State of the Site, Feb 2021 February 14, 2021 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Heya, folks, here's an update on the site over the last year and what we're looking at in 2021.

2020 in review

- The dominant global story of 2020 has been the COVID-19 pandemic, and that's had a huge impact on MetaFilter as business and on everyone in the MetaFilter community. The stress of sudden changes in social and work routines, in added pressure on parents, isolation for folks living alone, the fear and loss of friends and loved ones directly affected by the virus, and a generally tremendous sense of disruption and worry and uncertainty for everyone has made the last year exceptionally challenging for everyone. It's hard to overstate the impact of that. I'm deeply grateful that the MetaFilter community has been here through it, as a place of familiar comfort and solidarity through such a difficult time.

- We reworked staffing in 2020 in a few ways. Most importantly and most positively, we brought travelingthyme and loup onto the moderation team, who have over the course of 2020 found their footing with standard moderation procedures as well as helped push forward with the development and refinement of our guidelines and documentation; loup has been a productive force toward better and more contemporary on-site documentation, and thyme has spearheaded the organization of a BIPOC advisory board and provided key perspective and advice on some of our moderation practices, to the benefit of the whole team.

- We've also brought restless_nomad on later in the year to help manage some internal organization practices and help us reboot and redistribute some of the team's behind the scenes work, which has been very helpful and let us take a fresh eye to some things that'd we'd Always Done That Way. We've also had jessamyn working some regular hours as a moderator, and LobsterMitten and I have both shifted to shorter schedules for the time being to accommodate other folks' hours and manage the budget.

- Along with various small tweaks and bug fixes, frimble worked on a few significant dev projects last year: migrating the site away from mathowie’s legacy AWS account, building out functionality to support account wipes and partial wipes based on user requests and ongoing feedback, and implementation of a text filter to act as a firewall against the casual use of slurs on the site. Overall dev time has been significantly limited by frimble’s pandemic-plus-parenting circumstances, and that will likely continue to be the case for at least some of 2021. Thanks everybody for understanding and accommodating that reality, and thanks frimble for continuing to get done what you have been able to find time for.

- The MetaFilter staff continued to work with our current anti-oppression and social justice consultant, YK Hong, to discuss mod practices and site issues, and incorporate their guidance into our working practices. It's been a very helpful external perspective on both MetaFilter's structural and social challenges and those things that the site and community have been able to do well and can press forward on. We're aiming to organize another session with them early in 2021.

- We've been working, at both a dev and a policy and practice level, to make the process of anonymizing and removing personal content from the site more accessible and systematic for those who need it, including full or partial account wipes on request. This is a measure of last resort -- we'd prefer to do targeted deletions and redactions wherever possible -- but ultimately we are going to prioritize users' privacy needs over other concerns.

- travelingthyme is in the process of introducing some new projects for BIPOC Mefites. Feel free to send them an email if you have any suggestions, ideas or would like to know more. Stay tuned!

- In the spirit of creating space for joy and fun and build a sense of community, in a year when there was a lot to be angry about and many of us lost our physical communities, we hosted a year-end/happy 2021 MeFi Gala, and it was really fun! Jessamyn and I chattered about the site in pseudo-podcasty fashion, and various mods and members hopped on as guests: restless_nomad hung out, travelingthyme showed us their vantablack cat, Eyebrows McGee told some jokes about pandemic parenting, not_on_display and bondcliff dropped in, and chococat and Melismata sent in music videos. loup put together a fabulous slideshow that featured members' artistic endeavors, adorable pets, and favorite pre-Covid travels. Jessamyn ran some trivia (with Fabulous Prizes for participants from my linocut workbench), and LM did yeoman's work modding the whole entirely-new-to-us YouTube chat process. You guys are a very talented bunch, and we had a fantastic time having a little socially-distanced party.

Looking into 2021

- It's a new year but we're still living through a global pandemic; it's a safe bet that will be the thing that most universally affects MeFites and the MeFi community and those in our lives. The site has been a refuge and an organizing and information-gathering hub for many of us over the last year and I expect it will continue to be so. Folks have organized some long-distance IRL gatherings in response to normal meetups being off the table, and that's been fun and we'd love to see and support more of that. We'll continue to look as a team for ways to help MetaFilter be a resources and a good community space through all this

- We've reached the end of the Trump administration, and good riddance to that. Whatever other many problems in the US and the world, that's one extraordinarily awful fact of the last four years that we can say goodbye to, aftershocks notwithstanding.

- Retiring the megathreads made 2020 more manageable by far than it otherwise would have been. We allowed them to informally return in a sort of extinction burst for the 2020 election and the chaotic strangeness of November-January that followed, but we'll be moving back to more normal mode of posting expectations going forward. There will continue to be political fallout from the previous administration and new developments in US politics, but those can be handled one topic-specific thread at a time.

- restless_nomad is finishing up this temporary re-engagement on the site to return to other projects. Her work the last several months has leaves us in a much better place than we started a few months ago, and I can't thank her enough for that.

- We're looking forward to finishing the work we've been doing to build out explicit privacy policy and ToS documentation; there's been a lot of background work going on, and rolling new documentation out is high on the to-do list. We're also going to complete a structural overhaul of the FAQ, another project with a lot of invisible shovelwork behind it. If you see something that seems like it’s not current, please let us know.

- We continuing work to reposition the MeFi Mall to be not just a holiday-season event but a permanent marketplace of MetaFilter community member's goods and services. People make and sell stuff year-round, and we'd like to highlight and support that.

Site finances summary

- MetaFilter member and reader support of the site has remained pretty steady, despite the overall economic situation and the understandable need folks have had to rein in their own spending. Thanks so much as always for supporting this place directly; it's what keeps MetaFilter at all workable under its current full-time moderation model.

- We've prioritized investing some money into reworking staffing, providing extra coverage and training for our newest mods, and funding consulting work this year since we went into it with a good buffer of savings. That, along with a downturn in ad revenue and general pandemic economic effects, has reduced our savings by a chunk, but we still have a reasonable buffer to work from for the time being.

- The Carbon ads we had been using at the start of last year has since shuttered that ad product we were using. It's a small piece of site revenue, but every bit helps, so I'm continuing to look for a good, similarly non-sketchy replacement for that.

- We don't yet know what the rest of this year is going to look like economically. Where we are right now is an okay place, and I'll update if and when that changes.

Closing thoughts and thanks

Last year was a strange and hard one, and we made it through it together. I don't know what this year will hold; there are lots of things I'm worried about, but also I have hope and a sense of possibility. The capacity of the MetaFilter community to, through every twist and turn, come together and support one another, and to continue to perpetuate and breathe life into this place and this idea, is a big part of where that hope comes from for me, and I reckon for a lot of you as well.

We've been doing this for going on 22 years now. Some of us have been here for literal decades, some of us for half or a quarter of that or just the last year. Lots who were here at the start are gone now, drifting off or passing away. A community that lasts long enough becomes a ship of Theseus, constantly replacing and renewing itself, keeping the structure even as the details change. I'm glad MeFi is still sailing, and I'm glad that we've had so many chances to improve things as we went, and that comes down to all of you. I'm thankful you're here, and that we can be side by side as we look through the fog toward whatever is ahead of us.

I also want to thank the whole MetaFilter staff, who have moved mountains to support each other through the last year, whether it's been accommodating illness, distance learning for staff kiddos, family emergencies with the complications of Covid, or coping with the incredible stress of the 2020 election and follow-on events. Everybody's been incredibly flexible and willing to step up to help each other out when the ongoing difficulties of 2020 hit hard. Without everybody's resilience and mutual support, we probably would have all burned out in July.
posted by cortex (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 12:15 PM (506 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

Does MetaFilter have negative, neutral, or positive net income?
posted by saeculorum at 12:37 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


Thanks to you, #7418, and to all the mod staff and to all contributors, who continue to make this site a little piece of internet sacred space. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
posted by Lynsey at 1:40 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


Much thanks for the update! Glad to hear about what's cooking.
posted by brainwane at 1:41 PM on February 14


metafilter.com/user/6915... I am not a number but a free ♥️
posted by clavdivs at 2:19 PM on February 14


Does MetaFilter have negative, neutral, or positive net income?

Net negative right now; we're spending a bit out of savings to keep things reliable for staff despite the crappy economic turn the world's been taking and the contuingly-bearish web ad market. Not enough of a net loss to be immediately worrying with the savings we have left; we'll cross that bridge when and if we come to it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:36 PM on February 14 [8 favorites]


This is my reflection on 2020 at Metafilter, as a longtime (though not super frequent) community member:

I've felt increasingly uncomfortable with how the community works, particularly through listening to trans MeFites who continue to articulate their frustrations with how they've felt unheard, ignored and (in some cases) unfairly banned from the community. PoC have expressed similar concerns.

To be very clear, I don't think the above is a personal failing of Josh Millard, other mods, or of MeFi community members at large. Structural and systemic oppression is not about "this person" is bad or flawed or whatever. It's about the structural way that decisions are made and implemented: who is in the room when decisions are made? Who has power to veto changes? Who has power to follow through on changes? Who enforces the rules?

I think Metafilter has tried to be aware of these things. I think that we haven't done these things well. As a cis gay POC, I can say for myself that I'd like to have been involved in the solution -- but I'm tired, I'm doing other things, it feels like I've waited too long to see a more democratic decision-making process emerge within this community. Which is painful: this is a space that has really formed and developed who I am as a human being.

Ultimately, I think Metafilter needs to decide what it is going to be: who makes the rules, who has final say, and how do we pay for the staff and organization needed to make this site be. There's been a back-and-forth for as long as I've been around between Metafilter-as-community and Metafilter-as-business. That can's been kicked down the road for fifteen years, and I don't think that's sustainable or fair either to Josh Millard, to the MeFi staff, or to the Metafilter community.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:05 PM on February 14 [32 favorites]


It makes me sad to read that members are finding the site so harsh. If I can help I will. I also check the site multiple times a day for interesting links. Isn't that what the front page is for?
posted by vrakatar at 6:05 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Has any analysis been done with engagement on the site? It feels that comments in front page have significantly decreased in number compared to previous years and many of my favorite contributors, particularly poc have either buttoned or left because of site culture.

Not that I was a particularly prolific contributor but I have significantly dialed back my engagement with this site last year as I realized the emotional labor of trying to change site culture to be less hostile towards BIPOC members was no longer worth my time. I sensed that it came to a head for several others from July to September of last year as I saw BIPOC people button one after another, especially around the metatalk discussions asking mefi to handle race better. Reviewing the metatalks I participated in...it appears the hands off approach to those metatalks didn't serve mefi well.

I hope whatever work you're doing is leading to a degree of retrospection on those metatalks but I fear that the damage has been done - I certainly haven't felt engaged with the site since.
posted by Karaage at 6:37 PM on February 14 [8 favorites]


How many of those who spoke up are still around? I'll bet it's very very few.

And how would we know? The usual updates are comment locked and any other MetaTalk is queued and who knows what just doesn't get posted.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:40 PM on February 14 [15 favorites]


This level of disengagement deeply saddens me, as an occasional contributor. I've no real horse in this race, I'm not going anywhere, but it still distresses me to see that this site is trying so hard to move in decent directions and we still lose people and perspectives. Nobody owes anybody anything, and it's down to people to decide what they are willing to put up with, but there's little that makes me feel worse than seeing people up and leave, never to return. I just want us all to be better and to have some of the old perspectives back, but I know they probably won't be.

Apologies for the wall of text, all.
posted by Alensin at 9:17 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]


I too want to thank the staff for their hard work and effort. But I have some concerns and thoughts about how things stand and the recent past.

The BIPOC Advisory Board last met October 11th, more than 4 months ago, which was the second meeting. I am concerned that it seemingly hasn't been treated as a priority, and that whatever scheduling system is being used reflects that apparent lack of priority, and that no mention of the delay has been made here. There are, of course, continued issues of racism on the site, and when I raised one of them with a meta, I was told last month:

"This is something I plan on bringing to the BIPOC board in the future, to discuss what they’d prefer to see happen in situations like this, and additionally what they feel is the most impactful yet least harmful way of creating a safer space where folks can have the conversations that need to happen without it being at the expense of other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are also a part of the community. "

Now I'll say that my framing of that meta wasn't great. At the time I really appreciated what was a lengthy and thoughtful answer from travelingthyme that I'm only quoting part of, and I sat with it. I think the topic is worth addressing here though and can be, if well framed and moderated.

Traveling thyme told me a few days later, when I inquired, that the Advisory Board was in a scheduling phase then, and it seems like that hasn't changed. If the BIPOC Advisory Board still isn't scheduling a meeting though, I'm unclear if anything can be raised with them? I also mentioned when I inquired about this in January that I was hoping for more insight into the topics related to the BIPOC Advisory Board in site updates, which also hasn't been forthcoming.

I'm not BIPOC, so if BIPOC users tell me I need to stay in my lane and this delay is totally ok with them, that's fine. But if it is an issue, it shouldn't just be on BIPOC folks to raise it.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:46 AM on February 15 [20 favorites]


Moving onto Trans issues

First thank you to allies who mentioned issues that Trans and nonbinary users have had with this site. If people aren't sure what they mean, I'll pull out some personal examples.

The pronoun change, which was brought up in a trans thread months and months ago, was done months in advance of it being activated. It was announced done in Site Update #5 in September. Site staff when I inquired privately in late October:

"Yeah, the pronoun field change itself is ready to go - what we're waiting on is getting a nag-screen sort of thing that will allow us to *tell* everyone it's changed as they log in and prompt them to go update it. (We're going to need this tech for a bunch of things eventually, so it made sense to get it done and use this as the initial case.) "

They ended up using the old top banner announcement system to finally implement it, in December. I dislike that something I considered valuable that was finished was delayed for months; the announcement system, if and when it's finished, can be tested by an actual test, not by something valuable to marginalized users. It said to me that the announcement system was the staff's priority. To be clear, I'm not complaining that necessary site changes for the site to function took precedence over the pronoun change, but once the change itself was done it should have gone through immediately.

I also made a suggestion back in January as to a change to address names and trans folks on the microaggression page. Both Jessamyn and loup seemed appreciative of the feedback, but there has been no change to that page. I've gone and bumped the email thread, but ultimately I worry that such a change will be delayed until there is a massive overhaul of site docs, at some distant point in the future.

I've also been told what trans users want from the site by mods after they took down a post I put up, despite a number of trans users, including one of those they quoted at me, telling the mods that we want trans users to be able to post things on trans issues; we just want better moderation of those threads.

It seems like staff don't see things for marginalized users as a priority. I feel gaslit to be quite honest, and continually disappointed by staff.

I am also, on a related note, a bit worried that if I bring up the specifics of banned or buttoned trans/nb folks, my comment will be deleted or, if in a meta, it won't be allowed to be published. Or maybe I'll just be banned too, for being too hysterical, or just too much trouble.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:53 AM on February 15 [20 favorites]


Why would we gaslight you? Do you think that we really just don't want to make the change, but we are going to "act" like we do just for fun / to make you question your sanity? It's fine for you to say "I suggest xyz change in the the FAQ," and for us to say "that sounds like a good idea, and we'll do it," and for it not to be done as quickly as you might wish because of holdups that we actually do not control. We don't control Covid lockdowns, and the resulting very sparse time frimble has had for just maintaining the site at basically an emergency level. Mods cannot physically edit that page. We are going to work out a way to change that, but it needs frimble to do that extra work that they do not have time to make the changes so we can make the changes without asking them to make every single change everywhere on the site. We have a whole list of things that need to be edited, but we are not delaying the one you are most frustrated about on purpose for evil reasons. None of them are happening at this moment. But I told you this in the email response that I sent around 30 minutes after you mailed.

I'm not going to speak for traveling thyme, but I can promise that they are also doing the very best they can under a variety of difficult conditions, and we need to help them out more with rejigging logistical stuff to make communication with board members easier. Everyone is dealing with a lot. Like, really, a lot. And we aren't facebook or twitter or reddit or some fancy startup with venture capital and no vowels and staff to burn; we are a few people trying to keep the place going in the face of a lot of difficulties.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:39 AM on February 15 [66 favorites]


Well, I don't know about anyone else, but aggressive responses from mods towards minority members of the site who dare to describe their negative experiences of engaging with the mods certainly makes me feel welcome and valued here.

Perhaps, rather than leaping to an impassioned defence of the site and it's moderators, you could ask why trans people might have the impression of being gaslit, of whether the values that are vocally championed here actually reflect the actions that are taken, whether delaying a change benefiting trans and non-binary users by tying it to an unrelated announcement system might impact the perception of where your priorities lie in regard to other changes that are delayed for other reasons.

Maybe don't take it as an opportunity to strike back at someone who is trying to make the site better, but as a chance to reflect on why users who care about the site have negative perceptions of it.
posted by death valley compound at 5:14 AM on February 15 [42 favorites]


> Everyone is dealing with a lot. Like, really, a lot.

Including, probably, Chrysopoeia. Maybe you, the authority figure here with the power which that user specifically mentioned being scared of, could assume good faith and take a more gentle tone.

To be clear, this read like:

"Sometimes, I'm not sure the authorities have my best interests at heart..."

"WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU ASSUME THAT?!! WE'VE TOLD YOU OVER AND OVER HOW MUCH WE CARE ABOUT YOUR CONSTANT COMPLAINING."
posted by thoroughburro at 5:48 AM on February 15 [23 favorites]


Are you really saying that no one other than frimble is capable of even editing the FAQ? There's not another single human being on the planet who can do text changes to the site? I find that really hard to believe.
posted by octothorpe at 6:00 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Mod defensiveness is one of the patterns that seems to never change.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:25 AM on February 15 [15 favorites]


If we're doing a complaints thread I'd just like to point out that the number of active non-US based users has dropped like a stone over the last year.
The site has always tended towards a kind of hyper-Americanism but the idea that the outside world is a set of distorting mirrors reflecting the US in morally useful ways is pretty universal now.
That a criticism of the user-base rather than the mods though.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:02 AM on February 15 [11 favorites]


Why would we gaslight you? Do you think that we really just don't want to make the change, but we are going to "act" like we do just for fun / to make you question your sanity? It's fine for you to say "I suggest xyz change in the the FAQ," and for us to say "that sounds like a good idea, and we'll do it," and for it not to be done as quickly as you might wish because of holdups that we actually do not control. We don't control Covid lockdowns, and the resulting very sparse time frimble has had for just maintaining the site at basically an emergency level. Mods cannot physically edit that page. We are going to work out a way to change that, but it needs frimble to do that extra work that they do not have time to make the changes so we can make the changes without asking them to make every single change everywhere on the site. We have a whole list of things that need to be edited, but we are not delaying the one you are most frustrated about on purpose for evil reasons. None of them are happening at this moment. But I told you this in the email response that I sent around 30 minutes after you mailed.


This is a mega-defensive response to people who are saying they have a series of concerns. I'm not a member of one of the affected demographics, but I support their right to say that they are not feeling heard. This is not a supportive way to respond.
posted by angrycat at 8:09 AM on February 15 [38 favorites]


(I'm a member of the BIPOC board and I had neglected to fill out the scheduling form for the next meeting, despite a reminder; just did that now. Sorry.)
posted by brainwane at 8:11 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


This is a bit tangential and I have no real understanding of the complexity of Metafilter's tech stack, but I do wonder if we're at a point where the technical idiosyncrasies (to put it lightly) of Metafilter are starting to really hold back fixes and improvements that are crucial for the community to flourish.

For example, I get the impression a lot of time has been spent on figuring out how to securely delete or anonymise comments and posts. This is the sort of thing you get for "free" on Discourse. Ditto with text filters. Clearly it would be an absolutely enormous undertaking to move to Discourse, probably a site-breaking one in some ways. Some important features would need to be redeveloped as plugins, and you might simply need to start afresh and keep "old Metafilter" around as a read-only site. It would, however, guarantee the site's continued technical maintenance and improvement, and come with a lot of really useful and valuable features.
posted by adrianhon at 8:28 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I'm white. I'm non USA. I'm cis. I'm straight.

I'm just gutted by the conversations that keep happening. Maybe it's a symptom of the broader world. What I value about metafilter is that it tries to be a place on the internet that is inclusive and welcoming. For me personally, the lack of boyzone junk when I started was really appreciated- metafilter was the first place online that I was comfortable indicating I was a girl. Before then I had followed the advice to have a gender neutral or at least vaguely male name to avoid harrassment. As a non-USA person I felt the sting of USA defaultness and I maybe even contributed to metatalks about it? I notice when there's a mod note that says "hey this is a thread about X in Y, please don't make it all about the USA" and appreciate that. It's a good change.

So with trans and POC issues with the site, my expectation is that when issues are raised, metafilter will go, like the Boyzone or non-usa stuff - "you know what, we can do better." And do better. Instead we have this cycle of people raising issues, being hurt and buttoning, and I'm not sure what the difference is? I definitely don't want to tone police or question the experience of others, maybe it's the microaggressions that I'm blind to?

I feel like something is raised, "metafilter" (community of users? Mods?) agrees to do better, I think "hey, I was unaware, let me change my behaviour" and deeply appreciate the gift given to me that I can be a better person, and do better in my interactions both online and in real life. But in these threads voices I admire and value suddenly disappear. Maybe it's a speed of change issue? Probably I'm really naive and privileged. But I keep being saddened- suddenly in threads someone is upset, and I'm confused as to why when metafilter is trying to do better, and then someone else is leaving. I get that this might feel selfish- but on a human level I miss my online friends. Maybe this "hey we are trying" is the root of the frustration that is expressed sometimes.
(not defending taz's comment - I felt that was not cool. Tone, again, but it felt snappy to me.)

I admit I have no direct personal understanding of what it's like to be trans or a person of colour. But I love our community where people can feel comfortable saying who they are (like I felt comfortable "admitting" to being a woman online) and I'm saddened that it isn't universally felt. I'm saddened that we make changes for the better but the users who asked for them don't stick around to see it.

Or maybe I'm just a privileged white girl blind to the causes, but I see the hurt in the comments, please know I ache with you. I don't know why we keep hurting each other but I want it to stop. (Not that I want people to stop telling us if something is hurting of course! We have to know so we can do our best to fix it.)

I hope this comment hasn't added to the hurt. I want all of us to still be here when this conversation is over.
posted by freethefeet at 8:32 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]


(on the BIPOC board, brainwane thank you for the insight into the process- it's going a bit slower so that everyone involved can be included?)
posted by freethefeet at 8:36 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


So with trans and POC issues with the site, my expectation is that when issues are raised, metafilter will go, like the Boyzone or non-usa stuff - "you know what, we can do better." And do better. Instead we have this cycle of people raising issues, being hurt and buttoning, and I'm not sure what the difference is?

I don't think there is a difference, really -- it took years of 'boyzone is bullshit' Metas before anything substantially changed. I'm not saying that's acceptable or that trans or POC should suck it up for those years to effect some kind of change, just that it isn't like the community was real on board with those other changes either. It would be nice if we could do better faster this time around, but it clearly isn't happening fast enough.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:47 AM on February 15 [12 favorites]


Brainwane, or anyone on the board, or BIPOC in general, if I was wrong to raise the board or the lack of transparency regarding it's delayed meeting as an issue, I'm sorry. I don't mean to add to anyone's burdens. I'm going to sit with that to think about how I can be a better ally.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:02 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I've written at length in prior MetaTalk conversations about my disappointment with cortex, who evinces an unfathomably stubborn unwillingness to get some outside help with MetaFilter's business model. Raising money through haircuts and merch and intermittent banner ads clearly isn't adequate. I maintain that cortex should seek outside help from a business consultant so as to allow for the site's ongoing viability. There won't be a need for a BIPOC Advisory Board for MetaFilter if the site ceases to exist. Lower engagements figures, fewer non-USA members, longtime members buttoning? None of it matters if MetaFilter goes away. The financial issues are existential in nature and remain the most pressing challenge the site faces.

But, you know, I've beaten that dead horse for a long time now. Another way to think about this is in terms of labor and employment. Can you imagine what a shitty place MetaFilter is to work? When I think of mods and other staff, just offhand I think of jessamyn, one of the most prominent and visionary librarians in the country; Eyebrows McGee, a religious and legal polymath who, in addition to her moderating work, is very busy as a parent of young children; cortex himself, who makes absolutely mind-bogglingly amazing art; frimble, whose "pandemic-plus-parenting circumstances" cortex alludes to above, yet who does all sorts of important tech work; etc. I mean, the MetaFilter staff is a pretty remarkable bunch! They're creative, hard-working, intelligent, and deeply passionate about the site...

... which is why the tone of despair, frustration, and brokenness in taz's comment above fills me with sadness. Why would anyone want to work at a place that requires grueling hours for what, in the absence of concrete information, I assume is low pay with minimal benefits? For as much as I enjoy MetaFilter, I hate the thought that our imperfect yet still amazing mods (plus frimble) are working in an environment that continues to prioritize hyper-connectivity, very long shifts, and lots of work. The strain is evident. It just seems like a nightmarish place to work.

Fix the finances and you can address the site's other issues. I don't pretend it would be easy but the broad parameters seem clear enough. Use some of the buffer, and/or perhaps crowdsource the users, to bring in some kind of consultant, and then listen to that consultant. Find better ways to bring in revenue. Hire more people so as to not be reliant on a brilliant, hard-working, but visibly overwhelmed workforce. Make a succession plan, budget for staff growth and training and advisory board input, in short, learn to run the site like the mature, viable business it is and can continue to be.

cortex, thanks as always for the genuine kindness you show when you write these site updates: your clear gratitude for the sacrifices your employees make; your desire to make the site more welcoming; your evident care for those of us in the community; your lucid understanding of the craziness of the pandemic and the US election and everything else that happened in 2020; your intelligence and creativity and decency and goodness that are readily apparent yet all too easy to take for granted. It is hard for me to square your positive traits with your willingness to be a bad employer of a demoralized staff. You simply don't take the financial side of the site as seriously as you should. It's infuriating, but it's fixable.
posted by cheapskatebay at 9:31 AM on February 15 [42 favorites]


Holy crap, taz. Please know that that comment of yours came across (to me, at least, and it looks like at least some others agree) as incredibly hostile and defensive. To the extent that I really think a follow-up comment from you and the rest of the mod team is called for: I honestly don't see how you felt that response could help anything or could possibly come across as measured or respectful, and it makes me curious about what individual mods are actually getting out of the work being done with that anti-oppression and social justice consultant. Actually, I'd really love to hear more about what mods have learned about moderation practices from working with that anti-oppression and social justice consultant since the last update. Is that possible?

I was going to stay out of this but I will say in response to the idea that everyone is doing as much as is humanly possible that it's hard not to think about things like the gala, which somehow was very possible and I'm guessing did take a fair amount of work on multiple people's parts, every time a site update is rolled out noting that important things like the ones Chrysopoeia mentioned have been pushed back yet again. I don't begrudge Metafilter the fun stuff like the gala, podcasts, or whatever, and I'm not asking for justification or defense of the fun things the mods want to do, but I wonder if I'm the only one who knee-jerk thinks of those kinds of things every time we're told how impossible it is to get anything done. I get it, there needs to be a balance between one-off fun things and the other stuff, but might be worth keeping those kind of optics in mind when telling people you can't get anything done, I guess is what I'm saying.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:31 AM on February 15 [24 favorites]


You know, I think that given there's a bottleneck on the tech side, and given that there's simultaneously a real backlog of meaningful work and changes that people have been asking for sincerely for such a long time, one thing that would help is to find ways to demonstrate that as much of the work as possible is actually being done. That is, to bring as much of the work as possible out from behind the scenes and make it visible.

So if for whatever reason editing the FAQ or other docs requires significant time on frimble's part, the mods can a least post the new text that they've come up with in some temporary place (a metatalk post, the wiki, etc.) Users could get their eyes on it and give feedback, and there would be a sense of inclusion and activity.

Implementing a mechanism for deleting or anonymizing posts may take a long time, but posting a finalized or semi-finalized version of the policy that will be implemented is something that mods can do without frimble. Sure, that'll invite feedback and possibly argument, but if handled responsively it would also create a sense of inclusion and activity. If there's truly a fear of the potential response to opening the policy for review by the entire membership, then at least include those members who've been the primary drivers for the change in the review process, and make that inclusion known.

And if features are implemented but rollout is delayed for lack of a good announcement mechanism, then that definitely seems like a time to go with 'perfect is the enemy of good' and do as much rollout as possible using the existing tools.

As much as there have been a lot of specific issues raised about specific concerns like making the site a better place for trans, BIPOC, and international members, there's also been an overarching theme of lack of responsiveness for a long time. I appreciated the initiative to start doing regular site updates -- I think it's an important step in the right direction. But it's just one step. And the truth is that there hasn't been a ton of response in those updates to the issues that were being raised over the past few years -- probably for understandable reasons, given the pandemic and the election and insurrection and so forth. And I think there's also been a sense among members that that's the case, and a general willingness to have a cooling off period given all the current events. But now it's a few months later, and the election is over, and there have been no metatalk posts about the requested changes for a long while. And I think that patience for the quiet is inevitably going to run out soon, because it's not been accompanied by significant changes.

So I'd really like to see the mods treat this responsively, not defensively. Please get ahead of the game, rather than getting frustrated because of always having to play catch-up. And if getting ahead is impossible, then at least show more of the work that's being done. Because if it's not visible, then from a member's perspective it might as well not exist.
posted by trig at 10:44 AM on February 15 [19 favorites]


Techwise, even just a list of all the things in the pipeline, with their current status and expected date for the next status, would be helpful to see. (I understand the site update Metas are supposed to provide that, and they do somewhat, but can be vague and the slippage of expected dates isn't very visible).
posted by nat at 10:56 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Just speaking for myself here, as a QTPOC who's also a moderator. I've been doing my best to get the board up and running with support from staff and what's been the MOST challenging is getting emails from white allies accusing me of lacking transparency or demanding that I give them answers to things I don't have answers to. I promise I'm not withholding information and I'm not trying to delay board meetings. I'll provide some additional information and hope it helps:

I've been coordinating with 5+people via email, and back in October the board and I agreed to hold off on meeting for 2 months because I was frantically arranging housing and transportation to move myself and my family across the world back to the US during the pandemic.

I got back to the states in mid-December, returned to work and re-engaged with board matters as soon as I could. Since then, communication with the board has been difficult for a variety of reasons. Email is hard, being a person of color in this world during the current global political climate sucks, and trying to coordinate schedules is a challenge with folks living their lives and trying to do their jobs + caring for their mental health...I could go on. I want every board member to have the time they need to respond to me. If I have to send emails that don't get replies back, I'm ok with that. I'll continue reaching out and in the mean time working on other ways to engage and improve BIPOC participation and belonging in this space. I cannot however, force others to engage in anything they don't have capacity/interest/time for. Just yesterday, I let the board know I'd be reaching out individually to see what I can do better, and have been constructing some self-initiated projects that I hope will create space for QT+BIPOC to exist on this site in a healthier way.

I just want everyone to remember that we work designated hours, we're not on 24/7. I have 3 days off out of the week and those are my personal days. If I'm not getting back to folks promptly, it's likely because I'm taking time for myself and my family.

I hope this clears up some of the questions around the happenings of the board and transparency issues. If folks have suggestions or insight on other methods that they think would actually help myself and the board in engaging in more effective communication methods, please reach out. I'd love to try different avenues and would be happy to receive feedback.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 11:05 AM on February 15 [67 favorites]


Is there a reason my comment was deleted?
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:19 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I'm baffled at the decision to delete the comment from runcibleshaw without explanation. This is not transparency or helpful to the ongoing discussion in the slightest.
posted by Alensin at 11:25 AM on February 15 [9 favorites]


[One comment removed. Please avoid discussions about people who are no longer in the site in this thread.]
posted by loup (staff) at 11:31 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


This is not a good look.

We are doing vastly more harm by removing discussion of a perfectly legitimate complaint from a former user. If there is, in fact, a policy against discussion of *any* former user on this site, let that be stated explicitly somewhere. Leaving comments up which the former user has explicitly called out as questionable, at best, makes all our talk of wanting to do better fairly hypocritical.
posted by Alensin at 11:43 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


This is what has been festering within the user base while comments on site updates have been closed.
posted by all about eevee at 11:47 AM on February 15 [14 favorites]


[It would be more accurate to say, we don't in general allow people to speak for other people -- in many cases, we have no way of knowing if they are speaking for that person with or without permission, with or without accuracy, or even using it (and this has happened in the past) was a form of harassment.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:49 AM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I feel like loup can get the benefit of the doubt, being a new mod - but this is the kind of thing mods need to acknowledge and correct immediately, not sometime more than 20 minutes later.

On preview - okay, but given the high likelihood of it being a legitimate comment, much more sensitivity and explanation should have been shown in deleting it. And by the logic of that deletion, Rhaomi's comment should have also been removed. Or at least addressed by mods.
posted by trig at 11:51 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Sorry to go off topic, but could I please remind mods that there was a fairly well-received (I thought?) request a while ago to find some approach OTHER than using tiny text to designate mod notes, as the tiny text is difficult for many users to read?
posted by DingoMutt at 12:00 PM on February 15 [9 favorites]


And by the logic of that deletion, Rhaomi's comment should have also been removed. Or at least addressed by mods.
Especially considering I emailed the mods about Rhaomi's comment at 9:30 PST this morning and specifically said it was misrepresenting me. This is my email:
"I recently buttoned and asked for a wipe. A user contacted me on twitter and asked if he could mention that I left as something he was concerned about being a patten in terms of BIPOC leaving, and I said that was fine. Another user (Rhaomi) took that to mean it's fine to talk about me and spread misinformation about why I left and what I was saying - obviously since I am no longer here to defend myself and my comments are no longer here, I think it's INCREDIBLY inappropriate for a user I do not know and have never communicated with to be speaking for me and mansplaining the reasons I left. He doesn't have any idea of what he's talking about and I honestly thought this site was better about making sure that people who aren't here anymore don't get this level of scrutiny. It's one thing to say the factual point that I'm no longer here - it's an entirely different thing to say "this is why she left and why she was mad and look at how irrational she was being" and I can't believe that comment is still there."

Guess it's fine to talk about me when I object to it but not when I sanction it.
posted by thisistrulysomebullshit at 12:09 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


[ A couple of clarifications regarding my previous note:
1. We don't generally allow people to speak on behalf of others, moreover if they are not members.
2. The "Please avoid discussions about people who are no longer in the site in this thread." comment wasn't directed at one member in particular but in general, because a comment is not removed doesn't mean we did not take any actions, you may consult the "Enforcement" section of the Content Policy if you have any questions.]

posted by loup (staff) at 12:23 PM on February 15


I maintain that leaving a comment up which has been called out for being incorrect and inaccurate, while deleting someone's attempt at explanation, is hypocritical at best. Surely we can do better than this.
posted by Alensin at 12:26 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


I think the most charitable view would reason that Rhaomi came to the conclusion it was because of responses to the Latinx post, because the twitter thread mentioned way above about the buttoning posted by the primalux indicated that was the case. I'm not sure it's most fair to say it was entirely his imagination or a mansplaining fever dream.
posted by floam at 12:27 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Sorry for linking to the tweet thisistrulysomebullshit; I edited the comment and removed it.
posted by floam at 12:31 PM on February 15


Like honestly, I am fucking creeped out that people here that I have never interacted with are now looking at my twitter, analyzing my tweets, thinking they can speak for me here, and are trying to tell me I'm wrong to not want that to happen. I LEFT. I DELETED MY HISTORY. Who the fuck do you people think you are? I've been stalked before and I feel incredibly unsafe and you people are doing this to me because of a fucking website.
posted by thisistrulysomebullshit at 12:37 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


Bringing another user's outside content to Metafilter has been unacceptable as long as I've been here. What's happened here is so far beyond that I cannot imagine a context that would justify doing this to someone who had chosen to not just leave this place, but leave no trace they were here.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:51 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


[Several comments removed. If someone is no longer in the site please respect that and avoid discussions about them]
posted by loup (staff) at 12:56 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


While I understand Eyebrows' point above (there's no way to verify that a comment made on behalf of a no-longer-active member is accurate, without checking with them via an external email/Twitter account, and that's problematic), many members who have left are precisely the voices who can speak most directly to the problems facing Metafilter.

When we're thinking about how to have conversations about the site through a lens of equity and inclusion, we need to make we're not just giving fair time to all the voices in the room, but to those which are outside (either because they didn't feel welcome here or didn't join in the first place.) Otherwise the inevitable result will be the continuing attrition of many longtime, diverse and interesting voices and perspectives that drew me (and many others, I think) here in the first place.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:01 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I hope that the BIPOC board, at least, will take some time to hear from these outside voices as they begin their work.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:02 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


If you want to make the same points you think they would make that seems fine, but it’s not a big ask to say do so without specifically saying you are speaking for them. It’s not hard to imagine a bunch of ways this can be problematic otherwise.
posted by JenMarie at 1:19 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Implementing a mechanism for deleting or anonymizing posts may take a long time, but posting a finalized or semi-finalized version of the policy that will be implemented is something that mods can do without frimble.

This is the kind of thing I want a response to. Why does this site constantly talk about what they can't do or fix? Go old school web and just post the new guidelines and language. Put up a "here are the changes" pinned post and start changing the site culture without waiting for fancy implementation and telling the user base they can't update anything now.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:36 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


I also want to make it clear that I don't expect instant responses to my concerns. I don't know of thyme meant that they got called in on this on their off day, but that's shitty, and I feel bad for my part in that.

Thyme,

I hope you are getting all the support possible on this. I will do my best trust you and take you at your word.

I don't think you did something deliberately to delay stuff, and I apologize for having been a burden on you, and I'm going to sit with that for a bit. I'm sincerely sorry.

EM,

Thanks for forwarding Taz's email, as it didn't get through and explaining the technical issue behind it. I don't think that was malicious, to be clear. In fact I don't think any mod is being malicious, even those who I feel have been harmful.

Taz,

EM told me that you weren't feeling well. I hope you feel better. Thank you for your response to me; it wasn't exactly what I would hope for, but I know how frustrating it can be to be on the other side, to be powerless to change stuff, so I have sympathy for you. I hope you can have sympathy for me.

I worry about being banned. I worry that apparent rules against so called "brigading" have been applied, in my view unfairly to stifle trans members who ask other trans members to speak to issues off site, and yet we aren't supposed to speak for other folks, including for or about former members as well as apparently current ones. That's putting a lot of extra work on marginalized folks, instead of letting us select who should speak for us.

