing the site, or even "Commentless Wednesdays" or something to build in a regular thing...


The burnout issue is a real issue, mentally affecting the moderators and, by their actions when overstretched, the site and the members.

1. Remembering 2016, it's also likely to become worse in the next few months as we close in on this inevitable godforsaken storm of [redacted] and the few months after it. Frequently moderating before, during and after that cannot be healthy for anyone, and 2020 feels like 2016 but amplified with {waves arms} everything else going on.

2. This is a community forum with a staff list so absurdly small they all get namechecked within two sentences - and that includes the alumni. It's a single digit number of moderators trying to give 24/7 coverage and do a myriad of other real-time or background things.

3. Unless there's an extremely unexpected reveal, there isn't a bucket of cash to hire more. The opposite being more likely.

Having scheduled downtimes - the odd day, or several days, every now and then - so all the mods can take a break, breath, do other MetaFilter things or even better no MetaFilter things, and can't do overtime modding or check in on threads going wrong, may be healthy. It would also help Frimble in doing site work. And it could be healthy for any MeFites who are perhaps checking in at a personally unhealthy frequency. And FPP creators can still save up their creations for posting when they can again.

(Whether downtime means everything is frozen but still visible, or the site is literally powered down, is another point)

The assumption/expectation that MetaFilter is a 24/7 website and service is ... just that? Didn't Matt use to turn off the site every now and then in the early days so he could go to the beach? That ... sounds kinda healthy, for both moderators and MeFites. And freezing, or turning it off every now and then would be nicely counter-culture against the prevailing ethos of everything being available there and then.

I am old and tired. Fuck 24/7 availability of a box on the screen to type characters into. Go for a walk and eat maple syrup ice cream every now and then instead.
posted by Wordshore at 2:57 PM on July 23 [73 favorites]


This sounds GREAT. Thank you very much for the announcement - and welcome back (to jessamyn, too)!
posted by kristi at 2:58 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Welcome back R_N and welcome (?) to the visiting jessamyn. Good luck and Godspeed.

Anything I can do to help, let me know. I will be on it.

AW
posted by AugustWest at 3:11 PM on July 23


These seem like really positive changes.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:25 PM on July 23


Welcome back! All of the behind-the-scenes work is a lot for a small team to take on. I have hope this will be positive for staff and community members. Mods and staff, please take good care of yourselves.
posted by Mouse Army at 4:04 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Coming back in to say: Yes! I totally support the idea of regularly scheduled downtime. I think that's a wonderful idea that could benefit both our staff and our community.
posted by mochapickle at 4:12 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


My gut tells me that taking a site offline for more than routine maintenance on a regular basis is a fantastic way to destroy traffic, search rankings, and revenue. This is true enough just for informational websites about COVID-shuttered businesses, and would be even more true for a site whose business is the site. Even if it were a read-only mode type of thing, regularly preventing existing users from being able to post or comment just discourages people from participating in general.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:24 PM on July 23 [9 favorites]


The idea wouldn't be to take a few months off (like the linked article mentions), though, would it? I agree a few months would have a disastrous outcome.

It sounds like if this were put into action, it would mean the staff taking off perhaps standard US holiday weekends or, like, Friday nights. The best times to do this would need to be dictated by site traffic, staff schedules, general feasibility, etc.

When I was gaming a lot (aka too much), I used to have to set alarms to remind myself to turn off the computer and go take a walk, call my family. It was a good thing.

Anyway, the time off thing may not be feasible, but I hope it's worth taking a look.
posted by mochapickle at 4:42 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]


Months offline would kill the site obvs, but even one day a week would be cutting participation and content (with knock-on effects on traffic and revenue) by ~15%. That's just not affordable.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:51 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


Rhaomi, you know I'm a fan of yours. But I'm unsure how you're speaking with such certainty when no such study for Metafilter has yet been completed.

Again, no one is demanding we do this and start marching full speed ahead on it. We're just brainstorming potential ways to make the site better for everyone, particularly the people who are running this place and who are understandably stretched thin.
posted by mochapickle at 5:00 PM on July 23 [6 favorites]


I want to hear what is feasible or not directly from the people who run this place. I'm glad that's going to be the case going forward.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:04 PM on July 23 [8 favorites]


Freezing MeTa for a day or two here and there might help alleviate mod burden (the mods know best) without hurting the rest of the site and its footprint etc. I have the impression that giant MeTa threads are a real burden.
posted by Mid at 5:41 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Welcome back, this sounds like an excellent and well thought-out initiative. One small thing to consider: it would be great if threads were open long enough that those of us in international timezones could also contribute.

Otherwise, I'm really looking forward to this. I think MeTa is long overdue for a shakeup and the open slather approach has certainly done more harm than good in recent times.
posted by smoke at 5:43 PM on July 23 [8 favorites]


It’s been hard to see members comment that they will be canceling their financial contribution because changes that clearly will require resources aren’t being made.

If Metafilter is earnest about accepting more guidance from users in the form of a BIPOC advisory board, and possibly and LGBTQ board as well, and since the potential board members deserve that their time and effort must be paid for, then we have to talk (not for the first time) about the site becoming a non-profit. That's how they can get donations -- targeted donations -- to implement the changes.

Users have been very clear in recent weeks about why they're stopping monthly support -- no need to rehash that here. As long as the customer/profit dynamic exists, stopping the flow of money is one of the only ways besides buttoning they can express dissatisfaction. But as you say, building new processes takes money. The site needs to be completely upfront about what they're raising $$$ for and how much they need:

Examples:

1) We need $XXXX to fund a BIPOC advisory board with 5 members -- Donate here
2) We would need $XXXXX to hire a new part-time mod -- (We are XX% of the way there)
3) We need $XXXX to pay frimble to give users the ability to anonymize their comments

and so on.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:45 PM on July 23 [18 favorites]


I've been on the fence about my continuing monthly donation, but would happily donate for a targeted fundraising campaign (and honestly probably keep my continuing monthly donation given the moves that were being made).
posted by codacorolla at 7:13 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this.
posted by eirias at 8:23 PM on July 23


A final tangent/ suggestion/ idea: I also think it would be informative to get ballpark figures for some achievable, but more expensive, solutions. MeFites have stated that they're willing to fund a solution, if it would improve the safety and security of the site, for example.

This kind of goes with The Pluto Gangsta's comment above. Statements of costs and asking directly for those costs to be fulfilled with either one-time giving or sustaining pledges is something that MetaFilter should not shy away from. The community here is responsive and willing and happy to help, but things feel really opaque a lot of the time.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


It's worth remembering, I think, that most businesses provide nothing like the transparency and engagement that the moderators provide. Whilst I agree there have been some significant errors in managing user engagement and community, I sometimes feel that the standards we hold this particular and beloved web forum to are so far beyond what we hold, say, Twitter, Facebook, NPR, Reddit, LinkedIn, Quora etc etc. Indeed, I think over sharing the wrong things, in the wrong way, has driven a lot of unnecessary turmoil. I say this as a change management and communications professional with decades of experience managing communities.

