Self-policing scale-up? September 9, 2002 2:19 PM   Subscribe

From my point of view as a newbie, MeFi has grown beyond the ability of new people to quickly assimilate the unwritten rules of searching, communicating and posting without ruffling at least one person's feathers within the week suggested by the About and Posting Guidelines links.

It's time for MeFi to take the leap and encode a written policy document that's centrally located and easy to find, instead of relying on newbies to read literally years (3/26/2000 to 9/9/2002) of etiquette/policy postings on MetaTalk to shore up the scant information available on the official MeFi links about posting.

We've got 15,000+ users; it seems like we've enough of a community to put together a policy committee to slap a policy together for the use of all members, new and old. Let it be one that we all can find easily, and read in a reasonable amount of time.
posted by kalessin to Etiquette/Policy at 2:19 PM (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

No. I joined a year ago. I figured everything out just fine.

What few (posting) newbies seem to understand is that you can also *not* post. Instead you can read.

I spend 95% of my time on Metafilter reading, 4% writing comments and deleting them before hitting "Post", and 1% actually posting. This has helped me get a pretty good sense for what's okay and what's not.

It's kept deliberately vague for a reason.
posted by rocketman at 2:24 PM on September 9, 2002


rocketman is right, you don't have to post. all of us here were newbies at one point and we still look and search before we post.

We have people who don't want care about reading the guidelines, don't want to check spelling, don't care if it's a doublepost. They just want to do it their way. This is a community, either become part of it or not.
posted by mkelley at 2:36 PM on September 9, 2002


See this very recent discussion of this very same post, worded differently.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to lengthen the MeTa front page, since the turn-over is so quick? Matt's strategy of making people think about whether to bump a post off the front page seems to be backfiring, considering the number of posts we've seen lately going over the same issues.
posted by me3dia at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2002


I don't think it a mystery (in America at least) that there are those who feel that more rules make things safer. I think that everyone here at the MeFi corral, old and new alike, ought to ask themselves, how safe do you want it? Adjust your personal behavior accordingly, understand and accept that others had a different answer.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2002


If there were to be any changes, I would suggest that new members be asked to wait a little longer - say a month - before posting to the front page. This isn't to dis the new folks, but because I think that interacting with the community inside threads for a longer time gives you a better feel for what will fly on the front page. (And those who don't like the vibe will get bored and wander off).
posted by liam at 2:45 PM on September 9, 2002


...considering the number of posts we've seen lately going over the same issues.

You're right -- I will spend a good 10 minutes making sure beforehand that I'm not double posting, but I won't think twice or even search before starting a MeTa thread. We need to be just as careful here as at MeFi.
posted by jennak at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2002


It's a basic tenet of economics that restricting the availability of an item or service will increase its price. Similarly, the tight restriction on availability of MeTa posts raises their value, and tends to make people more judicious in their posting. As with all such mechanisms, it is imperfect, and we can expect that there will occasionally be spates of lower-value discussions. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the general trend in MeTa is positively guided by this policy, which I consider very sensible. Put me down as one of those in favor of retaining this system as it stands.

My feeling about MeTa and MeFi in general follows that line. Flexibility, and a willingness on Matt's part to listen to the desires of the community, are good. He has, however, managed to set the whole deal up in such a way that calls for radical change are few and only weakly supported (in most cases). This says, to me, that the system is working pretty damn well. We obviously like it, or we wouldn't work so hard at contributing. Yay team!
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 3:21 PM on September 9, 2002


Feh! What rocketman and Nicolae said! The more tightly you try to restrict people, the harder they will try to wiggle out! Please, folks, quit trying to fix this site - it ain't broke!
posted by Lynsey at 3:56 PM on September 9, 2002


the tight restriction on availability of MeTa posts raises their value, and tends to make people more judicious in their posting

that would be nice if it were true, but the "restriction" on meta posts isn't of the form you imply - you can post as many and as often as you like. there is a restriction on how many are visible, but what has that got to do with cost? consider the (obvious?) parallel with the tragedy of the commons - posting is to the advantage of the poster, but at the cost of others who posted earlier.

i'm not arguing with your conclusion, just your logic. when i first came here, i didn't like the public whining in meta (these days i view it more as entertainment). but i prefer it to more rules - i agree that it's not broken (although the newbie fpp with no link asking for understanding and then meekly apologising amazed me - how can someone be so outwardly contrite and so inwardly selfish and/or incompetent?)
posted by andrew cooke at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2002


I would suggest that new members be asked to wait a little longer - say a month - before posting to the front page. This isn't to dis the new folks, but because I think that interacting with the community inside threads for a longer time gives you a better feel for what will fly on the front page.