Sometimes I don't speak in threads that other trans users have posted in, for fear of being accused of brigading, simply for reinforcing their point. I feel stifled and anxious.

Anyway regardless of the brigading rule, I've asked someone that Taz quoted in deleting a post of mine to comment here.

It seems wrong to quote someone to me as part of a justification for a policy silencing trans users, and then punish me for asking them to speak up. I don't feel that should be punished, but if anyone is punished it should be me not them.

They had, incidentally explicitly authorized me to speak for them. The fact that you mods wouldn't trust that, even when it concerns a current member, troubles me.

I'm just deleting a lot, because it references other people. I guess I still don't have clarity why it was okay to delay the pronoun change to test an announcement system. I'm glad it wasn't delayed forever, but the fact it was delayed at all still bothers me.

RN, in the same discussion that Taz started over deleting my post told me, "...seems to me to be exactly what trans members have asked us not to allow."

I don't think mods over all know what gender diverse and trans members want, and shouldn't be telling us you know better, especially without greater involvement and more regular and open interactions. I think any such knowledge is contextual, evolving as our thoughts evolve, and requires iterative and interactive feedback.

I care about this site. I've been working on this comment off and on for five hours because I guess I feel if it's not perfect I won't be heard or heeded meaningfully. I think I'm going to keep further replies more brief.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 1:39 PM on February 15 [14 favorites]


I see the financial solution as just one way of several to address this big-deal issue:

But, you know, I've beaten that dead horse for a long time now. Another way to think about this is in terms of labor and employment. Can you imagine what a shitty place MetaFilter is to work?

visibly overwhelmed workforce

For as much as I enjoy MetaFilter, I hate the thought that our imperfect yet still amazing mods (plus frimble) are working in an environment that continues to prioritize hyper-connectivity, very long shifts, and lots of work. The strain is evident. It just seems like a nightmarish place to work.


So very much this. It shows. (For example, look at the ratio of mods to commenters.) My concern is less precisely about the challenging work itself, and more about mods having the time and space to sit down and process everything instead of just putting out fires.

I'm surprised this isn't more of an ongoing conversation, but who would initiate it? The mods probably are aware of and discuss amongst themselves as best they can. Alone. I have felt for a long time like this is a mostly-invisible problem, and that we would benefit from it being seen as problem that affects the whole community and is part of the underlying issue.
posted by aniola at 1:41 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Why does this site constantly talk about what they can't do or fix?

With respect, that is how the FAQ is working. Policies and changes go there, we talk about them here, we will work on updating the static pages as we have time and ability (mods can and do update the FAQ and have mentioned this in site updates). If people have questions they can contact us. Language about account wipes has been in the FAQ since we implemented this ability, and it's been changed as we have tweaked the wiping feature to accommodate user requests to make it more granular.

I understand this is deeply frustrating. It is for the mod team too but in different ways, but I don't want to minimize how much we know it's a problem for users. We feel like it's important to set expectations accurately even if this means there is a lot of "we can't" language in what we say. We shouldn't have delayed the pronoun change after announcing it. We thought we could roll out an announcement feature more quickly than we could and we were wrong. We can't change that. Making fewer deadline-based announcements (i.e. we will do this by this date) is what we will have to do until we have some stability in our dev situation, which is a pandemic-based instability. I'd prefer it were otherwise and I'm sure users would too.

My shift is this evening from 5-9 EST and I'll be in MeFi Chat (MeFi tab) if people need more granular discussion on these topics than this thread can handle. cortex is at home without power during the PDX ice storm; he would be here if he were able.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:50 PM on February 15 [10 favorites]


I think maybe the FAQ and guidelines should be at the top of the page...I didn't even know there was a link because it's below the "about" way down at the bottom of the mobile scroll. Thank you for responding.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:55 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Also can't find any info about accrount wipes in the FAQs. I think you mean that's because this info is in "site update" posts? If that's the case, that's what I mean...ALL those types of updates should be pinned somewhere if they can't be added officially yet cause of web design issues? Maybe I'm not understanding.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:58 PM on February 15


Also can't find any info about account wipes in the FAQs.

For the assistance of anyone who is looking for this, whether out of curiosity or need: It is described under the question "Can I close or delete my account permanently or temporarily?".
posted by jedicus at 2:13 PM on February 15


FAQ info about wipes.
posted by saeculorum at 2:14 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Also it's great that my comments calling floam out for linking to my twitter and doxing me got deleted cause I guess we just want to pretend that shit didn't happen? This place is beyond toxic
posted by thisistrulysomebullshit at 2:16 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


As well as my comment responding that I already said the tweets he's referring to were made in anger and are only a part of the story. Like people from this website were discussing my tweets after I said I deleted and wiped my account and then were bringing that information here and trying to speak for me and saying that it was my fault for tweeting about it and what happens here? My comments defending myself against misinfo and doxing get deleted. Because I want to make it clear - I do not know these people and do not know why they were looking at my twitter to begin with, much less bringing that shit here after I deleted and wiped.
posted by thisistrulysomebullshit at 2:18 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Since mods are deleting notes in this thread, including and the ones that are offensive and/or dox marginalized peoples, the professional and upright thing to do would be to leave a moderator note for each deleted note or series of deleted notes.

Otherwise this community is never going to learn from their bad behavior; furthermore, it only sends the message that protecting marginalized peoples is reactionary on the part of the mods, as opposed to proactive and with the intention of sending a clear message about what is acceptable discourse and what is not tolerable.

With any luck, this note I am writing here will not be deleted but if it is, I hope the moderators will at least explain why they deleted my note, should that become the case.

If not, I'd like to see an explanation for why the mods leave fewer notes following deletions. This has become a pattern, and not a good one.
posted by nightrecordings at 2:18 PM on February 15 [21 favorites]


We feel like it's important to set expectations accurately even if this means there is a lot of "we can't" language in what we say.

I would like to believe this, but this plainly contradicts things I have been told before when I brought up the issue of stalled or delayed development items being left off the site updates, where avoiding the perception that items were never the priority because of necessary technical work was said to be more important.

And indeed, site updates have continued to avoid listing any kind of backlog of improvements. This isn't setting expectations, it's hiding the real debt of improvements that MeFi is carrying. You cannot effectively set expectations without having a much higher level of transparency.
posted by death valley compound at 2:20 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


As someone struggling through a dozen irons in the fire, and wondering if I’m ever going to have a moment to myself where I don’t feel guilty about using that time to relax instead of tackling something else that sorely needs attention, I honestly have a lot of sympathy for the mods.

I mean, there have been times where I’ve let the stress get to me and I’ve lashed out or responded in pretty awful ways, too.

That said, I was honestly surprised this post wasn’t a closed update, and not in a good way. I’ve become so used to how dead MetaTalk is now, with hermetically sealed posts about incremental changes. Now, when there’s a post open for discussion, it’s been up long enough for me to go to sleep, wake up, and see that there are still less than 60 comments as I write this, and to me, this whole discussion feels haunted by the ghosts of all the members that have just given up. As heated as the discussions were last year before the switch to site updates closed to comments, they were, for nearly all involved, heartfelt pleas to find ways to make this site better.

I can’t help but feel the decision to essentially end those discussions was a horrible mistake. I understand that at times it felt like it was snowballing, and that it might seem like it was a feedback loop, but to me, it seemed like a whole lot of people who’d been struggling with something they love finding out they weren’t alone.

And now, now that there is a post open for comments, there’s almost no one here discussing it. Evidently a lot of that is due to many valued voices deciding this is no longer worth their time, but I can’t help but feel that others who are still here might take one look at the thread, see tax’s response, and just decline to get involved.

The discussions in Meta last year hurt. They reopened old wounds, they poked at raw flesh, but those conversations were people who felt strongly enough to speak up, to ask that their user experience here match that of other members. Many of the people who spoke are gone, and the ones still here are saying they’re still waiting.

And me, I’m looking at a thread that, this time last year would have had hundreds of comments by now, and feeling sad about the loss of the voices that I wish were still here.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:20 PM on February 15 [40 favorites]


I am so confused about what on earth happened over the course of this thread's many deletions. I realize deletions are a big part of moderation here and that you have all heard me play this song before, but I think less deletions and more public reprimands would lead to more accountability, less confusion over "am I misremembering that problematic comment? did it ever happen at all?" and, also, making it possible to tell after the fact what actually took place.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:45 PM on February 15 [15 favorites]


Also, I think it's worth pointing out that as we acknowledge that moderating is really hard and as we assume that Metafilter is a terrible workplace (unfairly, I think) we are in the same breath demanding that the mods work harder, become more responsive and generally improve in every conceivable way. If Metafilter is a toxic workplace I think it has a lot more to do with the community than whatever the benefits package looks like.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:52 PM on February 15 [54 favorites]


Implementing a mechanism for deleting or anonymizing posts may take a long time, but posting a finalized or semi-finalized version of the policy that will be implemented is something that mods can do without frimble.
>Language about account wipes has been in the FAQ since we implemented this ability, and it's been changed as we have tweaked the wiping feature to accommodate user requests to make it more granular.

On the subject of account and comment deletions and anonymization specifically, I think I was (kind of?) aware of the new text in the FAQ, but I thought that wasn't a finalized solution to the issue. Is it? There were some very serious discussions in the past about providing a way for members to delete and/or anonymize accounts and/or individual comments themselves, without manually contacting and requesting permission from mods. As far as I was aware, there was never an official decision on whether the site would provide any or all of those capabilities. I did have the impression (and very much the hope) that those capabilities would be coming, somewhere in the pipeline. I didn't want to bring it up or make a post about it, since I felt more info would be coming after the election and inauguration were over and things settled down.

Is that the case? Or is manually contacting mods for deletions, and no anonymization, the decided plan? If not, then clarity and communication on those points would be really welcome.
posted by trig at 2:56 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Came here to say what you've said better, Ghidorah.
This Meta is saddening and super disappointing.
One thing that's really stuck with me from the series of awful Metas last summer and beyond is how so many members of this community were hurting, were scared, but were brave enough to speak up. And so many of them aren't here anymore.
posted by chococat at 2:58 PM on February 15 [18 favorites]


Ghidorah -- it's interesting how we can perceive the speed/volume of a thread so differently! I find this thread so much more manageable and readable at its current speed than I would if it were moving far faster. I can actually keep up with what people are saying (in terms of words posted per minute).
posted by brainwane at 3:05 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


It's more manageable and readable because many of the people who had things to say have left.

I look at the Blue now and see a handful of posts a day, a handful of comments in each post, when before there'd be dozens, and many posts would have a hundred or two funny, insightful, informed comments. It's a shadow of what it used to be and unfortunately, while that does make for a more placid community it also means that we've lost a lot of what makes this community great, at its best.

Certainly I don't think the mods wanted or intended for this to happen, but the work to incorporate the concerns and frustrations of many BIPOC and trans people wasn't done over the last few years, and the community is poorer as a result.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:46 PM on February 15 [17 favorites]


Fix the finances and you can address the site's other issues. I don't pretend it would be easy but the broad parameters seem clear enough. Use some of the buffer, and/or perhaps crowdsource the users, to bring in some kind of consultant, and then listen to that consultant. Find better ways to bring in revenue. Hire more people so as to not be reliant on a brilliant, hard-working, but visibly overwhelmed workforce. Make a succession plan, budget for staff growth and training and advisory board input, in short, learn to run the site like the mature, viable business it is and can continue to be.

Bring in a consultant and then listen to them is a really easy solution. But I don't know that any consultant would have easy answers for a business that doesn't really have any close comparisons. Trying to overmonetize the user base could kill the site more quickly than struggling on. Metafilter is a community. It's as close to a church as it is to a business (maybe an Ethical Culture Society?) The politics here are not unlike church politics, and the mods function somewhere between ministers and high school principals. There's no authority you can go to who's going to give you a guaranteed playbook for what we're trying to do here.

But I think trying to run the place like a business, with an owner, can't work in the long run. If this place is going to survive as a community, it has to figure out how to run itself as a community. But in my experience, the "elected" boards that oversee most churches (and hire their "mods") are usually an equally toxic structure.

I'm sad that so many people seem hurt by this place. I'm glad that community standards have gotten so much better over the years--we're moving in the right direction while so much of the prevailing culture doesn't seem to be. This is a community where people DO make themselves vulnerable, and that opens them up to being hurt. This place is what it is NOT because of the mods (though the fact that it's a moderated space online makes the rest possible), but because of the community. I think we take that too much for granted, and I think we need more ways to remind ourselves of the promises we make to each other by being here and posting here.

I've become more and more of an atheist as I've gotten older, but I do believe that when we touch each other, we touch the sacred. At its best, MetaFilter is a sacred space. But all the systemic cruft can make that hard to see. When we hurt each other, we need mediators as much as moderators, but we aren't set up for deep solutions because there isn't enough money for private ownership and there isn't enough community ownership for volunteer solutions. I'm worried this model is conking out, but I don't know what would work better.
posted by rikschell at 3:47 PM on February 15 [32 favorites]


I think "church" is a good analogy for how this community sees itself, not in a religious sense of course but as a third place that is neither business nor family, nor just a simple website. And as someone who's been involved in church leadership in a number of congregations/parishes (some of them more toxic than others), I definitely see parallels, as rikschell notes.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:51 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


MetaTalk has become a place where we gather to hurt each other.
posted by schmod at 4:10 PM on February 15 [19 favorites]


Or is manually contacting mods for deletions, and no anonymization, the decided plan?

My understanding is it's the plan for now. A larger/longer discussion about this issue specifically once we've had the current wipe process in place and can see how it's working or where it's failing would be a good idea.

the professional and upright thing to do would be to leave a moderator note for each deleted note or series of deleted notes.

We do try to do that, especially in MetaTalk. It can be tricky because when you're discussing users' personal information, former accounts, or off-site actions or activities, we have to balance people's legit privacy concerns with people's "What the hell just happened there?" concerns and they often conflict. We don't always get it right.

Also I spoke to taz about her comment which definitely outside how we want to communicate with users, not okay. Does sometimes happen, however. I say that not to excuse it but just to talk about this realistically, and how we manage. She's dealing with some shit, as I know many people here are. We're going to see if we can get her some time off but that can be challenging with the barebones staffing we have. I am sorry we don't have more options.

This was wordier and I deleted a bunch just to not be all modsplaining. Again I am in MeFi Chat, MeFi tab, for another 70 minutes, to answer any specific questions people have or if people just want to talk more informally. Contact Form also works.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


I dunno, if I were working my ass off to try and help make this site the best it can be and someone baselessly accused me of gaslighting because things weren't going the way they wanted I'd probably get pretty salty too. It's great to expect mods to communicate professionally but I totally see why Taz reacted that way. Healthy communication and the extension of the benefit of the doubt needs to go both ways.
posted by zeusianfog at 4:55 PM on February 15 [78 favorites]


MetaTalk has become a place where we gather to hurt each other.

Always has been. I remember lurking on here back in aught-five, where 'flameouts' were a frequent MetaTalk pasttime, and where many folks would make "popping popcorn for this one!" jokes like we were a bunch of middle schoolers rubbernecking a fistfight in study hall. It wasn't great. But back then, the thought was that what happened on the internet didn't really matter. We've learned differently since then.

Sorry, I like this place. I'd say that we've all decided to go at each other's necks – to always assume the worst in each other, to take the least charitable interpretation – but that's been a Metafilter characteristic from Day 1, when cat first met scanner. You take the bad with the good, sometimes. And when it's good here, it's pretty good! And the bad is usually less bad than what you'll usually find elsewhere. But you've got to maintain your distance with it, or it'll burn you out or hurt you. We're not a family here, we're not even friends. It still is mostly a gathering of self-selecting internet randos. And the mods can try their best to manage that (and they do try harder than most), but there are limits to what five humans can do to get five thousand other humans to get along in an anonymized setting without pissing each other off. Especially in an environment like this one, where there are no 'democratic tools' like upvotes or downvotes. It's all on them for what is – like it or lump it – a benevolent dictatorship.

Anyway, I'll keep reading the Blue and Green and leaving a comment twice a year and enjoying (or sometimes, being exasperated by) the conversation. It's not a novel observation that Metafilter is a place out of time. That's part of why I like it. I frequently wish that Cortex treated it more seriously as a business enterprise – and spent more time trying to encourage new blood rather than toiling endlessly to reoxygenate the old blood – but that old blood is probably the reason he bought this joint in the first place. I only hope he knew what he had bargained for...
posted by workingdankoch at 5:09 PM on February 15 [26 favorites]


MetaTalk has become a place where we gather to hurt each other.

I don't think that's a fair characterization. For myself -- and so far as I can see, for everyone else in this thread -- we may be coming from places of, yes, frustration, pain, anger sometimes: but we're here and speaking to each other through all of this because we love Metafilter, have found it a community to call home, and want it to work well for everyone.
posted by tivalasvegas at 5:27 PM on February 15 [14 favorites]


Every mod comment in this thread screams burnout.

Every user comment, too, for that matter.
posted by Miko at 5:56 PM on February 15 [65 favorites]


"We shouldn't have delayed the pronoun change after announcing it. We thought we could roll out an announcement feature more quickly than we could and we were wrong."

Thank you for acknowledging this mistake, Jessamyn.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 6:18 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


what miko said.

idk. i'm in the US and the one year mark for lockdown is approaching. i have been trying really hard to lower my expectations for myself and for others. getting out of bed in the morning is a victory worth celebrating at this point.

the fact that the site is still here at all is a win, to me. i want changes here too but i just can't summon up any impatience or frustration right now. it's just bone-tiredness, grief, and a sincere hope that everyone in this community, mods and users alike, are hanging in there.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:21 PM on February 15 [36 favorites]


An idle question: Did the comment text filter include any logging that tells the mods how often it's triggered? It would be interesting to know if there were any rough measurements of its impact.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:40 PM on February 15


I will flag that question up; I don't know if there's an easy way for us to see that, or if frimble runs a manual report, or what.

Part of the thing we're doing now is trying to delegate responsibilities more instead of constantly making whole-team decisions which can get bogged down and overwhelming and exhausting, but a consequence of that is that I was paying attention to things other than the specifics of implementing and bug-testing the text filter, and focusing on my own tasks. restless_nomad and loup really kicked our butts to delegate and specialize, so more often now we kind-of discuss the parameters of a thing as a team, and then one or two people take it and kick it around until it's in shape, and then bring it back to the team for the final going-over. I personally feel less overwhelmed, because I'm focusing more of my energy on things I understand and am good at, and less time on every single dang thing. And I know it's hard to see from the output end (hopefully it'll become more clear as the process starts bearing more fruit!), but we're moving a lot faster on (some types of) things when one or two people take responsibility for them and move them forward. I'm hoping to bring forward the pieces of the puzzle I've been working on the last few months some time before the half-year mark, although I can't make a clear promise because I'm a little dependent on other people fitting me into their schedules.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:58 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


For example, I get the impression a lot of time has been spent on figuring out how to securely delete or anonymise comments and posts. This is the sort of thing you get for "free" on Discourse.

It would take thousands of hours to manage the data transfer alone. We're like those shops running COBOL apps from the 60s; transitioning to new software could and often has killed the company. If the site had that kind of money we could just fix the things that are broken here.

Besides who knows if a flash in the pan [hamburger] that has only been around for seven years is even going to be around 10 years from now. Metafilter isn't dependent on "free" services from anyone and that has allowed the site to survive for 22 years while dozens of internet new hotnesses have come and gone.

Did the comment text filter include any logging that tells the mods how often it's triggered? It would be interesting to know if there were any rough measurements of its impact.

I keep triggering it with verbatim quoting of outside resources so it is definitely having some effect. EG: this comment which quoted a First Lady's experience riding hundreds of kilometers on the cow catcher of a train. I had to strike some of her words and cut out some passages I'd originally included to pass the filter.
posted by Mitheral at 8:26 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Also it's great that my comments calling floam out for linking to my twitter and doxing me

thisistrulysomebullshit, I did not doxx you. When I posted that comment, I had read your tweets after a comment way way up above referenced a situation where a user by your previous name that they shared had disabled their account (buttoned), and it was said that this event was publicized by the aggrieved party with an announcement on Twitter. As I was unfamiliar, I Googled the mentioned username plus the term "twitter", it was a first result. My interest in the content you post online is limited to the scope of that. It was just to follow along with the comments on this post and understand what is being talked about.
posted by floam at 9:15 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


It was just to follow along with the comments on this post and understand what is being talked about.

If it was just to follow along with the comments and understand things, then you would not have posted that personal information in your comment. You don't have to put the info in a public comment in order to "follow along" and "understand."
posted by nightrecordings at 10:16 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


I posted that comment after having read the tweets earlier in the day. The link (which I removed at the implied request of this person within one minute) did not dox the individual. I actually have no idea about their identity.
posted by floam at 10:21 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


The link (which I removed at the request of this person within one minute) did not dox the individual.

This is the last thing I will say on this specific matter. Please stop trying to weasel out of bad behavior. Take responsibility for the fact that it was unethical to link to a person's Twitter without their consent, and that it's creepy to stalk a person and then bring it back to the community that said person had not only left, but had requested the deletion of their data from their former account.

It was a grossly inappropriate thing to do. There is no rationalization you're going to present here that will fool anyone.
posted by nightrecordings at 10:27 PM on February 15 [12 favorites]


I weaseled out by immediately apologizing and altering my comment. However, my comment is the only not deleted comment that remains in this thread that references these tweets at all besides the tweets' author, so I understand that it may appear like I was spilling the beans on something.
posted by floam at 10:33 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Thank you so so much for the incredible amount of work and care you all constantly pour into this community. Every item in your text, cortex, sounds like a labor of love. I'm sure that every person involved is not being compensated only monetarily for all that time and heart, and that the connection and creation of this space is your real reward.

It is a real, valuable creation. I'm not someone who spends a lot of time focusing on the mechanisms here. I try to do my best to help and connect with the people who post and ask questions by responding helpfully, and that's pretty much it. I'm super grateful for those who do the work that makes my mode of engagement possible.

There are probably many like me. Since metatalk is the main place for people to be critical of the site, I can understand if criticism exceeds praise in volume, but... argh. I can't even imagine what y'all must be feeling. Here, have some love.

I'm sorry that the medium makes it hard for Taz to just speak the truth without people feeling attacked.

Here, have some love.
posted by amtho at 11:28 PM on February 15 [45 favorites]


but a consequence of that is that I was paying attention to things other than the specifics of implementing and bug-testing the text filter, and focusing on my own tasks. restless_nomad and loup really kicked our butts to delegate and specialize, so more often now we kind-of discuss the parameters of a thing as a team, and then one or two people take it and kick it around until it's in shape, and then bring it back to the team for the final going-over.

Bug testing is what I do for a living, UI to middleware. I'm happy to offer up my time if it will help ease some of the burdens the mod team is facing.

I've read through this thread and want to offer up additional love, ghost hugs and healing thoughts to everyone. Shit is really hard right now.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:43 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Staff, please allow people within the userbase who love the community and want to see it continue to exist to help you. You all sound unhappy and burnt out. It is especially obvious in your responses to constructive criticism.
posted by all about eevee at 5:47 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Urgh, I think that, for most tasks, coordinating people to help might just add more 'coordinating' work. Every communication is so particular. Maybe we need a site holiday or something.
posted by amtho at 5:56 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Is it possible to get an update on the general uhm membership vitality?

Like over 2020 how many members left the site / deleted accounts and how many new members signed up?
posted by Faintdreams at 6:59 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I'm struck by the fact that most of cortex's update is about things that the site is doing specifically to address concerns about diversity and inclusion, but most of the complaints in this thread are from users who, I take it, would rank diversity and inclusion as the most important thing the site needs to address and who, I take it, would say that the site has made essentially no meaningful improvements in this area. I'm saddened by what seems to be a cycle of the site leadership devoting more time/resources/energies to address those specific issues and then having these threads where most of the comments are from users saying that it is a total failure and not nearly enough, and then having more time/resources/etc devoted to the issues, and repeat. The site seems caught between spending more and more dwindling resources on trying to satisfy a portion of the userbase that is unlikely to ever think that those efforts are enough. Meanwhile, entire aspects of the site that are not related to these issues go unaddressed or neglected.

Relatedly, I think it is a mistake to read the drop-off in site activity as only or even primarily caused by the departure of people who are focused on diversity, inclusion, racism, trans issues, and similar. It may well be some of that, sure, but I would wager that another chunk of the userbase is fading away because of the cycle I mention above -- more and more site focus on those specific issues, more and more discontent from the users most focused on those specific issues, repeat, with all other aspects of the site neglected or changed to accommodate the primary focus on those issues. (Really, it's an empirical question as to how many users left for what reasons, so we're all just guessing here, and I acknowledge that this is just my own intuition which likely reflects my own feelings, but the same is probably true for you.)

Where all of that leaves us, I fear, is that the site has somehow caught itself spending most of its resources trying to respond to the complaints of a particular part of the userbase that is very unlikely to view those efforts as sufficient, and therefore leaves, while other parts of the userbase see the site as increasingly focused on addressing those complaints to the exclusion of everything else, and therefore leaves.
posted by Mid at 7:00 AM on February 16 [62 favorites]


he site seems caught between spending more and more dwindling resources on trying to satisfy a portion of the userbase that is unlikely to ever think that those efforts are enough.

So you have the ability to project yourself into the future and mind-read a whole group of people, huh. Cool cool cool.
posted by angrycat at 7:10 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


It's even more than that, it's like a Doctor Strange ability to know all possible outcomes of all possible futures where the site does x y and z and regardless of the choices, the outcome remains fixed. So, welcome, sir, glad to meet you and get to know your powers.
posted by angrycat at 7:13 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Yes, when you cut "I fear" from the quote it certainly does make it sound like an overconfident prediction!
posted by Mid at 7:23 AM on February 16 [20 favorites]


What if issues related to diversity and inclusion are a focus of the reporting and the subsequent comments because most people find them important? I know it is kind of a crazy idea. What if there actually isn’t some uncaring silent majority that find this effort annoying rather than worthwhile? What if people from various “particular parts of the userbase” and their allies are actually most of the users?
posted by snofoam at 7:24 AM on February 16 [15 favorites]


no, dude, I didn't misrepresent you by selectively quoting you. You shat the bed.
posted by angrycat at 7:31 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


It should be possible, maybe just using infodumpster data plus maybe a little scraping to try to figure out how many users have buttoned or more likely just stopped participating on the site. It would be interesting to see how many are BIPOC but that's almost impossible to quantify. Maybe inferences from Google Analytics data.
posted by floam at 7:38 AM on February 16


Honestly, yeah, I'm a cishet middle class white man, and the thing that has started pissing me off here is the way that yeah, it doesn't take very many unreflective bovine privileged guys to fill the field so full of cowchips that it's no longer fun to try to sift through to find the grass.

It reminds me a lot of the issues with keeping Baltimore crustpunk pubs safe.
posted by ambrosen at 7:41 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


Snofoam, that may be true, but what is disheartening, then, is that there seems to be so little support or positive feeling around the efforts that have been made. I.e., if most people want much more energy focused on diversity, inclusion, etc, then I would hope that at least some people would acknowledge that a lot of energy has been invested in that way. Instead, it seems like most people focused on those issues are still just as angry as they were when much less energy was being invested. And I don't say that one group or another is a "silent majority," just that there is a spectrum of different people in the userbase and not everyone has the same priorities, etc. Some members of a group (whatever its size) are more focused on some issues than others, that's just the way groups of people are, and a focus on some issues necessarily means less focus on other issues. Ideally, you find a balance that intersects with a broad enough swath of people to make for a viable community. I think that seems to not be working here - the specific of why are very debatable, I concede.

Angrycat - that is literally what you did. My bed is all good, thanks.

Snofoam (on preview) - I agree it's really am empirical question and I can't read everyone's mind. But just to confound things a little further, I suspect that a substantial number of people just stopped participating, but did not button or announce a reason.
posted by Mid at 7:44 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


I would wager that another chunk of the userbase is fading away because of the cycle I mention above -- more and more site focus on those specific issues, more and more discontent from the users most focused on those specific issues, repeat, with all other aspects of the site neglected or changed to accommodate the primary focus on those issues.

I not-so-respectfully submit that these people fucking off is a good thing, that anyone that's still here that feels this way is invited to fuck off, and that if their collective fucking off kills the site, they were a big part of the problem.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 7:44 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


😳
posted by floam at 7:46 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


So killing the site in order to save it? It's a bold strategy, let's see how it's going.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:47 AM on February 16 [13 favorites]


Um, are you saying that BIPOC and LGBTQ people who are unsatisfied with how Metafilter has addressed our concerns should fuck off, and the site will be better for it?

I really hope that's not what you're saying.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:50 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


I mean, if my house is on fire and the firefighters are running around throwing bricks at it, then that sure is a lot of effort but I'm not going to be happy about it. Certainly not going to show support or positive feeling.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:50 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


So killing the site in order to save it? It's a bold strategy, let's see how it's going.

If the thing that's keeping the site alive is pandering to people who are upset at efforts at diversity and inclusion, then why keep it around except as a way to further empower these people? I personally don't think it would kill the site, but if it does then we all have to ask ourselves: was it worth it to shit all over marginalised people?

Um, are you saying that BIPOC and LGBTQ people who are unsatisfied with how Metafilter has addressed our concerns should fuck off, and the site will be better for it?

No, quite the opposite. I'm saying the people who think that the site panders too much to BIPOC and LGBTQ users are the ones who should fuck off.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 7:53 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


I'm not saying that anybody should fuck off. Really, if everything has to be interpreted through a lens of "who should fuck off," then we're in a bad place. (Floam, sorry about mixing up your username.)
posted by Mid at 7:54 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


if most people want much more energy focused on diversity, inclusion, etc, then I would hope that at least some people would acknowledge that a lot of energy has been invested in that way. Instead, it seems like most people focused on those issues are still just as angry as they were when much less energy was being invested.

Intentions are nice, but people don't want more energy focused on diversity, inclusion, etc. They want actual, concrete results that make them feel safer and more welcome to participate. The first can but doesn't always lead to the other and we shouldn't be expecting people who still feel unsafe and unwelcome to hand out cookies because at least we tried.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:54 AM on February 16 [19 favorites]


I'm mildly stunned that throwing people out of work is regarded as a valid solution. Is this one of those disruption things?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:00 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Got it, Glegrinof - thanks for the clarification there.

But to mid's comment:

We are the ones asking for (and often, very often, over the last few years, proactively suggesting) concrete changes to site structure and norms to make this a more equitable space for everyone. Some of those changes have been implemented (e.g. the update to pronoun fields in user profiles). Some are in process (e.g. the BIPOC board). Some (a real push to codify and clarify site rules; a more transparent and democratic administrative process) have not really been addressed.

Speaking for myself, I echo (as a brown gay man) jacquilynne's comment: I'm not looking for feel-good solutions or listening sessions or endless MeTas. Rather, site leadership needs to prioritize the implementation of concrete solutions to issues raised by BIPOC and LGBTQ people over the last several years. I don't question at all that the intention is there: but look, everything is important, we're all busy and burned out. The proof is not in what one says is a "priority," but in what one does. And I see a consistent lack of ability to keep to a timeline, lack of transparency around that, and defensiveness when community members ask these questions.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:01 AM on February 16 [32 favorites]


There's a brutal sort of exhaustion these threads express and inspire, in that they repeat complaints and promises that have been going on for years, in the midst of a world of exhausting repetition. I don't understand how anyone has the energy for it. We saw this in the latest mini-megathreads--the lively if obnoxious fighting of earlier threads replaced by a dull restatement of opinions you had already heard a thousand times before, the engaging analysis that we expect from Metafilter harder and harder to find.

But this has been life, the past few years. Politics (in the US at least) crawling to a standstill, and all the routines of life frozen during a pandemic that shows only the briefest signs of retreat, only to overwhelm us with more scary headlines, until our nerve endings are too overstimulated to feel anything but tired.

Hearing the same thing over and over takes a toll. "The site is doing this thing wrong, and must fix it." "Okay, but fixing it will be difficult and lengthy." "Okay, but now it has been six months, a year, three years, and we're still talking about it." And then people drop off, as the tensions and resentments of nothing ever being resolved build, and then the conversation is about why they dropped off, and that conversation goes wrong, and more people leave...

When I first saw it happening, quite a while ago, I was horrified, and wished that something would be fixed immediately, so some of my favorite posters would feel safe and cherished, and would stick around. Now...I don't know, I just feel kind of numb. I don't think there is a fixable problem here, not with the resources available, and the difference in speeds between the problem sparking again, and the solution happening. People take their resentments elsewhere.

And that's so depressing. I've been here so many years and watched so many people get frustrated and leave. I only check in occasionally these days--and in fact was surprised to see this thread open for comments.

I don't know, I really don't have anything useful to add to the discussion. Just that it hurts to see everyone have exactly the same arguments they were having years ago, only on a much more sparsely-populated thread, because so many of the people who were really interested have gone.
posted by mittens at 8:06 AM on February 16 [25 favorites]


I am sure that many people have stopped using Metafilter because they busy with other things or find the links on the front page boring, or don't want to talk about US politics. Not everyone is upset about DEI. Not everyone knows about the BIPOC board. Not everyone reads MetaTalk.
posted by all about eevee at 8:12 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if this thread were closed, particularly as Josh is not able to be here due to power outages. But I do hope that mods develop a practice of having regularly open MeTa threads -- maybe just for a limited time a few hours a week or month, like a scheduled "office hours" time to give informal feedback, updates, discussions about the site?

Part of the problem in this thread, I think, is that when you go months between having any public forum, frustrations don't just go away -- they fester and then all explode in one stressful thread.
posted by tivalasvegas at 8:14 AM on February 16 [18 favorites]


I hope the thread isn't closed. That would be a bad sign.
posted by all about eevee at 8:19 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


It took too long for the MeFi leadership to make an effort, the effort has been ham-fisted at best, and there was ultimately no accountability for past mistakes. cortex—and probably some of the other mods—should have resigned or at least taken an extended hiatus while concrete changes were made.

In the intervening time we've had years of political turmoil and a pandemic, which has made everything worse: fewer resources, more stress. I'm not sure what a feasible solution to these problems looks like now. It's difficult to ask someone to resign under these conditions. Perhaps an announcement that resignations will be made as soon as future employment is secured and replacements hired. Or perhaps hiring a new "CEO" and cortex stepping back to be just another moderator.

In the mean time, I continue to donate to the site, give substantially to the advisory board honorarium fund, and try to make my FPPs centered on marginalized groups and non-US issues because I don't know what else to do. I have definitely been part of the problem in the past, and I want the site to be better.
posted by jedicus at 8:35 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I have no clue what the current function of MetaTalk is meant to be, or what possible purpose this thread is serving by remaining open. It’s not helping us reconcile our differences, and we’re not having productive conversations about site policy. We’ve had multiple arguments about deleted comments about deleted comments – there’s literally no way for that to ever be the basis of a healthy or coherent conversation.

Imagine being one of MetaFilter’s employees, and showing up at work, only to face this fucking mess? I don’t work here, and I feel like shit for having read this thread. It literally kept me from sleeping last night.

In addition to tivalasvegas’s suggestion above, I’d like for the site to explore the alternative of closing threads that fly off the rails, and dropping a “Sorry. Thread’s closed. Try again tomorrow” note.

We appear to have tried both extremely hands-on and extremely hands-off approaches for moderating these threads, and it’s been a disaster so far. We need to try something else, because what we’ve done isn’t working.

If the topic is really that important, we can take a day to compose ourselves, and try again in a new post.
posted by schmod at 8:35 AM on February 16 [26 favorites]


If you're budgeting for frimble, and frimble ain't working, pay someone else to start learning the codebase so you have a damn contingency plan in the future.

The consistent story of metafilter is delivery of results failing because you're overcome by events. At some point you need to do some reading on contingency planning. Strategically, you clearly need a bigger pool of part timers and subs to manage burnout and workload.

It looks like you're doing the thing where because mods have always had responsibilities list X, we can't hire someone to do less than X. What are you getting overwhelmed by? Create associate jobs to manage _just that_.

Is frimble building a new editing system for page management the right route? Or are you realistically going to need 5 hours of page edit time over the next 3 years, and it makes sense to have a 1099 that frimble can teach in an hour to go in, search the codebase, and make the updates?

Stop thinking about tools and start thinking about value.
posted by bfranklin at 8:57 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


Regarding account closures, a couple years back I did a complete audit of a year's worth of account closures. This was in the middle of the megathread era and a lot of account churn was related to people angry at each other about politics, so it's semi-relevant in that I think some of the patterns persist, but we're in a different moment in time and I'd expect to see a very different mix of reasons. I can summarize a few of the major things I discovered. I'm hoping to audit 2020 account closures later this year, but that's below a lot of other things on the priority list, so no promises. :) (Also, updated account wipe procedures will impact how much info I can gather about each buttoning.)

I took a list of every account closure and looked at every single account by hand. Sometimes people tell us why they're closing the account; sometimes there's been a back-and-forth by e-mail; sometimes I would be looking at what they were talking about on the site just before closures. So, you know, grain of salt, since it's qualitative research and there's some guessing at reasons based on activity.

In 2018 there were 194 account closures. 67 of those were "non-churn" buttonings, which were old users who hadn't been on the site in years closing out accounts, frustrated spammers rage-quitting, and some people moving to new accounts just for personal preference.

127 were "real" buttonings. 50 of those returned within the year 2018; 77 did not (some of these are repeat accounts). Some of those 77 returned after 2018 ended but were not in my audit. Again, some accounts quit multiple times, and I could up reasons for each CLOSURE, not for each account.

From the 127
Typical reasons:
  • 29 were users who wanted to take a break (all but 5 had returned by end of audit). Some of these take a technology or social media break every year, including (what was to me) a surprising number of mefites who give up social media for Lent!
  • 21 were "unusual users," including several repeat button/unbutton/button/unbutton people. This category includes users whose interactions with the site are non-typical in ways that aren’t bannable and usually aren’t malicious, but can cause problems.
  • 18 had no obvious trigger or preceding incident and provided no reason; I assume many of them had just drifted away
  • 14 were users upset by "routine moderation" (having non-answers in ask deleted, being told not to call other users names, etc.)
  • 7 objected to more specific or controversial moderation, including moderator bias
  • 5 were privacy-related (stalker exes, getting doxxed on twitter, that kind of thing) -- most migrated to new accounts, but I wanted to separate out "urgent privacy issues" from "eh, I want a new username"

    Reasons related to site climate during the megathread era:
  • 14 users cited stress, in real lives or from the world in general
  • 10 were right-wing users who objected to, variously, feminism, not being allowed to use slurs, people not liking Trump, etc. Not super-relevant, but I was interested to see that right-wing account-closers very frequently used the language of social justice in their "quitting reasons," saying things like "I don't appreciate being called a ‘privileged white male.’ It makes me feel othered and unsafe here." Nearly all objected specifically to feminism in their quitting screed.
  • 9 were from left-wing users upset by intra-left fighting of various types. It was about even between people who felt attacked for being too far left, and for not being far left enough.