Metafilter is a business, Cortex has made clear there is no interest or appetite currently in moving towards a different model; this is pretty standard for web forums. I also think the idea that moving to a non-profit model will solve a number of the challenges is... optimistic at best.

More broadly, the idea that an mefites know what will "save" metafilter, is, I think, really problematic. We lack the context, experience (business, community and otherwise), and when our well-meaning advice is not action, it can provoke feelings of resentment.

I think a better framing is that, rather than talking about what metafilter needs, we talk about what we need, as users and members of the community - our own user experience is an area that we are all supremely qualified to talk to. The moderators can then collate and analyse that feedback to identify themes and possible actions going forward - just like RN has done above.
posted by smoke at 10:39 PM on July 23 [91 favorites]


Metafilter is a business, Cortex has made clear...

See in the mildest possible way I’m not sure that being the private business of a straight white guy is the best look for Mefi now. I don’t want anyone to lose out, but I would definitely put my hand in my pocket to help buy out the site and give ownership to a management board or something. Might even help relieve the pressure?
posted by Phanx at 11:10 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


It's great to have you back, restless_nomad!

And jessamyn visiting more regularly...? 🤗
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:24 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


It was my understanding that Metafilter previously used its own funds to buy itself out, when the ownership was transferred to Cortex. In which case, morally speaking if not legally speaking, it owns itself already.

I stopped my contributions at that point, since I wasn't comfortable with them being used for this kind of buy-out rather than for the operational costs of the site.
posted by quacks like a duck at 4:46 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


This sounds like a great step in the right direction. Thank you.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 5:02 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


I think MetaFilter as a private enterprise is not sustainable. Member buy-in and diversity are working against each other in ways that can only be salvaged, I think, by community leadership. Of course, that's tricky as fuck too. Look at any HOA or coop board and the byzantine politics involved... But "the buck stops with Cortex" just isn't fair to either cortex or to the community. If MF is going to survive it has to transition to a member-supported model financially, and that's never going to work as an "owned by one dude" operation.

None of the other improvements can really get fixed without addressing this elephant in the room.
posted by rikschell at 6:38 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


This is a really welcome change. Thank you.

A question for a future update: how is the site paying for it?

In previous threads about making the site better, a common answer when the community proposed changes that aren't incremental has been that the site doesn't have the resources. This change, with its additional staffing, isn't incremental. How does the site have the resources?

The reason I'm asking isn't to gotcha the staff. MetaTalk historically has been very adversarial. One hope I have for this new approach is that it may encourage more working together and less trial by ordeal. A thing that currently makes working together hard is a lack of trust between staff and community.

Resolving situations where explanations from staff don't seem to match what's happening is one way to help restore that trust. These situations happen more regularly than I think any of us want: cortex highlighted one just before the recent transphobia thread was closed.

If one of the things the site may want to do in the future is encourage more community donations, restoring that trust -- and building a clear, shared understanding of what donations do and do not enable -- will help make that happen.
posted by amery at 7:10 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Morning all! I've got some notes about things people want to hear more about:

- Site finances updates/clarifications/plans
- More information about account wipes

And a couple of things for us to think about:

- suedehead's excellent comment about moderation vs. facilitation
- scheduled site downtime
- organizational structure (single owner vs. co-op vs. nonprofit)

What I'm doing is keeping a running list of these issues in a file, which will inform the agenda of our Sunday staff meeting, which will inform what goes in to next week's update. There are gonna be a lot of "to-do" items and not a ton of "done" ones this first week, but I think having a clear, public, and regularly-updated plan will help keep things moving in a way everyone can at least follow.

Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes - I am hopeful about this and I am glad to hear that at least some of y'all are too! As it's Friday, we will likely not be posting in this thread again til Monday (one of my goals is rigorously enforced work-life boundaries, for myself as well as the team), but I'll be back Monday morning to round up everything folks talk about over the weekend.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:16 AM on July 24 [57 favorites]


When many members in this thread ask for updates about finances, not acknowledging those queries does not build my trust or confidence. Even a “we decline to answer those questions” or “we will answer those questions (or provide a financial update we feel comfortable with) in an upcoming post” is better than not acknowledging that the question has been asked.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 7:24 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I posted at the same time as r_n, my apologies - please disregard my comment !
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 7:25 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


I guess I should have asked before, but can we get an idea on when posts in the MeTa queue might be released?
posted by NotLost at 7:32 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Thank you, r_n (and welcome back, as others have said!). Having a timeline for updates is really helpful.
posted by ferret branca at 7:53 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I think this is a great idea/improvement, thanks for undertaking it.

I was not clear if the summaries were going to be inserted into ongoing metatalks, like above, or would be their own post. I have a pony (herd, as it turns out):
  • Could the main body of the post itself be amended with links to the summary or summaries as they appear, or perhaps the very first comment in the thread could be a list of those summaries, with links to the summary comment(s)?
  • Could the summaries have some sort of distinctive "opener" for users just browsing the thread, such as [THREAD NOTES], or whatever?
  • As issues noted in the summaries get addressed in the weekly site updates, can the summaries have an link added next to each item to that metatalk weekly thread they're talked about in?
If not, no biggie, this is still a very nice feature.
posted by maxwelton at 7:56 AM on July 24 [13 favorites]


That's a practical set of requests, maxwelton, and I'll start updating the post with links. I like the idea of a placeholder first comment for them, for tidiness.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:01 AM on July 24 [9 favorites]


I think a lot of this sounds good, but I'm a bit concerned that there won't be any possibility for metatalk threads on policy that don't get closed up fairly quickly. Recently, we had a situation where a thread was closed and the ongoing conversation had to move to a second thread which was still open, despite the fact that it wasn't strictly speaking continuous with that thread's original purpose. I'm a bit worried that the failure mode for this current strategy looks like a lot of closed threads and silenced criticism - or, alternatively, a precipitate move to 'actions' before the community has had a chance to discuss them (see, eg, the way in which the thread about harassment took a considerable to shift from the consensus apparently being 'make MeTa logged in users only' to 'make it possible to wipe accounts, also what can we do to combat this legally'). Please don't take this as a lack of faith in r_n's judgement - it's more like, if the wrong call is made, how will that even be apparent?
posted by Acheman at 8:11 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


The participants in MeTas should not be conflated with the community as a whole. Frankly, in my experience as a moderator, setting boundaries on dialogues is very important, and can actually resolve ambiguities and provide more clarity around when and how feedback is appropriate to give, roles of community members, and expectations.

I think it will require a period of adjustment from many MeTa participants, but I think people may be surprised at its efficacy.

The current free for all model does not work for staff, or for many community members judging from the huge blow outs (there is a duty of care here for the former group, too, from an employer perspective.)

I think also it should be understood and accepted that the moderators cannot and should not answer every question that is asked. Some of the questions (not singling any out) are pretty inappropriate, and the way they are delivered is... Sometimes suboptimal.