Does anyone have a point that counters the above argument? It's come up a few times and never seems to get any resistance.
posted by mediareport at 4:37 PM on September 9, 2002


Lurking continues to be the best way to learn about any community, actual or virtual. Sit quietly in the corner and watch, listen and learn. Don't jump in right away, all groups of people evolve strange customs, take some time to learn them.

This advice will also make you a better tourist.

mediareport, I don't think it should be codified, but the intention of that idea is sound. However I don't believe people work that way and it would just make people angry.
posted by joemaller at 4:43 PM on September 9, 2002


I'd favor a longer period with non-front-page privileges for new members and I can't say that a month seems overly oppressive to me. Upping this restriction has come up before; what's different now, at least from my observation, is that there are more new members all at once now, exacerbating the "problem." I welcome new voices and fresh perspectives, but not at the expense of the MetaFilter's basic foundation and tone. A longer "getting to know you" period might go a long way to preserving those things.
posted by JollyWanker at 4:57 PM on September 9, 2002


I never found the argument for limiting the display of posts on the MetaTalk front page persuasive. MetaTalk is here to serve a function, and it seems counterproductive to place excessive constraints that limit its usefulness in that regard, simply because of the rather odd idea that a few people may feel compelled to post if they see no new posts for a certain period of time. If a user develops an obvious pattern of abuse, Matt can address that directly with that user. In general, though, it seems to me that MeTa will have just as many posts as it needs, since the number is regulated by users' desire to know or, in the case of bug reports/feature requests, to help.
posted by rushmc at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2002


I would suggest that new members be asked to wait a little longer - say a month - before posting to the front page.

Does anyone have a point that counters the above argument? It's come up a few times and never seems to get any resistance.


I don't really see how this will be different than what already happened... newbies were forced to lurk, and weren't allowed to post to the front page (or the comments pages, for that matter) because registration was disallowed... Once they were allowed to register (and post), we started running into troubles.

How would restricting their front page posting privileges for a month make any difference?
posted by crunchland at 5:49 PM on September 9, 2002


andrew cook: You're right, I was rather torturing the logic I used. I would defend one part of it, however: overuse of posting privileges on MeTa does include a significant cost, in so far as credibility and reputation are the primary currency in this community. This cost is not as much an intrinsic function of the forum as it is an externality imposed by the restriction on visibility of posts.

Thank you for reading me carefully enough to see and understand the point behind the pomposity.

And what crunchland said.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 6:37 PM on September 9, 2002


It's time for MeFi to take the leap

Damn, Matt got hit by a bus? And left you in charge?
posted by sennoma at 7:36 PM on September 9, 2002


Does anyone have a point that counters the above argument? It's come up a few times and never seems to get any resistance.

I should add that I'm all for further restricting the number of front page posts a person can make, from one a day to something way less... like one a week or fortnight. It may not improve the signal-to-noise or the community acceptability of any one message, but at least it would stem the tide. (Even if it kills poor, old Miguel -- I think we can all agree that that's an acceptable sacrifice.)
posted by crunchland at 7:58 PM on September 9, 2002


crunchland: How would restricting their front page posting privileges for a month make any difference?

liam's already answered this point:

interacting with the community inside threads for a longer time gives you a better feel for what will fly on the front page.