    About 1/3 of users who quit in 2018 (for reasons other than "just taking a break") also returned within 2018, sometimes under a new account name, sometimes reopening the same account. As this number tended to rise with time (people tended to be gone 6 to 8 months), I'd expect maybe 40% ish eventually came back? But that's just a guess. (People who returned I counted per account, not per closure.)

    There were a handful "Spiders Georgs" in the data. Two to illustrate:
    --One user had buttoned 21 times total in their time on the site (by the end of the audit period; presumably more now), including 12 times in the data for 2018. Several of these have been accompanied by statements that they are leaving forever in MetaTalk.
    --Another user buttoned 8 times in 2018, under 5 different accounts. Generally these accounts noisily quit MetaFilter forever in heated MetaTalks. In at least one instance, the user quit as “Bob” over his anger at moderation failures, and rejoined within minutes as “Jake,” then went into the MetaTalk as “Jake” to mourn the loss of “Bob” and point at the loss of “Bob” as the mods’ fault for driving away good users.

  • posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:22 AM on February 16 [121 favorites]


    I mean the bigger problem, communitywise, is chunks of the community seem to actively despise and loathe each other and I don't think you can techstack your way outta that one.
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:22 AM on February 16 [23 favorites]


    Good design is inclusive design, so I hope it’s helpful to state that many of the goals related to community management are not incompatible at all. Sometimes the Metatalk comments may read that way. But building good, clear user guidelines, refining moderation, etc. - all this serves everyone.

    There are of course other activities and time is limited but I wanted to have that said in this thread. I really appreciate the work of the team.
    posted by warriorqueen at 9:32 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    127 were "real" buttonings. 50 of those returned within the year 2018
    Again, some accounts quit multiple times, and I could up reasons for each CLOSURE, not for each account.

    How are you differentiating between accounts and users? Are you going by "user == unique email" or "user == unique IP" or something else?

    (just curious, I'm impressed this level of analysis has been done)
    posted by saeculorum at 9:33 AM on February 16


    I mean the bigger problem, communitywise, is chunks of the community seem to actively despise and loathe each other and I don't think you can techstack your way outta that one.

    If there are people in this community who actually do actively despise/loathe LGBTQ and/or BIPOC people then they are absolutely not welcome here. It's not a both-sides thing. The issue is how to have community moderation / structures / decision-making processes that (1) let people of all races, genders and sexual orientations feel welcome, heard and respected and (2) address problems where users (unintentionally, one hopes) use language or tropes or discourses that harm LGBTQ and BIPOC people.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:36 AM on February 16 [33 favorites]


    If there are people in this community who actually do actively despise/loathe LGBTQ and/or BIPOC people then they are absolutely not welcome here.

    100% this.
    posted by cooker girl at 9:41 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


    For who were wondering about “spiders georg”:

    spiders georg:
    an outlier who should not have been counted.
    “average person eats 3 spiders a year" factoid actualy just statistical error. average person eats 0 spiders per year. Spiders Georg, who lives in cave & eats over 10,000 each day, is an outlier adn should not have been counted”
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on February 16 [46 favorites]


    Forget it Jake, it's Bobtown.
    posted by Drastic at 9:46 AM on February 16 [23 favorites]


    in addition to the buttonings, it would be interesting to try and suss out qty of people that "buttoned" without actually buttoning as a way of measuring membership atrophy. in the aggregate i would hypothesize this probably has neutral emotional valence, people just move on from sites over time with nonspecific reasons.

    i imagine this could be done programmatically? like, crawl all users, for each user crawl all post, comment, and favorite activity and reduce to a single number X that reflects average posting and / or favoriting frequency across all subsites. then check for a significant decrease in 2020. would need to tune a little bit to determine what should be considered significant enough to get counted as a drift-away, and would need to remove users with less than X days / months / years of posting history.

    anyways whatever i'm just talking about this cause it's an interesting theoretical puzzle and thinking about how to do it has been a pleasant distraction for 10 minutes from the background radiation of awfulness, no one should actually spend internal or external resources on doing this
    posted by lazaruslong at 9:48 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    There'd be some interesting data there maybe, but as Eyebrows notes this issue is probably more appropriately handled by qualitative analysis -- quantitative could give some indications as to what, and how much, but not why people have buttoned or reduced site participation.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:51 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    yep you are right
    posted by lazaruslong at 9:52 AM on February 16


    chunks of the community seem to actively despise and loathe each other

    and

    people in this community who actually do actively despise/loathe LGBTQ and/or BIPOC people

    are not the same thing and not what Ghostride was getting at I think. I think they were suggesting loathing between those within the tent, rather than for those outside it.
    posted by biffa at 9:59 AM on February 16 [19 favorites]


    As others have said this is a bummer of a conversation to come across. I can't really directly address much but it is disappointing to see ongoing struggles with development bandwidth coming up as a cause of several of these issues. I think there is just an aspect of the programmer psyche that metafilter, despite being made up of many technical people, doesn't get at a leadership level. The code should be put on a modern platform like Github or Gitlab where anyone can contribute. It can be given a license that doesn't let others run it commercially, etc. (The licensing is secondary.) Obviously, some time needs to be taken to remove secrets and such from the repo and ensure it isn't going to leak any important information and so on. This is an undertaking that I think would be readily funded by donations.

    The point here is that in contemporary engineering organizations, the higher you go up the food chain, the more time an engineer spends working with pull requests vs. actually writing code. This might sound bad but it's actually a productivity multiplier when you view it from the perspective of the overall quality of releases.

    What is being missed is that as soon as that code is there, people will start fixing the stuff that bothers them and implementing their pet issues and then you can vet their PRs and cherry pick the best aspects from several if necessary and decide if it's sufficient to adopt, and if so, the feature is done and you didn't have to spend decades talking about it. It doesn't make sense if Metafilter is going to have one person on staff to relegate them to the trenches and make them do everything solo, they should be able to operate at a higher level that allows for them to be more impactful.
    posted by feloniousmonk at 10:06 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


    "in addition to the buttonings, it would be interesting to try and suss out qty of people that "buttoned" without actually buttoning as a way of measuring membership atrophy. in the aggregate i would hypothesize this probably has neutral emotional valence, people just move on from sites over time with nonspecific reasons."

    Yes, this is something I'm interested in doing at some point in the future, when more urgent priorities have been taken care of. I've got a few other things I'd like to look at as well. Since I usually work weekend late nights (US nights) and they're usually relatively quiet, it makes for a good project when the site is calm. I think the 2018 audit took me about six weeks of weekend late nights? Like, it took a while, but chomping away at it a few hours at a time when the site was quiet made it manageable.
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:09 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    How are you differentiating between accounts and users? Are you going by "user == unique email" or "user == unique IP" or something else?

    The site has names and banking information for new accounts and the overwhelming vast majority of current accounts.
    posted by Mitheral at 10:13 AM on February 16


    rejoined within minutes as “Jake,” then went into the MetaTalk as “Jake” to mourn the loss of “Bob” and point at the loss of “Bob” as the mods’ fault for driving away good users.

    Is that allowed?
    posted by one4themoment at 10:20 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


    I would hazard a no. :)
    posted by mochapickle at 10:22 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    it's at very best skating quite close to the edge.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 10:24 AM on February 16


    Part of the problem in this thread, I think, is that when you go months between having any public forum, frustrations don't just go away -- they fester and then all explode in one stressful thread.

    Yes, precisely.

    I also think that there is an ongoing management/moderator culture problem that is typified by the closed site updates. The general vibe from many moderation activities is that users and/or user opinions are the problem.

    I don't think it seems like a toxic workplace qua users; there are always plenty of people faving the mods, saying they appreciate them etc. The mods seem to take a fairly free hand with deletions of comments that bother them or that they don't like, even in metatalk. They have each other's back.

    Frankly, while all jobs have their negative points, it's always been odd to me how quickly people are to act like the mods have it really hard. The only sign of that seems to be subjective perceptions that people are complaining too much, the moderators have too much to do, etc. But with site engagement at a low, I'm not seeing that as an objective fact.

    This is all to say that much of the idea that working at Metafilter is toxic or unusually stressful because of users seems like another way to again point the blame at users. Mods are not to blame for the pandemic. But neither are users. And we are not getting paid; we are, instead, the main producers of value for the website. An underlying culture in which the typical response to complaints is an attitude of hostility and/or defensiveness towards users is not appropriate or sustainable.

    This is not to point to taz in particular, as we've all lost it from time to time. But taz's comment is emblematic of one of dozens of similarly defensive and/or aggressive comments from moderators in response to complaints, many of which date far pre-pandemic.

    Treating critical comments from users (and the users who make them) as the problem is a moderator culture problem and it needs to be fixed ASAP.

    In generalizing I do not want to deny or minimize the fact that this has been particularly salient and important when aimed at Black and POC members as well as trans members; it has, and privilege (and related defensiveness) have been a huge issue on top of the general attitude I describe above.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:25 AM on February 16 [18 favorites]


    rejoined within minutes as “Jake,” then went into the MetaTalk as “Jake” to mourn the loss of “Bob” and point at the loss of “Bob” as the mods’ fault for driving away good users.

    Is that allowed?


    It's not, and the fact that this kind of outlier from 2018 is being highlighted and discussed in a thread about 2021 problems is questionable to me.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:28 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    To be clear -- this is not directed at users who are discussing this (interesting and shocking) behavior from a user. Rather, it is the fact that this extreme outlier was brought up by a mod in response to completely unrelated concerns about user buttoning and site engagement.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:30 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    Oh, I didn't read that as shade toward other MeFites who have buttoned -- just an amusing anecdote that's pretty obviously problematic.

    In general I'd think that Mefites who buttoned for legit reasons (not dramatic flouncing) did not then create sockpuppets to return and defend themselves.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 10:36 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    It was brought up by a mod doing analysis. I don’t see what the problem is.

    As to Taz, if a user doesn’t want to be snapped at, don’t accuse the mods of gaslighting, unless you have solid proof.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:36 AM on February 16 [33 favorites]


    "You made me do it" strikes me as a crappy way of rationalizing an inappropriately defensive and hostile mod comment.
    posted by DingoMutt at 10:44 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


    In general I think the term "gaslighting" generates more heat than... light. But if someone says they feel gaslighted, they should be taken at their word.

    Originally, of course, the term is from a movie where a domestic abuser intentionally changes subtle aspects of the environment in an attempt to make the victim lose trust in their own perceptions. But the word's meaning has expanded to cover situations where someone generally feels that they're being lied to or told that their recollection of how something occurred or was said is not true. Particularly in the context of a power imbalance.

    And it's important to acknowledge power imbalances, and to say: when things are unclear, we're going to err on the side of the party that has less power. That doesn't mean we don't acknowledge the real efforts and intentions and the humanity of mods -- but mods in this context do have power. Which is my underlying critique: if this is going to be a real community, and not just a business, we really do have to talk about how decisions are made, and who makes them, and how accountability and transparency work at Metafilter.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 10:50 AM on February 16 [13 favorites]


    [I'd suggest dropping any discussion about the validity of someone saying they consider they are being gaslighted. People don't need to present "solid proof" to validate their experience.]
    posted by loup (staff) at 11:02 AM on February 16 [20 favorites]


    Oh, I didn't read that as shade toward other MeFites who have buttoned -- just an amusing anecdote that's pretty obviously problematic.

    It was brought up by a mod doing analysis. I don’t see what the problem is.

    "We did a qualitative analysis in 2018 which might provide a good framework for a more recent analysis" is not a problem. That's not what was said.

    I'm not going to dig in on this because it's an example, and a fairly minor one, not a stand-alone problem that deserves an intense rehashing or even an apology. But to be clear, the bigger issue is a tendency to be quick to point to (and sometimes more subtly paint) users who complain or leave as unreasonable and/or "the problem."
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:03 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    Strategically, you clearly need a bigger pool of part timers and subs to manage burnout and workload. It looks like you're doing the thing where because mods have always had responsibilities list X, we can't hire someone to do less than X. What are you getting overwhelmed by? Create associate jobs to manage _just that_.

    This is something that should absolutely be considered, but I don't think we can assume it hasn't been considered. As a business owner who's had employees, there's a hard balance between providing enough hours to make a job worthwhile and having enough people to provide some resilience if someone can't make it in. Five people working 20 hours a week is a VERY different situation than 20 people working 5 hours a week. Either way, there's going to be a downside to deal with. There's no system that eliminates all problems.
    posted by rikschell at 11:21 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


    I appreciate all the work that staff and volunteers are undertaking in such a difficult time, and I was glad to read this update. At the same time, I'm going to be taking a break from the community and, if a cooling down period doesn't change my mind, ultimately calling it quits. And that's okay - not every community has to be the right fit for everyone, and it's no unique failure of Metafilter that this isn't a space where a multiple-axis minority feels particularly comfortable sharing opinions, personal anecdotes, or items of interest with anyone who ever had five bucks to spend.

    In one of those chicken and the egg situations, I've always been more of a lurker and occasional commenter, and therefore I don't expect my closing feedback to carry much weight. Which is, the recent deletion of a response to one of my comments on a FPP by the original poster is the straw that broke my back, and to be honest, kind of broke my heart a little. Because in the context of what's been shared in this update, I'm sure that whichever mod deleted that poster's response thought they were taking helpful action by removing a condescending and insulting statement of white defensiveness from the comments section.

    But who did it help? Not me, since I still received the response (as evidenced by having replied to it) and felt as appropriately spit on as I'm sure the poster intended. Other indigenous people or people of colour who might read it? I can almost assure you that, outside extreme examples like slurs or hate speech, anyone in those categories would much rather read a comment like that and go into future encounters with a popular and prolific poster knowing that this is the kind of thing they say when criticized. The only person it helped was the poster themself, who got to 'defend' themself and say whatever they wanted without ever having to be accountable to their statement. They in fact get to continue positioning themselves as a voice to be heeded on the subject of diversity and inclusion in this community without anyone else knowing exactly how invested they are in defending their own comfort as a white person and diminishing the viewpoint of a non-white person who threatens it.

    The message received, whether intended or not, is that it would have been better if I hadn't spoken at all. After all, doing so only got me two things: 1) an additional insult and absolutely no proof of it to carry forward, and 2) knowledge of this poster's true character and the trap of not being able to engage with any future betrayals of it without looking like some oversensitive, uppity Indian looking to make a big deal out of nothing.

    I only have so many words. I have other places I can speak them. I wish those who want to speak their words here all the very best in their conversations.
    posted by northernish at 11:22 AM on February 16 [45 favorites]

    It's not, and the fact that this kind of outlier from 2018 is being highlighted and discussed in a thread about 2021 problems is questionable to me.
    This very thread includes one person who buttoned in a contentious thread, requested a wipe, and then created a new account so they could participate in the meta-discussion about their own buttoning.

    It’s not an exact parallel, but I have absolutely no clue how where any of that falls under the rules.
    posted by schmod at 11:43 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


    Whatever happened with the
    MetaTalk Process Changes that were announced last summer?

    Clearly these are not, for the most part, still happening. There are regular site updates, but they were supposed to be trackable, providing "a running list of what changes we've made, which ones we're working on (with timeframes!) and what's been requested." But the backlog of items that are yet to be worked on disappeared at some point, along with almost everything else in that post.

    Why did this fall? What's the current situation?

    It's worth remembering that this was one of the things that came as a result of the very contentious thread on trans issues last summer and was a way to enable some of the systemic changes that were recognised as necessary.

    I'm not claiming that there's any malign intent involved. I would like to imagine that it's disappointing to the people who work on the site that this didn't work out, but the net effect is that the improvements in communication and accountability that were highlighted as necessary by trans and non-binary users here have disappeared without even an explanation. And galling when attempts to hold the same staff who say they will make this a priority to account are treated as unreasonable.
    posted by death valley compound at 11:57 AM on February 16 [16 favorites]


    I think beside and perhaps before the qualitative questions relating to community values and moderation/management culture it needs to be acknowledged as a priority that quantitatively speaking, the blue has been on a steep decline for years, with active users going from a high of 4900 in 2012 to 2700 in 2019 and comments on the blue going from 60,000+ in 2011 to ~12,000 in 2020. A State of the Site update where Mefi is "constantly replacing and renewing itself" without so much as acknowledging this is to shift the chairs on deck to better absorb the impact of the iceberg ahead.
    posted by dmh at 12:25 PM on February 16 [23 favorites]


    If nothing else I would have thought that years and years and years of experience would have demonstrated that these kinds of threads are not effective for gathering user input or discussing how the site is doing and especially not if the thread is allowed to turn into a trial about peoples' behavior inside this very thread. And then on top of that it's not even a valid trial because half the comments were removed without notification. Keep doing the same things, keep getting the same results.
    posted by bleep at 12:30 PM on February 16 [11 favorites]


    More threads are not the solution. The diagnosis is in. Now it's choosing a treatment plan, or letting the disease take its course.
    posted by Miko at 1:32 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    I was resolved not to comment, but this If you're budgeting for frimble, and frimble ain't working, pay someone else to start learning the codebase so you have a damn contingency plan in the future. this comment just is way off the scale of awfulness present in this thread. It is not right to write this way about frimble (or any other staff).
    posted by 15L06 at 1:40 PM on February 16 [51 favorites]


    I agree with 15L06. I really loathe the armchair quarterbacking that happens in these threads, imagining how MetaFilter should be run, hypothesizing about how mods feel about their jobs, and so on. It comes across as incredible uncharitable and mean-spirited. This is not how helping happens.
    posted by oulipian at 1:56 PM on February 16 [42 favorites]


    this comment just is way off the scale of awfulness present in this thread. It is not right to write this way about frimble (or any other staff).

    I am confused -- my comment makes no value judgments about frimble. Frimble ain't working for reasons, and that's fine, but that means you need someone else that can do the stuff that needs to be done. I think you're reading that I'm suggesting replacing frimble. That's your value judgment. I'm saying augment.
    posted by bfranklin at 2:07 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


    dmh, it doesn't matter so much how many users there were in 2012 as how many users make the site sustainable. Moderation doesn't scale well. There's no need for this site to try to be reddit. That said, I don't know what the target numbers should be. I hope cortex knows, because that's his job. If the attitude is "we have as many people as we have and that's fine," that's a really bad sign. If 20 years of experience has shown that 3000 users is the top threshold of sane site management, then things look good. If 3000 users is the floor for keeping things funded, then things are dire. Site management has no responsibility to share those kind of data with us since this site is a private business. Again, though, as an actual community, it would be helpful if we knew.
    posted by rikschell at 2:08 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


    15L06: "I was resolved not to comment, but this If you're budgeting for frimble, and frimble ain't working, pay someone else to start learning the codebase so you have a damn contingency plan in the future. this comment just is way off the scale of awfulness present in this thread. It is not right to write this way about frimble (or any other staff)."

    fwiw, I read "if frimble ain't working..." literally, as in temporarily out of commission and unable to work, not that they're a bad choice or unfit for the job.

    rikschell: If 3000 users is the floor for keeping things funded, then things are dire.

    Keep in mind that in these discussions "keeping things funded" means paying for full-time, salaried, round-the-clock moderation with benefits. That's a worthy goal but something the site couldn't afford until almost a decade into its existence, and something virtually all similar sites get done with volunteers, bots, or an anonymous army of low-wage drones. The cost of running the site itself is a lot lower.
    posted by Rhaomi at 2:30 PM on February 16 [9 favorites]


    Might be time to tap the Metafilter Sovereign Wealth Fund - sell off the contents of a couple of the precious metal warehouses, reduce ownership of Apple from 15% to 14%. Something like that. It'll mean putting off opening the orbital habitat for a year or so though.
    posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:43 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


    bfranklin, i am glad to find out i misunderstood. Thank you for explaining and my apologies.
    posted by 15L06 at 2:44 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


    I do think that frimble being a manager of pull requests (complete with issue tracking! goals! requests!) makes a lot more sense than trying to single-handedly write/debug/implement everything in the codebase. I don't know coldfusion but honestly would put some time in to learn (it cannot be that hard) and contribute.
    posted by maxwelton at 2:57 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]


    dmh's numbers bring up the basic point that these threads keep coming around to: either MetaFilter can continue to follow its current trajectory and continue to shrink (with all the financial and staffing aspects that eventually entails) or we all can do something to try to make it grow. If it's the former, if, as the lack of strategic initiatives in the "Looking into 2021" section sort of implies, the strategic plan is to broadly stay the course and be prepared to gradually scale down as cortex discussed that prospect in 2019, then that should be stated explicitly. If it's the latter, if there's some desire to grow the site in terms of active users, activity, fun, hugs, Treaties of Westphalia, etc..., then it would be good to say that and discuss with the community ways to try to achieve it.

    This isn't about businessing it all up with KPIs and a Professional White Background so we can growth hack our way to a quarterly goal of new active users posting a minimum number of units of fun per day. That's not who or what MeFi is. But the site is not going to grow by itself without some kind of goal and plans to achieve it. So if there's any desire for that to happen, we should talk about what it could broadly look like given the very real constraints that exist. And if there's none, if the strategic plan is to continue indefinitely more-or-less as-is plus some D&I initiatives, documentation improvements, and internal process refinements, I'd love for that to just be stated explicitly and we'll stop having Future Of MetaFilter discussions.
    posted by zachlipton at 3:02 PM on February 16 [35 favorites]


    15L06, no worries.
    posted by bfranklin at 3:07 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


    I think folks misunderstood me. I didn't accuse anyone of gaslighting, I said I felt gaslit. This clearly isn't the right meta to engage on trans issues or touch on why. That said, I am thankful for the friendship of folks on the transfilter slack and the politicsfilter slack, for confirming that I'm not crazy or alone.

    I didn't mean to upset taz though. I am sorry that I hurt her feelings, and I thanked her already for her response to me. I am thankful also for this site update, the work of staff for the site, and for the chance to hear and to be heard by staff and community members alike.

    I am personally glad for the announced focus on, and engagement with, the problems BIPOC members have to deal with here, and the work being done by thyme and other staff towards racial justice in this community. In support of that, I've sent in $50 dollars towards an honorarium for current or future BIPOC Advisory Board members.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 6:13 PM on February 16 [21 favorites]


    I know I fall on the abrasive side of things and honestly I'm drawn to the dark in this life of ours, and I think that's why I've sort of drifted away from metafilter during the Trump years: I've been fascinated by the nightmare we were living in, the grotesquerie of it, the fact that bad shit exists. Like, right now I'm reading about Mexican drug cartels and it's horrifying but I'm also really glad I'm reading it because honestly, I come from a background of trauma, and learning how to address it in my own life and how others address it in their lives and how to alleviate the affects of trauma--well, there's nothing more fascinating to me, really.

    So I've been always sort of nonplussed when, as I've drifted away from the site, I've got a whiff of 'things are better because they are less negative now.' I can't point you to an exact quote but I know I've seen words to that effect, more than once, and I've always thought huh. Well, we are not less fucked than we were before, we are in fact more fucked, and I don't really get the site gestalt anymore or something.

    So that's why I take such mighty umbrage at comments that are speculating that certain users from traditionally vulnerable communities are just going to complain and bring everybody down and complain about the use of the word gaslighting or speculate that these complaints will never be satisfied. I mean, I get if one doesn't want to mull over the fact that we're in some real fucking trouble, nationally, environmentally, all that time. I mean, it's not fucking healthy. I do it too much.

    But if there is somebody saying hey I have this problem that is causing me feelings of frustration and people are saying 'well you'll probably never be satisfied" or there's a work environment (yes, the pandemic exists) that is so toxic mods respond to complaints really unprofessionally, that's just a real fucking ugly dynamic. It's more than saying, 'Hey, let's not talk about Trump all the time.' It's saying you expressing your feelings are causing the community harm.

    I don't know, I'm speaking generally here, except for that one dude I still maintain was space projecting his mind into the concerns of BIPOC users in the future and that was some serious bullshiit--I guess am speaking specifically to that.

    But speaking generally, mostly I don't come around here as much because, apologies, for all the good metafilter has done before, I just don't find the place as interesting. I don't find it as funny, not as lively, and yes, not as mean. I don't know, I just see comments I think are clearly bullshit, comments that would have been neatly and humorously gutted a dozen times before the person amended their position, floating about, collecting favorites, and it's like, why am I here? Is this my place amymore?

    I don't know, maybe it's not, maybe I'm just an asshole. I'm not buttoning or anything dramatic, just musing about my own lack of participation.

    Anyway, I think that metatalk used to be a good place for the site to develop a thriving culture, let threads develop while giving people a chance to hash shit out. While again, I'm not in the affected demographics specifically discussed here, the vibe here just feel stifling to me, whether it be the shutting down of the election stuff or the throttling of the metatalk posts.

    You can call me an asshole, I honestly don't give a fuck.
    posted by angrycat at 7:17 PM on February 16 [9 favorites]


    floating about, collecting favorites, and it's like, why am I here?

    I encourage anyone who gets angry at favourite counts (for whatever reason) to just turn them off. It's a profile setting and you can choose between merely obfuscated and completely gone. You can still favourite things and you can still see what comments of yours received a favourite but otherwise they cease to be an in your face problem (the potential effects on site culture are both a can of worms no one wants to open and are best not thought about if you you find yourself getting GRRAAR about them).
    posted by Mitheral at 7:25 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    yeah thanks for explaining that sounds like a good tool for maintaining blissful ignorance but whether or not my eyes were blinded by the digits of the numerals was not really the issue I was getting at
    posted by angrycat at 7:36 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


    Aside from the thisistrulysomebullshit account, there are two users with posts in this thread who have buttoned.
    posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:05 PM on February 16


    There's no need for this site to try to be reddit.

    But maybe yes?
    Metafilter is kind of Internet Buggy Whips now. Maybe we should look at other discussion sites like reddit and freshen up the place?
    posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:11 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


    Keep in mind that in these discussions "keeping things funded" means paying for full-time, salaried, round-the-clock moderation with benefits. That's a worthy goal but something the site couldn't afford until almost a decade into its existence, and something virtually all similar sites get done with volunteers, bots, or an anonymous army of low-wage drones. The cost of running the site itself is a lot lower.

    Absolutely true. If this is going to be a genuinely progressive space, then it needs to be run in a way that is democratic and which pays a living wage with reasonable working conditions (pay-wise and emotional/boundaries-wise) for MeFi employees.

    I don't think that is happening right now, which is another reason that things need to change.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 8:11 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


    Internet Buggy Whips now. Maybe we should
    Do. A side note to buggy whips which requires a whip socket. Here's a factory. Made more of them then anyone in the whole world Flint did. But this car thing came and well, perhaps platform change should be bandied because whip sockets just don't sell. buggy whip...IMO a DeSoto would have took the verve closer.
    How much more would a new site cost if the two sites should cost more.
    posted by clavdivs at 9:07 PM on February 16


    Is there any recent data on what percentage of total posts and comments are deleted in meta/ask/talk? It would also be interesting to know what percentage of deleted posts and comments were higher effort (ex. 50 words or more) vs. lower effort. And what percentage of deleted posts/comments are obvious trolls vs. good faith attempts to participate in discussions?
    posted by Blue Genie at 9:28 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


    Thanks for everything you do, mod team. For so many reasons, the world feels like a nastier and less friendly and trusting place these last few years, and I know that some of that has bled into your workload. Without taking any position on the topics in this thread, I think you're all good people trying to do the right thing and making this a much nicer place than most internet fora, and much nicer than it would be without your efforts, and I appreciate it. Thank you.
    posted by gsteff at 9:38 PM on February 16 [10 favorites]


    I encourage anyone who gets angry at favourite counts (for whatever reason) to just turn them off.

    Just as an aside, you can't turn them off in profiles, only in threads. I'd really like to be able to turn them off in profiles.
    posted by aniola at 9:58 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


    Metafilter is kind of Internet Buggy Whips now.

    I see it more as a penny-farthing. A niche, eccentric hobby that somehow keeps existing. In this analogy, The WELL is that velocipede you sit in like a chair and Something Awful is a unicycle.
    posted by betweenthebars at 9:58 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


    Which website is like a recumbent? Recumbents never really caught on, but only because they're an unfair technological advantage when compared against uprights. Oh and by the way instead of the simplicity of an upright, recumbents are designed for user comfort/ergonomics.
    posted by aniola at 10:05 PM on February 16


    It's hard not to feel sad when looking at the chart dmh posted. At the same time I don't find it that surprising. I think Trump being elected sucked up a lot of bandwidth (understandably so) for what would usually be interesting discussions about other things... and then people just slowly burnt out on it over time. I think I've seen a similar thing happen on other websites as well. I think it also did a lot to undermine the small international community that Metafilter has (had?) been able to maintain. Being a Canadian living in Germany, I've found it much easier to read about this dark time for the US in non-US media.

    Finally, I think metafilter requires a certain baseline of empathy and assumptions of good faith in order to function well, which after 4 years of Trump and an ongoing pandemic, is probably in short supply. It's hard to read this metatalk, where Chrysopoeia thoughtfully expresses their frustrations with the slow pace on fixes to the site, yet Taz (understandably) reacts defensively to suggestions that the mods aren't taking these concerns seriously, and should be working harder during a pandemic. Both of these people are hurt, and we should create space to heal that, but instead the temperature just gets turned up... and up and up. It's not constructive, and it's hard to imagine anyone reading this and thinking this is how it should be done.

    I'm still happy with how metafilter has changed in many ways though. I remember the "golden age" of a decade ago. It was nice feeling like the community was vital and growing. It was less nice seeing Islamophobia arise whenever a terrorist attack happened. I hope metafilter doesn't collapse under the weight of trying to be an open community, but I still believe its story is far from over.
    posted by Alex404 at 1:25 AM on February 17 [22 favorites]


    I guess I don't really understand why we would want to be like reddit when it's already a thing that exists? We have lots of stuff to work on but for me at least, I like the format and that it loads easily even when I don't have a great connection. I like that things are posted in chrono order and there's no algorithm or anything mixing up how I see things. I have a hard time following nested comments so I really only go to reddit when I have a specific thing I'm trying to research.
    posted by brilliantine at 6:42 AM on February 17 [32 favorites]


    You can call me an asshole, I honestly don't give a fuck.
    I don't really want to get into a lot of the nitty-gritty of this entire thread but in terms of people calling anyone an "asshole", nobody is saying that to anyone here. Like pre-emptively calling oneself an asshole is sort of like saying you're fine with being mean and don't care if that impacts people, but that's more on you than on anyone else on the site. I think these metatalk threads are good starting points for people to discuss their discontent, and thus we aren't shaming people for that, that's exactly what this place is for, provided it's expressed in non-harmful ways. That's one of my biggest issues with this place, is that we do tend to go to harm to express ourselves as opposed to taking accountability for our feelings about whatever and then everyone else has to dissect how the harm happened, it's legitimacy, etc etc when like, No. We're adults, we're supposed to be above this kind of thing, particularly when we have the level of control over our own words that this format provides.
    posted by erattacorrige at 7:05 AM on February 17 [23 favorites]


    Just to add my POV.... been here 20 years. I thought it was a good, fun, respectful place. Where people aren’t perfect but we’re all working on it. I’ve learned a lot here.

    I realized I was trans/nonbinary last year. Almost immediately I realized what a white cis rich boyzone this still is. I can barely read a thread or an ask or a meta without being confronted with how out of touch with people’s lived realities the userbase is. The comments and jokes people make show a point of view where everything is a game or a thought experiment. I remember a comment months back where a white dude was complaining about how hard it is not to bullshit some fake expertise because that’s what people expect from white dudes and my head just exploded. It felt like this home had changed overnight, that we’d regressed a decade or more. Of course it was just my perspective that changed.

    Even in this thread there are dozens of favourites on comments that boil down to “if marginalized people aren’t happy after we try to throw them a bone, why should we even try?” Seeing stuff like that embraced hurts. Metafilter is not a safe space. It never has been.

    I don’t have an answer. It hurts to see MeFi in this light. But it’s real, and it’s on all of us, not just the skeleton crew of burned out mods.
    posted by yellowbinder at 7:38 AM on February 17 [42 favorites]


    I think it was André Gide who wrote of once asking a priest what, after hearing countless confessions over the years, he had learned about human nature. The answer was 'There is no such thing as an adult.'

    I tend to agree. All the same, we grow up, grow old and we die. We learn ever more skillfully how to make ourselves right by making other people wrong and speak of love as a feeling when it is instead hard hard work.

    I have little advice to give. Especially when I am online over a phone and typing every letter with one finger. What I can say is this: if someone here says something that rubs you the wrong way, go Daniel Tiger, take a deep breath and count to four.

    And then click on their name, go to their profile and click through their comments. There you will meet a human being. If you are lucky, it will open your heart a little.

    In this place we expose the crooked timber of our humanity with every word.
    posted by y2karl at 8:29 AM on February 17 [30 favorites]


    I guess I don't really understand why we would want to be like reddit when it's already a thing that exists?

    Because it is a successful internet discussion site. I'm not saying that we should specifically be come a clone of it, but we should take a look at the internet landscape of 2021 and figure out what it would take for Metafilter to thrive. The way things are going - fewer new users, declining engagement, fracturing community - means that we don't have the luxury of tradition if we want to keep existing.
    posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:33 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


    I think it was André Gide who wrote of once asking a priest what, after hearing countless confessions over the years, he had learned about human nature. The answer was 'There is no such thing as an adult.' I tend to agree. All the same, we grow up, grow old and we die. We learn ever more skillfully how to make ourselves right by making other people wrong and speak of love as a feeling when it is instead hard hard work.

    But there is such thing as an adult, it is a legal definition and lived reality, it is an extension of childhood that excludes childhood; it is a phase that one is now in and will be until death. I don't look to priests for wisdom, I've already seen what they're capable of, which is more often than not self-serving.
    Being an adult just means being accountable for one's words and behavior, and we need to hold ourselves and others to higher standards in order to grow. Growth is everpresent and should be. Nobody is saying that we must make ourselves right by making others wrong. That's a logical fallacy that sort of indicates that there's only ONE way to be right, which is absolutely not true. Being hurt because other members of a website are transphobic or racist is not "making ourselves right by making others wrong". People who are harmful simply need to improve, WE ALL need to improve, and part of that means holding harmful behavior accountable. How can we ever change if we don't examine ourselves, our role in causing harm, and consider the impact of what we say and do to others beyond ourselves? Asking trans and BIPOC users to "take a breath and look at the user profile" of those who harmed them is SUPER gaslighty. Like, no. Just, no. Both-siderism of racism and transphobia? No wonder people feel excluded and silenced on this site.
    posted by erattacorrige at 8:47 AM on February 17 [9 favorites]


    Because it is a successful internet discussion site. I'm not saying that we should specifically be come a clone of it, but we should take a look at the internet landscape of 2021 and figure out what it would take for Metafilter to thrive. The way things are going - fewer new users, declining engagement, fracturing community - means that we don't have the luxury of tradition if we want to keep existing.

    I don't disagree with your broad point that "stay the course" is a recipe for a slow unmitigated decline, but I think understanding "Reddit" as a single, functional, successful internet discussion site is the wrong way to look at Reddit. Reddit's really more like a site architecture - more Mediawiki than it is Wikipedia. There's who knows how many hundreds of thousands of subreddits, each with (in theory) its own moderation team, norms, guidelines, etc.; some of those subreddits are very successful, some of them are horrifying and toxic cesspools, some have failed outright and spectacularly imploded, and I'd wager the vast majority of subreddits are basically ghost towns or have teensy tiny userbases compared to Metafilter, even now. So I'm kind of skeptical that there are a lot of useful lessons to be gleaned from Reddit.
    posted by mstokes650 at 9:23 AM on February 17 [11 favorites]


    [ One comment deleted for violating the Guidelines particularly: "Be considerate and respectful"]
    posted by loup (staff) at 9:34 AM on February 17


    If Metafilter got hit by a bus tomorrow, you could probably create a subreddit for each Metafilter section and if you mass-invited all of the current users, it would be pretty interesting to see how the community functioned under the totally different modalities.

    What do people think of the recent phenomenon of these Metafilter streamers on Twitch? Some people like to sit back and watch pro users post and snark more than actually doing it themselves. It's a lot of money going to individual users, not towards the site though. And can maybe encourage drama?
    posted by floam at 9:46 AM on February 17 [4 favorites]


    I'm joking. Metafilter streaming is not a thing. Yet
    posted by floam at 9:51 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


    Every single time without exception that I have tried to read Reddit it’s given me a profound headache. Not from the content but from the form. Count me as a voice against redditizing MeFi.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 9:58 AM on February 17 [10 favorites]


    This reddit subthread is pretty frustrating and unfortunately a symptom of one of Metafilter's problems. We tend to get so fixated on a particular tree, we miss the entire forest. I can't speak for others, but stuff like this is why I don't want to engage in Metafilter anymore.
    posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:19 AM on February 17 [12 favorites]


    It may be helpful is people could post examples of sites/subedits/whatever that are similar to Metafilter, but more successful. Something left leaning and international that welcomes and encourages marginalized peoples and quickly squashes any attempts to denigrate said groups.
    posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:26 AM on February 17 [8 favorites]


    The site seems caught between spending more and more dwindling resources on trying to satisfy a portion of the userbase that is unlikely to ever think that those efforts are enough. Meanwhile, entire aspects of the site that are not related to these issues go unaddressed or neglected.

    What exactly are you implying is going unaddressed or neglected? If there’s a silent majority of users, they (we?) kinda by definition didn’t particularly ask for anything.

    I think some of the real tensions on the site connect to the issue of diversity and inclusion, in that it seems there’s not really a universal agreement as to who and what the space is “for.” Eyebrows’ observation that people from all over the political spectrum drop out (because, this is me editorializing now, they have some streak of conversations where they feel like everybody is against them, or sometimes where they feel like the mods are against them) certainly aligns with things I’ve seen. And I don’t really feel like there’s ever been a truly unified vision of how much the site is supposed to be a safe space versus how much it’s allowed to be this

    The comments and jokes people make show a point of view where everything is a game or a thought experiment.