Most organisations have an annual report, if that, so the transparency that marks mefi is most unusual (and personally I'm not sure if it's always been for the best, or delivered in the best way).

RN I think you are kind of addressing this with the post, but would it be overkill to talk about an SLA with regards to questions,/queries etc, so users know what to expect and when? That way the team doesn't have to do calculus every time and gauge who will respond, how etc. There will be a standard procedure that gives time for a measured response and the community knows it may take a period.

My other suggestion is to consider privatising feedback mechanisms, so community members can express feelings about the site etc without it becoming an existential conflagration in MeTa. Mods can then, in a safe setting (which meta certainly is not), validate, collate and analyse the feedback on a semi regular basis (eg quarterly or something), then summarise common themes and proposals to address them and present that back to the community at a certain time.

Finally, I think using MeTa as a sole feedback mechanism is problematic, I question how representative participants here are. A voluntary member survey, further down the road, might be worth considering. Even if only once a year.
posted by smoke at 8:38 AM on July 24 [53 favorites]


What is an SLA?
posted by NotLost at 8:43 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


My other suggestion is to consider privatising feedback mechanisms, so community members can express feelings about the site etc without it becoming an existential conflagration in MeTa.

This seems like it’s met by both the contact form and MeMail. Is there a distinction that I’m missing?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:46 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Sorry my bad, a Service Level Agreement, basically something that outlines how complaints or feedback is handled, how long responses should take, actions that may result etc it just aids transparency and setting expectations at the right level. You could view this post almost as an SLA.
posted by smoke at 8:47 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Yes Going to Maine, getting feedback off metatalk, where imho it's not working very well for a variety of reasons, leaving mods stressed and users feeling unheard or ignored.
posted by smoke at 8:49 AM on July 24


My other suggestion is to consider privatising feedback mechanisms, so community members can express feelings about the site etc without it becoming an existential conflagration in MeTa.

This would have the effect of isolating marginalised users. I doubt anyone was happy about how the trans MeTa went, but it did allow trans members to collectively express feelings that could easily have been ignored in isolation.

It would have been great if that MeTa had gone better and some of the suggestions in that thread - better communication, better mechanisms for acknowledging feedback and making progress and priorities visible - are part of the plan for making that happen. Regardless of how much of a conflagration it was, it needed to happen. I want it to happen better next time, not be invisible.
posted by death valley compound at 9:21 AM on July 24 [18 favorites]


Big change! Get well, everyone. The broader membership is probably not aware that MeTa participation matters more, now that anything said here gets efficiently added to a to-do list. Is there some way their preferences could still be considered if they happen to miss a thread?
posted by michaelh at 9:29 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


This would have the effect of isolating marginalised users. I doubt anyone was happy about how the trans MeTa went, but it did allow trans members to collectively express feelings that could easily have been ignored in isolation.

Yeah, I think taking away means for public feedback also does not take into account similar concerns about community accountability that have been expressed by POC in various metatalks.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:32 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


Agreed. I have to say that I'm also a bit unsettled now that there was a thread to discuss issues around transness in this community, that it went very poorly for many trans members (including a large number leaving the site and at least one being banned)--and that thread has now been closed without resolution of most of these issues and now there's no place to talk about these issues. Will there be? It's unclear.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:56 AM on July 24 [22 favorites]


The closing of all the recent MeTa threads feels really weird. The idea that MeTa needs to be reigned in when it rapidly outstrips staffing capacity makes sense if the assumption is that community discussion needs to be carefully managed at all times by staff-- but why is that the case?
posted by dusty potato at 10:31 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


The closing of all the recent MeTa threads feels really weird. The idea that MeTa needs to be reigned in when it rapidly outstrips staffing capacity makes sense if the assumption is that community discussion needs to be carefully managed at all times by staff-- but why is that the case?

Because when people are upset and asking for responses but there is not enough staff present to respond (or the wrong type of staff for the issue), it adds insult to injury.

I think if a meta topic exists to collect comments until they can be collated and responded to, then it has to be set up that way with clear expectations, so that people with real issues to resolve don't feel as though they're talking into a void for several days.
posted by xo at 10:46 AM on July 24 [19 favorites]


I agree with xo, who pointed out some ways recent MeTas worsened already tense situations. Days of airing concerns and sharing ideas to improve things with little feedback from people who can instigate those changes can be demoralizing to say the least.

But I'm concerned, as smoke noted, that the members who comment in MeTas, especially MeTas with narrow comment windows, won't accurately reflect the range of concerns and considerations.

Setting these expectations now helps a lot, but I think there are some more key framework elements to define, for users to feel comfortable and informed going forward.

I first thought a minimum of 3 day (96 hours, to make sure people around the world have a fairly even amount of time to review and comment) would be the bottom threshold, but that seems like a very narrow window of time. On the other hand, the recent Twitter stalker discussion thread was only open 2 days and a bit more than 2 hours, and had 650 comments. Still, 4-5 days, with expectations and boundaries set from the beginning, seems like a manageable balance, from my non-mod view.

I'm glad we're having this discussion now, with a better path forward. I wish it had happened a year ago, but I don't have a time machine, so let's start here.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:07 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


Oh, wow, somehow I missed cortex's apology at the end of the trans thread. I'm even more convinced now that there needs to be some kind of board or team running things. The owner of the site screwed up badly and to his credit recognized that. But the power structure provides no accountability for a situation where he screws up and doesn't recognize it (other than criticism on MeTa and people leaving, which, to be fair sometimes happens over dumb stuff too).

It's really chilling to see cortex say he banned someone unfairly. This is always going to happen, of course (as long as we have human mods), but if there's no recourse to the community, this place is going to empty out.

Another thing that got batted around in an earlier round of "most MeFites are all too capable of posting thoughtlessly and offensively" was to revoke everyone's posting privileges and require a little bit of work and institution of a code of conduct to be able to comment again. I think it's worth revisiting, because so many signs are pointing to the need for a "hard reset" where even longtime users have to accept that the anything-goes comment style doesn't work here anymore.
posted by rikschell at 1:38 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the updates, restless_nomad and jessamyn, and welcome back in your different/increased roles. I do feel hopeful about things getting better, despite the misapprehension I have felt lately. I like the reference to suedehead’s previous comment, which I thought was very perceptive.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:34 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


MeTa threads, and the endless competing demands, remind me too much of dealing with customers and product managers in my line of work. Everyone has a solution. Their solution needs to be delivered now. Oftentimes they struggle with explaining the problem and how their solution works for the problem. They get frustrated and angry their solution isn't getting prioritized. When it is prioritized, though, someone else gets frustrated and angry their solution isn't getting prioritized.

Funny thing is suedehead's already referenced comment is what got me thinking of this. They're absolutely right that facilitation should be the goal here — and I would hope that this is the ultimate of r_n coming back to handle these discussions. Because, designer hat on, if I'm trying to build the right user experience of a community, I'm going to start with the community as an active part of the design process. Part of it, though, is getting everyone in the design process to agree what problems we are trying solve and why they are problems and to whom. And it's going to be an iterative design as well — it will always grow, change, and morph based on constant community feedback.