Lurking is one thing. Interacting in comments is another. Being part of the discussion via comments for, say, 20-30 days before being allowed to make a front page post makes perfect sense to me as a (very minor) additional check on folks new to the site. It allows them to blow off any highly excited steam they may have built up after reading for a while, but keeps the front page just slightly removed. Strikes me as a nice compromise that honors both the desire to jump in and the cringe-factor of obviously inappropriate posts.
posted by mediareport at 7:59 PM on September 9, 2002


I'm all for further restricting the number of front page posts a person can make, from one a day to something way less... like one a week or fortnight

Even as someone who's lately been averaging about two front page posts a week, I wouldn't object to this kind of limit. But haven't we established that since almost everyone here averages far less than a post a week, it wouldn't do much to reduce the percentage of inappropriate posts? Exactly what problem would you be solving, crunchland? It's not the most frequent posters who are violating the site guidelines.
posted by mediareport at 8:04 PM on September 9, 2002


For what pittance it's worth, my opinion runs the other way: Instituting all these waiting periods and such smacks a bit too much of having to maintain an upload-download ratio or the like -- too much like trying to legislate behavior.

As much as anyone else, or perhaps even more so, I'd like to see post quality rise somewhat. MetaFilter ain't what it was even a couple of months ago, let alone in some mythical golden age. Ho-hum news posts, endless terrorism yammering, a certain Farkishness and recycled novelties from 1997 are all signs of the sky falling. They're signs to me, at least.

Regardless, imposing arcane rules, restrictions and hoops isn't going to substantially improve things. MetaFilter walks and talks like a bulletin board, and people are going to use it like one no matter how much a vocal minority -- including me -- protests. The fix doesn't lie in new user questionnaires, upload ratios, and sysop feedback. Playing that exclusivity game got old back in the 80s and it's positively stone-age now.

Instead, lets try making what we collectively like about MeFi culture actually desirable for new folks to participate in. There'll be some disagreement about just what that is, and a kind of Heisenberg unknowability about the exact details, and that's just what I like.

That is to say: let's do what we're doing already, maybe a little bit less harshly and with slightly less prejudice.
posted by majick at 8:22 PM on September 9, 2002


mediareport, majick:

My argument: punish the abuse, not the ID!
posted by MzB at 8:34 PM on September 9, 2002


I heard that JFK was shot by the 14k+'ers.
posted by gsteff at 8:37 PM on September 9, 2002


... Even if it kills poor, old Miguel ...

I'm sure plenty of users have a spare login ID or two they can lend Miguel to assuage his withdrawal. I don't know that Miguel is either poor or old, however.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. MeFi ain't broke. Most people manage to figure out how things work here without it being explained in words of two syllables. If they don't someone soon lets them know ;-)

A policy committee? Surely you jest?
posted by dg at 8:43 PM on September 9, 2002


I think the 5 post limit on MeTa was made at a different time, when there were a lot of posts about nothing much, and it was annoying people. Now the posts are by newer people, with actual questions and concerns. That's not the kind of post I think we should be limiting. I don't know, I'd like to see this site as cyclical, and that it will eventually calm back down, and maybe 5 posts would be good again, but who knows if that will ever happen.
posted by rhyax at 9:18 PM on September 9, 2002


I heard that JFK was shot by the 14k+'ers.

I thought it was one of the 13k'ers on the grassy knoll.
posted by dg at 11:11 PM on September 9, 2002


"Back, and to the left."

Oh, sorry. Perhaps it's too soon to be making jokes like that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:15 PM on September 9, 2002


Well, that wasn't as constructive as it could have been. Mark me as a newbie who will never attempt a post again. Policy is important to users as well as administrators. It provides consistency and guidelines instead of just having to guess.
posted by kalessin at 5:59 AM on September 10, 2002


I would question how you are going to get 15,000 people who like to call each other 'fuckwits' over missing apostrophes to agree on a set of rules to govern their own behaviour...
The general anarchy of this place is good. It produces surprises. It produces disagreements. It prevents everything from settling into a boring state of equilibrium where every post is about a photo gallery or 9-11.
Sometimes crap will happen. It's part of the process.
</2 cents>
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:06 AM on September 10, 2002


Oh, you'll post again. You'll post again if you're a true MeFite. You'll go off and lick your wounds, and cry about the indignity of it all, but you'll be back. And you'll post stuff that's accepted. And you'll post stuff that gets deleted by Matt. And you'll get picked on. And you'll get praised. You'll be back.
posted by crunchland at 6:10 AM on September 10, 2002


Brilliant Fabulon7 and crunchland, I'll save it for future reference!
posted by MzB at 6:26 AM on September 10, 2002


"I heard that JFK was shot by the 14k+'ers."