    A couple people have suggested everybody may get along better without the outside stress of Trump, but I actually have a feeling it may get worse without that lodestar of Obviously Much Worse Than Anybody Here, just from what I’ve seen in other leftish venues already.
    posted by atoxyl at 10:30 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


    I think it's useful to distinguish between sites that do moderation well, and sites that do "product" well – and by product, I don't mean in the usual "let's 100x engagement in a shady way", I just mean, "has features and design that promote healthy and thriving discussion."

    I have a whole long blog post stored up with thoughts on how one might improve Metafilter from a UX standpoint. It'd be great if posting were easier and more accessible, e.g. with a rich text or Markdown editor. I'm not clear why tags are essential for posting, either; plus I'd love it if Command-K inserted links. Then there's the fact that posting on mobile is very finicky. In-line or hover-state previews of linked tweets, videos, etc. Making it easier to share and excerpt comments and posts. Small stuff like that, added over the course of years, really helps improve things. This isn't about chasing the new hotness, it's about adopting good ideas.

    I suggested earlier that Discourse would be a good option to build upon. If you're looking for forum software that is actively maintained, highly customisable, adheres to accessibility and security and GPDR standards, and seems to be really popular with people who use it, it's worth considering - even if it's a relative stripling at seven years old. I acknowledged it'd be a gargantuan task to migrate to Discourse and that perhaps you'd be better off just turning "old" Mefi into a read-only site, but the idea doesn't seem to have caught on fire.

    My focus on the "product" isn't so much that I think it's what's essential to Metafilter – the people are – but rather that it seems to be very hard right now to make even minor (but very important) changes to Metafilter, and those difficulties are spilling over into wider problems (e.g. like the whole self-serve deletion debate). If you make it easier to make those changes and improvement, then limited energy can be spent elsewhere. Perhaps the answer is open-sourcing the Mefi codebase, though I'm not optimistic you'll find that many people willing to work on it for the long term.

    I'm not a community moderation expert, though I have founded and moderated several fairly successful forums and wikis over the past 20 years, some of them with a few thousand members. Plus I've made a bunch of apps that have done pretty well over the years. I know this stuff is incredibly stressful and hard and I have so much sympathy for everyone here. I just think that one part of the solution has to be improving the product, and that maybe a big change is needed.
    posted by adrianhon at 10:56 AM on February 17 [20 favorites]


    either MetaFilter can continue to follow its current trajectory and continue to shrink (with all the financial and staffing aspects that eventually entails) or we all can do something to try to make it grow. If it's the former, if, as the lack of strategic initiatives in the "Looking into 2021" section sort of implies, the strategic plan is to broadly stay the course and be prepared to gradually scale down as cortex discussed that prospect in 2019, then that should be stated explicitly. If it's the latter, if there's some desire to grow the site in terms of active users, activity, fun, hugs, Treaties of Westphalia, etc..., then it would be good to say that and discuss with the community ways to try to achieve it.

    I would love if site owners/mods could answer this question posed by zachlipton. What is the ownership vision of the future of MeFi? Is community involved in making that happen? Can we be, more so?
    posted by tiny frying pan at 11:07 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]


    (also, modern forum software would handily fix the recurring complaints about the tiny [!] flag button, and the mods' use of small text in notes)
    posted by adrianhon at 11:13 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


    I really think the site needs a limited/highly controlled form of threading. 1) some threads just diverge in very worthwhile directions but loose focus as there is that odd interleaving, making it really hard to follow. And 2) the combative threads could be broken off -- with some kind of more-than-a-click-and-warning. Let the folks get stuff off their chest, burn it off, but keep it safely away from others that could get triggered.
    posted by sammyo at 1:09 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    I like the idea of a site reboot/refresh. Create a new Metafilter on a modern platform and we can all start fresh over there. The old MeFi can still exist as a resource. This sounds like a relatively straightforward fix and hopefully it reduces frimble's workload in the long run (although likely swamping them in the short run).

    The bigger issues are figuring out what and who Metafilter is for and then trying to increase the membership and I have no suggestions for those beyond saying I'm not a fan of calling this place progressive.
    posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:52 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


    I’ll point to Mitheral’s excellent comment upthread about the difficulty of successfully pulling off a large migration like that.

    Moving MetaFilter onto a modern platform is not necessarily a small undertaking. There’s no guarantee that said modern platform will be around for long, and there’s also no guarantee that we won’t inadvertently break or remove many of the things that the site’s current users appreciate and enjoy.

    (Moving to a “modern platform” also doesn’t necessarily alleviate any of the IT burden, and could considerably increase the difficulty of developing features or administration tools that are specific to MetaFilter’s needs)

    The new site wouldn’t be MetaFilter, or at the very least, wouldn’t be an organic evolution of the MetaFilter that we currently know.
    posted by schmod at 2:36 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]


    This is the second time someone has misread my suggestion, which is really frustrating. I have twice said I knew it would be extremely difficult to migrate Metafilter to a new platform. Believe me, I am not underestimating that task, and I'm more than willing to hear alternatives.

    That said, I don't quite understand the sniffiness around other platforms, as if Metafilter's current setup is so perfect. I've already given specific examples of pretty modest improves the community has been asking for for years, yet they still aren't here. I don't know the details for why that's the case, though I have to assume it is somewhat related with masses of technical debt.

    By all means, if the current Metafilter tech stack can be upgraded to provide all the features that people want and expect, that would be fantastic. I will be here waiting patiently. In the meantime, I'll also be moderating and participating on forums that are right now far more user-friendly and accessible.
    posted by adrianhon at 2:46 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


    I really think the site needs a limited/highly controlled form of threading.

    Personally, I'm generally against this, although I get that opinion mileage varies significantly on threading.

    One potential alternative (not that this would be easy from the technical standpoint to implement here) is to create, say, offtopic.metafilter.com and have a way to select related offtopic messages from one thread and move them to a new thread on OffTopic, where new threads could not be created in any other manner.

    (I suppose I am thinking back to my MindVox days when individual posts could get flung to a kind of trash forum where they could continue to be discussed.)

    The bigger issues are figuring out what and who Metafilter is for and then trying to increase the membership…

    I'd think that this matter would have to be understood well before even considering a move to some other software platform, since different kinds of platforms foster different kinds of communities and interactions.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 2:47 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    I don't think rewriting the codebase is remotely plausible right now- my impression is that the current codebase has accumulated hundreds of little features over the last 20 years, it's not a matter of just defining some database tables and implementing standard CRUD APIs. Hindsight is 20/20, but the best window to overhaul the codebase was 5+ years ago... doing it today would prohibitively expensive, I expect. As an engineer, I'd like to say that building up the funds for that project is a critical priority, but in truth it really isn't. The site seems to be working fine technically. My technical advice would be to give Frimble time to slowly refactor things, break the backend into pieces and maybe migrate some logic from backend code to frontend code, so that in a few years, the idea of migrating some or all of the site from ColdFusion is actually conceivable without massive investment.
    posted by gsteff at 2:50 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


    adrianhon's suggestion of discourse is open source so even if its creators and wider community were to disappear at some point in the future the mods would still be able to modify the site as needed. And likely if they disappeared they would disappear to somewhere else and there would be migration tools to move things over.
    posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:51 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    I really think the site needs a limited/highly controlled form of threading.

    I generally prefer threading but I think flat is pretty strongly part of the identity and culture of the site. There are special cases, like the politics megathreads, where it does clearly start to break down, though.
    posted by atoxyl at 3:10 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


    The thread is drifting into armchair product management again.
    posted by bleep at 3:11 PM on February 17 [41 favorites]


    As opposed to something else it should be about? Personally, I don't make these suggestions with any expectation they'll be enacted on; god knows I've read enough forum posts doing armchair product management for my own apps to realise that's a fool's errand. And yet I still find it useful to know what some (not all!) users would like, and I hope it's useful feedback for cortex and the mods.
    posted by adrianhon at 3:16 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    My condolences when cortex unthaws/regains power & gets this all at once
    posted by CrystalDave at 3:18 PM on February 17 [17 favorites]


    Perhaps it could use a bit of armchair marketing instead. What does Metafilter do, and who is it for? If we want to attract new users, who are they? What does Metafilter offer them, that sets it apart from other sites?
    posted by atoxyl at 3:20 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


    Perhaps the answer is open-sourcing the Mefi codebase, though I'm not optimistic you'll find that many people willing to work on it for the long term.

    I want to call-out this suggestion because I think it's a really good idea. I totally agree with adrianhon that it is unlikely to find many people willing to work on it for the long-term. I am very optimistic that there would be a small number of people willing to work on it forever, more or less, though.
    posted by lazaruslong at 3:20 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


    I don't know I just see us going into very detailed feasibility conversations that take the thread down all kinds of theoretical rabbit holes because we're all huge nerds who do this all day long myself included. I don't actually know what the thread is supposed to be about to be honest.
    posted by bleep at 3:22 PM on February 17


    I recently reactivated my account. I've started visiting every day and reading MetaTalk, and was dismayed to read that many people had left the site, due to issues around the handling of BIPOC and trans threads. I hope that the moderators can address those issues.

    In reading over this thread (and last year's) and it does sound like the site is in long term financial decline, with scaling issues around moderation. Perhaps one solution (maybe this has been mentioned before) would be to convert over to a co-operative model? This could both raise revenue and increase the number of hands able to perform various tasks. Some co-operatives do have both member owner/workers as well as owner/patrons etc.
    posted by wuwei at 3:23 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]


    I don't actually know what the thread is supposed to be about to be honest.

    It's an update on the state of the site. People have raised legitimate complaints that something as small-seeming as making the gender field in our profiles free-form took a really long time, and cortex made a note that frimble has been working on some bigger projects but their time is severely limited. If frimble had help then more would be able to get done but as the codebase is 20+ years of incremental improvements I'd imagine it would take someone new a long time to get up to speed. Technical issues with the site are creating community issues and one way to address this is to work on the technical side. There are still huge community issues that need to be dealt with that ask fairly fundamental questions about what this community actually is and what it wants to be but this is something that can be done while those questions are being asked.
    posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:35 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]


    My condolences when cortex unthaws/regains power & gets this all at once

    My power and heat are back and I've showered, but I know myself well enough now to catch up on this thing in bits and pieces instead of trying to binge it.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 3:43 PM on February 17 [38 favorites]


    It may be helpful is people could post examples of sites/subedits/whatever that are similar to Metafilter, but more successful.

    Okay so this example obviously has one big flaw, but the places where I see the most constructive social interactions these days are in....gulp...private Facebook groups. The elephant in the room is Facebook's terrible politics and content moderation rules where everyone lives in constant fear of being "Zucced." BUT, these groups often work really well!

    Like Metafilter, they have aggressive moderation and entry criteria--instead of paying $5 people often have to answer questions or promise that they won't be disruptive--unlike Metafilter, the admins aren't expected to be the Managers who have to satisfy a million Angry Customers. Hell, in some groups arguing with the admins in public is simply against the rules because it's disruptive and generally non-constructive. If the admins in a FB group don't like the way you're behaving you will be quickly booted back into the general population of Facebook with zero tolerance for bullshit. (This does lead to FB groups like "you run a FB group, not a country" due to lack of admin accountability, but this works because there are a million other groups to go and join if you don't like the way things are going.)

    The stakes are low and someone else is paying to keep the lights on, but it seems to work for tons and tons of groups that are equally social-justice/left/liberal-politics oriented. Of course, Metafilter is proud to be a special snowflake and this would make us just like the other groups, but the question was asked about how other online communities do it, and FB groups are easily the most successful examples in my bubble.
    posted by zeusianfog at 3:51 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


    Ooh, I call the armchair Design Thinking.
    Let me just pop out and buy a few gross post-it notes and a whiteboard.
    Y'all can get started on the customer journey map while I'm gone.
    posted by signal at 5:01 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    The fact that it's in Colfusion and old and full of layers of changes or whatever is kind of a red herring because most old software has traits like this. Metafilter is legacy code and most software is legacy code. Sure it'd be nice if it were in some ultra modern system but it's really fine to most programmers that it isn't. If you're interested in working with it and you're a reasonably competent programmer you're going to do what you always do: google around until it makes sense. I think it's easy to underestimate how many people who would be willing to donate would also be willing to spend some time hacking on it, especially if they have a pet feature. People are out there hacking on BBS clones from the 80s out of nostalgia.

    It's not a trivial undertaking but it's totally possible to get things to the point where a community member can submit some code, frimble could merge it to a preview branch, and we could all see it live on betafilter shortly thereafter and we could, at long last, have conversations about how the site should work in the context of actual examples (possibly even functional!) of those new features. We've had so many people invest so much time and effort into describing various things and I'm sure some of them would rather have just hacked out a proof of concept instead. In the modern world, you can ship a fully functional dev environment alongside your app so users have as little barrier to contribution as possible. Since Coldfusion is a JVM app, it can take advantage of this, too.

    This sort of energy to scratch your own itch is what built the internet and it's leaving a lot on the table to not take advantage of it because that's how it was before. I'm not calling for a rewrite or anything drastic at all, but you know someone would've implemented threaded discussions by now, and it could finally be put to bed one way or the other in a realm other than the hypothetical. Same goes for hiding favorites comprehensively or so many other things that don't rise to the level of having the one solo dev do it but still would be useful.
    posted by feloniousmonk at 5:04 PM on February 17 [8 favorites]


    Even if we can’t open source the code in a way that allows people to post pull requests against it, publishing the code somewhere where people can look at it would go a little way toward addressing some of the transparency issues in this thread. It would at least allow those of us who might look at the source code to commiserate with the team and some of the difficulties the code base presents.
    posted by chrchr at 5:10 PM on February 17


    Yes, one truly cannot read Metafilter without taking a shower first.
    posted by Melismata at 5:13 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


    Yes, one truly cannot read Metafilter without taking a shower first.

    I feel like I should take one after reading this thread TBH. Everyone actually * does * need a hug.
    posted by Chairboy at 5:21 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


    What if it's in COBOL?
    posted by Marticus at 5:30 PM on February 17


    Better: CFScript!
    posted by sammyo at 5:39 PM on February 17


    I am a PHP dude, and that CFScript cheat sheet sammyo just posted makes me pretty confident it wouldn't take much to get going.
    posted by maxwelton at 7:00 PM on February 17


    I think the "armchair product management" thing starts to happen because there's not some underlying clearly expressed goal or strategy that everyone's bought into, so it's easy to glom onto possible product ideas in a vacuum without considering what purpose anyone wants to achieve. There are a lot of possible visions, from "try to become the next reddit" (which I don't think anyone wants literally, and certainly nobody wants the most toxic aspects of reddit) to "MeFi would be better if it had, say, 1000 more good active people here posting more good things" to "MeFi should foster new kinds of conversations around Topic X" to "MeFi should continue more-or-less as-is but be better at some important things internally and externally and it's fine if that means scaling down as it shrinks." And any of these, or lots of other concepts, are possible medium-term visions that could be articulated for the site, but we're left in an in between state where we as users are discussing all the possible Things That Could Be Done without any real goal in mind.
    posted by zachlipton at 7:13 PM on February 17 [23 favorites]


    Imagine JavaScript, but it's got some extra stuff bolted on.

    But it's also missing some stuff.

    And a few other things are just sliiiightly different. And undocumented.

    Also, most CF is actually written in a different, JSX-esque syntax that has absolutely no commonality with CFScript.
    posted by schmod at 7:13 PM on February 17


    I've seen people propose changing site leadership structures, changing how it functions, open sourcing code, sharing the code, altering funding models.

    I don't think any of that happens unless cortex wants it to, and I don't think cortex wants to do anything big like that, or give up control to someone who would.

    cortex, am I wrong, and if so, what would change your mind, if anything?
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 7:44 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


    ShipOfTheseusFilter? I don't mean to be glib, but some comments sound like there are people who would be happiest just buying the metafilter.com domain name from cortex and starting an entirely new site with the same name, some of the membership, and starting from scratch with new leadership, new mods, and new community infrastructure with just a bare nod to continuity.

    I want to see the community continue to improve, but I don't feel like it needs a hard reboot like that.
    posted by Pryde at 8:39 PM on February 17 [12 favorites]


    I don't think we can engineer our way through this. It's an existential crisis. Too many people with wants and needs that are, if not opposed, at least in tension. Too much history, too many unresolved issues.

    I think we need to go back to the foundational question: What is MetaFilter? Not what was it, what is it? And what do you want it to be? Is it a community conversational space, with some specifically broken out subject areas? A link aggregator with moderated comments and a question and answer site with moderated comments and... bonus sub-sites for regular users? Is it a business first, that values community, or a community first, trying to run like a business?

    I know that many of us have different answers to those questions, so at the end of the day, this is really a question for cortex.

    Cortex: you're never going to be able to do all the things people are asking of you, so you really need to have a very clear end goal in mind, or you're also never going to be able to do any of the things people are asking of you sufficiently well to make a lasting difference.

    I propose a thought experiment for you to mull over. Take your time - I'm not asking for a response here. Just something to consider. If we assume that it's not really possible to have it all, what would the most acceptable failure look like to you? A solid business, with whatever community and moderation models are required to support that? A solid, inclusive community, even if that means losing the business model and potentially giving up ownership? Tightening the focus, shrinking the scope, maybe hanging on for another 5 to 10 years? Selling to someone you trust to at least try not to break everything?

    Dreams are great, but they don't always provide useful direction. Sometimes it's more revealing to explore your fears with open eyes. If the MetaFilter you always wanted were truly broken - and I'm not saying that it is, but that's the exercise - what could you best live with leaving behind?

    Just some thoughts after a long day. Hopefully nothing that I wrote came across as pushing back on anyone, as I wasn't reacting to anyone in particular. Mostly thinking back over years of conversations and wondering what it would look like if we ever really just went all in on a new direction. Thanks for listening.
    posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:00 PM on February 17 [35 favorites]


    And in case it wasn't obvious, the point of the exercise isn't to give up on the dream. It's to help focus limited resources on shoring up the things that are the most important to you first.
    posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:05 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


    I originally joined MF in 2012 but I lurked a few years before that. In my years as a lurker I never felt like I was cool or smart enough to comment until one day I suddenly did, purchased a membership, and started to comment semi-regularly.

    Metafilter was an important community for me from from 2012 to mid-2018. There were some difficult conversations I had here that made me a better person thanks to community members who called me out on some bullshit and pushed me to reflect on many assumptions I had about the world. Hell, I can site specific users who helped radicalize me as a full-blown leftist. I had a lot of great conversations with users in chat.metafilter.com and found solace and comfort with others in the megathreads during 2016. Most of those users who I connected with, as far as I can tell, have all left.

    And I have left too, I think, but I'm only just realizing it now. I check in from time to time and read up on these State of the Site updates but I never feel good reading them. I don't see things improving in any meaningful way but I can't put my finger on why. What I can say, definitively, is that I have found conscientious, thoughtful community in other places on the Internet - almost exclusively in Discord fan servers. Those communities are small, tightly moderated, and formed around a common purpose. This is not to say that those moderators or community members are better than the ones here but I do think that these communities succeed (for me) where Metafilter fails because they do not have the baggage that comes with being a decades old dinosaur of a web forum/blog that is built on (relative to tech) ancient technology and even more outmoded ideology.

    Which is to say I think that the conversation comes back to this idea of "armchair designing" a way out of a better Metafilter because the underlying (sometimes the explicitly stated) assertion is that Metafilter has run its course. I think that in the year of our lord 2021 healthy Internet communities need to have the tools to be able to adapt to the changes in their community much faster than Metafilter can ever hope to do. Again, I don't mean this as a dunk on the Metafilter devs who have put lots of blood and sweat into this site and carried it on their backs to where it is now but I think the reality is that Metafilter is a scribe using stone tablets in a world of typewriters. You can have all the best tools to plink away at your rocks but at the end of the day you're still pounding away at rocks.

    I also feel like the exact reasons that the site was so important to me are the reason it needs to die. I am grateful that marginalized people here educated me on my shitty attitudes but it fucking sucks that I put them in the position to begin with! I have since learned how to educate myself when I'm presented with cultural ideas I don't understand but I think that Metafilter is a weird honey pot that draws all kinds of ignorant white folks who "just want to have a conversation" and don't realize how much their "asking questions" is harmful. I think it is somehow baked into the very identity of this site in a way I don't fully understand and can only barely articulate.

    I don't want people to lose their jobs and I would be sad to lose this place that has meant so much to me over the years but I don't see how Metafilter can continue and also be a healthy community that meets the needs of its marginalized members. Metafilter is an object from another time and should be treated as a relic that has served its purpose for the time that it was created but not an infinitely pliable tool that can be bent into shapes it was never meant to hold. I wonder if it is allowed to die what beautiful things might grow in its place.

    Regardless of the outcome: be kind to yourselves and each other.
    posted by Tevin at 9:19 PM on February 17 [12 favorites]


    I have been keeping up with this thread the best I can. I am not an engineer so take my comment for what it is worth to you. This is not about the platform or whatever "tech stack" means. This site can have the most robust infrastructure at no cost and that would still not address its main issues in my opinion. This is a community and a community is about the people, its members. Bad behavior will not be eliminated or changed because the site is on the latest and greatest. Bad behavior will not be changed if all the features requested are implemented in short order.

    Every user comes here with their own expectations and their own experiences which translate into point of view or biases. I come to this site and do materially most of my interacting on Ask. I read a lot of the Blue's links and some of the discussion. I personally avoid politics threads and most threads that have potential for controversy or conflict. On Ask, I usually avoid the relationship asks. It is just how I decided my interaction with the site will be. I have read all these threads on the grey about how this site sucks at this or that. In some cases I agree and in some I do not.

    Maybe I am doing this wrong, but I view the site as cortex's and to a slightly lesser extent the moderator's. It is their sandbox. I can play in it as long as I play by their rules. While I would make many changes, most small, some large, if I were Meta King or part of the cabal, I see this as a private business run by the proprietor as they see fit. If I do not like, I leave. That seems to be the case with most people. Some end up buttoning in frustration, some drift away, and some are officially asked to leave.

    I think it is terrific that so many in this community are willing to put in the time and effort to post, to comment, to suggest ways to improve things, to be allies, and all the other things some members do to support the site and each other. We are a diverse community and it shows. What started out with one culture has slowly, some say too slowly, changed to be more inclusive. Some say the community is not inclusive enough or is prejudiced against so many.

    The problem with being such a diverse community is that, it is my opinion that this site tries to be everything to everybody. That is not sustainable. Structurally, the site is also caught in "no man's (persons) land". Either it is a private for profit company or it should be a co-op. The decision to solicit donations was to me the point where things went sideways. I know for me, if I am donating regularly, I expect to have some say in the way things are run. I would rather there be a fee to be a posting member which I can either pay or not. If cortex is the decision maker, and he is and should be as he owns the place, then he needs to say that. One thing I found from experience is that people would prefer a fast "no" than a slow "yes". This place is full of slow yeses.

    The site economics are always in crisis or a step away. Having run several businesses I think cortex does a great job keeping the place afloat. Having to worry about how you are going to make payroll next week or next month is incredibly hard to live with. You become Red Adair putting out fires and never really have a chance to think big picture much less to execute long term ideas and goals. The owner, in this case cortex has the responsibility to feed their own family AND the knowledge that he is keeping his employees in food and housing if he can meet payroll. That is a lot of pressure.

    From what I understand, most of the suggestions on changes to the platform or changes the entire back end actually are good or reasonable suggestions that would benefit most and not hurt many if any. But, they cost money. I do not know enough about costs of infrastructure, but migrating to a new back-end platform has to cost at least $200,000 (?). It is not free. From reading this update and previous ones, it does not appear as if the site has that kind of money to spend. Hopefully, I am wrong.

    So, I think cortex should focus his efforts on the people. I think he needs to decide what the site is, should be and/or will be. He needs to pick a direction and if that angers some, so be it. They can leave and find another space that fits their needs. It has already happened with a lot of the bro culture. It has happened with a lot of the politically conservative that used to frequent the site. If cortex decides that the site should have say a progressive culture, say it and let the ones who want that to stay and the ones who don't leave. Same for if he wants this place to be capitalistic or socialistic. Pick one and let the community decide if this is still the place for them. Same for any choice.

    When you are defensive about finances and are forced to try to please everyone, you often end up pleasing no one.

    Peace and much love to all.
    posted by AugustWest at 9:28 PM on February 17 [19 favorites]


    The decision to solicit donations was to me the point where things went sideways. I know for me, if I am donating regularly, I expect to have some say in the way things are run.

    I’d actually be curious to know, not that there’s an easy way to do so, how common this view of site donations is. For my part, I’ve never viewed donating to keep a site running in this fashion. It’s a donation, not the purchase of a share.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 9:41 PM on February 17 [26 favorites]


    Do the mods just keep reading these threads? You can't possibly be paid enough.

    Anyway, my one complaint is that I continue to think that wiping all of a user's posts and comments is harmful to the site as a whole. I understand that people have a wide range of reasons to request such a thing and I'm not saying it should never be done, but deleting posts also deletes all the comments associated with that post which seems pretty unfair. For every comment that's a lame one line joke, there's a comment that's deep, heartfelt and that someone has put a lot of effort into. I see the value in wiping someone's comments if they feel they need to have personal things removed, but I rarely see a post with specific personal details in the post itself.

    That said, it's probably pretty rare but for whatever it's worth I'm not sure the damage to the site is worth it.
    posted by GuyZero at 10:15 PM on February 17 [9 favorites]


    Do you value the content of the site over the physical safety of actual humans? Because that's what you're expressing to members who ask for a wipe. People who are being stalked, harassed, abused, shouldn't have to just throw up their hands and be like "well somebody left some valuable content for other strangers on this website, so I guess I'll let my abuser be able to find me."
    posted by Mizu at 10:21 PM on February 17 [13 favorites]


    Do you value the content of the site over the physical safety of actual humans?

    I'll assume this is rhetorical because certainly I did not express anywhere near this sentiment.

    Allow me to quote myself:

    "I see the value in wiping someone's comments"

    So, for comments, clearly not.

    "I'm not saying it should never be done"

    I am absolutely not mandating any sort of absolute one-size-fits-all policy!

    "I rarely see a post with specific personal details in the post itself."

    I do not feel that posts themselves contain information that leads to people being "stalked, harassed, abused." Posts could be anonymized and have the poster's name removed from them if their profile was wiped. That would balance the needs of the account holder and the commenters well in my opinion.

    Finally, allow me to reiterate that this is just my opinion. Certainly site policy isn't going to change overnight just because I, a random user, has an opinion on how it should be run.
    posted by GuyZero at 10:31 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]


    I looked at rewriting Metafilter to a modern platform as a personal project. It wouldn’t be hard if you’re willing to accept some things won’t be the same. I went through documenting things on the sites and seeing what the content migration plus rewrite would take. There’s a thousand minor quirks, it’d be hard to determine what’s working and what’s a bug. Someone would just need to decide and move on, and it would probably destroy the site or fundamentally change it.

    Open sourcing is a lot of work. I don’t know how it’d lead to transparency, there’s nothing in the code that’s Metafilter specific. Maybe 20+ years ago but not now. Even Reddit isn’t that difficult of a site to replicate except scaling issues.

    I think some modernization is in order. The $5 signups feel antiquated and making a post is harder than it should be. Doesn’t need a rewrite.

    Users interact with the site in different ways. I don’t think short comments are bad for example. I just learned to accept people are different.
    posted by geoff. at 10:35 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


    I haven't read every word in this thread but I have read a bunch of them. Without going into specifics, I'm just coming off what amounts to a significant life changing event. Nothing terribly damaging but definitely profound and yeah, deadly serious.

    Which has me feeling weirdly disconnected from the various expressions of frustration, despair, anger, resignation that many are sharing here. I mean, I get it. I don't think anyone here's faking it. In fact I only really completely disagree with one comment in the thread: the one about Metatalk being where we come to be unkind to each other (or words to that effect).

    What we're trying to do here is figure out how to keep this place working. Because, I assume, we can all see value in that. Because we've experienced value from Metafilter in the past (in my case as recently as earlier today) and don't want that to end. We've learned from it, laughed with it, made unique connections.

    "If you're not at least slightly confused most of the time, you're doing it wrong." Something a poet friend posted to Facebook yesterday and I laughed. And then there's a Bob Dylan lyric I heard a few days ago. "The night is always darkest right before the dawn." Just a throwaway really in the context of the song, but it landed right for me. It's stuck with me.

    We (the big We, not just Metafilter, the whole damned world) are working through a load of turmoil of late. Blame Trump, blame the GOP, blame Qanon, blame Covid-19, blame NASCAR, blame the banks, blame the neighbours, blame the weatherman, blame Canada (that's where the current f***ing freeze is coming from), blame me (I'm Canadian). Or maybe just concentrate on your breathing. Because the night will end. And the confusion -- well, that's what poets are for, I guess.

    Maybe these Metas need more poets.
    posted by philip-random at 10:37 PM on February 17 [9 favorites]


    What we're trying to do here is figure out how to keep this place working. Because, I assume, we can all see value in that. Because we've experienced value from Metafilter in the past (in my case as recently as earlier today) and don't want that to end. We've learned from it, laughed with it, made unique connections.

    I agree very much with this and wanted to post and say thanks for summing up how I feel as well. I should have included a comment like yours in my post. I like this place which is why I came back, and I hope MeFi can keep on existing.
    posted by wuwei at 10:48 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]


    Metafilter needs it's own constitutional convention/citizen's assembly, really. Break down the problem into specific issues and have separate discussions about them, maybe with "expert" testimony up front, and some way of building and coming to a consensus on what to do. Then a stage of bringing it all together.

    Discussion like that in this thread doesn't really move the place forward too much. It's too messy, too frustrated from the lack of other venting outlets and without a clear purpose.
    posted by knapah at 12:37 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


    I keep coming back to metafilter because it tries to get a broad audience to talk about a broad set of topics, and getting both of these at the same time turns out to be really hard. If I accepted a narrow audience, I could probably read hacker news or something, which... I don't know... would probably feel like a daily dose of high fives with my bros or something (hello fellow kids!). Conversely, if I accepted a narrow set of topics, I could probably just hunker down in a few different subreddits, and just accept that the redditor "superlefty404" who I like might have some deep seated racism which never comes up, and that my own deeply problematic views are going unchecked.

    Reading metafilter is a lot harder though. There are no subreddits... not even subthreads. It's all just us in a (web) room. Most social media doesn't work this way because it wants you to be part of it, and it gives you mechanisms to turn down the friction. You (and the algorithms) turn a bunch of knobs until your engagement is maximized for whatever levels of outrage and cat pictures work best for you.

    I'll be the first to admit that as a white man I'm insulated from a lot of the pain that metafilter can cause people, and it's clear it has to change and adapt. Maybe metafilter is a bad idea or a relic of the past, and the reality of online discourse is that there needs to be a complex set of mechanisms that protect people from each other. I still like to hope though that just being a community can (mostly) be enough. That by following some guiding principles, we can work out our differences, learn, and keep hanging out. If there are other places online that work like this without all of metafilter's problems, please let me know, because I'm not aware of it.
    posted by Alex404 at 12:53 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


    I've had a sleep and I'm still annoyed at how dismissive some of these comments are. "Armchair product management" in response to a long comment about how crucial accessibility features still haven't arrived; repeated attempts to shut down conversation, as if we have so many opportunities on Metatalk to discuss or vent. I should know better than to try and make suggestions. Keep doing what you're doing, everyone.
    posted by adrianhon at 1:36 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


    I think that Metafilter is a weird honey pot that draws all kinds of ignorant white folks who "just want to have a conversation" and don't realize how much their "asking questions" is harmful. I think it is somehow baked into the very identity of this site in a way I don't fully understand and can only barely articulate.

    I sort of said this above but I feel like that kind of interaction comes out of the basically split identity of the site. Is it - I’m not actually trying to be damning with this comparison, it’s hard to capture exactly the ways in which MeFi is better than most of the sites like this - a better-read Hacker News? Is it a wide ranging argue-about-politics site where one can expect things to be a little rough but mostly respectful? Is it explicitly centered on social justice and/or diverse personal experience on a level where people should know better than to ask stupid questions?

    I’m serious in my previous comment asking people to consider what a thriving modern Metafilter would look like and what kind of users it would have to attract and what it would have to offer to attract those users.
    posted by atoxyl at 2:09 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


    Trying to pull together some threads from different parts of this discussion - is it worth considering setting up something like a technical advisory/working group. There is a lot of expertise in the community in building and managing software and it feels to me like this could be tapped in a way that would (a) expand the group of people that understand the codebase and the backlog (b) start to turn some of the good suggestions in this thread into practical proposals.
    In particular I think its worth exploring if there can be a process to submit PRs for review to fix specific site issues and to look at the technical issues involved in a site migration and whether that's feasible.

    I realise that the technical issues are not the whole story here by any means, but improvements on this side could help manage the frustrations of people who want to see changes that the current team can't turn around quickly enough.
    I also appreciate that setting up such a group is not a trivial endeavour. I'd certainly consider devoting some time to helping if there was something in place but there'd need to be a drive from site management to get it up and running.
    posted by crocomancer at 2:13 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    I lay awake tonight thinking about what I wrote above and realized I had gotten it wrong: the writer was not André Gide but rather André Malraux and the word Adult was not what he wrote:
    Malraux once asked a parish priest who had listened to confessions for half a century what he had learned about mankind. On the first page of his 1968 Anti-Memoirs, the French writer recorded the priest’s reply: “First of all people are much more unhappy than one thinks…and then the fundamental fact is that there is no such thing as a grown up person.”
    That corrected, I stand by the rest of my comment.

    And for a fact, I came to that conclusion after crossing swords with another member over something silly they once said and then after clicking their name and reading their comments, regretted ever writing a word to them. Because they came across as a living human being.

    As someone once wrote:
    How can we ever change if we don't examine ourselves, our role in causing harm, and consider the impact of what we say and do to others beyond ourselves?
    With that sentiment, I wholeheartedly agree.
    posted by y2karl at 2:40 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


    I don’t think tech can solve the urgent issues of the site.

    Inclusivity is important and I think it is mostly a moderation thing. The training and BIPOC advisory board seem like positive steps. I think these issues will be improved mostly via moderation. Maybe there are some changes in style, like moderators pushing back against inadvertent microagressions without deleting the comments to help people understand without putting the burden on LBGTQ or BIPOC members. I feel like moderation was how Jessamyn changed the site, and I don’t think technology was involved. I don’t think this is easy, but I don’t really see an alternative fix.

    The shrinking participation problem is not really a tech problem either. And I don’t know that everyone considers it a problem. But there are certainly things that could be tried without changing the technology and a lot of these were discussed in recent years, like removing the signup fee.

    Tech is important, and the site has to keep running. But tech is a tool, and I don’t think it is the tool that will actually solve the biggest issues, so maybe it is more of a distraction than anything else.
    posted by snofoam at 3:20 AM on February 18 [7 favorites]


    For sure, I don't think "tech" (by which I personally mean, "fixing things people have been complaining about for years") is going solve all of Metafilter's problems. Sadly, it doesn't need to be either-or. It just comes across as a symptom of a lack of change.
    posted by adrianhon at 3:38 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    Spitballing blue-sky ideas about moving Metafilter to a new tech stack is a fun exercise that ignores the fact that it'll never happen. Mefi doesn't have the resources to do anything like that and more importantly has very obviously shown zero interest in doing anything like that. Through his lack of verbalizing any vision for the future of the site, cortex has made it pretty clear that he's cool with the site just stumbling on with less and less engagement until its eventual fade out in a few years.
    posted by octothorpe at 4:10 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


    I don't remember pb hearing from so many people that his job was actually quite easy and his time estimates are bad.
    posted by michaelh at 5:58 AM on February 18 [17 favorites]


    Metafilter needs it's own constitutional convention/citizen's assembly

    A sort of Collaborative Media Foundation perhaps?
    posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:26 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    One thing I found from experience is that people would prefer a fast "no" than a slow "yes". This place is full of slow yeses.

    With the additional amplifying wrinkle that intended-as slow yeses can very easily slide into being perceived as slow noes--which of course upset people far more than fast noes do. The ease of that perception is further amplified when trust has been damaged. Even aside from the occasional stressed/burnout snappishness in responses, it's even further easy to perceive nonpology But That's Not Our Intent in them (even if and when, to get even more...meta...that really isn't the intent!), furthering the uglier cycles.

    death valley compound's comment up yonder about how declared metatalk policy processes have fallen by the wayside is a good thing to return some light to, I think. I can see exactly how something like that falls--essentially daily minutes-taking is tedious, and the very act of bullet-point summarizing and tracking has its own pitfalls and potential misperceptions built right in (Why Is X a Bullet Point But Not Y Are You Memory Holing Y is a routine lots of 'professional' folks know, which is why you can make lots of white-collar types twitch and whimper in their sleep by whispering 'meeting minutes' to them). But especially because of the heated (poor understatement carries a lot sometimes; sorry, understatement) context that triggered those declared process changes, them fading away again is exactly that kind of slow-yes-easy-to-see-as-slow-no situation.
    posted by Drastic at 7:23 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


    I don't remember pb hearing from so many people that his job was actually quite easy and his time estimates are bad.

    I don't want to speak for other people but the sense I get from the thread is that to complete the fixes and improvements that will make the site better on a schedule that reduces peoples frustrations is more work than one developer working alone can do. Perhaps that’s reading to some people as criticism of frimble not being productive enough but I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention.

    In the spirit of trying to offer positivity I’m happy to say that personally I think frimble is doing a great job and my comment is about asking if there are ways the community can help provide extra development capacity to help.
    posted by crocomancer at 8:03 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


    I think cortex should focus his efforts on the people. I think he needs to decide what the site is, should be and/or will be. He needs to pick a direction and if that angers some, so be it. They can leave and find another space that fits their needs. ...Pick one and let the community decide if this is still the place for them.

    What if that has already happened?

    What if we are watching it happen right now?
    posted by Miko at 8:57 AM on February 18 [23 favorites]


    It has been happening.