Crucial to this, though, is being heard, and giving people the mic. The openness of MeTa is good, but it does draw a certain sort of person who love to stir things up. We have to make sure that in these conversations people are getting the mic and getting a chance to be heard. Sometimes in facilitation settings you have to tell someone to stop hogging the mic. And I think we need to think about how that works here.

All that to say: I want to see a conversation about how community-led community design would work here, and what it'd take to get the right people in the right place to have the right conversations. Rules will need to be made and changed for that to happen. I'm not even sure MeTa is the right venue for it.
posted by dw at 3:07 PM on July 24 [12 favorites]


The openness of MeTa is good, but it does draw a certain sort of person who love to stir things up.

Want to gently push against this narrative, because recent contentious MeTas have featured folks from marginalized populations. Many of us aren't speaking up because we like to be troublemakers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:05 PM on July 24 [54 favorites]


I was told by RN after that Trans Thread got shut down that once this thread was up we could start a new trans thread by RN. I'd suggest two simultaneous threads:
one for Trans issues open to anyone on Mefi
one specifically just as a space for non cis Mefi people to talk, but where others can listen.

While I'm suggesting two, I think divabat did the right thing splitting off the topic of a threat to Mefi members from the previous trans thread. I think there may be issues of particular importance that deserve their own focus in a separate thread, for example intersectional concerns, and would also support people creating those if they see the need.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 5:10 PM on July 24 [10 favorites]


Welcome back everyone, including non-mods I thought might not come back. I have been checking Twitter every few days for those harassing creeps but have been way less active for the past week on MF itself because it just felt too hard. By too hard, I mean deeply disappointing. If we cannot make this a better place for people of color and indigenous people and trans people and disabled people and other marginalized folks, I just don’t wanna be here anymore.

I feel more hopeful, after reading this thread, that MetaFilter might be able to survive both Trump and the coronavirus by changing for the better. I expect any changes may be painful for people like me, who are not neurotypical, and possibly for other people like me, who are white and cis. That’s okay. I am sick of MF losing already marginalized members who do not need to feel shitty here on MF in addition to all the other places they get to feel shitty.

I am eager to see changes based on community input and that help create a more just and more responsive MF. I don’t know that such a thing will happen but that would be my goal if I got a vote. Thank you, cortex, for bringing back restless_nomad in this new role. Thank you, restless_nomad, for accepting this new role. Thank you, jessamyn, for dropping by and visiting for a spell. Those additional hours mean a lot.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:40 AM on July 25 [8 favorites]


I have fully caught up on both of the bad threads. They were as exceedingly pleasant as I remember, but at the same time much more enjoyable and relatable than when I catch up on all of the most recent events of the day via Twitter. This should be a better and more interesting place than that one.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:52 PM on July 25


Welcome back R_N and Jessamyn.

Short aside: I inhabited a bb some years ago comprised of a couple of platoons of Veterans and their loved ones who struggled with PTSD. The site was unmoderated, and we did not always play well together. Serious work was done non-the-less. I mention this because the site eventually went down in flames because of trolls and other bad actors, and because, well, we didn't always play well together.

I'm seeing a similar struggle here, but on a much broader scale. I was at least familiar with the contours of our PTSD bb. But MeFi has a much more diverse population, whose members represent social alcoves that are beyond my experience. Anyhow, as an old, white cis male I am being exposed to things that are hard to listen to. It's been a task for me to stop wanting to toss my 2cents into stuff that I barely understood, or that I understand only because human anguish resonates. I mean I can read the words, but I have to stop and think before I realize that the reason I'm having to think about it is because I've never had those hurtful things pointed at me, haven't had to swim upstream against the constant current of disapproval and abuse. On that old PTSD bb we had a saying: "Here, let me stomp on your foot so you can feel my pain."

Entitlement is insulation. But it's not impervious. A few years ago I made the comment on the Blue: "...I don't have a dog in this fight..." and a fellow Mefite, a sweet kid, said to me "...maybe you should."

Maybe I do.

I look forward to seeing how this Gordian's Knot can be unraveled without cutting too many of its strands.
posted by mule98J at 5:58 PM on July 25 [27 favorites]


Welcome back (Welcome home?) R_N!

It seems you you have noticed all the missing stairs here and have the tools and hardware to assist in the repair.

Reading the post, I am optimistic for MeFi's future, in a way I have not been for a long time.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:33 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Thanks, R_N. This looks like a good process.

I'm among those who are appalled at how the feelings of someone in crisis, for understandable reasons, were handled. I realize mods have a tricky, often thankless job. But still. That's cold. Really insensitive. I saw the apology and appreciate that. But still, the only-delete-once thing biases the site against people likely to be harassed.

I'd like to add another voice calling for the ability to easily anonymize or request deletions of comments or posts, and not just due to intense safety threats. It should not involve being scolded and lectured about how that really needs to be prevented. It would be a huge relief if I had the power to delete a dozen past comments without having to deal with that. That's the largest factor reducing my participation here.
posted by slidell at 9:27 AM on July 26 [9 favorites]


Morning, everyone!

Stuff for the to-do list:
- member surveys
- maxwelton's practical list of housekeeping - as I said, gonna go ahead and just start doing this.

Things to think about and/or document:
- Service Level Agreements
- Code of Conduct
- expected Metatalk duration
- private feedback channels (the contact form is absolutely the go-to for this at the moment and everyone is welcome to use it! You can also email me directly, as I mentioned in the post.)

There have also been a couple of people wondering about how to continue the conversation in the closed MetaTalks. I just wanted to make it super clear that you can make MeTas as normal. I'll generally encourage people not to post them on a Friday, but otherwise, that part of the process isn't changing.

Thanks, folks! I've got a nice long to-do list today, so I'm going to get on that, and I'll see you tomorrow!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:43 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Restless_Nomad, maybe I'm just missing it, but is "a method for deleting stuff oneself" on the list for future discussion?
posted by slidell at 8:09 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


slidell, I thought this is what this bit is referring to:

. There have also been a couple of people wondering about how to continue the conversation in the closed MetaTalks. I just wanted to make it super clear that you can make MeTas as normal. I'll generally encourage people not to post them on a Friday, but otherwise, that part of the process isn't changing.
posted by freethefeet at 8:39 AM on July 27


I may have misunderstood, but I thought the process was that R_N was collecting a list of policy issues that the mods were going to raise, including from comments here. A whole bunch of people were asking for that in the previous MetaTalks, but I don't see it on the list, so I'm trying to understand the process.
posted by slidell at 8:54 AM on July 27


From R_N at the top, emphasis mine: The first new expectation is regular update posts here on MetaTalk. Expect to see the first one next Friday; they'll be monthly at least. They'll contain a running list of what changes we've made, which ones we're working on (with timeframes!) and what's been requested. The first one will be long; we have a lot of requests, especially from the PoC and trans communities, and also especially about privacy and safety. These posts will be closed, because they're going to be so broad...