"I thought it was one of the 13k'ers on the grassy knoll.
"

Well it wouldn't have been one of the 15k'ers, because they would have found a way to fuck that up too.
posted by mkelley at 7:07 AM on September 10, 2002


as a new person [who's been reading both the blue half and the grey half for approximately a year before even getting an account....not to sound like i'm tooting my own horn...] i have a suggestion. since it is impossible to regulate how much someone lurks before posting, why not simply link conversations like this one and the one linked above in the posting guidelines and the screen that people see before they sign up. this would encourage people to lurk before posting [or even before signing up] and would also encourage them to get a feel for what is ok for posting, etc. also, linking examples of good posts might help too.
posted by zorrine at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2002


Well, my point is, really, that I feel, as a 15ker, that the wall is too high, that I do not feel like a "true MeFite". It's not worth it to me to get punched around over this. I do not feel the need to belong strongly enough to go through the effort of living through the hazing. I would in fact rather not go through the hazing, which is why I suggest a policy document.

I've been using internet resources and communities since 1986. I'm sick of getting punched around for not knowing unwritten rules. I have old communities I can partake in that won't require the punching around to learn things -- since I already know them -- since I turned that knowledge around for newbies there into policy documents. They actually do help.

I think MeFi could make itself more accessible with a policy document -- one that would reassure the likes of me who don't know the culture, who don't want to have to learn the hard way.

But it's clear there's no interest. Which is fine. I don't need to remake MeFi to suit me. I'll just move along and just use it as a new-link-resource, instead of contributing to it as well.
posted by kalessin at 7:41 AM on September 10, 2002


Boo freaking hoo.
posted by rcade at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2002


kalessin, write one yourself, and post it here...people will either use it, or shit on it, or both (or neither). Make it your project and put it here as a gift. Maybe the resulting discussion will sharpen it and refine it (or not).
posted by amberglow at 7:53 AM on September 10, 2002


Aw, come on, rcade.

kalessin, I suggest you read fabulon7's comment one more time. Then compare these pictures with this one.
posted by mediareport at 8:07 AM on September 10, 2002


Some things never change, Peri.
posted by crunchland at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2002


Aw, come on, rcade.

Learning the culture of Metafilter is not hard. By design, it's a public weblog with loose guidelines that encourages self-criticism among the membership.

If he wants to suggest changes to the community and tell us how it feels to be new here, great. But declaring he's never going to post again, because our response to his suggestion was not constructive, doesn't say much for his insight into how online communities function. Does he really need a policy statement to know that dropping a big FU on a bunch of strangers isn't such a hot idea?
posted by rcade at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2002


kalessin wanted to walk a few steps in a direction MeFi should probably walk at least one step in. He has a point, even if we can argue the precise number of steps.
posted by mediareport at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2002


I don't agree that we need to take any steps in that direction. I think reading MetaTalk is a useful way to get to know the community, but the idea that we need to sift through three years of MetaTalk and codify a set of laws is ridiculous. MetaTalk seldom reaches a consensus anyway.

If people follow the rules and guidelines on the New User, About and Posting Guidelines pages, they should do fine.

posted by timeistight at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2002


Speaking as a newbie who lurked here for over a year before registering (mostly because membership was shut down, granted), I think getting too rule-crazed risks messing up what's special about this place. Yes, the usefulness to annoyance ratio has degraded over time and will continue to, but that's the price of nearly anything that deals with increasing numbers of people.

I wouldn't, however, find it bothering to make new members wait a month or so to front page post. It's not an unreasonable time period, and it reduces the temptation for someone to spam something here on a whim (folks where I work have been -ordered- by management to do exactly that in other places because it was so easy and quick to make a bogus ID and do it!).
posted by frallyth at 10:39 AM on September 10, 2002


Where do you work that would have them do such a despicable thing?
posted by crunchland at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2002


Where do you work that would have them do such a despicable thing?