    If you look at any number of the metatalks from last year there are a number of similar contentious threads that follow the same patterns as this one - minorities expressing a concern about something that occurred recently on the site that could have been resolved through 1) a change in modding/leadership behavior, 2) a backend technology change, 3) generally more thoughtful and reflective behavior from other mefites when engaging on potentially sensitive subjects. Some mods are much better at responding to this thoughtfully than others, but their engagement is very limited.

    Those metatalks are inevitably filled with a mix of a long several hundred posts of that usually sees (among other patterns)
    1) opportunity for significantly better site leadership engagement that demonstrates application the reflection and fruits of previous initiatives (e.g. YK Hong+BIPOC board+Hiring non-white mods)
    2) people unaffected by the concerns coming in and calling them dramatic or completely misinterpreting their concerns,
    3) people unaffected by the concerns stating that these people should be happy because look how much work has been done by this progressive site, so shut up or if you don't like it leave because the rest of us are fine,
    4) people buttoning/account wiping or stating how tired they are of trying to make this place better because dealing with 1-2-3 is exhausting and 2-3 aren't modded or checked,
    5) people bemoaning that valued members buttoned, and
    6) nothing meaningfully changing in the aftermath.

    We're on the backend of that now. This is the first metatalk I've seen that has a lot more posts reflecting on what's been lost rather than what we could potentially lose if we keep dithering around on the issue raised. This is also the first metatalk that I've seen with posts noting that trying to make the place more hospitable to minority and marginalized people should be deemphasized entirely because somehow it takes away from other upgrades to the site.

    As I said in my earlier post - I think a lot of people that have tried have left. The void from their lack of voices is noticeable, the drop in engagement on the site in general is measurable. While for some members of mefi this is considered a good thing, I do not think cortex or anyone else from site leadership would say this is what they wanted for the site's future, but I also do not see the urgency to create the site culture that prevents it from happening. I don't claim that all of the departures are entirely attributable to the issues around D&I, but I know it's certainly contributing to my decreased engagement and other former minority mefites I know.
    posted by Karaage at 11:50 AM on February 18 [20 favorites]


    It IS already happening, although I believe some folks are just drifting away because an online community is just not a priority in their lives any longer.
    posted by all about eevee at 11:51 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


    If you had told the me from ten years ago that this online community would not be a priority in my life today -- especially after a year of lockdown with nothing else to do and no real obligations -- I would think something catastrophic had happened here. It saddens me to think that in a slow, everyday way, it has.

    I found myself at several points over the last year thinking about an alternate timeline where MeFi had been my refuge, like it had been for so many years before. There'd be those long, punny threads, new injokes and funny phrases, endless posts on the blue to wade through and loads of online meetups, any night of the week! And we'd laugh about how IRL came to mean the opposite and whether we should temporarily rename it until this pandemic part is over.

    I keep going back to this word Welsh word hiraeth.

    Anyways, this doesn't help or add anything really, I just wanted to share some thoughts. Everyone really does need a hug.
    posted by iamkimiam at 2:43 PM on February 18 [44 favorites]


    Users have always been leaving all the time for a variety of reasons; most users don't read Metatalk. The existential problem is that new users are not coming to replace them; Metafilter has not been a hit with the youth for a decade or more. I feel like I've made a variation of this comment a half-dozen times before, but I'm now 38 and still feel like I'm in like the youngest 25% of people around here.
    posted by Kwine at 4:16 PM on February 18 [11 favorites]


    Kwine - re declining numbers, I've been mulling that point over too - I wonder if some kind of 'invite a friend' event might work in some way. I am (still) telling people about this site and always mean to send links etc and then of course don't get round to it because life gets in the way. Could we have an 'invite a pal month' to maybe add some impetus to that? Maybe drop the sign-up fee for a short period (but not publicise that elsewhere?)

    iamkimiam - that's a lovely word, and your comment made me really see what we are missing, and feel a bit sadder still than I already did about all this. If you find the portal to that timeline, let us know.
    posted by Chairboy at 4:27 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    I like the invite a friend idea that can bypass the signup fee.
    posted by one4themoment at 5:29 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


    Declining numbers should really be the top question addressed, or certainly one of the top ones. I think fundamentally there's a lot of reasons:

    1. Little differentiation between us and a subreddit. A lot of casual users will see this and think it is just a non-threaded subreddit. What's compelling?

    2. Site has a dated look and feel.

    3. Site besides being hard to use is very intimidating. Try posting a new link and there's a wall of text and a hard to use form. There's also a giant FAQ.

    4. Site doesn't work well on mobile.

    Add all those up together and it is hard to find a compelling reason to join Metafilter from a new user perspective. It is self-feeding as less new users means less content. I don't know if there's a good answer without fundamentally changing Metafilter. I don't think we need to get new users just to get new users but at a certain point users fade away -- not always for dramatic reasons, most just have life happen -- and they need to be replaced by the same kind of high quality users that left.

    A lot of my complaints, especially how it is dated have been around for 10 years. People used newsgroups for a very long time before they became obsolete, so Metafilter is going to go for awhile.

    Would love to see fresh new users who are excited about contributing. I totally understand there's not enough time or money, but if reddit can make it work there's no reason we can't.
    posted by geoff. at 5:35 PM on February 18 [7 favorites]


    I like the invite a friend idea that can bypass the signup fee.

    I mentioned it up thread, and it feels like a low hanging fruit. We don't have to tackle all the problems I mention at once.
    posted by geoff. at 5:36 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    There's already been a decision to scrap the sign-up fee for everyone. Why it's not been implemented yet, I don't know. I've always felt that was a no-brainer.
    posted by kickingtheground at 6:16 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


    When you go to sign up, it tells you if you want to have the fee waived, to e-mail us (with instructions as to how). We kept that little bit of friction in to make it harder for spammers, who always send very obvious e-mails like "Hello, Fellow Kids, please let me post commercial spam to your website for free, Thanks!" Longer-term we've discussed cleaning up the interface, making options clearer, and/or having a little "write three sentences about your favorite book here" thing like some FB groups do (or something).

    But yeah, we'll generally waive the fee for any real human who wants it waived, usually in under ten minutes. If you have friends you want to invite, tell them to just say "hey, mefi, so-and-so told me to sign up and ask for a fee waiver!"
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:24 PM on February 18 [8 favorites]


    Ok great. If they're really concerned about spam there's a lot of identity services that take care of signup and login for you, like Okta, that didn't exist in 1999. Moving users to Okta won't be trivial but it probably won't be hard if the $5 fee isn't simply removing a landing page.
    posted by geoff. at 6:26 PM on February 18


    (Also if you have someone you'd like to invite and that bit of friction where they DON'T go to the paypal but instead e-mail us is too stressful or confusing, hit the contact form and we can work one-on-one with you to bypass it for your friend/invitee! We don't have an automated way to do that yet -- obviously -- but we're happy to help by hand.)
    posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:26 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


    Add all those up together and it is hard to find a compelling reason to join Metafilter from a new user perspective. It is self-feeding as less new users means less content. I don't know if there's a good answer without fundamentally changing Metafilter. I don't think we need to get new users just to get new users but at a certain point users fade away -- not always for dramatic reasons, most just have life happen -- and they need to be replaced by the same kind of high quality users that left.

    This seems like a key sticking point to me. I love this place, but when I look at "Ok, how would I sell this to the people I know well enough to attempt to sell it to?" I have a hard time with it.

    "Hey, it's a general-topic forum like the old days. Yeah, it still has issues with racism. And sexism. And transphobia. But less than those other forums (which have either died or which you wouldn't touch with a 6-ft pole anyways), if that helps. But it's still probably going to be the worst on those fronts that I'm trying to suggest you tolerate based on where I know you're already hanging out. But the people are really neat! And there's moderation, paid!"

    Which sounds like I'm selling this place short, but that's where it currently is in the spectrum of internet hangouts I could pull people from; most tolerably-retrograde spot on the 'net. Not that I'd say to take my narrow social cross-section as indicative of everything, of course. But I think there's ultimately a question of
    "Who are we trying to attract, what's our pitch, who are we competing against, & what are we missing which is a dealbreaker for them?"
    posted by CrystalDave at 7:19 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]

    When you go to sign up, it tells you if you want to have the fee waived, to e-mail us[...]
    Right, I'm aware that the fee is waivable. That's not what I'm talking about though - and not what I understood cortex to be talking about either in the comment I linked. I think there are likely plenty of people who are deterred by the fee even though they could very easily afford it and have no objective barrier to paying it, but simply find it weird or off-putting - and many of those people would be great members.

    The problem I'm pointing at isn't that there are lots of people who can't afford $5. The problem also isn't that we have a lot of people signing up who turn out to be maladapted. The problem is precisely that we want new members and aren't getting enough of them, and therefore should be thinking actively about how to lower barriers to entry. If you want more people on the dance floor, you get rid of the cover charge.

    MeFi simply does not have a spam problem in any meaningful way. I've repeatedly gone many months here without seeing a single clear-cut case of spamming. Citing that as a justification to keeping up sign-up barriers is outright bizarre.
    posted by kickingtheground at 7:40 PM on February 18 [10 favorites]


    If you want more people on the dance floor, you get rid of the cover charge.

    Not a bad idea. Remember when folks were selling mefi accounts...I had an offer of 200$ and that's alot of dancehall silver.
    Sign up fee does feel like dance card required. As for a barrier, to what? I think any coordinated member drive should eliminate the fee and put in a donation suggest. Alot of folks say the older members have gone. Dunno, but the last month or so I've seen quite a few folks, folks I missed.
    Ship of Thesus and The SS Jonas Frisen .
    posted by clavdivs at 8:57 PM on February 18


    oddly, if someone wanted to get a gauge of mefi decline, check the mug and t-shirt sales. But that is a proprietary matter.
    But if revenue needs bolstering, then you need to make or sell something. Patrons, ad sales are the big two. An undercurrent to this thread is the fundimential question of what metafilter makes and there's not a lot of change concerning form, make posts. Then of course, all the other sites-projects, music, ask, fanfare. oddles. Even a cool store. To off set, how many folks joined just or primarily for askmetafilter (rhetorical). That's a quite a few new members and revenue just on Ask.
    It's a thing. Ask anything and your going to get an answer in all likelihood. Digresse to like 2002 and I said there are enough folks here to form an intelligence agency. You know, answer things not the other stuff.
    ok. but I'll through it out there and there are a whole lot of minor problems, but sell, sell things and mefi gets a cut being the medium between two points of sale.
    Books, ephemeral items, antiques.
    If enough is sold, then people may come. I realize the sentiment from the office is a slow no, like Joan Didion said about Hollywood. But set up a viewing room or what not. I have 750$ worth of nice books and autographs. The competition wants 1050$ for similar items like my Jacque Pepin autographed book in pristine condition. I have 7 copies of Child's, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, can't find those to easy unless new, well a good reader for 17$ and not those paperback ones. Do it slow and with nice items. There enough folk around to help with appraisal etc. Mefi liability would be limited as it would function like an auction house.
    posted by clavdivs at 10:26 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


    I have some ideas for reducing the load a bit.

    1. Site "Bank holidays". Publish that, for the next six months to a year, the MeFi and AskMefi (and others as appropriate) front pages and commenting needs to go read-only for a specific day-of-week/24 hr period every 1-2 weeks to allow staff to catch-up, meet, improve the site, etc. The content and ads remain readable.

    (Having mostly returned to lurking after 4 years of miserably failing to fit in here :-) , I know I'd really like to have a day without new material so I can catch up reading.)

    1a. On those days, maybe repost a couple old archived FPPs/comment pages in their original glory to keep the site looking fresh without needing further moderation.

    1b. Maybe occasionaly pick one "Bank Holiday" to solicit donations, e.g. "Please donate; as soon as we meet our donation goal for today, we'll reopen the site ahead of schedule."

    2. Slow down the moderation load by throttling publication of FPPs to, say one every hour on MeFi and one every 15 mins. on AskMe. Or whatever seems reasonable. I for one don't feel MeFi owes me immediate access to be published on one of its front pages.
    posted by zaixfeep at 12:38 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


    On Reddit, the Reddit I see is mostly parenting forums. Community is hard to build- I don't recognise names like I do here, and there is just a flood of new questions, slightly similar to the ones yesterday or last week, and I answer pretty much the same way over and over again. It's a very poor cousin to Ask. The discussion one I'm in is also similarly serious- it's the mix of serious and fun that makes mefi tick, I think. But of course it's a tough balance.
    posted by freethefeet at 4:51 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]


    The social / antisocial behaviour discussion will be ongoing until we arrive at the land of Unicorns and Kittens.

    That is really an extremely dismissive way of discussing the concerns people have about site behavior and moderation.
    posted by Miko at 7:14 AM on February 19 [15 favorites]


    The current conversation around getting more users here is exactly why I recommended that figuring out what the priority of the site is needs to be step one. It's what I mean by people having asks that are in tension. If we haven't figured out how to meaningfully address the social issues on the site, adding an influx of new users is only going to make that worse. And if the moderation model currently in place is unable to meet the needs of the community, as is arguably happening already, how can we pretend that will scale to a larger user base? In the current model, we need a larger user base just to actually afford the mods we have now. But the mods we have now are insufficient to meet the needs of the current user base. The more users, the more we amplify the issues in our current dynamic.

    If we grow the site again without first dealing with our shit, that's choosing business over community. And that's a legitimate choice, although it wouldn't be mine. But I'm not sure it's a choice we could recover from. My gut tells me that would be losing the one thing that might differentiate us for short term gains that probably wouldn't be sustainable.

    Do we need to fix the business model? Of course. But not until we figure out what our business is. Just my opinion, of course. One voice of many. No more important than any other, which is exactly as it should be, in my opinion.
    posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:37 AM on February 19 [14 favorites]


    I flagged your comment, adamvasco.
    That you reduce the transphobia and bigotry that members of this community have been pointing out for years as "antisocial behaviour" and slag it off with that bullshit unicorns and kittens dig is nasty enough. But then you don't even bother using the correct pronouns when you refer to the site's "paid technician."
    Don't tell me what the "genuine concern" of users of this site is. I sure know what my concern is.
    posted by chococat at 7:39 AM on February 19 [22 favorites]


    As per some of the discussion, the lack of a vision or mission statement or whatever you want to call it (however hokey it sounds) is a big part of the problem. If Metafilter is to be, basically, a hangout for Web 1.0 refugees, then it makes sense to put the code base into a kind of maintenance mode and ease it into a controlled descent. If it's going to be a thriving and growing new community, then obviously it needs some modernization features to at least make it comparable with current forum/discussion software.

    (I remember a company I worked for was convinced their custom-rolled CMS was the greatest thing since sliced bread until I showed the CEO that WordPress could do things our tech team swore was nearly impossible like "WYSIWYG editing" and "built-in basic image editing." We were nominatively a content company but they were obsessed with the idea that we were going to develop this amazing CMS and sell it for revenue without having basic features you could get for free elsewhere).

    This also extends to moderation and the rules of the site and, again, that's where a lot of the contradictions come from. We frequently have topics about the push and pull between the "This is where I post links to advance the liberal/leftist political project that are Important And Must Be Discussed" and "This is where I come to find discussion about weird and/or interesting internet stuff" crowd.

    If this is going to be a leftist political space, okay, but it's kind of silly to not permit a political thread and keep a lid on political threads (even if they are terrible and a lot of work) if it's going to be a space for Advancing The Escutcheon. (And I don't have numbers for it, but I suspect breaking things out that explicitly will necessarily cut down the general interest userbase).

    If it's going to be a "safe space" but permit general discussion topics, that's also okay, but I think we can see in the many (many) threads on this topic that there's still work to be done.

    From a user acquisition perspective, an entry fee, 500 words of guidelines (more if I follow the links and read up), and then waiting periods and posting requirements is a lot to deal with. It may be that the community has decided it's worth it to require new people to read up on microaggressions and racism before even creating an account, which is fair, but the trade off is going to be a lot fewer new people signing up and posting because that's a lot of work to post on a website. Sorry if that makes me a homophobe. Again. But it conflicts with the goals of "a thriving community with lots of new users," if that is the goal. But if it's nurturing and protecting the existing community, that makes sense, but then the existing efforts to do that need to be more of a priority.

    But right now my takeaway from the thread about why people don't make FPPs, for example, is the response to "We don't want to make new threads because the community can be kinda mean about it" is "Oh don't be afraid to make new threads! We love new threads! But also we should get to be vicious if it's bad! Or if we just don't like it!" Which isn't exactly motivating to long-time users, much less someone serving out their week before they can even post.
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:16 AM on February 19 [28 favorites]


    Frimble's profile
    posted by mecran01 at 8:22 AM on February 19


    [One comment removed, a couple replies left. adamvasco, (a) frimble's pronouns are they/them, fucking get it right, and (b) being a dismissive jerk about other people's priorities is not a good way to make an argument in general. You in theory know better than this and choose to lean toward assholery sometimes anyway; you need to cut that out.]
    posted by cortex (staff) at 8:39 AM on February 19 [11 favorites]


    One of the things that’s confusing me in this thread is the intermittent suggestion of migrating to modern discussion forum software. Discussion forum software existed when MeFi started, too; it didn’t go that route at the time, opting for a group blog format instead. That’s a different beast, and the form contains important elements of what made MeFi MeFi, I’d think? If you look at something like Discourse, which keeps being mentioned, you don’t get informative or clever FPP opens: you just get a list of post titles. Maybe that’s what a majority of Mefites want now, I don’t know. But it goes back to something I suggested earlier: the choice of platform isn’t agnostic re: the form of community.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 8:56 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


    There are a couple of levels to the issue of technical improvement, no? Delivering the privacy features etc. that have been promised ties into to the issue of the site being slow to respond to concerns of marginalized users. This may have something to do with technical debt, which may have to do with the age of the software.

    I think look/feel concerns are largely a red herring. Is Hacker News a “modern” website, stylistically? Even reddit, though it has become slicker in the last couple years, is pretty minimalistic. I can think of features that would be nice to have, to streamline formatting text or following discussion. But this seems like a situation where we should know our strengths and the niche we fit in, instead of trying to compete in the wrong game.
    posted by atoxyl at 9:10 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


    If it's going to be a thriving and growing new community, then obviously it needs some modernization features to at least make it comparable with current forum/discussion software.

    Ghostride The Whip's comment is fantastic and deserves to be highlighted. But I can't easily do that. There is no quote button. Being able to highlight that sentence and click a button that brings me down here to the comment box and italicizes my highlighted fragment and creates a hyperlink to the original comment would be amazing. Yes, I can accomplish that with the copy/paste/italicize --> scroll back up to their comment, copy the proper spelling of their name, come down here, paste it, maybe make it bold --> scroll back up, copy the timelink of the comment, come down here, create a link process but oof.

    Even just a reply button that zips me to the end (you all don't want threaded convos, okay) and automatically pops in their username hyperlinked to their comment would be LOVELY.

    Yes, there are extensions/scripts/greasemonkey extensions to do all of that for me, but that is also a lot to ask of someone brand new to the site. We took their $5, and now they have to download some stuff to make the site function like an out-of-the-box forum site from 10 years ago. And if they're on a mobile device...sorry. And if their work computer doesn't let them install extensions, that's one less chunk of their day that they'll participate here.

    And heaven help them if they try to reply by preceding a username by using the @ sign before it. I've seen members be snippy toward people who use that simple convention that is accepted on most major social media platforms.

    Easily quoting/replying others is an good way to build community and make the site more welcoming to new users and all-around nicer to use for those of us who are still here.
    posted by kimberussell at 9:13 AM on February 19 [23 favorites]


    @bixfrankonis: Metafilter has a lot of unique characteristics - some of them, including its front page presentation, could be implemented through existing plugins or other customisations, but others may be harder to create. But there are costs to keeping the site as it is, lacking essential features people have been asking for for a while, not to mention new features and improvements. There's no perfect answer, just trade-offs.
    posted by adrianhon at 9:15 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


    Whereas I’ve seen tons of people, from all over the spectrum, leave over basically cultural issues. Some of that was probably inevitable, there’s not a lot of appetite for a big big tent from anybody these days. But as I said I think it would help to have a vision of what the crowd in the tent might look like in the best case.

    And as already discussed the new user pitch is currently basically “it costs five bucks and it’s smaller than it used to be and you’ll probably get yelled at.”

    There is no quote button.

    Haha this is the biggest thing i was thinking when I said I can think of a few usability enhancements that would be nice.
    posted by atoxyl at 9:24 AM on February 19 [12 favorites]


    Also - how is Ask doing these days? I’ve never been a heavy user of it, but it’s my impression that for a time it was the killer feature of the site, since none of the other sites that do that are much good, really. I know it was hit by Google ranking changes some years back?
    posted by atoxyl at 9:28 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]


    And heaven help them if they try to reply by preceding a username by using the @ sign before it. I've seen members be snippy toward people who use that simple convention that is accepted on most major social media platforms.

    And as already discussed the new user pitch is currently basically “it costs five bucks and it’s smaller than it used to be and you’ll probably get yelled at.”

    Yep. Selling, in the PR sense, the site to prospective new members is...fraught. The site is a platform design relic, but that's not really the fraughtness that even a surprise migration to Whizbang Geegaw Current Hotness 3.0 tomorrow would address. The community is small, and its appearance to new users is insular. And sure, it's a nice neighborhood; parts of it are even great and beautiful neighborhood (have you seen the park, my god, it's like a postcard!), but the HOA, what the blasphemy-of-choice? Always going on about how much better than any other burb it is, how vitally important the baroque and mostly unstated rules about the exact allowable paint schemes and yard decorations are to the very soul of the neighborhood.

    And the thing about anyone who might move in is, they're typically not exploding the bridges to anywhere else they've lived. They still know people over there, wherever that 'over there' is; they've got people they've connected with, helped out and been helped out by. How easily the new place falls into talking about how everywhere else is a stinking cesspool, oh god how could you even stand it there?! is a dynamic that does attracting and retaining new folks no favors whatsoever.
    posted by Drastic at 9:41 AM on February 19 [24 favorites]


    I feel like dropping the $5 requirement would send the signal that there isn't enough of value here anymore. In the same way that an online video game will become free-to-play towards the end of its life as a way to drum up a bit more interest and delay the inevitable shut down by a bit. Something like an invite codes might be a way of getting new users to come and try the place out: "I got to join for free thanks to my friend. Let me see what all the fuss is about." In the same way that things like Facebook or Gmail needed invites back in the day.
    posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:36 AM on February 19 [19 favorites]


    Seconding any portmanteu about the sign up fee- people treat things (products, services) they paid for with more respect than things which are free. It's the old "left a bicycle in the alley with a 'free' sign on it for a week and no one took it. Put a sign reading '$20' on it and it was stolen the same day" phenomenon. Associating financial details with user names and creating a little friction in the sign up process is a good way of preventing people creating fake/throwaway/sockpuppet accounts for trolling/harassment purposes, and the users who will suffer the most if we loosen things up will be those most vulnerable to harassment due to their race, gender orientation, etc.
    posted by Larry David Syndrome at 11:54 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


    Is there any reason why the mods are still using small text? It’s been noted that this is an accessibility issue — in this very thread — and it’s seemingly ignored as far as I can see. My apologies if I’ve missed the comment addressing this but I think that in itself speaks to the technical limitations and user experience issues, especially in a thread about responsiveness to user needs.
    posted by iamkimiam at 12:05 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


    Some of that was probably inevitable, there’s not a lot of appetite for a big big tent from anybody these days.

    Might as well stand up and be counted; I want a big tent.
    posted by aws17576 at 12:08 PM on February 19 [16 favorites]


    I love zaixfeeps idea of having "read only" holidays. Give yourselves a break. One a month or bi-weekly is great. I also think that major holidays can be closed to comments. If you get to a point where there is a surplus of staff that would be different
    posted by biggreenplant at 12:45 PM on February 19


    Might as well stand up and be counted; I want a big tent.

    I’d like a bigger tent than we’ve got but it’s clearly never going to cover, say, the “whole” political spectrum.
    posted by atoxyl at 12:53 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


    I thought where we landed on small text was no more nested small text. The small tag shrinks comment text down to a size that's in use all over the site. Nesting the tags to make the text even smaller than that is what causes readability issues. I thought, anyway.

    /slight derail
    posted by emelenjr at 12:57 PM on February 19 [4 favorites]


    "read only" holidays

    I don't know. A site that is considered archaic, insular and hostile, and loosing membership and active user engagement in commenting and posts is now turning down the dial even further seems wrong,

    But - OTOH, I don't know.
    posted by rozcakj at 12:59 PM on February 19 [14 favorites]


    Thanks iamkimiam. Hiraeth indeed.
    posted by peacay at 1:56 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


    Somewhat relatedly, does anyone know what's up with the metafilter subreddit? It looks like it automatically scrapes metafilter and reposts popular threads.
    posted by leslietron at 2:15 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


    I thought where we landed on small text was no more nested small text.

    That's the policy decision we've made. We'll be discussing what to do with "mod voice" comments at the staff meeting this weekend. Most of the feedback we've gotten from users with visual disabilities has indicated this has not an issue for them, so if it IS an issue for you, please drop us a note via the contact form which will help us determine how to move forward.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:32 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


    Mefi as it is clearly has a limited remaining lifespan. That’s not because of alienating users or technical problems. It’s an old site from the long-gone heyday of blogs and internet memes that is trying to go on when the next generations have all gone to social media. I regret it, but if there’s any way for it to survive long term it would involve becoming something radically different, which in a way is as bad as closing. Better to relax and enjoy the senile years as much as possible, I think (my personal motto anyway).
    posted by Phanx at 2:53 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


    I don't see why MeFi's pitch can't still be "a blog any member can post to" and "a Q&A site for any kind of question." And maybe now also "a TV forum kind of like TWoP used to be." If none of that's compelling anymore, well, it's the children who are wrong.
    posted by michaelh at 3:07 PM on February 19 [22 favorites]


    I'd be very much sad if Metafilter faded away over the next few years. But to be stoic about it -- everything is born, lives and dies.

    We are dust, and to dust we shall return.

    What I'd be really disappointed angered by is if it happened not because Mefites gradually moved on, found other spaces, whatever, but rather if it happened because we weren't able to put in the work to be an inclusive community, to determine a firm identity and community purpose: and as a result continued to bleed members.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 4:21 PM on February 19 [7 favorites]


    It’s an old site from the long-gone heyday of blogs and internet memes that is trying to go on when the next generations have all gone to social media.

    I grew up in a young city. The village that preceded it had pretty much burned to the ground less than hundred years before my birth and it was as if you could still feel the trauma of all that hanging over things. Nothing lasted. A building that was forty years old was OLD. And it continues to this day. Whenever I go back, end up visiting a neighborhood I haven't seen in a few decades, it's not a radically changed cityscape that surprises me, it's a block or two where nothing dramatic has happened. Businesses may have changed names, houses may have changed hands ... but the buildings remain and thus, to some degree, the character of the place, the meaning of it. Which is good, very good.

    I wonder if this may be the way of Metafilter. To not do anything profoundly radical in order to survive and/or keep up with the Major Players, but rather to just sustain and maintain, obviously with changes, people coming and going, adjustments in code and whatnot (infrastructure must always be upgraded one way or another). And eventually in time, this conservation will come to be valued, will offer value.
    posted by philip-random at 4:26 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


    It’s an old site from the long-gone heyday of blogs and internet memes that is trying to go on when the next generations have all gone to social media.

    The semi-irony of this for me is that I specifically came back to MeFi when I quit social media in order to have a place to post and read with other people that wasn’t a cognitive/attention suck.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 4:42 PM on February 19 [23 favorites]


    It’s an old site from the long-gone heyday of blogs and internet memes that is trying to go on when the next generations have all gone to social media.

    I’ve seen a lot of nostalgia from late 20s to mid-30s folks about 00s web fora, actually.
    posted by atoxyl at 5:20 PM on February 19 [10 favorites]


    I don't see why MeFi's pitch can't still be "a blog any member can post to"

    Well, sure, except you can’t actually blog about just anything. Some links are simply out of bounds of political and social acceptability. Some links will get deleted because they are just reposting news for people to react to. Some links won’t get deleted but the other users will tell you they’re dumb. Some links the mods will remove proactively, even if they are of high quality, on the basis that the topic is something people have a history of getting into fights about!

    None of that is necessarily bad - I mean I have my opinions about what “rules” should be applied more or less stringently but I assume we all do - but it represents implicit and explicit ideas about what the site is for and who it is for.
    posted by atoxyl at 5:32 PM on February 19 [11 favorites]


    Logging back in for a second to express my surprise at the fact that, after nearly 300 comments, no one’s even come close to articulating the fundamental dynamic underlying the drop off in user participation. There is one, and it’s not really that hard to see: it’s that moderation here has as its most basic goal the minimization of discomfort. Not only does this result in a vibe that must be the closest possible online analog of a Thanksgiving spent with Boston Brahmin, but it also leads to an alienating fauxgressivism wherein anyone who engages in the mortal sin of getting a little mad about something that affects their life gets their shit deleted post-haste, and it also privileges people who excel at saying truly awful shit in a nominally “civil” way. I think that that last factor is a big one, alongside this place’s enduring sub rosa hostility to anything outside of the umbrella of middle-class whiteness: a lot of the most prominent voices here now are smug technocrat wannabes who honed their voices in the politics megathreads, who seem to have skirted the “no taking all comers” guideline by just posting more, and with whom no sensible human being wants to spend their leisure time conversing. I don’t think there’s any coming back from that, unfortunately, and for my part I’ve just come to terms with the fact that there’s nothing fulfilling about being here anymore. I wish it were otherwise.
    posted by invitapriore at 9:00 PM on February 19 [52 favorites]


    On a related point: I continue to think the site badly needs employees who aren’t moderators. The site needs leadership that does not view its task as directly intervening in conversation but rather creating possibilities for conversation. Instead now all the mods involved just think about what is and is not ok to say. Not a healthy way to build community.
    posted by crazy with stars at 11:18 PM on February 19 [10 favorites]


    I always read these threads feeling like I have a very different experience of Metafilter than others. I spend most of my time on the green because I like the interesting slice of life I get to encounter, and enjoy answering questions. I find the moderation on there works really well with the purpose of that part of the site. If you read through old asks, particularly from more than a decade ago, you can see that the answerers have become more inclusive and diverse over time. I feel confident that this trajectory will continue.
    posted by plonkee at 1:09 AM on February 20 [18 favorites]


    Here's a good example of a very recent discussion on r/sneerclub on how people outside of Mefi perceive this site, for better and for worse, e.g.:
    "Extremely online gen-Xers"

    "web 1.0 era link aggregator, or maybe 1.5 era. part of the OG group along with slashdot and kuro5hin and fark, they probably predate digg."

    "1. A pretty good (and old) discussion forum.
    2. Another victim of Google
    3. All of the above."
    posted by adrianhon at 4:06 AM on February 20 [8 favorites]


    Not only does this result in a vibe that must be the closest possible online analog of a Thanksgiving spent with Boston Brahmin, but it also leads to an alienating fauxgressivism wherein anyone who engages in the mortal sin of getting a little mad about something that affects their life gets their shit deleted post-haste, and it also privileges people who excel at saying truly awful shit in a nominally “civil” way.

    This really nail it. There's such a "don't get into a political argument with your racist uncle and ruin this day for everyone" energy to the moderation here. "Everybody be nice and don't start anything."
    posted by octothorpe at 4:45 AM on February 20 [13 favorites]


    I'd like to add my support to a quote feature, especially one that worked on mobile. Not knowing anything about programing for mobile (or anything, really, so please, point and laugh, I'm used to it), on mobile, like something where, when you tap on the link to the post time, it says, "hey you want to post a quote?" Especially if there was some functionality where the quote text (and link) could be edited in the comment box (to avoid being forced to quote post the whole thing).

    possibly with a paper clip.

    Something like that, again, especially on mobile, would be a huge help. I try to link when I quote or respond, but it isn't easy to do on mobile. As a reader, I find myself seeing someone respond to another user, then end up trying to scroll back to find it, but often can't. I honestly think this would help to clarify what's being said by Poster B in response to Poster A. Undoubtedly, there'd be some fucking around with it at first, but I imagine people would get used to it, and move past that pretty quickly.
    posted by Ghidorah at 5:12 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


    . Not only does this result in a vibe that must be the closest possible online analog of a Thanksgiving spent with Boston Brahmin

    are the hors d'oeuvres and sherry any good? i mean it's important.
    posted by lalochezia at 5:35 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    when did silent deletions become the norm in metatalk threads?
    posted by Beware of the leopard at 8:42 AM on February 20 [3 favorites]


    when did silent deletions become the norm in metatalk threads?
    When you hold Cortex's feet to the fire.
    Contributing since Matt first asked. I have now ceased my donations. This present owner is burning it to the ground and doesn't need my funding to buy more gasoline.
    posted by adamvasco at 8:51 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    Building a community means building in ways to deal with disagreement. The old fighty MetaFilter favored the shoutiest voices. I don't think we want to go back to that. But there's definitely something to the perception that "let's all play nice" doesn't cut it either. It drives away people who have legitimate concerns when they are tired of being constantly tone policed.

    I think 2020-21 is a hard time to build community with people who are just names on a screen. We're trying to rebuild a plane in midair, building community, fixing problems, trying to come to consensus, recruiting new members, all at once despite broken contingencies. It doesn't feel like it's working very well, but it's not like there's a "One Easy Fix" we can do.

    I do think that if the intent is for MeFi to be a broad-interest "online community" rather than a gussied-up message board, private ownership is going to be a barrier. People can't build a home that somebody else can revoke. There's a lot of talk above about Discords that are thriving intersectional spaces, but they are focused on narrow interests. The only focus here is on the place itself, which can lead to navel gazing and beanplating (which we both deride and celebrate). It's a hard task, but it can only be done by enlisting the membership to give more. Current leadership seems to care more about holding onto control. I suppose technically that's cortex's right, and community leadership could flame out equally badly.
    posted by rikschell at 9:47 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


    This present owner is burning it to the ground and doesn't need my funding to buy more gasoline.

    wow. I’ll pick up this persons share, just let me know how much that is.

    I guess I’m a “technocrat” now. I’ve always wanted to be one, because they get to go to Mars and shit.

    I just checked the front page of metafilter, and it seems to be working.

    I remember when some folks here went all batshit after one of the mods, I felt so bad for that mod, and I didn’t say anything. I feel bad about that.

    I guess if we have anything, we have the fact that as a social media we haven’t ever fomented insurrection, or made a place comfortable for nazi shitbags.

    if it ain’t perfect, I apologize on behalf of everybody that doesn’t. We try here, and I don’t see that anywhere else.

    so, yeah, tell me what the subscription rate is and I’ll subscribe. $5 a month is cheaper than netflix and I would gladly pay.

    I love metafilter and all that I’ve learned here.
    posted by valkane at 9:53 AM on February 20 [13 favorites]


    when did silent deletions become the norm in metatalk threads?

    Heya, I'm not even the one on duty, but someone mentioned this to me, so: continuing to be a specific sort of jerk after a mod has previously told you to stop it is in fact a good way to get your comments deleted by the mods without further apology or explanation. adamvasco knows this very well, it's not even his dozenth rodeo. Want to make a stand about how not being allowed to be a jerk means you won't contribute to MetaFilter, that's fine: I would rather have people not be a jerk on MetaFilter and not contribute funding to MetaFilter than to think that contributing to the site entitles them to be a jerk here.

    I'd go so far as to say that's pretty explicitly a core ethos of the site, and anyone under the impression that the point of contributing to this site's existence is to buy their right to make this place crappier is absolutely invited and requested to take their contributions and go elsewhere.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 9:58 AM on February 20 [35 favorites]


    I guess if we have anything, we have the fact that as a social media we haven’t ever fomented insurrection, or made a place comfortable for nazi shitbags.

    If that's the bar you're setting, then... sure, Metafilter gets a pat on the back there.

    I expect, want, believe better for this site, not because I hate it but precisely because I love it.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:59 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    Mmm. On second thought, I apologize for my tone there. I stand by what I said but... look, I'm frustrated. I don't know what else to say than what I've already said in this thread: we need a constructive discussion about what Metafilter wants to be and how we can move toward transparent, democratic, inclusive and equitable decision-making structures.

    Otherwise all of us -- cortex, mods, Mefites alike -- will continue to run in circles and burn out and snap at each other.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 10:09 AM on February 20 [6 favorites]


    I guess I should say this more loudly, but cortex has never been called on the carpet in front of Congress. To me, that’s a good thing.
    posted by valkane at 10:24 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


    Metafilter needs it's own constitutional convention/citizen's assembly

    And the comment (joking) above about the MF Sovereign Wealth Fund...

    The sad thing is, that Sovereign Wealth Fund actually does exist! The amount of people over the years that have begged the owner to do valuable free work, it is a testament to how much people care about the place as a community. And if there were a drive to make this place a non-profit, I am most certain that there are substantial reserves of $$$ that would be donated to make that happen, even to establish a sizable endowment.

    Too many of the problems here are directly related to the tension between an owner running a business and holding all of the power, and a (dwindling) community beating at the door to be included in the process of saving this friggin' place we love.

    As to appeal, I think "original buggy whips factory" or "Web 1.0 refuge" can actually be a pretty sexy and hot thing if we just manage to market it right. This is like artisanal soap, still in business since soap became a thing, or Original Heirloom varieties still being lovingly harvested when the whole world has gone GMO... that shit has value man!
    posted by Meatbomb at 10:30 AM on February 20 [13 favorites]


    Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and similar old skool tech giants know what MF is and could easily keep it alive forever in the right circumstances.
    posted by Meatbomb at 10:34 AM on February 20


    One thing that rn started, which I hope would continue, was including a summary of the points, issues, ideas, and grievances raised in MetaTalks, then laying out responses, next steps, and (re)affirming expectations. I realize that takes a fair bit of work to comb through discussions like this, but perhaps people could volunteer to provide the summaries to the mod team, so at least that step is one less thing for them to do.

    Because these threads hit the same topics, over and over, and there are some changes and modifications, but some things come up, year after year.

    I know the scheduled site updates are closed to comments because they produce the same type of feedback, as well as the infighting that leads to extra moderation needed and people buttoning, but that hasn't happened this time (except for the part where a former MeFite was discussed, which has since been deleted). I also know the idea was that people could request specific MetaTalk threads on focused items from the routine updates for more focused discussions, but it looks like those have rarely happened since the closed updates were started.