I had planned to send a private message to R_N but since slidell brought it up, let me add my voice to the chorus. I have a Twitter account but I am not a Twitter person. Only recently did I discover that there is an account that automatically Tweets a link to every Ask. (A few others broadcast different MF-related things; I think one is music-related.)

While I have always understood that anyone could read my questions here on MF because Internet, I did not know that all Qs were being broadcast across Twitter. I would have made many more of my Asks anonymous had I known. R_N is not a magician and cannot magically fix the privacy and security concerns that so many of us have but I hope to see privacy and security concerns addressed on the list of requests on the next monthly or whenever report.

Addressed, as used above, does not mean I expect those concerns to be resolved quickly or easily. My request is simply that addressing those concerns be added to the appropriate list. Many of us need more clarity about MF policies that affect our privacy and security. For example: Will members eventually be able to request, without being shamed, that certain posts and/or comments be deleted or will deleting one's entire account remain the only approved and official fix?

I am lucky because unlike cortex and several other members, I am not being stalked or harassed or in any particular danger. But MF's approach to privacy and security is of critical importance to me in deciding how and if I will continue participating here. It didn't use to be an issue to me; now it's a big one.

Thanks for keeping us up to date, restless_nomad!
posted by Bella Donna at 9:33 AM on July 27 [7 favorites]


Morning! Looks like we're slowing down here a bit. Do feel free to nudge if you think I've missed anything.

New stuff to address:
- A method for self-deletion
- The AskMe Twitter bot (honestly I had forgotten it existed, thanks for bringing it up.)
- privacy and security stuff more generally

Thanks, folks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:42 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


There are also things going on in two other more recent MeTa threads, which presumably want to be included in summaries.
posted by quacks like a duck at 6:55 AM on July 28


Oh, and I wanted to address this directly - you can absolutely get individual comments/posts deleted. Just send us the links (the timestamp will link to a specific comment) and just say that you want them deleted for privacy reasons. This is fairly long-standing policy and not a problem for us at all.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:26 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Hey restless_nomad! I left a comment on loup’s thread here (link to my comment) and based on their most recent comment it sounds like it’d be better to bring it over here so you can see it & add it to your growing list. Just going to link to it since it’s lengthy! Would really love to get it on your radar for consideration going forward.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 3:04 PM on July 28


Welcome back! I like this new process direction. Let's all pitch in to make sure it is sustainable. It isn't just on R_N to make that happen; we can and need to help.

Re the taking a break, scheduled shutdowns, whatever. I think that would be a very good idea. Especially if we consider as mentioned above what an omnishambolic shitshow the rest of the year is likely to be in many places (even compared to the start of the year). I understand the concern about reduced traffic and therefore revenue, but we won't know unless we try, and trying doesn't mean we have to do it forever.

Whether is is infrequent like the last Friday of every month, a one-off here and there, or more frequently, let's give it a go. Mods need a break. We all need a break. And, a little damper on things once in a while might be good. The quality of the comments after a break could be awesome if people had to consider them for 12 hours instead of blasting away (and I definitely include myself in that.

Revenue might even go up in the long run if quality goes up and we stop losing some wonderful people because the intense and unmanageable environment goes away. If the site gets better, more people may restore their canceled contributions. We're slowly but surely moving away from advertising anyway I would guess.

Looking forward to the Friday update and especially some significant detail about finances. Even if they are good right now, I think we can all expect them to tighten up as many people continue to be out of work.
posted by Gotanda at 5:58 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


We've had breaks for maintenance before, with announcements ahead of time, and occasionally we've had some sort of crash or downed system that lasted a bit. The world didn't end. So I agree that with notice ahead of time, a planned break would not be compromising in the ways it might be for other kinds of websites.
posted by Miko at 6:10 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


We will be handling policy MetaTalks differently in order to improve responsiveness and effectiveness. I'm going to come in every weekday morning and read them, do my best to summarize the problems and proposed solutions, and then step back again.

I liked this in concept, and appreciate how it facilitates your workload and allows for orderly and well-considered responses to feedback (there's been a painful pattern for a while where being slow to respond on MeTa is seen as complicit silence, while being too quick to respond leads to bad outcomes), but seeing it play out in the How should the issue of non-racial slurs be discussed? meta is...discouraging to say the least. If we're going to discuss these topics in MetaTalk, I think it's going to take stronger facilitation and moderation to keep them productive.

It doesn't make sense for these meta discussions about sensitive and important topics of personal identity that are directly about the ability for everyone to feel welcome and valued here to go effectively unmoderated. The meta discussions themselves can be as harmful, probably more harmful, than the stuff we're talking about developing moderation policy for on the blue. We wouldn't dream of having an unmoderated free-for-all discussion about racial slurs on the blue; why are we having one on MeTa?
posted by zachlipton at 7:34 PM on July 28 [15 favorites]


Loup advised me in the Community Guidelines MeTa to add my question here:

I would like a clear answer on whether ANY of the modifications to the flagging process and the links to flag comments that were discussed only one month ago are being considered, and if so which ones.

I know time seems incredibly dilated in 2020, but it was only June 21:

The flag button's design is bad enough to be a social justice issue
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:38 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


The new moderation plans for MetaTalk are so bad that they have me a hairsbreadth from buttoning. The new approach is “Let marginalized and POC do even more of the heavy lifting to make this a tolerable place to be.” We did not do all this work for years and years to get to a place where mods don’t shut down obvious and painful derails that have been covered for years. We did this so that we, as unpaid Mefites, could ask the paid moderation team to actually shut down these racist and transphobic derails so we could just have a conversation between adults about interesting things on the internet.

I can not stress enough how strongly fucked up it is to take a hands off “duke it out in the debate thunderdome” over slurs. If I wanted unmoderated bullshit like that, I would visit 4chan or the comments section of my local newspaper. This is an absolute *disgrace* and has consumed hundreds of unseen manhours from all kinds of marginalized people marshaling and figuring out how to push back effectively. You have devalued and wasted our time. What good will you have barely managed to hang onto has been entirely squandered.

I am not working for free for you anymore. There are people in there who have stepped up to try and correct for the lack of moderation from the paid team. I am not one of them, and I won’t be again. What you’re doing is making MetaFilter actively less welcoming and safe.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:47 AM on July 29 [14 favorites]


Adding my voice that the hands-off moderation in MetaTalk is not going well, and is burdening the people that are marginalized even further. I like the idea of there being responses from the mods on a regular timeframe, but I didn't realize that meant that it'd be a free-for-all other than that. This is not going to be sustainable.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 4:45 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


The only MetaTalk threads which will be very lightly moderated are the policy threads.

That's deliberate, I think, because moderating those threads is itself an act of policy enforcement and therefore eventually any action or inaction by the mods is seen as an endorsement of one or another policy position under discussion.