Yeah frallyth, let's see if your boss reads MetaTalk. (You probably don't need that job anyway.)
posted by timeistight at 11:02 AM on September 10, 2002


liam: How will waiting another month help things? I was a daily reader of MetaFilter for at least 6 months before being ABLE to become a member. No one comes here and joins without checking out the site for a while first.

I still think that ignoring the offensive posts is the best action to take. But every time someone reacts to an offensive post, it more often than not, just adds to the problem. Giving the offender audience contributes to the downslide of the thread.

People who offend will get bored and leave after a while if no one is paying them any attention.

As a 15Ker (which means nothing to me), I have one thing to say to all other-Kers, your community is gowning. With that, the diversity is growing, the varied interests are growing, etc. I agree that regardless of such growth, new members should adapt as best they can to established community policy and form. However, the neighborhood is expanding. So there has to be a certain amount of tolerance on the the part of the older members or they should move to a new neighborhood.

It's just a case of growing pains. Adding new policy and procedure would only complicate the issue... far from solving it.

There is NO excuse for flames and offensive posts however, and those should be dealt with like any other community would.
posted by Witty at 11:08 AM on September 10, 2002


kalessin wanted to walk a few steps in a direction MeFi should probably walk at least one step in.

I don't think a detailed policy statement would make any difference. The kind of people who would read and follow it are not the ones who need help figuring out how to be good contributors here.

Besides, it's antithetical to the loose, flexible approach that has been a part of Metafilter's appeal.
posted by rcade at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2002


If people follow the rules and guidelines on the New User, About and Posting Guidelines pages, they should do fine.

There are plenty of serious topics that show up in MeTa that aren't covered in the deliberately loose guidelines. Again, I understand where kalessin is coming from, even as I shudder at the idea of a "policy committee." But to clarify: I'm not talking about creating new rules. The step I think MeFi needs to take is a slightly more in-your-face approach -- a few prominent permanent links, for example -- to the loose guidelines and MeTa discussions that already exist. That's hardly a radical shift in MeFi culture, is it?
posted by mediareport at 12:18 PM on September 10, 2002


I don't think a detailed policy statement would make any difference.

No, but permanent pointers to some of the best MeTa conversations about the site -- disagreements and all -- might.
posted by mediareport at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2002


I wasn't asking for a change in the rules either, just a suggestion in the guidelines.

Witty: I do think that active participation in threads for a while gives new users a better understanding of the community's dynamic. You learn the flow of a river better by following in the wake of more experienced navigators, rather than by just watching them.
posted by liam at 12:41 PM on September 10, 2002


I'm not going to mention my current employer for obvious reasons, but I doubt such a thing is all that uncommon, especially given the spam levels in the world. At Prodigy, where I used to work, they did pretty much the same thing -- even going as far as to hand out step-by-step guidebooks on that kind of "guerrila marketing" to their communities group of 1099 (U.S. contract only classification, the kind AOL got in trouble for abusing a year or two ago) employees to follow. They saw it as advertising they didn't have to pay for, or take any grief for if it went bad, since "the company" wasn't responsible for what "individuals" did (wink, wink). If anyone complained about what one of these folk did too forcefully, no biggie, they just claimed the person was acting on their own and fired them -- because they were just contract work anyway, and they didn't have to give any reason or notice before doing so.

Actually, they usually told the 1099ers to fire each other whenever possible to spare themselves the bother, but that's an entirely different story, and it's getting a little far off topic.

But really my point is, you want to allow anyone who really cares to take part in this place, but you want to make it JUST time-consuming enough to register that the world doesn't feel tempted to spam it on a whim. Sometimes people do things before thinking because they CAN do them before thinking.
posted by frallyth at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2002


Well, where the logic of mediareport failed, the slimey marketing techniques of frallyth have convinced me.
posted by crunchland at 1:56 PM on September 10, 2002


Slimy marketing techniques will win out every time. Do you want my credit card number now or later?
posted by dg at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2002


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