    To that, I think quarterly open discussions might be helpful, with the inclusion of summaries of discussions, and probably more importantly, a more narrowed focus to ask the community: "what do you think about items x, y, and z?" I realize open MeTas, especially if only offered quarterly, will likely spin into other areas, but starting with a focus could help get feedback and discussions, if that's what is desired with open threads.

    I think those topics should generally exclude technical discussions, because as seen in a number of prior threads, people can get very invested in ideas, and there's really only one person who can implement them at this time, and frimble has limited hours to work on patches, fixes, and routine maintenance, let alone join free-form discussions where people thrown out ideas and even share code.
    posted by filthy light thief at 10:48 AM on February 20 [4 favorites]


    Well, the solution is definitely not to turn this place over to white male colonizers like Musk, who wants to destroy the Earth as quickly as possible and then go do the same to the moon. If people here don't understand that technocrats are the problem and not the solution, this is definitely not the right community for me or really for anybody who cares about inclusion or care.

    The problem with Metafilter stems all the way back to its origins. The internet was not built for anyone but the type of people who made it (e.g., white cis libertarian-leaning/neoliberally-inclined men from western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic nations). In order for this place (or anywhere online) to actually be inclusive we will need to literally dismantle it -- take it apart and then put it back together with an entirely different model and logic. This will not happen, so we are just going to watch this place die. We've been watching it die for a long time, and further decline is fairly inevitable at this point. Sorry to be such a pessimist, but no one here seems to have the imagination to think of anything but doubling down on the problem and making it worse. Elon Musk owning Metafilter? Thankfully I don't think he would be interested, but we do realize that his vision for the world is completely at odds with taking care of other human beings, yes? It's at odds with anything but a colonial, extractive, privileged mindset. If we were to dismantle and rebuild this place it would need to be truly collective, which has its own set of management problems, but it's been clear for over 5 (or maybe 10?) years now that what we are doing here is not working.

    Finally, it is just beyond demoralizing to see people lauding comments in this thread that literally contain utterly dismissive phrases like "sorry if that makes me a homophobe" while deriding one of the efforts that's been formally made towards changing the tenor of this place. People on this site have made it more than clear over and over that, for example, trans people are not welcome here. So eventually we leave and try again somewhere else, which is the story of being trans on the internet. It is beyond exhausting. I really wish this place had been able to do better, but the problem is baked in at such a fundamental level, in both our social interactions and the technological affordances that this site provides, that I don't know that it can be fixed without completely removing this site from the internet and rebuilding something in its place. Unfortunately, a lot of the people who have been here the longest don't want that (funny how some of them only pop up in these threads on the gray only to assert the techno-quo; I rarely see them anywhere else on the site), and the reason they've been here the longest is that they have always been welcome on the internet because was literally designed for them by people like them.

    I don't know if this comment is actually helpful, because I'm so pessimistic at this point, and because I don't really know any places that do this any better. This is probably still the best place on the web for someone like me, even though every time I'm here it's clear that I don't belong. So, like many other people, I will probably just continue to sponge up the bullshit and try to ignore it as best as possible. Flag it and move on, you know? Funny how that saying, which has been with us for as long as I can remember (and I've been here almost 20 years now somehow), really is a core logic of this site. I wish that the overriding logic of this place was everybody needs a hug, because that translates to a model of care that could potentially be radical. Radical care is actually a worthwhile paradigm to pursue for any community (offline or on). And there was a glimmer of time where I think this place did actually center care, especially on the green, but the epistemic of any community cannot be embodied by only one of its moderators/leaders. I don't think that care is actually a core ethic here, even though I (and many others) were able to pretend it was, for quite a long while. It is too bad.
    posted by k8lin at 11:20 AM on February 20 [26 favorites]


    I don't know if this comment is actually helpful

    As someone who was around here in the early 00s then drifted away only to come back during the pandemic, its helpful to me (as are others of similar nature).
    posted by bixfrankonis at 11:36 AM on February 20


    One thing that rn started, which I hope would continue, was including a summary of the points, issues, ideas, and grievances raised in MetaTalks

    Seconded
    posted by one4themoment at 11:40 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


    Elon Musk owning Metafilter?

    Sorry as I was not clear there, what I meant was that if MF went to a co-op / non profit model, there are many rich old white men from Web 1.0 tech who I think could throw what to them is pocket change at such an idea. No. of course I would not suggest we sell this to Elon Musk... sorry for the derail!
    posted by Meatbomb at 11:43 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    I like this site for a lot of reasons. I also hope (and expect) that it will continue to improve, within the constraints of being a creation of a small number of fallible humans yelled at by a larger number of fallible humans during Stressful Times. This seems like a more unhinged metatalk thread than usual.
    As a show of support, I decided to create a new FPP with an amazing site that maybe people don't know about... only to be very nicely informed by the Metafilter Post Creation Robot that it has already been done. Reader, I favorited it.
    So if all of you can derail this conversation with plans to sell the site to Elon Musk (yes you were kidding, no I wasn't sure about that until you said that clearly, the internet being what it is) then I can derail it with my new favorite post from 2015: ICU Nurse, Blogger
    posted by Vatnesine at 12:49 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


    k8lin, one thing I've noticed since coming back (deactivated in 2016, came back a few months ago) is that the tone of the site seems better now than it was. I haven't seen some of the extremely bad faith neoliberal types around.
    posted by wuwei at 1:03 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


    If people here don't understand that technocrats are the problem and not the solution

    we do realize that his vision for the world is completely at odds with taking care of other human beings, yes


    I don't think holding particular political viewpoints about prominent technical leaders should be a prerequisite for membership in this site. I disagree that holding a Two Minutes Hate each day against Elon Musk or any other individual helps the site become more inclusive, welcoming, or diverse.
    posted by saeculorum at 1:41 PM on February 20 [10 favorites]


    Finally, it is just beyond demoralizing to see people lauding comments in this thread that literally contain utterly dismissive phrases like "sorry if that makes me a homophobe" while deriding one of the efforts that's been formally made towards changing the tenor of this place.

    Yes. That comment also acts like treating people with respect only benefits current users when it benefits future users of the site as well.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 1:42 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


    People are asking moderators to summarize these 300+ threads in addition to their updates?! This is why nothing seems to get done. I don't think the answer to Metafilter is more managerial oversight.
    posted by geoff. at 1:53 PM on February 20 [2 favorites]


    For people who say the site looks old-fashioned: what would look more current, to you? I like the simplicity here, not just because it's been my Internet home for so long and I'm used to it but because I can read it without getting a migraine.

    Sites with pop-ups, images, columns of text, moving images, etc are not necessarily friendly to all brains. I'm not saying MeFi should stay like this forever if there's some good reason to change how it looks, but if you're advocating a change just for the sake of looking up-to-date please keep in mind that some of us do better with a simple layout. (And then please stop using small text.)
    posted by The corpse in the library at 1:55 PM on February 20 [18 favorites]


    People are asking moderators to summarize these 300+ threads in addition to their updates?! This is why nothing seems to get done. I don't think the answer to Metafilter is more managerial oversight.

    The point (at least to me) is that in the long run it is much less work to actually come up with a list of actionable items to do and topics/issues that need to be discussed further, and then to push those things further. Just like any other organization with projects.

    I take the mods at their word that they do draw things from these threads and put them on lists -- and there have been pushes to do the kind of transparent priorities lists with timeframes and stuff, staff committed to do that last summer and it's sort of happened. But it just needs to be a priority that staff are transparent about what they've committed to doing, what they're thinking through still or trying to figure out how to do well, and so on.

    Otherwise we have the same damn thread every few months, which is draining for everyone.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 2:03 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


    People are asking moderators to summarize these 300+ threads in addition to their updates?

    Well, this was how things were supposed to work. So yes, when something gets announced that sets some expectations.

    As I mentioned previously, these changes came out of some very fraught discussions around the concerns trans and non-binary people had about this site, with the aim of increased transparency and accountability.

    Seeing it dropped quietly with no discussion around how those goals could be furthered otherwise is one of the things that seriously impacts trust in the direction and priorities of the site, at least for me.

    I'd welcome that discussion, but the lack of any substantive response when it's been raised before doesn't leave me with much hope.
    posted by death valley compound at 2:13 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


    For look and feel I can’t speak for others but I guess I meant general usability of the site. Like I’d like post links to Twitter and what not and have the AMP or OG tags utilized (with option to remove it). But I read elsewhere there’s strong opinions about even using these tags because of their association with Google or Facebook. Also things like character limits are ok for posts but the feedback is frustrating. See how Stack Overflow turns text red when you’re over the limit. These are all minor things that add up. Keep in mind people are used to a single line text field like Facebook or Twitter, not an HTML block of text.

    I bet you could make a list of a hundred things to make better and you’d have strong opinions either way. I just know engagement values and numbers and I’m saying what gets people engaged. I know quality is important too but Metafilter already has a framework for enforcing quality, that’s not a technological solution.
    posted by geoff. at 2:37 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    Possible Strategies for Saving Metafilter:

    Create individual sub domains for each user that are populated by the “main” site, but moderated by each individual user. Users can view their personal sub domain, or various other options. For example, a user could browse a version that averages moderation done by their metafilter contacts or other curated “experiences” made through custom blending of individual moderation. Blending is represented by blurriness of content from normal to completely unreadable.

    Halt all new posting on the site. Repost all previous posts in chronological order from the beginning at the same time intervals as they were originally posted. When reposted, each post will be reopened to comments and moderation. As each post is fixed, it can be closed again. Once the entire site has been updated and corrected, new posting can resume. Or, the site, now finished, can be closed.

    Close the website and restart metafilter as a print zine. The editorial staff and contributors to the zine will be all members of the former website. Editions will come out once a month and be approximately 900 pages long. Ideally, at least one of us works at a Kinko’s.

    Create AI user accounts based on the posts and comments of all existing human users, as well as AI moderators based on the site documentation and database of previous mod activity. Once implemented, cease all human interaction with the site.

    These are just a few ideas. I know none of them would be easy to implement. But really, what is the alternative?
    posted by snofoam at 3:36 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


    Right?
    posted by tivalasvegas at 3:51 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    geoff.: " Like I’d like post links to Twitter and what not and have the AMP or OG tags utilized (with option to remove it)."

    I'm just gonna publicly say hell no, there is no way MF needs to jump aboard any of the social media flavor-of-the-week tech bandwagons.
    We've been around since before facebook, twitter and their brethren.
    I fully expect us to be around after they're mildly amusing punchlines to aging remember-gen-z memes.
    posted by signal at 3:56 PM on February 20 [8 favorites]


    Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful clear blue sky winter day and I listened to the latest MetaFilter Podcast and thought about this meta as I walked to meet a friend and fellow Mefite outdoors. And, I just about greeted them with "I know how to fix MetaFilter!" I won't get into that now, or probably ever, but I mentioned something from the podcast. You know, it's pretty good. Too rambly for some people's taste. It would be hard to find a pod that is more inside baseball than MeFiPod, but if you are reading this far down the metatalk, shoe fits.

    The point is, Cortex and jessamyn don't talk too much about the site management etc. but when they do, it is good. Better than these metatalk posts. Instead of, "Frimble's time is limited" as some kind of privacy protecting fig leaf, they describe frimble's situation (In not too much detail. I won't repeat it here. You have to go listen.) but in a very human and sympathetic way that I think most of us would hear and go, "OK, I get it."

    They also very frankly discuss a certain lack of efficiency sometimes from Cortex. It's normal. It's two friends talking. Hell, jessamyn prefaces the efficiency discussion with "You know I love you."

    I don't want to yuck the yum of the podcast. Don't change it. The podcast should not become site updates or state of the site. I know MetaFilter is text, and it is counterintuitive, but Cortex, you do a better job of talking about this stuff than writing about it. Maybe it's just that live conversational dynamic or a good interlocutor to draw things out. I think it would be very positive to have a few audio updates. Who are thyme and loup? Let's have them have a chat with rn about what they are doing if they are willing. Cortex, let jessamyn and a couple of regular users discuss the state of the site with you. That would be some user engagement for the next State of the Site.
    posted by Gotanda at 3:57 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


    Tags that give you headlines and maybe a thumbnail image pre-populated have been around for at least 6-7 years. I’d hardly call them flavor of the month.
    posted by geoff. at 4:17 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


    I was that Mefite Gotanda was talking to, and I thought his idea was fantastic. I am profoundly not a podcast listener, but I fully support this. Having a twenty minute chat where things get broken down, how things are going, and discussing the site, it’s issues, and giving us some insight past the text updates would be fantastic. Among other things, it would help to humanize the mods a bit, to help us remember that there’s humans on the other side of the keyboard.

    Some things we talked about, and that popped up in my head:

    •Rotate the presenters (if they’re comfortable with it). Have two mods, Cortex and (special guest mod #1) to start, and then switch around. Have months where Cortex isn’t in it, giving the other mods the task.

    • Have members on. Members who, in these threads, have brought up serious concerns, and give them part of the podcast update (upcast? Poddate?) to talk about an issue they feel is important, and then, in that conversation, discuss what can be done. Obviously, for an update, there would need to be editing for clarity and brevity. Include the guest in the editing process.

    • In months where the advisory board meets, ask a member of the board on to talk about the meeting and what happened. When there is a staff training session with an outside specialist, tell us about it, and what was focused on (if that’s okay)

    • Keep these absolutely separate from the monthly podcast. These should be site updates, notes about what is being done, what progress is being made, and acknowledgment of new issues that have been brought up. It doesn’t have to be grimdark serious, but it should be reflect the topic, and be easy enough to listen to, digest, and discuss.

    I think Gotanda is really on to something. One of the standard things in any of these discussions is people trying to remind everyone “mods are people, too.” I agree with that, without trying to downplay any issues that are being brought up. This would be a fantastic way for members to get to know the mods a little, and for the mods to expand past the (incredibly carefully written, almost antiseptic) updates. As Gotanda said to me, there’s a lot to be said for our text only world here, but hearing the tone of someone’s voice when they’re trying to say something delicate, or that carries deep weight would go a long way to showing us how strongly you mean/feel the things you are saying in these text updates.

    I know you are all incredibly busy, and this would be asking for more of your time, but it might well be something that, in the long run, makes the job of the mods less of a confrontational one, and helps the community get to know each other better. In my mind, I can already think of members who have raised important points I’d like to see as guests on the show. This could be good, folks.
    posted by Ghidorah at 4:22 PM on February 20 [14 favorites]


    Has there ever been a satisfactory answer to the Great DeGoogling which drastically reduced site traffic? Assuming that has not been resolved, could MeFi "pay to play" by purchasing ads or doing paid SEO type things to increase our traffic and improve our ranking? I'm guessing that it wouldn't be financially sustainable to do that continuously, but we could probably do periodic ad buys/paid SEO for short periods. Have a "new member round-up" every now and then as needed. There could be special fund we contribute to financially support the ads/seo. I know that we're fighting the trend of the internet becoming a "walled garden" around the big players (FB, IG, Twitter etc) but it seems that there's SOMETHING we could do on that front.

    The users of this site are a tremendous resource- there are a LOT of smart, interesting people with in depth knowledge about all kinds of arcane topics. The place isn't polluted with overt trolls, nazis, etc. (I'm not saying that there aren't microaggressions and things that I'm oblivious to, but it's so much better than almost any other mixed use online space I've encountered.)

    I think the UX complaints, BIPOC and trans buttoning issues are separate, important issues which need to be addressed, but I don't think they are the primary drivers of the site shrinking. To me, the UX (aside from the safety concerns raised by some users) is fine as it is. It's just like Craigslist. Accept it as it is or maybe MeFi is not for you.
    posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:32 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


    Hey, Ghidorah, thanks for expanding on that and fleshing it out with more specifics. It is more work. I hesitated to ask the advisory board to talk (me, asking for more work to be done) but I agree that it would be an excellent idea. Nuance in the voices can make a big difference on meta things versus discussion of neato web gadgets or the latest outrage.

    And, definitely a completely separate podcast stream. DO not mess up what people already enjoy. Make a separate one just for MetaFilterMetaPod.
    posted by Gotanda at 4:37 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    geoff.: "Tags that give you headlines and maybe a thumbnail image pre-populated have been around for at least 6-7 years. I’d hardly call them flavor of the month."

    I know, I'm a web developer and have implemented them for clients.
    We don't need them, they add nothing of value, except roping you into and making you subservient to the social media giants, which are the opposite of MeFi and are what many (most?) people are on MeFi to avoid.
    posted by signal at 4:57 PM on February 20 [3 favorites]


    You don’t need any social media giants to use a set of well-defined metatags. But I guess the hatred here of social giants trumps anything useful they bring no matter how banal.
    posted by geoff. at 5:12 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


    We don't need them, they add nothing of value

    SEO folks would disagree. But if we don't actually want to have search results lead people here, I guess that's fine too.
    posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:57 PM on February 20 [5 favorites]


    Don't look now, but this very webpage you're on is using those kind of meta tags.
    posted by Celsius1414 at 6:25 PM on February 20 [4 favorites]


    I think signal's logic that led to "nothing of value" might have involved motivated reasoning a little bit.
    posted by floam at 7:20 PM on February 20


    Okay, Sure, metatags, podcast changes, and SEO are all interesting to think about and debate the benefits of.

    But have folks taken the time to think about Trans Liberation Now and Black Lives Matter much? The kinda thing where we prioritize community members being treated as equally welcomed and valued? I see a lot of upside.

    I believe prioritizing fighting the oppression of existing site members is a good thing to do and hope others are with me, but of course I'm always curious to know where people who disagree about this are coming from.

    Further, if that's not enough to convince you I can think of three bonus benefits:
    1. I feel like retaining existing members who understand site norms and know how to post and comment is probably beneficial for the site in terms of generating content and drawing in ad revenue. I see existing members as at least as important as new users, who can't contribute as easily and aren't as invested.
    2. I think doing so will help with getting and retaining new users through word of mouth referrals by members.
    3. Since these are issues of culture, policy and governance, not technological hurdles, everyone, members included, can contribute without necessarily placing further burdens on frimble or marginalized folks here.
    What do people think?
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 8:14 PM on February 20 [11 favorites]


    So many thoughts...

    I feel like I'm watching every open source project I've ever been front-and-center for as a UX designer: Everyone has a voice, everyone has a solution, but no one can agree on the problem they're trying to solve, and worse still, because everyones' problems aren't being solved, everyone is mad. It's a tragedy of too many stakeholders.

    MeFi culture needs to change if it does want to be friendly and safe to LGBTQIA and non-white folx. The change isn't happening fast enough, and it's constrained by the low resources. The comparison to a church is very apt: I've watched churches deal with conflicting cultures and communication types, a need for fast change colliding with slow moving bureaucracy, and some sort of magical thinking that if they get the right people in the pews the problems will magically disappear.

    I don't look at MeTa threads as necessarily bad -- they are the raw opinions of people who don't trust one another to act in good faith. I think "assume good intent" is a bullshit answer to this, but I'm honestly wondering how we start rebuilding trust. I think the leadership is trying hard to do this, and given the constraints and the high expectations and the baggage of cultural and code history, they should be lauded. I also believe, and agree with others here, that much more should be done, and the leadership must be held accountable to do those things. These threads are all of us trying to figure out how both those things could be true given how frustrated we all are.

    I know I'm speaking from a cishet white-presenting male perspective, and I acknowledge the lenses of privilege I'm viewing this situation through. What I do know is that it's a long, long road out of cishet white privilege you have to walk when the very structure of things is built to make you comfortable. And it's not just for the leadership -- it's for the entire MeFi culture to walk out of. At some point maybe the steps on the walk will mean the trust gets (re)built.

    Culture change is difficult. There's just no way around it. And like poor churches, there's a constant tension over the little shreds of time and money available to walk away from the comfort of inertia. I greatly appreciate those who keep pushing against that inertia; I hope that someday soon we see the benefits for all MeFites, especially for gender-nonconforming and BIPOC MeFites.

    ETA:
    I believe prioritizing fighting the oppression of existing site members is a good thing to do and hope others are with me, but of course I'm always curious to know where people who disagree about this are coming from.

    I agree with this, and I also want us to acknowledge this is a years-long crisis that has reduced trust and burned people out. We can agree we must prioritize fighting oppression; are we ready to put our energy behind it given the burnout and frustration we're all showing?
    posted by dw at 8:31 PM on February 20 [16 favorites]


    I'm always curious to know where people who disagree about this are coming from

    Chrysopoeia, without wanting to distract from the discussion here, while I can't speak to some of the other points you raised, the idea of putting voices to the words, and trying to include members in the podcast, giving people a direct chance to discuss issues with mods, that was very much with an idea towards giving BIPOC and LGTBQ+ users a platform. I think there are very few people this far into a thread that's developed into a discussion about the site and its failings and shortcomings with regards to those member that don't agree with you. Honestly, I don't think that people talking about concrete ways to attempt to bridge the divide between what we have now and what would be better for members are in any way disagreeing with you, and I think it's pretty unjustified paint people advocating for changes or trying to find a way forward as not in favor of "prioritizing fighting the oppression of existing site members." I don't think a single person still here in this thread disagrees with that goal. When you say "have folks taken the time to think about Trans Liberation Now and Black Lives Matter much?", it feels like you're ignoring that there are a whole bunch of us here because that's the goal, because that's the thing we're thinking about.

    There is a lot going on in this thread, and a lot for people to process. The usage data that was posted, at least for me, sucked all of the oxygen out of the room and made me stop and seriously wonder how we can keep going.I don't think I'm alone in that, and yes, people are trying to figure out a lot of different things. To claim that anyone not writing about exactly the thing that you are saying, in the words that you are saying, is disagreeing with you is, I think, profoundly unfair. Commitment to and prioritizing those goals are why I'm still here, and I imagine most everyone still reading and commenting here.
    posted by Ghidorah at 5:04 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


    Not only does this result in a vibe that must be the closest possible online analog of a Thanksgiving spent with Boston Brahmin, but it also leads to an alienating fauxgressivism wherein anyone who engages in the mortal sin of getting a little mad about something that affects their life gets their shit deleted post-haste, and it also privileges people who excel at saying truly awful shit in a nominally “civil” way.

    I really agree with this. Metafilter often reminds me of my conservative, male-dominated workplace where it's fine for straight cis white men to say bigoted things with a veneer of civility, but women, LGBTQ people, and PoC are given disciplinary sanctions for pointing out the bigotry.

    Honestly, I don't think that people talking about concrete ways to attempt to bridge the divide between what we have now and what would be better for members are in any way disagreeing with you, and I think it's pretty unjustified paint people advocating for changes or trying to find a way forward as not in favor of "prioritizing fighting the oppression of existing site members." I don't think a single person still here in this thread disagrees with that goal.

    This is an example of this dynamic. There are comments in this thread saying that the site has worked so hard on diversity and these inconvenient minorities are still complaining and obviously they will never be happy so why bother. I guess you're relying on "still here in this thread" to handwave the hostility away.
    posted by medusa at 5:48 AM on February 21 [17 favorites]


    Everyone has a voice, everyone has a solution, but no one can agree on the problem they're trying to solve, and worse still, because everyones' problems aren't being solved, everyone is mad. It's a tragedy of too many stakeholders.

    I've also been in a great many situations like this - I bet a lot of us have - and the solution to "too many stakeholders" is leadership. Inclusive, community-centered leadership. In the absence of that and all it implies, we will have a never-ending stalemate of 10,000 ideas and recommendations (at this point, almost of all of which are repetitions of recommendations made going back 5+ years now), and resistance to forward movement from those who control the resources. Inclusive leadership develops a vision - in our need case, a community-centered vision - and establishes a process for deciding which strategies are most likely to achieve it. I think that even if there is a lot of activity that looks like responsiveness (this deck chair looks nice in the sunny patch, and then let's group these three deck chairs around this rubber plant) but in the absence of an inclusive and community-centered philosophy of leadership and a vision for site role, scope, scale, and purpose, I don't think we can achieve the goals people are hoping to advance.
    posted by Miko at 7:10 AM on February 21 [16 favorites]


    I agree. I think MeFi deletion policy on horrible comments backfired. Now an awful thing was scurried away, replies to it are often muffled or deleted, and the community is left without knowing what a certain member said.

    We discussed this in June of last year, where I said, and still feel, on a daily Metafilter basis:
    I am always uneasy when I see a mod note about a "nuclear" style deletion, the kind where the mod note is, strongly, "this is not okay." I'm left feeling happy I didn't see it but kind of sick that I don't know who said something so awful it was immediately deleted, I don't know what what was said, I don't know if the mods had a conversation with them or not, and I can't help worrying I am interacting with that person elsewhere on the site in a positive manner, completely oblivious to their poor behavior or outright racist, sexist, or transphobic comments. I prefer moderation that has "username, that comment is unacceptable" at the root, so those who don't see the comment at least know who said it.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 7:10 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


    I see both primary sides of the deleted comments issue:

    A. Users don't want to be compelled to see bigoted things that others have said.

    B. Users want to know who said bigoted stuff, so that they know who they can feel safe talking to.

    The closest thing to a compromise that I can come up with would be putting them under some type of spoiler text where a user has to actively click to opt in to see them. The pro and con arguments that immediately come to mind for that possible change are:

    Pro: It would take care of B(above). And, if a user has felt that someone dealt with them in a bigoted manner, they would actually have a record of it, instead of it seemingly being swept under the rug.

    Con: If a bigoted comment was directed at a specific user, they might not want it to just be out there permanently.

    I'm sure that there are other options and I'm sure that there are other pros and cons that aren't immediately jumping out at me.

    As much as it's in my nature to advocate for change over stasis, I'm not sure that there is any one new solution that would satisfy all users, or even possibly the majority of users. So, in this case, unless there was a sitewide vote where a majority of users said that they wanted this policy to be changed, I think that keeping things how they are might be the best option. As (pretty much) always, I could be wrong on all or any of this.
    posted by bootlegpop at 7:41 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    That's why I say: delete the offending comment, call the poster out by name, and say WHY it was deleted (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc). No one after has to read the comment, but they will know who said something and what was the content of that statement. What I am advocating answers all your concerns.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 7:54 AM on February 21 [14 favorites]


    I don't think comment deletions are meant to protect people from feeling uncomfortable, I think they're meant to avoid protracted fights. My memory of Metafilter pre-moderation is that many posts would devolve into extended fights between a couple members, which tends to suck all the air out of the room. It's frustrating when you make a post to have a discussion derailed in this way, especially if you have no stake in the fight being had. The structure of Metafilter (at least the blue) means that it's not a good place for a few individuals to "hash it out", even if that's what they need to do.

    I can appreciate that it's a problem though if one user makes comments that hurt a set of others users, to then have those comments erased. At the same time, letting a hurtful comment remain with a mod note saying "this is a bad comment" essentially strikes me as Metafilter making public shaming a form of policy, which I would personally find unacceptable. I don't know how this problem can be solved.
    posted by Alex404 at 7:56 AM on February 21


    I don't think comment deletions are meant to protect people from feeling uncomfortable,

    They absolutely are. Racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, etc comments are deleted here because they are unacceptable and HURT people.

    Public "shaming" is how we let people know here who to trust, and is a way to hold people who make those comments accountable. I feel extremely worried that I am unaware of the worst things said on this site, and by who, because by design, that info is hidden. A public reprimand puts us all on the same page, and I have no idea why that would be a problem in a moderated site.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 8:02 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    That's why I say: delete the offending comment, call the poster out by name, and say WHY it was deleted (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc). No one after has to read the comment, but they will know who said something and what was the content of that statement. What I am advocating answers all your concerns.

    If someone was saying something against a group that I belonged to or even me individually, I would feel less comfortable knowing that something was said without knowing what was said. (Or course, that can also happen with the current deletion policy. Though, I have seen some instances where lengthier mod notes were quite explanatory, and I'm not certain if there is a formal or even informal mod rule about when to just delete and when to clarify.) I may be alone and/or in the minority in that regard. Whether that is the case or not, I would be satisfied with whatever the majority of the people likely to be effected by bigoted comments feel would be best.

    There is obviously more than two sides or ideas, so I apologize if I unintentionally propagated a false dichotomy regarding the issue.
    posted by bootlegpop at 8:27 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    The downsides of much of the toolbox consisting of comment deletion hammers get amplified in a smaller, steadier-or-dwindling community as well. In a larger bustling active population, the occasional crossing-the-line comment getting zapped doesn't register as strongly, but when practically speaking the same relatively low rate of comment-evaporation happens, there's "more" notice of it occurring at the time and after. (An apple getting removed from an entire produce stand, you barely see it. One getting removed from a dozen, leaving an obvious hole in the arrangement? Yep.)

    A small-and-dwindling population over a lengthy period of time amplifies even more. People are naturally left wondering, at some level, whenever their neighbors say things that are...off...but at a Just Civil And Polite Enough level that they stick around (even if a couple people do hit the flag button with a "this is skirting the line" which is by no means guaranteed--see umpty past discussions about people should please flag more as well as the rusty creaky bits of the entire flagging system.) At some level, people will wonder "is that just a really clumsy writing moment...or is this that person deliberately skirting the line they've felt out before?" Trust erodes, charitable interpretations erode with it, tempers fray, etc. Which is part of why microaggressions are so exhausting and toxic to everything and everyone.

    There are upsides to the deletion hammers too, of course. Tools are all about weighing when to properly apply them and for what, and in conjunction with other tools available for the overall project. Comment deletion pros and cons keeps popping up because it's very visible, even more visible as the site's population and activity has reduced, and what's not visible is how it's helping any larger project. (Sometimes it just sort of looks like Calvin doing things to the coffee table.)
    posted by Drastic at 8:47 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    Every deletion is an opportunity to clearly reinforce site standards - an opportunity everyone benefits from.
    posted by Miko at 9:25 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


    That's why I say: delete the offending comment, call the poster out by name, and say WHY it was deleted (racist, sexist, transphobic, etc)

    The problem with that is it flattens the degree of the offense--was it an unintentional microaggression the poster can acknowledge and learn and come back from? Or something just barely short of account-ban worthy?
    posted by Pryde at 9:34 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]


    That's why a mod note is necessary. To let us know the content and context and how stern the response is, accordingly. But I'm not too worried about people being wrongly shamed or whatever anyway - this is how all party to it learn what is acceptable here and what isn't. And the priority should be delineating that and protecting people from hate speech and yes, microaggressions too.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 9:36 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    I strongly prefer either the short perfunctory mod notes we see now OR the ability to opt to see a deleted comment to having mods subjectively summarize the contents.

    We need deletions and the ability to enforce community norms, absolutely, but I also value MetaFilter as a place where we are able to have difficult and uncomfortable discussions in good faith.
    posted by Pryde at 10:05 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    Public "shaming" is how we let people know here who to trust, and is a way to hold people who make those comments accountable. I feel extremely worried that I am unaware of the worst things said on this site, and by who, because by design, that info is hidden. A public reprimand puts us all on the same page, and I have no idea why that would be a problem in a moderated site.

    The last time that came up the answer was that this isn't done because it might not give white people enough slack/room to grow. Just so that we're all on the same page about why people get pissed and leave.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:09 AM on February 21 [11 favorites]


    If deleted comments were visible (at all), I'd be worried about people having "shadow arguments" about deleted comments that result in more deletions. I can imagine myself, at the least, having a temptation to "put in the last word" on a deleted comment, even if my response itself gets deleted.
    posted by saeculorum at 10:41 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


    Each deleted comment gets a dedicated meta thread running off it. Given the often heated nature of meta threads we can expect further deleted comments within it. Each of them gets a meta thread. And so on. You wanted threaded comments? Welcome to the Mycelium!
    It would be easiest to automate this, I suspect, if all input fields were configured to only accept statements in LISP.
    posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:57 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    Public "shaming" is how we let people know here who to trust, and is a way to hold people who make those comments accountable.

    Can we talk about this some more? I spent a lot of my pandemic-induced free time going down the rabbit hole of Brené Brown's work on shame and related issues of vulnerability, connection, etc., and I think these are some really important topics that haven't had nearly enough discussion. For example this podcast episode about shame and accountability has so many relevant points to this MeTa, I don't even know what to pull-quote. I realize probably nobody here is going to stop what they're doing and listen to (or read the transcript of) a 45 minute podcast, but one of the biggest takeaways that prompted me to make this comment is this: "we can’t use shame as a social justice tool because shame kills empathy, and empathy is the foundation of love and justice." Like, if shaming was an effective way to get fragile white people (/men/etc) to change our/their misguided ways, that would be one thing, but all evidence suggests that shame is in fact an incredibly ineffective tool for driving positive change.
    posted by gueneverey at 11:00 AM on February 21 [19 favorites]


    Okay but how is it "shaming" to tell someone what about their comment was unacceptable here? How is that a badge of shame to have what you said explained as not in accordance with what we have going here? Your comment was deleted. You can rise above that, I promise. I do not accept this idea of moderation inducing shame by simply saying, "username, your comment was deleted here because it contained x content, explanation."
    posted by tiny frying pan at 11:05 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    Regarding shame, I'd also recommend Overture's FPP on Broockman and Kalla's research on the subject. Quick pullquote from Broockman: “I think in today’s world, many communities have a call-out culture,” says David Broockman, a UC Berkeley political scientist who has run these experiments with Josh Kalla, a political scientist at Yale University. “Twitter is obviously full of the notion that what we should do is condemn those who disagree with us. What we can now say experimentally, the key to the success of these conversations is doing the exact opposite of that.”
    posted by factory123 at 11:06 AM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    Also relevant, the thread on Loretta Ross' NY Times article about calling people in.
    posted by Pryde at 11:10 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]


    I do not accept this idea of moderation inducing shame by simply saying, "username, your comment was deleted here because it contained x content, explanation."

    One could in fact argue that this is empathy, not shame. Empathy for whatever party the comment might have harmed and empathy for the poster, who is being viewed as capable of change.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 11:32 AM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety" is the definition of shame.
    posted by factory123 at 11:43 AM on February 21


    Okay but how is it "shaming" to tell someone what about their comment was unacceptable here?

    There are shaming ways to send that message, and non-shaming ways to send it. It's more or less the difference between saying "UserX, you are bad" vs. "UserX, the thing you said was bad". I was kind of alarmed by your comment because it seemed to frame shaming as the goal, or as something that must necessarily be linked to accountability. Respectfully calling out someone's comment for racism/etc may have the side-effect of causing the person to feel shame (and working through those feelings and coming out better on the other side has to be on that person to deal with), but using shame as a weapon when calling someone out is just not likely to be productive.
    posted by gueneverey at 11:49 AM on February 21 [8 favorites]


    "What we can now say experimentally, the key to the success of these conversations is doing the exact opposite of that"

    I'm not sure what's the use of bringing up that research here. Yeah, sure, maybe calling out doesn't work if you want to change the mind of someone but is that really the responsibility of Metafilter and its community? I'd feel a lot better if transphobes got outed instead of having their comments vanish into the void just in case they decide to be better some day.
    posted by simmering octagon at 11:56 AM on February 21 [13 favorites]


    I hope we also see some research here into the harmful psychological effects of racist and transphobic behavior, which are well-known.

    using shame as a weapon when calling someone out is just not likely to be productive.

    Why why why do these conversations always end up with someone characterizing the completely civil and reasonable behavior of marginalized people with words used to represent violence? I mean I know why but yeah. Like this is as much a "shaming" comment as anything I've seen in here, why is not that not recognized by someone who is decrying the negative effects of shame?
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:56 AM on February 21 [16 favorites]


    Also "experimentally"...the use of "science" and "reason" as slam-dunk arguments that are meant to shut conversations down when those conversations prioritize the needs of historically-excluded-from-being-perceived-as-rational groups is a whole thing that happens a lot in these conversations. But rarely used to frame the very real mental health (and physical health!) needs of marginalized peoples as serious, actual needs despite the fact that the research is 100% there and has been for a really long time.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:59 AM on February 21 [20 favorites]


    I apologize folks, I really wasn't trying to suggest tiny frying pan or any other specific members in this conversation were "using shame as a weapon in calling someone out", but I think that may be how my last comment came across. I was trying to speak more to the general group going forward. I'm sorry, communication is hard.
    posted by gueneverey at 12:15 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    If only there was a popular book about the downsides of public shaming...
    posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    I am not the one who introduced the word shame. I do not being there is any shame involved or should be involved. I do think it would help users feel better to always have labeled what was said as not for this website because of (stated reason) for the reasons I already stated. Just wanting more of a window into the mod process through mod notes, and also allowing users to know who might be making repeated problematic comments on this site.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 12:16 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    "a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety" is the definition of shame.

    It is pretty much impossible to write a mod note, even one that says nothing more than "USER, the thing you said is not acceptable here" that won't trigger this emotion. The complaint that being told one did something bigoted makes them feel like they're a bigot has gotten a lot of leeway here already, in the same kind of conversations as this one.

    And in the context of this site, there have been multiple threads where users have told the mods that bad-faith offenders know they can get away with bigotry if no one but the mods can remember they have a habit of doing it. In some cases, sweeping their hate under the rug ended up encouraging posters with a history of this behavior to continue to the point of harassing other users or driving them off the site.
    posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 12:16 PM on February 21 [10 favorites]


    One thing I don't see here is any engagement in the conversation from cortex or the moderation team in general. Without that, is there really any point in discussing how moderation could be improved or how MetaFilter could change to have a future that isn't just ongoing decline?

    The silence is the message.
    posted by death valley compound at 12:32 PM on February 21 [5 favorites]


    Yeah, sure, maybe calling out doesn't work if you want to change the mind of someone but is that really the responsibility of Metafilter and its community?

    I think that goes back to what we want MF to be, doesn't it? Is it just some internet forum? Then no, you can't argue against every rando commenter that pops into a site in the hopes it changes their mind. Is it an online community? Then maybe yes, it is worth engaging with other members of the community.

    I don't want us to simply label someone as a transphobe and dismiss them. I would like them to learn why some specific thing they said was transphobic/harmful in some way. That's a better way for MetaFilter to be anti-transphobic, rather than simply "not transphobic".
    posted by Pryde at 12:43 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    I've also been in a great many situations like this - I bet a lot of us have - and the solution to "too many stakeholders" is leadership. Inclusive, community-centered leadership.

    I'm going to push back on this.

    The solution to "too many stakeholders" is leadership... and leadership means sometimes looking at someone and going, "I hear what you're saying, but we're not doing that," knowing full well that someone is likely going to raise hell because the leadership did not use Their Idea and does not care for Their Issue.