More specifically, moderation will inevitably be seen as non-neutral in a context where, by design, aggrieved parties are presenting their case and therefore the presentation of these grievances and suggestions will be short-circuited by moderation and prompt recursive argument about such policies with regard to the policy threads themselves.

In my opinion, however, in practice this shouldn't be quite so black-and-white. An antagonistic free-for-all is very counter-productive and although ideally those of us who choose to participate in policy threads will actively work to prevent this, it's likely that an occasional mod nudge will be extremely helpful.

The practical problem at the moment, I think, is that for very good reasons restless_nomad is the only administrative community interface for policy discussion and she's not available 24 hours a day. She's the only person, in my opinion, who should (lightly) mod those policy threads.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:11 AM on July 29


Morning! New stuff in here:

- sizeism/fatphobia as an axis of oppression and therefore a moderation concern
- difficulty of unmoderated intense conversations
- flag button design

While I need to go read the slur thread, I do want to make clear that MetaTalks are not going to be unmoderated, but the nature of our responses are going to be more facilitative than participatory. Finding that balance is going to be a learning process for all of us, and it's especially tricky to shift gears in what is effectively the middle of several ongoing conversations.

Thanks, folks, especially for doing the work of bringing up stuff, like the flag button design, that should be on the team's radar but isn't necessarily on mine yet. Capturing all those loose to-dos is gonna take work and I really appreciate the help.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:46 AM on July 29


Piggybacking off of stoneweaver - that thread was specifically one I wanted to stay out of even though I strongly identify as queer (a label I prefer to use for myself having identified on a spectrum from lesbian to bi/pan throughout my life). That aspect of my identity does not make me feel marginalized here and I have not noticed situations with egregious slurs being left up for days in the way that racial slurs have been very recently. I emphatically *do* think this site has issues with anti-trans dogwhistles and the way it treats its trans members, and I was hoping that was where the conversation was going to go. The fact that it became a full on free for all shitshow was so unsurprising it almost seems deliberate, and I know for a fact I at least flagged things asking for moderation or mod guidance for the thread pretty early on. The fact that it was just left alone, and at one point I did feel a need to step in due to continued anti-PoC microaggressions, has me very much in the same mindset as stoneweaver. I've done too much work, way too much free labor, for a site that seems determined to not do anything good with it.
posted by primalux at 7:33 AM on July 29 [11 favorites]


I wanted to highlight an approach to a similar process that really impressed me. It's a weekly update which summarizes feedback given to the Microsoft Edge team. I think there are a lot of good ideas which could be poached, but their process is already similar to what restless_nomad is doing here.

Check it out:

https://aka.ms/MSEdgeTopFeedback

Things we could poach:
  • A static URL which always takes you to the most recent weekly update
  • A formatted table with raised issues, their current status, and how long they've been on the radar for
  • A list of definitions used for said statuses, which provide clarity and flexibility
posted by thoroughburro at 11:03 AM on July 29 [4 favorites]


Thanks for that example. I really like the idea of a mod team "project progress tracker," and not just for the work that restless_nomad is collecting, but the things that everyone is working on. I think it would be great to see at a glance the scope and status of work being done by r_n, loup and travelingthyme, and anything else the other mods and frimble are developing or updating.

I think it would also be helpful to see a list of pending MeTa topics, with a similar three-column or three-field layout: title, status (like "pending sufficient mod time to facilitate" or "to be published after [site update] is posted"), and the time in the queue.

If this isn't already done, I'd like if unsupported topics are deleted from the queue with a note to the submitter, either on what could be changed to make it a better or more clear topic, or why this isn't the way or place to discuss such a topic.

Speaking of ways to discuss matters, I think it would also be good to document the different tools or methods that can be used to discuss something. The following come to mind:
1- moderated or facilitated discussion, where the mods have time, capacity, and skills to support an open discussion
2- general hands-off discussion, where mods let MeFites have an open discussion, with mods stepping in to stop personal attacks and other comments that break site rules
3- limited group hands-off discussion, which are only open to a group of users, like the trans and BIPOC discussions, and and moderators have very limited engagement
4- idea submissions that are made pubic, where there is no discussion, but people send suggestions and ideas and the suggestions are sorted by the mod team and presented -- based on the latest thread, this is probably how suggestions for slurs should be received.

I think that the racial slurs that should never be written thread didn't fall apart in the same way because the scope was more focused, both on the types of slurs, and the fact that they should never be used.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:40 AM on July 29 [3 favorites]


Morning!

Stuff to consider:
- centralizing these responses (this will happen with the update tomorrow!)
- example updates
- include pending metatalks
- process for deleting stuff from the queue (It is in fact what you suggested, filthy light thief)
- more formalized MetaTalk types

Thanks folks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:24 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Thanks for continuing to collect topics and update us!

A couple more things for the idea/issue-hopper:

- collect, sort, and respond to suggestions for site and culture improvements from past MeTas, particularly the BIPOC threads
-- given that this is a monumental task if this work hasn't already started, this could be a task for a group of MeFites, who could then send the list/ spreadsheet to the BIPOC advisory board that travelingthyme is organizing, to review and help prioritize*
-- the same work could be done with trans and possibly broader LGBT+ topics and issues, and could work with another advisory board, if there's the desire and capacity for that*
- have an open discussion on site culture with regards to how personal information and data can be erased, and how MetaFilter handles the right to be forgotten (Wikipedia)
- general addition reporting on considerations: the cost (staff and fiscal), priority, and feasibility of such efforts, which leads to
- the possibility to crowdfund specific MetaFilter improvements

* As I am not a member of the BIPOC or LGBT+ communities, I am listing these actions as things I think have been called for or suggested by other MeFites. I am not trying to create additional work for people who have already given so much of themselves and their time. I'll note that allies have come forth to offer their time to support the BIPOC advisory board, and this might be a way to help. But if I am mis-reading or mis-remembering past discussions, or there are other directions or desires now, please disregard my suggestions here.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:11 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Thanks, flt, I'm not going to copy/paste those suggestions because that seems silly, so I'll just note them down!

Just as a point of order, this is definitely around the pace of a MeTa when I would start to talk about closing it up. Since the big site update will be going up today, however, I'll leave this post open a while longer as I expect a bunch of folks will see this announcement for the first time via that.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:04 AM on July 31


I don't understand how it makes sense to post a big update about site policies on Friday, turn off comments, tell people that if they want to respond they should make another post, but then not allow posts about site policy until 3 days later.
posted by primalux at 12:22 PM on July 31 [12 favorites]


I think it gives pause for everyone to absorb what’s happened and for people to catch up (not everyone can follow all of the linked threads through the week). Very possibly a good thing and this is still the first try so yeah it is really really weird...
posted by one4themoment at 1:58 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


For one thing, it keeps restless_nomad's job from becoming 24/7.
posted by sagc at 2:07 PM on July 31 [8 favorites]


I don't understand how it makes sense to post a big update about site policies on Friday, turn off comments, tell people that if they want to respond they should make another post, but then not allow posts about site policy until 3 days later

Welcome to the new Metafilter.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:48 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


Also, presumably the ten posts about one particular issue that get drafted can be turned into nine discards and one post.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:50 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


This is a really good idea. Kudos to you, r_n, for trying something new.
posted by heyho at 4:40 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]


In very plain language, what we've been asking for is to not have to fight for our own humanity. All the POC, Trans and Disability MeTas have been "Hey, can y'all have our back here and not make us fight about whether or not we're real people and could you do that in an informed and intersectional way?"