    I sat in a design session with 50 stakeholders once. It's hard to handle because so much of what you do as a designer isn't "designing the solution" but "getting everyone to agree what the problem is." And when you're trying to get 50 people to agree to what the problem is, well, it takes time, effort, and a whole lot of storytelling and sketches. All this while you're fighting bikeshedding, ratholes, and That One Person Who Thinks Being The Obstinate Asshole Gives Them Power.

    It's taken me nearly 20 years in tech to be good enough to handle a room of 50 stakeholders without having it spin into a bikeshed. It's taken me that long to learn how to redirect the Obstinate Asshole or the Bikeshedder. And on top of that, you're dealing with all the people who think they can do your job better, people who don't understand that the reason you're in this position and they aren't is because you have 20 years of scars from all the times you thought You Can Do This Better got you mauled by a room of 50 stakeholders.

    Inclusive, community-led leadership starts with a shared story of working together to make the community better given the constraints. No matter what you think of this leadership now, they are at least trying to work from that shared story, even as the constraints loom over their heads. Their biggest struggle is being able to say "no" and accept that people are going to raise hell that they said "no." They're trying to be everything to everyone, and the analysis-paralysis is hurting people in this community.

    If the shared story is wrong, then it's time to propose a new story. But you're in a room with 5000 stakeholders. Make sure you've defined the problem. Make sure you can tell a story to get people to join in embracing the problem. And go from there. All while knowing you will have to redirect, all while people are bikeshedding, all while some insist they can do it better, all while knowing you have to say "no" and have to accept that people will not like it. It requires emotional courage to do so, especially when those 5000 stakeholders are going to publicly second guess you.

    I personally think we're in the right place and have the right story. But the courage to say "no" and accepting the consequences of that decision... that's where leadership lies. And I'm not sure this community is culturally structured to work with that. It doesn't even seem we agree on the shared problem.
    posted by dw at 12:49 PM on February 21 [19 favorites]


    One of the things we've been trying to do more of as a moderation team is listen more than we talk (or modsplain things) and not make promises we can't keep. The former hyperresponsiveness from mods in busy and/or contentious MetaTalks isn't workable as a community engagement strategy and contributes to burnout and an inability to work as a mod team on issues that really matter to users. I know this can be unsatisfying when people have lots of questions.

    When this thread first opened up, Eyebrows and I both spent time in the MeFi Chat room for people who had specific questions that needed answering that maybe didn't need to be in a public forum. I'll be in and out of there today, I work til 9 EST. This thread went up just after the last staff meeting (when cortex was unexpectedly offline for a few days b/c of the ice storm) and we assembled a list of issues raised in this thread that need addressing in the next update. We're thinking of switching to doing site updates after our staff meetings instead of right before them, so we can talk more about what we did and less about what we're hoping to do.

    Right now we have a game plan for fixing some things that are purely tech things (small text, mod-updateable text pages, IRL sidebar for virtual IRLs) and a lot more issues that were raised here to think about and discuss. I agree that leadership is partly talking about what we're not going to do in addition to talking about what we are going to do, and I hope that is a place we can get to.
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:01 PM on February 21 [10 favorites]


    I don't want us to simply label someone as a transphobe and dismiss them. I would like them to learn why some specific thing they said was transphobic/harmful in some way. That's a better way for MetaFilter to be anti-transphobic, rather than simply "not transphobic".

    How delightful it'll be to read the same hurtful arguments over and over again because hey, maybe someone on the internet can convince someone else they are being racist/transphobe/sexist and/or hateful and why that's bad.
    posted by simmering octagon at 1:07 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    Is it an online community? Then maybe yes, it is worth engaging with other members of the community.

    I don't want us to simply label someone as a transphobe and dismiss them. I would like them to learn why some specific thing they said was transphobic/harmful in some way. That's a better way for MetaFilter to be anti-transphobic, rather than simply "not transphobic".


    I don't see how it's possible for someone acting in good faith to know that they need to examine their (hypothetically accidental) bigotry by just removing their comment and saying, well, that's that. On the other side if the coin, if a user is acting in bad faith, disappearing their comments forever actively prevents the community from bringing attention to a pattern of behavior.
    posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 1:10 PM on February 21


    Ghidorah, I asked fair questions. Some people don't think much about supporting what marginalized folks ask for. Some people see fighting oppression as a goal, but not a priority. I can't assume to know exactly where people, including you, stand, but I do know not everyone is standing where I am, seeing what I see, hearing what I say.

    I think you are reading a lot into my questions that aren't there, in ways that center yourself, your feelings and your perceptions. I don't know who is a member of a marginalized group and when they asked to be on the podcast and were denied, but if they need my voice in support, I'll gladly give it. I don't want to go on it myself though, so you aren't speaking for me. Do you know whom you were you speaking for?

    Please read up on what marginalized people say being an ally means, and consider my words. There is much more that I could say, but helping you is not my focus.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 1:58 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


    Just wanting more of a window into the mod process through mod notes, and also allowing users to know who might be making repeated problematic comments on this site.

    Out of curiosity, do moderators have the ability to add internal notes on why a given comment was deleted, either free-form or some sort of categorized list of deletion reasons? I've been wondering if the team at least has some mods-eyes-only way to track who gets deleted for what reasons.

    Relatedly, would anything be gained in the "allowing users to know who might be making repeated problematic comments on this site" arena were user profiles to include a note as to, say, how many of their comments they've had deleted by moderators?

    I can see one potential problem if, say, comments from people typically without power or privilege were being deleted because of tone policing*, in that just listing the number of comments someone had deleted might not reflect the power dynamics of the deletions. I'm mostly just thinking out loud.

    *(I don't know if this happens, because until last year I hadn't really been here for quite awhile, and I am still getting the current lay of the land; it just seemed a relevant potential example.)
    posted by bixfrankonis at 2:01 PM on February 21


    leadership means sometimes looking at someone and going, "I hear what you're saying, but we're not doing that,"

    I agree with you, of course, and without going into a lot of blather about abstract notions of what leadership is (knowing that many of us have our own experiences of complex leadership as well), it is important to recognize that we do not even have that which you suggest. What we have is people who say "I hear what you're saying, and we are kinda maybe thinking about that and yeah recognize we haven't always done the greatest job but we have the best intentions and we're working on it, and we've got a committee and a consultant and yeah, we hear you and we made a list of stuff we're kinda gonna try to get to if we can but we can't and it's hard and we're burnt out and we're out of money, so....here's another non-update update, hang in there!"

    There's still no vision articulated. It would be fine to say "we're not doing X," (whatever X is) and then people can make their choices as to whether they want to stay or go. What's exasperating a lot of folks is the massive values/behavior disconnect that claims to "hear what you're saying" but then doesn't actually act with clarity on any of it. This entity still cannot clearly define what it is, who it is for, or where it is going. Like many, I'm totally fine with someone saying honestly "This is where we're going and it's not for you." Many people are feeling that decision has already been made, and just not shared. Definitiveness and transparency allows people to make choices. As many in this thread have pointed out, MeFi has a fundamental conflict about whether it is a community or a transactional service with top-down management. That conflict has not been resolved at the most fundamental level, so we get the top-down vibe along with professions of community care. It would be an act of leadership either to say "this is a website in which users are not empowered and what I/we say goes," as well as an act of leadership to say "we are designing and moving to a new structure in which community is more empowered." Either one. Any given member will not like those equally, but it will at least clarify intention.

    It just sows distrust, and perhaps even more corrosively, weariness, to profess intentions that just are not lived, and to claim to be listening when no results of the listening are visible.
    posted by Miko at 3:06 PM on February 21 [30 favorites]


    How delightful it'll be to read the same hurtful arguments over and over again because hey, maybe someone on the internet can convince someone else they are being racist/transphobe/sexist and/or hateful and why that's bad.

    So the solution is to hope that someone someplace else will convince them someday? And I actually do trust that it can and does happen on MetaFilter far more often than on, say, Twitter or Reddit.

    (We all have our blindspots, but personally I have actually not been made to feel unwelcome on MetaFilter, even if it's not always "delightful." I acknowledge that other people's experiences are different, but to be clear I'm speaking for myself as someone who is trans--having figured that out as a child in the '80s--and has been "on the internet" since the mid '90s, and on Metafilter since the early '00s, so maybe I just have a lot of scar tissue at this point and none of this has been new or raw for me in some time.)
    posted by Pryde at 4:04 PM on February 21 [6 favorites]


    Bixfrankonis, I'd like some insight into that too.

    I spend a lot of time making myself smaller and quieter here. This was a longer comment, but I don't want to risk it.

    I bite my tongue, in the hopes that the few things I do say are heard.

    Jessamyn, I believe doing site updates on the Monday after, not on Fridays, would be better.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 4:26 PM on February 21 [3 favorites]


    Relatedly, would anything be gained in the "allowing users to know who might be making repeated problematic comments on this site" arena were user profiles to include a note as to, say, how many of their comments they've had deleted by moderators?


    There are also deletions for being off-topic, particularly in political threads. And deletions of comments responding to a deleted comment. I think your intuition about not getting good data from knowing the number of deletions is pretty good. I wouldn’t assume that making problematic comments (in the sense of breaking guidelines promoting inclusivity) is even the primary cause of deletions by volume.
    posted by snofoam at 5:00 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]


    Miko, you articulated that really well. I do see the lack of leadership here as having some similarity to the Unitarian Universalist congregation I use to attend. The minister was a straight white cis man, and while he was theoretically an ally to LGBTQ folx and BIPOC people and issues, his voice was always going to be a straight white cis man voice. His experience was always going to be a straight white cis man experience. He's a nice, friendly guy with good intentions, but he was never going to be the kind of leader to build a transformational kind of community. Cortex is also, by every measure I can reckon, a good dude. But if MetaFilter is going to transition to a community where many voices are promoted and cherished, I don't have confidence in his abilities to lead us through that. (And that's not even touching on the leadership structure itself.) This is no critcism of him as a person. I'm a straight white cis man and I would not try to take on a task like this. I want to listen and boost the voices of people who aren't being heard. I don't really need another online place that's just people like me chatting with each other. MetaFilter is great because it's a place where I can learn and encounter voices I don't hear in other places.
    posted by rikschell at 5:05 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    Agreed, cortex is not the leader for this site.

    He is great, he is the owner, but he is not the leader. No one is. And that is the fundamental problem.
    posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 6:25 PM on February 21


    I wouldn’t assume that making problematic comments (in the sense of breaking guidelines promoting inclusivity) is even the primary cause of deletions by volume.

    Maybe a simple pie chart, denoting deletions-by-type, if such a type tracker can be provided to mods and then hooked into for this.

    (I’m still mostly talking out loud. Admittedly, my own interest in user data like this is as a guy with several privileges who knows for a fact he’s cognitively poor at keeping track of potentially problematic people and so doesn’t know who he might accidentally be reinforcing through mundane conversations simply out of ignorance of a user’s history.)
    posted by bixfrankonis at 6:37 PM on February 21


    There are also deletions for being off-topic, particularly in political threads. And deletions of comments responding to a deleted comment...

    Sometimes. Parts of gone comments often are quoted in responding comments. Which varies by who deleted what. But then multiple deletions can turn a thread into a palimpsest written and rewritten on a moth holed curtain.
    posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on February 21


    I'm one of those folks who has drifted away more and more throughout 2020. I've been repulsed, for a while now, with strident language of domination and winner-take-all tones by the same two dozen users. I've been repulsed by the deletions with no explanation or acknowledgement. I've flagged once or twice and never even received an acknowledgement of receipt. The hands-off moderation has diminished the quality and quantity of interaction.

    Remember what was happening a year ago? My participation really ramped up; I felt so seen. So many people came back from a long absence to join in. I told stories of my Chicago childhood I'd forgotten. I met people who I now treasure away from this site. The stark comparison between what it could have been vs. what it is now is depressing. I loved #poctakeover

    Goodbye.
    posted by lemon_icing at 7:21 PM on February 21 [8 favorites]


    I felt so seen.

    [...]

    Goodbye.


    Well if that isn't the whole thing in five words, I don't know what is.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 7:55 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]


    User formerly know as smoke here. People often talk about why mefites have left etc. I disabled my account late last year, I thought it might be interesting to share why.

    The primary reason is that watching the site/community die was breaking my fucking heart. I'm not the oldest mefite out there by any means, but it was hurting me - too much - to login and see the same discussions and the same death spiral happening. The inability to manage this site like a business, or a community, was too much for me.

    1. I ceased my donations when Eyebrows had that appalling response in the transphobia thread, the mods totally dropped the ball and mishandled it terribly. I lost a lot of confidence in them, and their professionalism, at that point. I like Eyebrows, I really like and respect the mods, and was often defending them in MeTa, but that was indefensible, and the initial fuck up was compounded in terrible ways.

    2. I quit after some especially stupid comments in this thread, that included asserting Obama is a white supremacist and that you supported white supremacy if you voted for him.

    My intention is not to argue the justness of those statements. But rather, to highlight the other thing that drove me from the site: This deeply American, performative, highly fucking rarefied idea of activism/leftism/I don't even know what. And if you aren't on board, fuck you, you're basically a Proud Boy.

    The contempt is poison, and it's so, so, sooooooo far from the political reality of so many people - including, yes, people of colour, women, disabled people etc. I saw someone who works in a corporate diversity team pushed off the site, because they were deemed a sell-out to the man, capitalist white supremacist running dog or some bullshit. I still remember their hurt confusion, this person who has done way more for diversity than 95% of the members, I guaran-fucking-tee.

    Like, congratulations, another win for socialism! Fark, it's exhausting. And I know the counter for this, is, it's exhausting for POC etc every day, but I feel like a veeeerrrrry small selection of members on this site make prettttty big claims what, exactly, these huge, heterogenous groups think and feel and want (like all those POC who supported Biden in the primaries, hey? Doesn't work so good for the mefi narrative, that one).

    Mefi was always a very self-selecting community. And absolutely, that community has historically been largely white, male, middle class, american. The solution was/is not making it even more self selecting - which so many aspects of the site, do, from the way we treat voices that are not au fait with the linguistic coding here, to basic functionality (like I just signed up for the first time since 2009, what the fuck is up with the sign up page, the link is intentionally buried, presumably because you think it will compel people to read all the T&Cs. I have worked in user experiece; they will not read the T&Cs, especially at that length. For god's sake, make it user-friendly).

    So anyway, I just wanted to say that not everyone is buttoning because Metafilter is just sooooooo racist, and soooooo capitalist etc etc etc. The main driver for me is that there is a small, but noisy subcommunity that seem to thrive from conflict and purity contests - and critically, the ownership has been incapable of dealing with that, whilst still championing diversity and making this a welcoming community for genuinely wide variety of people. It's a shame, multinationals routinely do this on their internal social media all the time - I know, I've moderated those platforms. But what the fuck would I know about it, hey?

    This is all compounded by the weird holding pattern - from a business mgmt perspective. I mean, it sounds like the site has been steadily losing money - bar a few one-time injections - for I wanna say 4 or 5 years by now? That's an emergency, man, but there doesn't seem to be a business plan to address it. I wrote a huge comment in one of these "mefi in crisis" threads ages ago, about - not what the business should do - but how the business could plan and prioritise more effectively, I'm pretty confident those ideas - and all the other good ones in the thread - were ever put to use.

    So now, I frequent a number subreddits. The discussion is rarely as deep. I don't know anywhere near the volume of community members, nor that much about their lives. But, discussions never descend into bitter sniping. People are enthusiastic about talking about things. Harrassment and bullying is dealt with swiftly. Yeah, everyone on my scuba subreddit is probably a white supremacist by participating in the diving industry in cozumel or some shit, but everyone's tired, man.

    I don't think I was the best community member. I don't think I am the most considerate, understanding, politically active, etc etc. But, I think I was a pretty good one. I tried to be welcoming, I tried to disagree with people in civil, constructive ways and attempted to disengage when things were getting hot (indeed, this is probably the most worked up I've been on mefi in years). In short, I thought that I was a valid contributor that made this community a little better, in a small way. But it wasn't making me better, anymore.
    posted by smoke2 at 10:10 PM on February 21 [118 favorites]


    Re: Shame. If you consider being told you've said something racist or transphobic shameful, then good. Metafilter shouldn't be wrapping ignorant people in cotton wool. This stuff causes far more pain than having your comment deleted.
    posted by daybeforetheday at 10:25 PM on February 21 [4 favorites]


    I want us to do better. I want this to be a place where the marginalised feel supported and part of this community.
    posted by daybeforetheday at 10:27 PM on February 21


    Inclusive, community-led leadership starts with a shared story of working together to make the community better given the constraints. No matter what you think of this leadership now, they are at least trying to work from that shared story, even as the constraints loom over their heads.

    I'll be honest: I'm not sure what the shared story is anymore. As best I can determine a goal implicitly based on actions, it's something like "continue on more-or-less as is, with some efforts to try to improve treatment of marginalized users, fixing up internal processes and communication, and making some technical adjustments, and continue on in that fashion indefinitely."

    And, I mean, I get it. The last year has been utterly exhausting in every way, just getting out of bed has been an achievement, and nobody's been remotely in the mood for long-term thinking because it is still March of 2020. And there are plenty of constraints, including a site staff that's already visibly strained. So if that's the shared story, that's the shared story we've got. But if there's some ambition for a different, broader vision of where we're going, there should be a process to formulate it and communicate it with the community.

    Because it doesn't feel like in this discussion that we as a community are all on the same page about what what the shared story is. In this thread, and in the past few years of State of the Site MeTas, I have seen people go off in every direction from "become the next Reddit" to "rebuild the site on a different technology platform" to "grow the community" to "develop new a governance/organization model" to "get a billionaire to cover the bills." And whatever the merits or lack thereof of each of those conceivable courses of action, I feel like the reason the community keeps spinning their wheels on these ideas is because we don't have much of a shared story about where we're going and are trying to fill in the gaps with whatever comes to mind in the absence of direction from leadership.

    There are some fundamental questions about the future of the site here like "should MeFi try to [modestly, ethically, without compromising values we consider important] grow in terms of active users and/or activity?" that the community can't really decide on our own, but that we can all be a part of figuring out how to implement if MeFi's leadership wants that. But it's not going to happen on its own.
    posted by zachlipton at 12:37 AM on February 22 [11 favorites]


    I'm so sorry to all the folk who feel bruised, let down, shut out, or just tired. I'm so sad that this community, which can be so great, isn't in many ways.

    Also sympathy to the mods: I just left my old job after swathes of brutal redundancies, I doubt I'm the only one who's seen Covid land body blows on their work life, their colleagues, let alone their own personal state of mind. Just keeping a small business alive this year must be a huge and taxing effort.

    I hope it doesn't come across as too naive to quote this comment from the thread that adrianhon linked above:

    "yeah MF has been getting better on a lot of axes. The community is pretty vocal when they suck about something, and they seem to make an ongoing effort to not suck."

    Reminds me of these news stories that give us the broader perspective to help reassure us that although we have a LOT of work to do, there are ways in which things are getting better even while it feels they are not. In that, perhaps we can breathe in while thinking about the fact that if you go back just 10 years or so you can hardly recognise the site for the casual grossness that regularly broke out and we're simply not that anymore unlike so many online communities, and breathe out thinking about how the work will never be done.

    The work will be different for all of us of course - capital W work for the mods, lowercase w work for the rest of us. For me, as a queer but white and cis woman, I can contribute where it's useful from that point of view, but mostly I can listen, and contribute financially in hopes that money will translate into mod time and help them manifest the changes we all hope for.

    Hugs for everyone who wants them.
    posted by greenish at 8:15 AM on February 22 [10 favorites]


    thank you, smoke2 -- that took a lot of words but they were all required.

    to highlight the other thing that drove me from the site: This deeply American, performative, highly fucking rarefied idea of activism/leftism/I don't even know what. And if you aren't on board, fuck you, you're basically a Proud Boy.

    this gets to something I've touched on before. Which is that, bluntly, you can go too far being political. Or more to the point, it's a fallacy that the way out of every f***ed up human situation is primarily via some kind of politics driven strategy (ie: informed by ideology, utilizing various tactics from some playbook or other). Which isn't to say that such strategizing isn't part of many a solution -- it just shouldn't always be the driver, maybe never. That is, I personally believe that one of the worst ideas out there is that the-ends-justify-the-means, because it's been my experience that the means tend to determine the ends -- that if you use raw power to get what you want and you're successful, you're going to end up with a situation where raw power is calling the shots.

    A while back, I suggested that maybe there weren't enough poets being heard in these metas. I wasn't kidding. And it follows that I think more poets, more poetry would be a salve for much of what currently ails the interweb community known as Metafilter. And no, I'm not talking about rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter or whatever, more just stuff that floats magically, mysteriously above and beyond and in and around all the f***ing gravity that keeps holding us down.

    This is hardly a new idea. This has always been an essential part of what's made Metafilter worth the trouble (for me anyway). As a for instance, there's this Surly Bartender Not Included thread. It's kind of silly (based on a link to site that provides "...ambient bar sounds so you can recreate your favorite haunt at home.") The discussion isn't what I'd call profound, but it is very human. People talking about loneliness, reflecting on what's been lost with Covid, missing old friends, with extrapolations to taping Grateful Dead shows, or just Smith's Tavern, 440 5th Ave Brooklyn, also the sound of shoe soles unpeeling from the sticky floor partially dried cocktail spill.

    How does this prioritize fighting the oppression of existing site members, you may ask? What if it just does? What if poetry (whatever it is) by its very nature dissolves oppression in some magical mysterious way? Or, what if people, in being freed up for a while (their personal gravity thus somehow diminished) are just better able to grasp and wrestle down oppression in all of its forms?
    posted by philip-random at 9:44 AM on February 22 [15 favorites]


    tl;dr the above: this place is hella woke-scoldy
    posted by fluttering hellfire at 11:00 AM on February 22 [13 favorites]


    I was motivated by this thread to pay $5 to return one-time for a comment on why I left. It seems relevant to hear from users who aren't here anymore when discussing the state of the site because that's a pretty big contributor to the state of the site today. I have no intention of returning again and visit the site one a month now or to search AskMe for something vs. the multiple-times a day I did for nearly 20 years.

    At the end of the day, it was Cortex's lack of vision or leadership on any front that finally led me to want to dissociate entirely from the site. I don't really blame the rest of the mod team because quite honestly, it's not them who decides where the actual resources get allocated.

    Clearly Cortex is a nice guy and is I think a good moderator, but being the CEO of a site that generates hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in revenue requires a great deal more than those two things, especially in a time of great change. If I was to sum up what I think the gap is - everything happens to this site (i.e., there is no intentional movement) and at some point, if truly backed into a corner, the site might react to the least degree it has to in order to get through the week. That stopped being good enough for me.

    Matt may not have been perfect, but when he owned the site you generally knew there was a direction and something new to be excited about on the horizon. He was building and testing and experimenting, often with the same kind of financial difficulties and stress that exist today - occasionally of the site-traffic-broke-the-server-for-30-hours kind. There were ad revenue challenges, horrible skirmishes and horrible actions, but in general the site was at least lively in all its blemishes. The last major site expansion was in 2014 with FanFare, and before that it was 2006. The rate of change slowed during Matt's tenure, but even at its slowest it was above 0.

    Now - this thread could have existed in more or less exact form in 2018, even down to the suggestions for how to fix things that have been generally suggested before. Hundreds of thousands of words have been shed, and can anyone even articulate what Metafilter is in 2021 without immediately describing what it once was? It feels a bit like the Yellow Pages, in that it exists because it existed and will exist until attrition catches up to it.

    The site has very unpredictable access to tech fixes or features and has for some time, which is problematic given that's the entire infrastructure this community lives on. There's an advisory board whose pay is a pittance for what they're being asked to do and, not surprisingly, they can't find a time to meet for four months and counting and the site is now "revisiting processes" from the two meetings it actually held. I would place zero blame on the staff in those roles for this - because it's a leader's job to resource to the vision and priorities of the organization. If an AskMe came in that said "I can't keep up with the expectations of my customers with my family responsibilities during COVID and my manager isn't assigning me more resources - what do I do?" invariably the responses would say that is the manager's job to figure out even if it was hard. It is no different here.

    Long story short - for too long, this site has felt like a boat out at sea. The boat kept crashing into POC, and trans people, and basically anyone who is not cis and white - and for a while I think I just accepted that the sea was rocky, but in 2020 I realized that the captain is hardly turning the wheel at all and isn't sure where to go and no amount of suggesting where to go or offering to steer is going to be accepted. So I jumped overboard and took my chance out there in the abyss.

    This would be where I make my suggestions, but honestly being part of a community is a huge energy commitment and this one stopped being worth that for me and so with many, many, many ideas across dozens of these threads, more reframed ideas I think are not going to help. Be well everyone.
    posted by formermefiuser at 11:03 AM on February 22 [23 favorites]


    Membership join up fees and donations seems to be the mainstay of keeping this place running.
    As frequent updates about the state of financials are not forthcoming although often requested we are never quite sure what that state is.
    Are more people leaving than joining? I think we have the right to know.

    The much heralded BIPOC advisory board doesn't seem to meet.

    I am going to repeat most of a comment here that I made eighteen months ago: -
    Cortex you can not do everything on your own.
    You can and have identified various items which have to be addressed.
    You now need to have some experts to help you fix these items from either within or without the site.
    Metafilter is full of experts, real ones not just self proclaimed ones. Engage with them please.
    If they personally cannot assist they will be able to point you in the right direction.
    This is very much the same as I said five years ago. You didn't then as far as I know and so here we are now.
    Experts cost money, some will discount, waive or trade their fees. Find them.
    Rethink some of what you think is cast in stone. It isn't.
    You need revenue and that will make a whole bunch of other stuff easier.
    Metafilter has a lot of friends in a lot of places.
    Friends help. Ask them, not for cash but you can do that as well; but for their expertise to assist you get out of this hole.

    Seen from overhead and in a business capacity there seems to be three general criteria needing attention in Metafilter
    Product - The site as seen and used. Social interaction / Culture
    Technical - maintainance, new tweaks, possible modernisation
    Finance - In vs Out
    To succeed sucessfully and achieve progress, the first criteria is utterly reliant on the other two.
    Good Management is required and Cortex, you may be good at many things but management isn't one of them.
    posted by adamvasco at 12:20 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


    Adamvasco, that's gross raising the BIPOC board as some kind of zinger when that's already been addressed in thread.

    Smoke2 - agree, well put, and I'll miss smoke.

    Have just had the realisation that growing up overseas in a very American expat community, we used to gather together as Australians (one anecdote- one family had to leave, leaving behind their kilo jar of Vegemite- we all brought our jars and topped them up) - that vibe is something I really gel with on mefi when it's Australia thread and the Aussies come out and have an discussion- it triggers the nostalgia of when we would gather together, play cricket, and talk about how we aren't going to attempt lamingtons again. (So sticky. So much coconut.) Probably says a lot about me- I live in Australia now and it's not the same!

    I wonder if that kind of sub community gathering is what other mefites have enjoyed in the past- #poctakeover was excellent, #julybywomen was good too. Community feels good.
    posted by freethefeet at 1:54 PM on February 22 [5 favorites]


    I think a lot of things people are saying here are true in ways that are, unfortunately hard to navigate when you put them together. I think there’s no question that the treatment of minority users could be Done Better, and that the people who have left over that have left a void. The Silence of the Lambs thread recently had some people conspicuously just weirdly and painfully flailing around on trans issues.

    At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to suggest that the way this site does the “fighting oppression” does not always make it a welcoming place. There was a thread a couple years ago that had me feeling really embarrassed for the site - a new user came in to talk about their own experience as a racial minority, they made a comment with some sarcastic language about (I’m paraphrasing) “real Americans,” somebody called them a white supremacist troll, and in the end it was the new user who had to apologize for being misunderstood! I mean, if you are the user I’m referring to and you don’t agree with my framing please let me know - I just know it really bugged me to watch at the time. There are real tradeoffs in setting the expectations high, and in having a culture where if you don’t get it, it’s on you. And then I see an offhand suggestion that we could annotate the profiles of “problematic” users? Sorry but that seems astonishingly oblivious to how the mere existence of such a system would come off to anybody who is already trepidatious about participation. Not to mention that managing problematic users in private is presumably a fundamental responsibility of the paid moderators.

    I don’t have an easy answer as to how to balance sparing long-standing users a million basic/insulting questions about their lives and identities with making the site a place people can ask good-faith questions and learn. Or exactly where to draw the line to allow a range of political discussion... but not an a range that legitimizes bigotry. I think answering these questions requires, once again, some positive vision of what the site is meant to be.
    posted by atoxyl at 2:51 PM on February 22 [8 favorites]


    How does this prioritize fighting the oppression of existing site members, you may ask? What if it just does? What if poetry (whatever it is) by its very nature dissolves oppression in some magical mysterious way?

    No. No, no, no!

    What I hear in that, whether it was meant or not, is "Let's all sing Kumbaya and hug it out."

    That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.

    For I can write in iambs calm, if y'all may need-
    in perfect rhyme, in gentle melodies.
    That doesn't fix the problem -- let's be clear:
    we've been through this disaster, year on year.

    If Metafilter really would survive,
    it's got to change, and to prioritize
    a democratic structure that might breathe
    a new, a functional community.


    What we want is practical, actionable and equitable work, not fluffy hope-bubbles.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 2:59 PM on February 22 [16 favorites]


    And then I see an offhand suggestion that we could annotate the profiles of “problematic” users?

    To be clear, it was less "offhand" than "thinking aloud", because I was thinking about something that came up in this thread about User 1 unknowingly reinforcing a problematic User 2 by interacting with them without having any way of knowing they'd been, or perhaps still were, problematic.

    (In other forums, I've seen such a User 1 get chewed out by more Clued-In users for being ignorant about User 2 being problematic.)

    I did specify I was thinking aloud, and also specified that the idea itself likely had pitfalls.

    Carry on.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 3:06 PM on February 22


    So anyway, I just wanted to say that not everyone is buttoning because Metafilter is just sooooooo racist, and soooooo capitalist etc etc etc.

    Has anyone brought up capitalism in this thread? I guess I'm just wondering why the concerns of POC, some of them in this thread, need to be treated with this level of dismissiveness and lumped in with the endless, tedious left-vs-liberal fights that have been circling around the politics threads for forever. These kinds of fights are ones which a lot of POC on this site have basically nothing to do with (myself included). So why the "soooooooo racist" stuff? Do your issues with what sounds like one or two posters really require that you use what reads like mocking language about people's concerns wrt racist behavior?

    That said, I think the people in that thread were right re: white supremacy, and if that makes you or anyone else angry, c'est la vie. Sometimes smart conversations with smart people might include things you don't already know and agree with, and that fact making you angry when it has literally no impact on your life besides maybe making you aware of your potential ignorance and/or potential incorrectness is fragile af.

    This deeply American, performative, highly fucking rarefied idea of activism/leftism/I don't even know what. And if you aren't on board, fuck you, you're basically a Proud Boy.

    The thread you had an issue with had a few people being critical of American foreign policy and calling it white supremacist. This is such a hilariously not-at-all "deeply American" posture that I can't help but think that you're using "deeply American" in a very idiosyncratic way.

    Overall, at the risk of being one of the people you're functionally mocking, I think your comment is really quite shitty.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:12 PM on February 22 [8 favorites]


    To be clear, it was less "offhand" than "thinking aloud"

    My use of “offhand” was meant to be charitable about this, i.e. to suggest that it was perhaps “just a thought” and not an idea that anybody was deeply attached to.
    posted by atoxyl at 3:24 PM on February 22 [1 favorite]


    The thread you had an issue with had a few people being critical of American foreign policy and calling it white supremacist. This is such a hilariously not-at-all "deeply American" posture that I can't help but think that you're using "deeply American" in a very idiosyncratic way.

    You completely misrepresented what smoke2 says, even in the comment extract you posted.
    They wrote "This deeply American, performative, highly fucking rarefied idea of activism/leftism/I don't even know what," which is not a reference to some theoretical average bomb-em-all American but to a specific subset of Americans on the left, as is made clear by everything after the word American.
    You didn't address that at all.
    posted by thatwhichfalls at 3:54 PM on February 22 [16 favorites]


    What we want is practical, actionable and equitable work, not fluffy hope-bubbles.

    quoting Andre Breton:

    "Even if our work does not immediately help to precipitate the revolution, the job of interpreting man's condition is indispensable to building the post-revolutionary world. Every mistake in the interpretation of man involves a mistake in understanding the universe and becomes an obstacle to its transformation."

    No kumbayas within a thousand miles.
    posted by philip-random at 5:00 PM on February 22 [3 favorites]


    ...that's gross raising... as some kind of zinger when that's already been addressed in thread.

    You completely misrepresented what...

    & etc...

    Given the extremely prolix at extreme length comments here, which no one cares to -- or for that matter can -- read in detail as life is too short as it is, it is pointless to chide anyone for what they likely have missed.

    We are all looking at this little universe from the wrong end of our telescopes. We are all human beings under an unprecedented level of stress. Please keep that in mind.

    Also, from the boilerplate:

    Also, we do keep a record of every report and might add private notes to the threads or user accounts. Over time this helps us to identify patterns of abusive behaviour, and take the necessary actions.

    If going after, accusing and reporting each other is the best we can do, that is chilling. Given the current fever pitch we are all in this together has become a thing of the past. Now it's torches and pitchforks 24/7. How can we be inclusive when we would rather constantly divide each other into me good/you evil?
    posted by y2karl at 5:45 PM on February 22 [9 favorites]



    "Even if our work does not immediately help to precipitate the revolution, the job of interpreting man's condition is indispensable to building the post-revolutionary world. Every mistake in the interpretation of man involves a mistake in understanding the universe and becomes an obstacle to its transformation."

    No kumbayas within a thousand miles.


    Oh, for fuck's sake.

    How does that help Metafilter, in the here and now, to break down the problems that this community needs to consider and deal with?
    posted by tivalasvegas at 6:41 PM on February 22 [11 favorites]


    interesting question as to how does this help. In essence, Breton in mind, more of why rather then how. Qua why in the fuck does this qoate highlight community problems that need to be addressed?
    still a question. To add a complex...figure into a community to serve as a thesis or antithesis is not do much to measure the total intellectual effeteism but a compressed view whatever that becomes. The fact that Bretons life was complex is ancillary, the qoate, everything, ancillary to the what and when of the matter of contention. To outright chide such contribution is a right of very citizen as long as proper discource, recourse is giving to all members the prime subject matter of this very thread.
    so, why?
    Breton wrote:
    "No rules exist, and examples are simply life-savers answering the appeals of rules making vain attempts to exist."
    and how is not the reverse of if in the least attempt to change if change is worth the effort for one person. to stifle, over again, that voice, if only one is a loss, loss felt if even unseen is the why sought totally abject of the self from it's continued attempt to survive in a vacuum not of its own choice but one of fairness that seems far afield from community turned polity turned proprietary.
    my friend Karl is right ( sorry k but I'm a little pieved) deletion tages with neatly attached notes to profiles is insidious.
    so I'll be first and offer my comment deletion count for the last 2 months.
    I'd guess 2.
    posted by clavdivs at 9:16 PM on February 22 [2 favorites]


    well that clears everything up
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:43 PM on February 22 [18 favorites]


    I, know, right. everyone has them. The beauty of it is that I know that the mods know that I know better then to chide, futther. better to be a passenger then to run for Cruise director.
    posted by clavdivs at 11:45 PM on February 22


    I've been thinking about a conversation I once had with an old friend of mine. She's a feminist and activist with a pretty wild lifestyle, and I think she always liked talking to me because I try to be a good feminist, I like to listen, and I'm slow to judge. Anyway, after an extended conversation about what it takes for women to feel safe, she concluded with "ultimately, the only safe space for women is one with no men in it." I've always remembered it because it hurt to hear, and I've always wanted it to be wrong. But after all these years, and especially now reading through a bunch of these comments, I think I finally get what she meant: in our current world, no amount of good faith and good will can allow women to completely drop their guard around men, because men have not had their experiences, and even with good intentions can too easily cause harm.

    I think this also reflects the tensions of what is going on and has been going on in these metatalks. To the extent that Metafilter is trying to be a big tent for lots of different people with lots of points of view, it can't be a safe space for everyone (and if you think it is a totally safe space for white men, I promise you it is not). In fact, arguably, it shouldn't be a safe space for anyone, because if it becomes too safe for one group, it's probably coming at the expense of others. Just to be clear, I'm writing this as someone who strongly dislikes how heated Metafilter can become. But at the same time, it might be a place where we all have to keep our guard up, at least a little.

    I'm not trying to say that Metafilter should just stay the course, and that marginalized people here need to "just be patient", and anyway it's not my place to judge that. I'm only trying to say that Metafilter is a place that exists fundamentally in tension. Over the past 20 hears I've watched it grow past various forms of prejudice and xenophobia, and I'm thankful to all the community members here who've helped us do that. At the same time we must recognize that change is difficult, and no set of guidelines, technologies, or practices will ever completely insulate us from hurting each other. There will always be new groups who are looking for a place in the big tent of Metafilter, and each one, with its own distinct values and experiences, will necessitate creativity and a re-evaluation of what we stand for.
    posted by Alex404 at 3:32 AM on February 23 [15 favorites]


    Sometimes Mefi feels like a trauma survivor group. There is a lot of anger and frustration. I don't think it's healthy. Participating feels like walking on eggshells. It demands high levels of emotional availability, verbal sophistication, and cultural fluency. In return, people confront you with their trauma and your failings. Unless you're a masochist it's not that rewarding.

    Upthread Mefi was compared to a Thanksgiving dinner with Boston Brahmin. I have no idea what Boston Brahmin references, but otherwise I thought the image was apt. There's some forced, superficial cheer on top, then below there's all kinds of dark unmentionables, resentments, and broken promises. Conversation is stilted, the family estranged, in the kitchen your mother quietly weeps. Every year there is shouting. Every year there are fewer seats at the table.
    posted by dmh at 4:04 AM on February 23 [22 favorites]


    I think that there are a lot of privileged people who are tone deaf as to the amount of space they take up all across the site and how alienating it is to read large walls of text that only reflect one narrow set of experiences of life.