And the answer is apparently "No, but we'll summarize your arguments for you."

Oh my. What a very useful service. And because the comments are off on the new post criticism of this modding decision is now spread out over how many different metas? Extremely effective at fracturing the conversation and preventing a coherent reaction from people.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:07 PM on July 31 [6 favorites]


Oh my. What a very useful service.

While I understand that you have a legitimate beef with those who don't respect you (and much worse) and want to see some action on this site, restless_nomad is pretty clearly trying to help. Essentially declaring her work useless—while it's still in pilot phase—is unlikely to make her want to dig in and help harder. You have a right to be pissed off, but you shouldn't parlay that into a right to shit on the helper.

We have several mods stepping up to help right now. Let's not see how hard we can ride them right out of the gate before they drop from exhaustion.
posted by heyho at 9:07 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]


One of the issues that I have been concerned about is the exhaustion, not just for mods, but also for members disproportionately impacted by things like a "hands off" moderation policy that appears to perpetuate the marginalization and alienation that has 'exhausted' people to the point of not just feeling unable to safely or effectively participate in discussions, but also leaving the site.

I think there is a way to encourage members to dig in and help harder to make this site more inclusive and accessible, but I don't think characterizing a criticism of a policy decision as 'shitting on the helper' is the way to do it. In very plain language, there is a request to not have to fight for our own humanity, i.e. "All the POC, Trans and Disability MeTas have been "Hey, can y'all have our back here and not make us fight about whether or not we're real people and could you do that in an informed and intersectional way?"

And the answer is apparently "No, but we'll summarize your arguments for you.""

And the conversation about this is currently fractured across more than one MeTa, but I am hoping that things will become more clearly focused next week. What I know from my own perspective is that I had been feeling more energized and hopeful than I had for awhile, and I was trying to channel that energy into MeTas focused on positive and constructive changes that built on recent FPPs and some pioneering moderation by jessamyn.

And now I feel discouraged, but I am hoping for some kind of reassurance that the Community Guidelines will be applied to MeTas, because I think the guidelines are an important way to protect disproportionately impacted members, because they provide a clear resource for moderators to use to help prevent marginalization and alienation from the discussions.
posted by katra at 10:51 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]


restless_nomad, the recent approach you and other mods have taken in recent MetaTalks has helped give me some useful tools as a community manager in a different space. I'm leading a thing that will change stuff that other people depend on, and I just dealt with some upset folks. In particular, your example helped me remember to be more ok with saying "thanks for the suggestion, I'll bring it up with the team next week" instead of replying with a longer "here's what's up with that" or making a decision right away. So, thank you.
posted by brainwane at 11:06 AM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Morning, all. This conversation isn't really amenable to bullet points so I just want to reiterate that I hear you, and that (as I said in the update) the lack of moderation in the slur thread last week was a problem and won't be repeated. We absolutely will be enforcing the Guidelines in MeTa.

restless_nomad, the recent approach you and other mods have taken in recent MetaTalks has helped give me some useful tools as a community manager in a different space.

That's good to hear! This is honestly a return to some of the rhythms of communication that worked well when I was in more specifically technical fields, where people worked five days a week and the dev team schedule was a little more planned. That has its downsides, but it does allow both staff to have a little more space and for the community to build more trust that while we make fewer promises, the ones we do make, we keep.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:24 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Hey, if I request that my account be wiped, what exactly do I get and how do I get it?

Ideally I would like
- posts
- comments
- memail to and from me
- favorites to and from me
with metadata like timestamps

in a structured format like JSON or SQL or something.

(Not exactly on topic, but I don't see a better place to ask.)
posted by d. z. wang at 7:04 PM on August 3


Drop a note to the contact form? Getting your account wiped and getting copies of your data are two separate things.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:40 PM on August 3


I'm requesting a public statement.

Good to know that I can request the export without wiping my account, though, thank you.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:23 PM on August 3


d.z. wang, I'll get those details, update the FAQ, and let you know. As Jessamyn said, the export is a separate thing (you can get that from the bottom of your Preferences page.)

Everyone else, if there's something you need that would make the most sense in this thread, now's the time! Otherwise I'll close this up tomorrow.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:40 AM on August 4


I would like you to keep this thread open until I have had a chance to review the updated FAQ. I would prefer not to scatter this discussion over multiple threads.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:32 AM on August 4


Oh, wait, are you saying the extent of the export is what is provided by the existing export comments and export favorites links on my Preferences page?

I would like a way to export my posts and my MeMail as well.

For AskMe posts, I would like a way to export the answers I have received.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:36 AM on August 4


Unless you are opening a new thread where people can discuss the changes in MeTa it would be totally inappropriate to close this one. We haven’t had a single discussion that wasn’t a total disaster since this was implemented, and I suspect that isn’t resolved.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:37 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


For AskMe posts, I would like a way to export the answers I have received.

Right now, wiping your account wipes all answers to the AskMeFi questions you post. That means wiping your account involuntarily erases the works of others (including marginalized groups). It'd be even more disrespectful to the question responders to claim ownership over their answers and that you have the right to both retain their answers yourself as well as the ability to delete those answers for others.
posted by saeculorum at 11:28 AM on August 4 [9 favorites]


Likewise, if I favorite a comment or post which is later erased, the only person who has a right to know that the now-deleted item was favorited by me is me.

(And if we're doing "who owns what when" ponies, if I leave an answer or a comment on a post which is deleted, I feel like I should be able to find my writing somewhere in my own profile history, even if it's only visible to me.

Who "owns" what when in a shared online "forum", is a huge problem, or has been in other places I've been, especially in "threaded" environments, where an innocuous comment can spawn a great discussion with many participants, who arguably "own" that thread in any meaningful way more than the original comment writer.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


To echo stoneweaver, I'm still unclear on how the new Policy MeTas work.

I'm personally OK with the Friday posts with round-ups and updates, but is it on the community to open a new thread to enable discussions? Those posts also frame the discussion.

Since there's a lot to discuss, if the idea is that there are new broad "site policy discussion threads," I think that could be posted directly by the mods. That would also allow them to frame the discussion and set expectations for community actions and mod interactions. Otherwise, is the expectation that users can identify what they want to discuss, and individually frame those discussions? There are definite pros and cons to both methods. Big discussions can get messy fast, and can be hard to track, where lots of separate threads could fracture discussions.

A third way would be to post policy discussions on one of the key topic areas. In the first site update from r_n, there are eight topic or subject areas:
  1. MetaTalk, User Feedback, and Expectations
  2. Site Finances
  3. Site Privacy and Offsite Harassment Issues
  4. Account Wipes
  5. Slur Filter
  6. Guidelines and Documentation
  7. Moderation
  8. The Boring Backend Stuff
Some of those topics or sub-topics link to existing, open user-made MeTa threads, including this one. Others relate to new actions from the mods, and link to some existing, open MeTas, which makes sense to come from the mods, instead of waiting for users to ask about something like site finances or the status of updates to the Guidelines and Documentation.

Starting new threads allow for a fresh start, and to re-frame the discussion and expectations, but it can also break the connection to past discussions where people put in time and energy to share their ideas for ways to improve things. So my current ideal (not presenting this as practical in every instance) is that mods start new threads per topic area, and recap their actions or responses to proposals in prior discussions.


maxwelton: Who "owns" what when in a shared online "forum", is a huge problem, or has been in other places I've been

I think this is a good topic for a dedicated MeTa. It's a big, messy topic, and I expect lots of ideas and suggestions.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:15 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Hey all, I don't have power today (or an ETA) so I'll come back either later today or, more likely given the state of the northeast, tomorrow and round stuff up.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:42 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I haven't heard from the mods yet on whether they will provide a way for me to export

- my posts
- my MeMail
- responses to my AskMe questions

If the answer is that people who choose to wipe their accounts will lose those things, I would like to hear that said explicitly.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:44 AM on August 5


Oh, I didn't see r_n's comment two minuses before mine.

Is there any other mod who will reply to my question?

To be clear, I'm looking for a statement of current policy, not a promise to discuss the question someday.

I have more than a decade of posts, comments, and MeMail on this site. Most of it dates from before I knew not to talk about personal stuff on the internet.

Now that I know there are people specifically using mefi to harass people, I want to wipe my account on the next few days.

Is the current state of play is that people who wipe their account loose their posts, MeMail, and responses to their askme threads?

If so, please say that. We can go from there.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:55 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


On a general "who should have access to whose words" point:

I second saeculorum and maxwelton.

"Right now, wiping your account wipes all answers to the AskMeFi questions you post. That means wiping your account involuntarily erases the works of others (including marginalized groups). It'd be even more disrespectful to the question responders to claim ownership over their answers and that you have the right to both retain their answers yourself as well as the ability to delete those answers for others."

Yeah.

"if I leave an answer or a comment on a post which is deleted, I feel like I should be able to find my writing somewhere in my own profile history, even if it's only visible to me."

Agreed. We've had some account wipes recently. I am guessing that I commented in threads started by some of the people who have recently wiped. I'd like to know whether it will ever be possible for me to access those comments again, such as via "Export Your Comments" self-service or via a special request to the mods, or whether my words have been permanently deleted.

I also haven't checked whether MeMail to or from a now-deleted/wiped account is deleted; is it? My expectation would be that if you've already sent a MeMail to a particular other user, then it's theirs now and they are allowed to retain a copy of it.

On the user preferences page I see "Export Your Comments" and "Export Your Favorites"; I think "Export Your MeMail" and "Export Your Posts" would be nice additions, of course. People who don't want to wait for MetaFilter to implement this as a self-service tool might be interested in building a Free Your Stuff integration to programmatically grab their posts.

restless_nomad, hope your electricity comes back soon!
posted by brainwane at 8:01 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Could white allies join me in asking for a statement of the current policy on export of

- my posts
- my MeMail
- responses to my AskMes

? Maybe you will get more traction than I have.

Again, I'm happy for you to reconsider later. I just want a statement of the current state.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:31 AM on August 5


d. z. wang, I've flagged two of your comments (1 and 2) to request that a mod answers your questions.
posted by minsies at 9:51 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


saeculorum: "Right now, wiping your account wipes all answers to the AskMeFi questions you post. That means wiping your account involuntarily erases the works of others (including marginalized groups). It'd be even more disrespectful to the question responders to claim ownership over their answers and that you have the right to both retain their answers yourself as well as the ability to delete those answers for others."

maxwelton: "(And if we're doing "who owns what when" ponies, if I leave an answer or a comment on a post which is deleted, I feel like I should be able to find my writing somewhere in my own profile history, even if it's only visible to me."

I've noticed that for at least some users the "full wipe" (i.e. removing their posts from the server entirely instead of just deleting comments and then delisting posts from their profile and search/archive) is also being applied to FPPs posted on the blue. I understand people wanting to erase AskMe questions or Projects posts or IRL threads for privacy reasons, but MetaFilter posts are by definition not supposed to be about anything touching you personally. Deleting these threads completely, including all the hundreds or thousands of comments and favorites and inbound links stemming from them, seems like overkill to me. I'm glad mods have moved fast to address people's privacy concerns, but I think this aspect needs a serious rethink. I really hope these can be restored, at least in a soft-deleted or anonymized way.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:47 PM on August 5 [10 favorites]




Morning, all! Sorry for the delay; it's been a weird couple here for me. But the toilet flushes and the A/C works again, so I'm back on duty!

Currently the export tools available give you all undeleted posts and comments, and all favorites on undeleted items. I'll get the FAQ updated with that more specific info today.

I'll make a note to discuss a MeMail export with frimble.

Further detailed conversation on exports/wipe stuff sounds like it's going on in a dedicated thread (which works better for everyone) and I'll go catch up on that stuff. In the meantime, I'm going to reiterate - if you have time-sensitive questions, the contact form is the place to go. MetaTalk is not the right place for that. I know this is different from how it was, but it's how it's going to be going forward.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:47 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


Clarification - the current export tool just gives you comments, not posts.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:26 AM on August 6


Currently the export tools available give you all undeleted [...] comments, and all favorites on undeleted items. I'll get the FAQ updated with that more specific info today.

I'm sorry but I am not sure whether "undeleted comments" includes comments on deleted posts. So, (example) if I made three comments on a post by user A in 2013, and then in 2019 user A deleted their posts, then the export tools will omit those three comments?

I looked in the FAQ but couldn't find an item about the export.

To repeat my question from a few days ago: I am guessing that I commented in threads started by some of the people who have recently wiped. I'd like to know whether it will ever be possible for me to access those comments again, such as via "Export Your Comments" self-service or via a special request to the mods, or whether my words have been permanently deleted.
posted by brainwane at 11:15 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Well, I was going to bet twenty bucks that the export ignored comments in deleted threads, but I tested it instead and yeah, you get comments from deleted threads too. I am not 100% sure what the behavior is in deleted Asks and IRL threads, though, and we need to check on that regardless.

Frimble has a couple higher-priority things to do with wipe-related stuff first, but giving the export tool a thorough once-over is on the list for after that. It's an old tool that hasn't come up much and there are definitely a few improvements we can make.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:53 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Morning all! This thread has become mostly an offshoot of the other current thread, so I'm going to close it up. Thanks!
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:08 AM on August 11


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