    You can, and must, get rid of all the bigotry, whether overt or implicit. But also we need to get rid of the hostile walls of text that are hostile only by their existence, and not for any of their content. People need to be much more conscious of how much what they're saying brings to the site, and to make their best effort to meet the reader halfway.
    posted by ambrosen at 4:06 AM on February 23 [2 favorites]


    But there again is the tension, ambrosen, as the current decline in participation means we are getting less content, and demanding fewer walls of text seems... self defeating? I remember in its heyday, Metafilter basically was the Internet for me. There was enough content here that I would basically nip out to look at links, but spend all my time here. Now there is just not enough to sustain my level of consumption, so Reddit and Facebook are back in the mix.
    posted by Meatbomb at 4:23 AM on February 23 [9 favorites]


    Never has "white men turn others' struggle for existence into abstract, intellectual games" been more literal!

    This attempt to derail hurt into philosophical vagary is ugly. If it is not disingenuous, then it is doubly so oblivious to its effect.

    As a white man, I used to relish this sort of amateur-philosopher, pass-the-brandy boy's club. I now see it as an exercise in alienating jargon; certainly its intellectual content is no deeper than your average bookstore "spiritual" aisle. Just with the names of Great White Men thrown in for legitimacy.
    posted by thoroughburro at 4:25 AM on February 23 [26 favorites]


    But also we need to get rid of the hostile walls of text that are hostile only by their existence, and not for any of their content.

    So are you saying people shouldn't make long comments anymore? I mean, I skip super long comments more often than not but they tend to get a lot of favorites and I wouldn't say they are hostile by their very nature.
    posted by Jess the Mess at 8:15 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]


    *looks at clavdivs*

    Stop it, dude. Playing your shtick (which is usually fine and amusing) in a fraught and difficult thread like this isn't cute or clever; it's cruel to those of us who are trying to seriously engage with each other. I don't particularly know what your meaning is (and neither does anyone else), but what you're communicating (intentionally or not) is that you don't care about the issues that BIPOC and LGBTQ people are raising here and would prefer to play games instead.

    *turns to room*

    This is what BIPOC and LGBTQ people mean when we talk about how we've voiced concerns over and over again and there's at best a half-hearted attempt to get some stuff thrown together, followed by a bunch of words from other Mefites to the tune of "what more do you want" or "we're just going to move on". Yeah, clavdivs is being... particularly... clavdivs. But that's just one of the more egregious and obvious instances of this kind of thing. It's fucking exhausting.

    *turns to Josh and the mod team*

    Are you all willing and able to moderate this thread in a way that actually moves conversation forward? It doesn't feel like that's happening right now, and if it can't happen then please close the thread with a note about what your next steps are going to be and when you'll respond to the concerns raised here.

    *throws up hands, stares into the middle distance*
    posted by tivalasvegas at 8:15 AM on February 23 [33 favorites]


    My power and heat are back and I've showered, but I know myself well enough now to catch up on this thing in bits and pieces instead of trying to binge it.

    posted by cortex (staff) at 3:43 PM on February 17 [37 favorites]


    Are you still doing this? Do you have any thoughts? Can you discuss your vision for the site?

    It's really honestly tragic to let folks go on investing their time into offering up smart suggestions and heartfelt comments for what feels like the hundredth time over a span of many years. If you don't feel like communicating any vision or displaying any leadership then close the thread, close the site, whatever, stop wasting everyone's time.
    posted by lalex at 9:28 AM on February 23 [16 favorites]


    Jess the Mess: So are you saying people shouldn't make long comments anymore?

    Meatbomb: But there again is the tension, ambrosen, as the current decline in participation means we are getting less content, and demanding fewer walls of text seems... self defeating?

    In this instance, I'd say that being an ally means speaking less and listening more. And if that leads to a quieter MetaFilter than even it is now, so be it. Part of being an ally is sitting with your discomfort, instead of centering all discussions around you, doubly so if you're not experienced or informed on a topic.

    In doing so, MetaFilter can become a more welcoming space, where people who don't know about a given topic can learn from those who do and are willing to share, instead of people having to correct uninformed or incomplete understandings, or choosing to not get involved because explaining something every time it comes up can be exhausting, instead of comfortable or even welcoming.

    For example, durian thread #1 (July 5, 2019; 80 comments) versus durian thread #2 (June 21, 2020; 37 comments). The first was full of hot takes on the stinky fruit, with some members taking time to clarify and correct; the second was more of a celebration of a beloved fruit.
    posted by filthy light thief at 9:59 AM on February 23 [14 favorites]


    You completely misrepresented what smoke2 says, even in the comment extract you posted.
    They wrote "This deeply American, performative, highly fucking rarefied idea of activism/leftism/I don't even know what," which is not a reference to some theoretical average bomb-em-all American but to a specific subset of Americans on the left, as is made clear by everything after the word American.
    You didn't address that at all.


    "soooooo racist" is the kind of material I was working with, dude, so sorry if I didn't write a thesis in response.

    look, there is a thing that non-American white people do where they get salty about POC saying things they don't like (ironically, in this case, critiques of the American left status-quo for being dismissive of the rights of non-Americans!). they then paint the POC as American as, functionally, a smear, and as a means of distorting the power relationships involved. the idea is that if you call something American and you're, idk, Aussie, you're punching up again even if you're a white Aussie and you're talking to, say, someone who is an immigrant to the US and a person of color.

    there are so many problems with this tactic and just one of them is that there's zero factual support for the idea that whatever it is that's being discussed is "deeply American." zero. as long as we're 95% guaranteeing what people here do with their non-mefi time, I will 95% guarantee that any white person from, say, Australia, who points to a political analysis that deeply engages with colonialism and american imperialism, and calls that analysis out as an example of something "deeply american" has no clue what's going on in the racial politics of their own country.

    and if you think it's just one example of many and I'm cherrypicking, well, that's the example I got. I didn't go looking for it.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:25 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


    also, look, I have zero desire to engage in a substantive back-and-forth about race and racism here. I thought that comment was shitty. I said why. now you know. if that's not enough for you for whatever reason, well, sorry that so many really intelligent and interesting and knowledgable mefites are gone because the site is "just sooooooo racist." maybe one of them could have cleared things up a bit for you, but instead, you're just stuck with me, largely because I'm literally permanently associated with this site.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:42 AM on February 23 [6 favorites]


    (and if you think it is a totally safe space for white men, I promise you it is not).

    could have fooled me--the number of white dudes who seem to go into various threads here and just suck up all the oxygen in the room like a spark in the apollo 1 crew capsule...
    posted by i used to be someone else at 10:43 AM on February 23 [10 favorites]


    In fact, arguably, it shouldn't be a safe space for anyone, because if it becomes too safe for one group, it's probably coming at the expense of others.

    but have we tried making it safer for bipoc and queer/trans folks though?
    posted by i used to be someone else at 10:46 AM on February 23 [16 favorites]


    I know the mods have been trying to listen more (as stated in this thread and elsewhere) instead of driving the conversation with a bunch of back-and-forth, but at the point where multiple people are like "HELLO, IS THIS THING ON?" in here maybe you've over-corrected?
    posted by ApathyGirl at 11:13 AM on February 23 [14 favorites]


    but have we tried making it safer for bipoc and queer/trans folks though?

    Right. My answer: To some extent; with mixed results.

    Ultimately, BIPOC and queer people are the ones who should get to decide when enough work has been done to make us feel safe and welcomed and included in the space that is Metafilter.

    Does that mean that we're each perfect adjudicators of that? Are we possibly going to misspeak or misunderstand or whatever, sometimes? Yup.

    But the burden of proof needs to be on non-marginalized persons to show definitively that enough work has been done, and until then listen to us when we say we're not comfortable yet.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 11:17 AM on February 23 [5 favorites]


    I was glad to hear that the BIPOC consultative process was ongoing. It wasn't an entirely disinterested feeling: I hope an improvement there would lead to an improvement on other issues. There should be or have been more communication about its progress, though.

    One of the things that had been troubling me was “what would progress even look like though” and I have to say that Filthy Light Thief's comment about behaviour in durian threads above really helped: Yes! Less exoticisation (Apple doesn't think that's a word) of unfamiliar experiences, less insularity, more room for celebration.

    I have some other thoughts but have to go; I'll post them later if the thread's still open, so: You Have Been Warned.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 11:32 AM on February 23


    The term safe space gets used broadly and misunderstood, which really speaks to the lack of places where marginalized people are treated with equal respect. If there were more of those sort of places, we've have more words and phrases to classify and describe them. Not all such spaces are safe spaces.

    I don't expect metafilter to be a safe space as a whole. Maybe the marginalized group only metatalk threads that the mods facilitated last year counted as safe spaces within metafilter, but that can't be the whole thing.

    I just don't want it to be safe the more privilege people have. I want it to be a place where being anti-trans or anti-black or bigoted against marginalized folks generally isn't acceptable. Not that it never happens, just that everyone is clear afterwards that it's not okay, that the person made a mistake or was thoughtless (assuming it wasn't intentional), that their comfort isn't privileged over the comfort of marginalized folk, and it's not just the people who are directly affected speaking up and saying, "yeah we don't say things like that here." I want these things to be an equal priority.

    Both fellow Members and staff have disappointed me in the ways they have reacted to these expectations.
    posted by Chrysopoeia at 2:20 PM on February 23 [21 favorites]


    Chrysopoeia- it probably speaks to my privilege, and just-not-seeing-ness, that your vision for what metafilter is: I thought it was that place, or at least on its way to be that place.

    I really like the way you have summarised it, and I'm going to sit with why metafilter isn't that place to others in this community.
    posted by freethefeet at 2:35 PM on February 23 [4 favorites]


    just-not-seeing-ness

    This kind of goes back to the deleted-comment discussion, but an issue with Metafilter's moderation system is that it fosters this kind of blindness. For example: there was a thread a few days ago where an argument spiraled into a full-on meltdown where one user repeatedly called a trans mefite a "fucking bitch." I only know this because I happened to be watching as it unfurled in real time. All the comments were deleted with a vague mod note linking to the content policy but not saying what happened or who was involved. The user in question went right back to posting comments the next day as if nothing had happened, and if I hadn't been refreshing that thread, I would have no reason to be wary of their future participation in trans-related posts.

    I'm bringing this up not because I want to rehash the argument, but because I think this kind of moderation fosters the disappointment and suspicion you're seeing from some members, and can lead other members to believe that everything is OK. There's no such thing as an online community where nobody fucks up or acts shitty, but it feels like the moderation policy is intended to give the impression that this is the case, and the result is that a lot of people just don't feel comfortable here.

    I like Metafilter and I want it to survive. I've met some of my best friends in the 10+ years (yikes) I've been here. It's definitely a vestige of the pre-social-media internet, but I don't think that necessarily means it's doomed, especially as a lot of people are becoming disaffected with the social media behemoths that started eating into Metafilter's traffic around 2013. I don't know how to fix it, but I don't want to give up on it either.
    posted by theodolite at 3:50 PM on February 23 [33 favorites]


    Wow, theodolite.
    Why isn’t that person’s account suspended? That’s completely unacceptable.
    posted by chococat at 4:28 PM on February 23 [10 favorites]


    That sounds really bad. Fuck.
    posted by bootlegpop at 4:50 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


    For example: there was a thread a few days ago where an argument spiraled into a full-on meltdown where one user repeatedly called a trans mefite a "fucking bitch."

    That exchange you're talking about was crappy and rightly deleted for sure, but I don't think it's a good idea to leave this framing of it unaddressed, because you're describing something that would absolutely have been a quick ban with no apologies.

    What happened in that thread is one MeFite put the words "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch" in another MeFite's mouth, which was pretty fucked up as a bad faith quote thing, and the other MeFite quoted that back at them which was a shitty tantrum thing to do in response, and it all got deleted because it was all toxic behavior all around. They should have both been showing way better judgement, it was stupid and ugly and mutual violations of the site guidelines that loup linked to.

    I don't want to rehash the whole thing either, and I think loup did the right thing by taking it down and leaving a note. I think there was room for a more explicit "you two need to cut it out, period" note there, but I wasn't the person on duty at the time so that's just me with an after the fact opinion on it.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 5:24 PM on February 23 [5 favorites]


    Yes, Why isn’t that person’s account suspended? That’s completely unacceptable.
    On preview, well, that's an explanation.

    Meanwhile, this very thread, like all of the other State of the Site discussions, is driving users away.
    posted by Gotanda at 5:28 PM on February 23 [4 favorites]


    So, assuming it was technically possible, what do folks think about a third-party "show deleted comments" userscript, similar to what already exists for deleted posts?

    I understand the arguments for why deleted comments have been completely invisible up till now, but at this point it seems like the lack of transparency is doing more harm than good.
    posted by teraflop at 6:03 PM on February 23 [2 favorites]


    I know the mods have been trying to listen more (as stated in this thread and elsewhere) instead of driving the conversation with a bunch of back-and-forth, but at the point where multiple people are like "HELLO, IS THIS THING ON?" in here maybe you've over-corrected?

    I just wanted to reiterate ApathyGirl's comment from earlier today; I am really feeling that right now. I very much hope that some sort of mod response is being worked on even as we speak, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that repeated requests for more mod input have met with radio silence so far, but somehow a mod response was warranted to explain why it really wasn't that bad that someone called a trans user a "fucking bitch," and that it was really a both sides thing. When I saw that "staff" tag on a comment I was actually feeling good because I thought we'd finally get some leadership input on the many things that have been brought up in this thread ... and instead, we get what we got.

    For the record, I agree with the folks saying that it would be helpful to know who is saying what when things are deleted.
    posted by DingoMutt at 6:26 PM on February 23 [13 favorites]


    Look, if we're going to delete comments with "X's comment was bad in this specific way so we deleted it, and we named X because everyone should know X did this bad thing", then we might as well be banning X. Why would anyone want to listen to bad person X? Why would X want to stick around?

    Adding more info to deletion comments doesn't allow us to have things both ways, shunning instead of banning.
    posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:42 PM on February 23


    Not sure after 400 posts the only comment should be "actually calling this user a slur wasn't that bad, both sides are equally bad" but okay.
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:47 PM on February 23 [7 favorites]


    Wait so, the exchange was something like:

    User A: You might as well be asking me "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch?"

    User B: All right then, I will. Can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch?

    ?

    User A made a deletable ad hominim, but User B lived up to it. If this is roughly accurate, I would definitely say the characterization by theodolite is fair and User B should not be welcome here.
    posted by thoroughburro at 6:49 PM on February 23 [3 favorites]


    I might have misremembered the specifics of the exchange. There's no way for me to check what actually happened. My point wasn't really about that particular thread, but the fact that users have very different perceptions of the site partly because so much of the ugly stuff just gets vanished.
    posted by theodolite at 6:54 PM on February 23 [6 favorites]


    I just wanted to reiterate ApathyGirl's comment from earlier today; I am really feeling that right now.

    For what it's worth, I get you both on that and can understand folks being frustrated that there's not more mod commentary in here. It's often unwelcome when it does happen, so no real good options there for us, but I do get it. I'll check with the team on whether there's a good solution to being a little more responsive in this thread. But folks talking stuff out is part of how this place works and a focus on MetaTalk as more of a place for community discussion and less of a mods Q&A is one of the things restless_nomad pushed for last year and I think she's right about that being a healthier way to approach things.

    For my part I'm trying to take a backseat on day to day discussion in here because I know from experience that digesting these threads and responding on a daily/hourly basis is bad for me and leads to a degree of emotional engagement that harms me and leads to crappier responses when I do comment. So I've been reading the thread in chunks, taking notes of stuff we can specifically address, and structuring those into points of discussion with the team during our next few weekly meetings.

    I'm not going to solve any problems here by getting in up to my neck in MetaTalk back and forths, and have tried to confine my comments so far to responding to things folks have flagged me down on externally. I'll continue to follow up on stuff when I can, but one of the lessons of long years here is that it's gonna be better for everybody if I keep some distance and boundaries on this stuff.
    posted by cortex (staff) at 7:03 PM on February 23 [20 favorites]


    Thanks for your response. Personally I agree that it's a good call to avoid responding on an hourly basis for all the reasons you list, and maybe it's even better to avoid responding on a daily basis. I'm also glad that you're checking in with the team to talk about a way of being a little more responsive. From my perspective, this thread is over a week old, and while knee-jerk reactions from mods definitely do not go well for mods or users alike, surely there is some middle ground between that and the current state, which seems like little to no response at all (even if something is going on in the background). Maybe sharing what kinds of things you're taking notes on might be a good idea?

    I don't know, I realize it's all very fraught and difficult and I do hope there's a better way forward.
    posted by DingoMutt at 7:30 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]


    Thanks cortex. Speaking for myself, I hear you and I understand that it's a lot to process / figure out / respond to all at once, and that you've got to resist the temptation or feeling of guilt about jumping in all the time.

    I hope that you'll take into account, though, that there's a point at which little to no mod engagement is worse and less helpful than just closing up the thread. Ultimately, this is your site: you own it, and decisions about how it's run and should move forward are in your court. So this thread (and the many similar MeTas before it) end up being all of us just emoting and throwing out ideas onto what feels like a blank screen.

    So... I dunno. I think that's your first step though, to break things down -- think about what kind of immediate engagement with MeFites is going to be workable and productive from your end and ours, whether that looks like getting back into having regular open State Of The Site threads, public action items coming out of those discussions, whatever. There's plenty of suggestions here for you to sort through.

    I really do appreciate and care about this community, and I appreciate and care about you personally, even though we've never met.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 7:34 PM on February 23 [18 favorites]


    What happened in that thread is one MeFite put the words "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch" in another MeFite's mouth, which was pretty fucked up as a bad faith quote thing, and the other MeFite quoted that back at them which was a shitty tantrum thing to do in response, and it all got deleted because it was all toxic behavior all around. They should have both been showing way better judgement, it was stupid and ugly and mutual violations of the site guidelines that loup linked to.

    well, that's certainly a characterization about the entire exchange.

    i didn't put those words in his mouth, i compared his dismissive usage of "jfc take a breath" with the same line of thought that leads to "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch". mind you, this is after a fragility reaction after pointing out the original comment was... dismissive, possibly out of ignorance, and most certainly not what i'd consider "good faith".

    i have the screenshots. i have the context.

    is it any wonder why there's so little trust?
    posted by i used to be someone else at 9:28 AM on February 24 [6 favorites]


    There's no such thing as an online community where nobody fucks up or acts shitty, but it feels like the moderation policy is intended to give the impression that this is the case, and the result is that a lot of people just don't feel comfortable here.

    there is no war in ba sing se
    posted by i used to be someone else at 9:47 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


    I don't think there's a moderation policy here to cover up the existence of shitty stuff. It's more about not letting toxicity fester and suck all the oxygen out of the proverbial room. So yeah, some ugly stuff gets removed. It may be that such "editing" ends up presenting an unrealistic picture of what's really going down on the site and ultimately proves counterproductive. But is there an actual strategy being played to deceive the community? I don't buy it.
    posted by philip-random at 10:53 AM on February 24 [1 favorite]


    "actual strategy" is probably inaccurately ascribing malevolent intent and I don't think that's the case at all.

    Nevertheless a system's morality is not as much about the intent of actors as it is about the results of the system: it is what it does, and in this case the policy ends up adding more confusion and frustration at the very points when discussion is most heated. There's good reasons for why mods have gone that route historically, but I think it needs to be rethought / overhauled now.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 11:14 AM on February 24 [11 favorites]


    i didn't put those words in his mouth, i compared his dismissive usage of "jfc take a breath" with the same line of thought that leads to "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch".

    The fact that the other member was already telling anybody, much less a trans member in a thread about a trans-related topic, to "jfc take a breath" makes me even more convinced that coming in to this thread only to defend that user and both-sides the exchange was a really crappy thing to do. It definitely makes me feel more uneasy about mod decisions and priorities, and more aware of some glaringly large moderator blind spots.

    I'm not saying this to snipe, but to hopefully provide feedback about the optics and impact of moderation/communication choices like these. Honestly, it's gobsmackingly tone deaf in my perspective, which I realize isn't everybody's perspective but I hope is something that can be sat with and considered at whatever team meetings are coming up.
    posted by DingoMutt at 11:32 AM on February 24 [7 favorites]


    In the moment, I can see how a mod coming in to a heated back and forth may want to quickly end it and get things back on track. I'm not sure if loup really had a chance to figure out the big picture (user being dismissive and then defensive), they may have had other fires to deal with. So it may not have even been possible to get a more accurate mod note right then and there.

    But cortex's characterization really left a lot out in a way that's leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Benefit of the doubt, how clear was the picture from the mod-side, in the moment and then on review? I know it's not possible for the mods to read everything. Would it have been helpful to flag the first dismissive comment? I don't necessarily think it should be deleted. But would it have been helpful to flag with a note "this is where it started" so the sequence of events is clearer?
    posted by ghost phoneme at 1:08 PM on February 24


    Would it have been helpful to flag the first dismissive comment? I don't necessarily think it should be deleted.

    The “take a breath” comment was deleted, right? Deleting the whole exchange seems correct, if that first comment is inappropriate and the further comments and further escalation are a response to it. It seems like the issue at hand is what do the mods take away from the exchange i.e. are they calibrated to identify when one party is crossing a non-negotiable line and ought to be warned/put on a “thin ice” list, as opposed to just saying “you two knock it off” or considering everybody who gets into a fight to be equally problematic.

    It feels like it’s a basic premise of MeFi that the handling of this sort of thing is mod business, not user business, and I have a hard time imagining otherwise, but for that to work the users have to be able to trust the mods to handle it and it’s clear that not everybody feels like they can these days.
    posted by atoxyl at 1:54 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


    Actually, I’m sorry, I think I’ve misunderstood some of the sentiment here. If people are suggesting it might be a good idea for mods to be more willing to let comments stand, while also being more willing to state firmly that they are not okay and explain why, I can buy into that. It just feels like it goes against some fairly tightly-held assumptions about moderation here.
    posted by atoxyl at 2:07 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


    I strongly prefer either the short perfunctory mod notes we see now OR the ability to opt to see a deleted comment to having mods subjectively summarize the contents.

    Quoting myself, because this telephone game subjective description of the deleted exchange by multiple parties is kinda exactly why I think a change to the existing practice (if any) really should include the ability to see the deleted comments (as in, toggle unhidden after a warning).
    posted by Pryde at 2:44 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


    i used to be someone else, I'm really sorry that happened to you and that this person spoke to you that way. I value you as a community member and I am really unhappy that you had that experience; it is completely unacceptable.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:46 PM on February 24 [7 favorites]


    cortex: For what it's worth, I get you both on that and can understand folks being frustrated that there's not more mod commentary in here. It's often unwelcome when it does happen, so no real good options there for us, but I do get it. I'll check with the team on whether there's a good solution to being a little more responsive in this thread. But folks talking stuff out is part of how this place works and a focus on MetaTalk as more of a place for community discussion and less of a mods Q&A is one of the things restless_nomad pushed for last year and I think she's right about that being a healthier way to approach things.

    Thanks for sharing your views and thoughts on how MeTa could or should play out, and I know there was pushback in the past when mods were more assertive in trying to shape discussions in MeTas past. I think it would be helpful for you or other mods who post or approve a MeTa to lay out the expectations, if not set broad expectations for different types of MeTa threads.

    I say this because there were a few different types of discussions going on here in the comments, and they aren't all things we can sort out as members of MetaFilter. I'd summarize them as:
    1. Technical issues and/or suggestions
    2. Suggestions or requests for changes in moderation
    3. Suggestions or requests for changes in community behavior and/or considerations
    4. Ideas for ways to help fund the site
    The problem with a hands-off approach in general is that only one of these items could possibly be sorted out by the community, #3.

    The first consists of things that may be only answerable by frimble, and without mods stepping in and saying "that's an interesting idea, we'll look into it," or "we already discussed this with frimble, and here's why it won't work," or "it's on our list, and it's at the top/ middle/ bottom of the pack of site updates." Without that kind of feedback, people with a range of technical skills and understanding spitball ideas, banter back and forth, and maybe even write code. Discussions have gotten very heated over discussions of desires for technical solutions, when mods could have cooled the discussion to reframe things around what is possible, and what is planned.

    The second, suggestions for changes in moderation, could touch on items that mods are already addressing and aren't being seen, or are old ideas that didn't proceed for some reason, or might even hang on technical changes to the site. Again, there's no way that the community can talk it out to find a solution.

    And the final item, discussions for funding the site, are things the community could do on its own, starting a grassroots effort to sell merch and give the money back to MetaFilter, or something like that, but it's probably best if there's at least coordination from the mod team, if it's not developed and lead in-house.
    posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on February 24 [11 favorites]


    The “take a breath” comment was deleted, right?

    while the initial comments remain (and they should, even if they do demonstrate cis fragility), the actual meltdown and the more aggressive remarks were correctly moderated out. however, there's definitely a sense of "who's the missing stair" now for a certain segment of the community, which generally happens in the aftermath of this sort of thing.

    for that to work the users have to be able to trust the mods to handle it and it’s clear that not everybody feels like they can these days.

    the lack of trust does lead to the taking the screenshots, and as does commenting about the incident from my point of view after reading the very "interesting" characterization of it by the mods.

    ---

    i used to be someone else, I'm really sorry that happened to you and that this person spoke to you that way. I value you as a community member and I am really unhappy that you had that experience

    i appreciate it, but i'm not letting it take up that much space in my mind. i'd be more upset if i were more invested in the site, but certain aspects of the community here, as it were, consistently live down to my disappointing expectations, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    ---

    what's more, at least with respect to that thread, is that there was another set of comments that are no longer visible. a different poster went and started doing the "intellectual exercise" bit and even got to the point of positing that they might not be cis as a defense, only to later state that they were not trans and considered themselves an "ally".

    their questions put pasture to that, as did their "did you assume i was cis" schtick--and yet they're still around, even though there was a mod statement about similar behavior just over a year ago.

    not agitating a ban here, mind you, but i will ask how can one trust mod statements when there's no appearance of consistent application?
    posted by i used to be someone else at 4:36 PM on February 24 [13 favorites]


    The “take a breath” comment was deleted, right?

    Sorry I wasn't clear. That wasn't the comment I was talking about. That should have been deleted, as it was. There's a lead up (that's still there), and ignoring that in the mod note and summary here feels like "both-siding" a situation (and on preview helps create a missing stair situation, as noted by i used to be someone else).

    But I don't know what happens when a mod deals with a sequence like that: do they try to figure out how it developed, or just put out the fire? As a reader, would flagging the beginning (the comments that were problematic but not necessarily delete worthy) have helped mods get the full picture and resulted in more nuanced modding.
    posted by ghost phoneme at 4:56 PM on February 24


    what's more, at least with respect to that thread, is that there was another set of comments that are no longer visible. a different poster went and started doing the "intellectual exercise" bit and even got to the point of positing that they might not be cis as a defense, only to later state that they were not trans and considered themselves an "ally".

    their questions put pasture to that, as did their "did you assume i was cis" schtick--and yet they're still around, even though there was a mod statement about similar behavior just over a year ago.

    not agitating a ban here, mind you, but i will ask how can one trust mod statements when there's no appearance of consistent application?


    I'm agitating for a ban.
    posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:32 PM on February 24 [5 favorites]


    a different poster went and started doing the "intellectual exercise" bit and even got to the point of positing that they might not be cis as a defense, only to later state that they were not trans and considered themselves an "ally".

    I think that interaction was a great example for anyone who still thinks the complaints are about being 'wokescolds' or whatever. The person came into the thread and sucked that thing dry. One of the most influential films--for good or ill--of a generation, and the entire discussion was sidetracked, so some person could be vaguely inflammatory, without ever stating an actual opinion, but with that kind of vagueness that makes people demand clarifications, and then the conversation is all about that person, rather than the topic at hand. It's not about people being such delicate lefties or whatever that they can't withstand the rough-and-tumble of the internet, it's about wanting to talk about a thing, and not being able to because somebody's utterly predictable bullshit took up all the space. And it's great that it was deleted (I didn't even realize it was, I didn't scroll back), but honestly, it killed the conversation.
    posted by mittens at 7:44 PM on February 24 [6 favorites]


    there was another set of comments that are no longer visible. a different poster went and started doing the "intellectual exercise" bit and even got to the point of positing that they might not be cis as a defense, only to later state that they were not trans and considered themselves an "ally".

    This was the poster I was referring to when I said somebody was “flailing around” in this thread. Honestly I had a hard time assessing which comments were individually over the line - I couldn’t actually tell what some of them were trying to say - but I knew the net effect was uncomfortable. It looks like the mods did ultimately just remove all of them.
    posted by atoxyl at 7:49 PM on February 24


    That one feels to me like an example of why disappearing comments altogether is sometimes the right thing - it’s simply a better, more readable thread without them.
    posted by atoxyl at 8:06 PM on February 24


    Yeah it seems to me from reading this thread that some people feel there is a tension between readable threads and a legible community. The deleted comments hide aspects of the community that might be due more examination.
    posted by chrchr at 9:43 PM on February 24 [3 favorites]


    The way deletions are handled mean that missing stairs become known only through a whisper network.
    posted by i used to be someone else at 9:49 PM on February 24 [15 favorites]


    I got no whisper network!
    posted by tiny frying pan at 4:45 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


    And that is why the current deletion system is a problem.

    Whisper networks are an imperfect solution when trying to deal with bad actors, abusers, hostile people, bigots... but the whisper networks are, by design, kept out of sight and only those already part of them end up hearing about who to avoid and who to keep an eye out for. And because of what whisper networks are, it's why receipts are a thing and hard to join without someone already connected adding you as a new node in the game of telephone.

    Those outside of them, well. They don't get the warnings. They're left to be more vulnerable.
    posted by i used to be someone else at 4:55 AM on February 25 [9 favorites]


    This is why transparency is a value of intentionally inclusive environments.
    posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on February 25 [11 favorites]


    I remember a bit more than a year ago I contacted the mods about a transphobic comment that got deleted and the missing stair problem and got told they do it that way to avoid pile-ons, and that they do work behind the scenes to watch the users more carefully in case the bad behavior is recurring, to warn or ban them.

    The problem is, that approach only works if the community trusts the mod team. And this thread shows how hard it is to give that trust when the moderation of the site is a black box beyond generalities.
    posted by simmering octagon at 8:54 AM on February 25 [6 favorites]


    And the missing stair still exists while the person is supposedly watched carefully.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 9:01 AM on February 25


    So where this gets frustrating (aside from the obvious) is things like discipline and moderation do not have to be some kind of bespoke thing handcrafted for Metafilter. Rules and best practices may not be a solved problem but there's already places that do what users are asking for and, I dunno, the world hasn't fallen down.

    Like this deleted post thing. Off the top of my head, the Something Awful forums have your disciplinary history as a button on the bottom of your posts. Anyone can press Rap Sheet and see whether you're, say, someone who got a little too heated a couple times and copped a probation or you're THAT GUY and cause trouble wherever you go. Most posts stay up with a big "User was banned/probated for this post" in bold all caps.

    You might disagree with a moderation decision or reason but you can see what it was, at least.

    Reddit, obviously, had upvotes and downvotes so if you want you can go poke around in the muck. Mods can and do delete posts outright but a user's karma score gives you an idea of who they are.

    Some forums have a posting quality thing for each user that people can vote on.

    This is what I mean when I say all decisions should flow from a vision or mission statement or set of values, preferably articulated in some way.

    Because "We want to avoid pile ons and give people the chance to reform" is a decision and maybe even a laudable one. Noble intentions. But if the POC and Trans users you are also claiming you value are saying they don't trust the moderators and they want to see who is saying bad stuff, those goals conflict and you're going to have to pick one. Or not picking one, but that's still picking one.

    So if the vision for the site is expressly "we value our Trans and minority members and want to create a safe space for them and listen to their feedback"...then you need to do that and clearly prioritize it. On the other hand, if it's going to be hashtag all members matter...I mean, that's not thrilling, but I think that would at least tell folks wanting a more vigorous policy and expression of support they're wasting their time. Again, not great, but better overall than this furious lurching between would-be social justice initiatives and expressly lefty politics but also you can't hurt people's feelings if they say slurs and you can't get too political.

    Sometimes you have to make a decision and not making a decision is still making a decision.
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:13 AM on February 25 [16 favorites]


    I think it's very telling that cortex's one meaningful contribution to this thread is about the details of a particular mod situation. What exactly did people say, what we did, etc. That's the terrain that cortex feels comfortable with and feels like he can speak with some authority. But focusing on those kinds of details at the price of any larger strategic vision has led us to where we are.
    posted by crazy with stars at 11:02 AM on February 25 [7 favorites]


    I feel like I've gotten my $5 worth.

    as soon as Cortex starts showing the kind of vision and leadership that everyone seems to be demanding, a percentage of the users are going to freak out about his authoritarianism.

    I'm pretty sure The Well went through this same batch of problems, decades ago. What did they end up doing?
    posted by craniac at 12:52 PM on February 25 [7 favorites]


    a percentage of the users are going to freak out about his authoritarianism.

    To be honest, if this were in fact true, it matters which users.
    posted by Miko at 3:33 PM on February 25 [5 favorites]


    A lot of users have already freaked out about authoritarianism and left. Any discussion of metafilter on social media will include people complaining about overzealous moderation. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but when we look at declining participation, part of it has to be the absence of the “silenced all my life” contingent, right? I’m not sure there are many “silenced al my life” prone users left.
    posted by chrchr at 4:23 PM on February 25 [1 favorite]


    Oh lord. Having run online communities, users freak out about things all the time. That's part and parcel of the job. (I mean, that's Metatalk around here). One time I got a call on the weekend because our users were freaking out about something we'd "announced" but there was no record of it. There was no record of it because we hadn't made any announcement, but someone got spun up and suddenly there were 100 threads about it. And when I stepped in, they blamed me and the company because "well, surely we wouldn't have all gotten worked up if something wasn't up!" Shit happens.
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:38 PM on February 25 [12 favorites]


    It's been a week, Josh, since this thread opened. More than a week.

    Are you going to say anything substantive?

    At this point a simple (yes/no) would be okay. Ideally with a timeframe for the (yes).
    posted by tivalasvegas at 6:14 PM on February 25 [7 favorites]


    I get the impression that cortex is not in a place where he can engage with this sort of thread in a way that is mentally healthy. As someone with diagnosed, often crippling, generalized anxiety I understand and sympathize. Hiding away is not shameful when it's functionally your only choice.

    That said, it would be responsible to delegate the obligations he can't perform right now to someone who can. This thread deserves some official response. Maybe jessamyn or another of the senior mods could become Interim Mouthpiece of Metafilter for a spell?
    posted by thoroughburro at 5:39 AM on February 26


    Let's stay away from online mental health diagnoses.
    posted by biffa at 6:42 AM on February 26 [13 favorites]


    This thread deserves some official response.

    I think we've gotten our official response. Cortex posted a Site Update five days after this thread, and has made a couple comments in this thread. I think that's what we're getting, for better or worse. I don't really understand why this thread hasn't been closed at this point. I'm not asking for that, but just not sure why it's not.
    posted by skewed at 6:48 AM on February 26 [2 favorites]


    This thread hasn't been closed because people tend to lose their shit when that happens. And when it doesn't. The fact is that this place is made up of so many people with so many varied points of view and ways of expressing them that it's not surprising when we don't all align. I think it's fair to say though that pretty much everyone on here thinks that 'don't be a dick' is a good basis for our community, even if we are often dickish, both intentionally or inadvertently.

    I like the fact that moderation here is run on a case by case basis. Hard and fast doesn't work in so many cases, except for egregious acts of arseholery, but the mods have made it pretty clear that they won't tolerate bigotry in all it's many forms. It may slip past them sometimes and shitty comments get exposure and hurt those they're targeted at, but I truly believe that the mods are doing their best to stay on top of that kind of bullshit. They can't prevent it from being said in the first place, but they're on the look out for it and I think that should count for something.

    Anyway, basically I hope this place stays active because I'd be lost without you all.
    posted by h00py at 7:13 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


    Consider that "mostly working well" might mean "mostly working well for me."
    posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on February 26 [11 favorites]


    I like the fact that moderation here is run on a case by case basis. Hard and fast doesn't work in so many cases, except for egregious acts of arseholery, but the mods have made it pretty clear that they won't tolerate bigotry in all it's many forms.

    Metafilter has very clearly outgrown the size (and diversity) where ad hoc or case-by-case or informal moderation is appropriate. No one likes the task of wrangling and codifying policies but that, along with a transparent process for how moderation is done (including when comment deletions, temporary bans or permanent bans are going to happen).

    And I have to think it would be much easier for mods to write a mod note that simply linked to the policy section concerning the action, as in "comment deleted for violating [link to policy on use of profanity toward another MeFite]" or whatever rather than having to suss out on the fly "ok does this rise to the level of deletion and do I need to write a comment and if so what do I write" which I imagine is stressful.

    This doesn't directly speak to the "missing stair" issue discussed above but it's another... step, if you will, that can be taken.
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:02 AM on February 26 [3 favorites]


    > I get the impression that cortex is not in a place where he can engage with this sort of thread in a way that is mentally healthy.

    > Let's stay away from online mental health diagnoses.

    > ... digesting these threads and responding on a daily/hourly basis is bad for me and leads to a degree of emotional engagement that harms me ...

    I was only rephrasing what cortex already said, and then I related that to my own mental health, which often has similar effects.
    posted by thoroughburro at 9:18 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


    Metafilter has very clearly outgrown the size (and diversity) where ad hoc or case-by-case or informal moderation is appropriate.

    sometimes it really is best when being declarative to make it clear that we're coming from a subjective position. Because I disagree with you here. Or certainly, I question your authority.

    And I have to think it would be much easier for mods to write a mod note that simply linked to the policy section concerning the action, as in "comment deleted for violating [link to policy on use of profanity toward another MeFite]" or whatever

    I do see how this could be helpful, at least in part, because I'm pretty sure that it would lead to some (perhaps more than some) rules-lawyering and, a new one for me, wikilawyering. Some years ago, I invested a lot of time in trying to get an organization* I worked for to get more systematized in terms of how it pursued its policies. And no, I wouldn't say it was a waste of time, because I learned a lot, but I finally had to conclude it was not the right way for that organization to sort out its issues. In the end, it worked best to, at some level, keep things personal, case by case. And now, three and a half decades later, that organization is still humming along ...
    posted by philip-random at 9:52 AM on February 26 [5 favorites]


    oops ... that * was supposed to lead to "* a community radio station consisting of hundreds of active members pursuing all manner of passions, positions, beliefs, concerns"
    posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on February 26 [1 favorite]


    tivalasvegas: "Metafilter has very clearly outgrown the size (and diversity) where ad hoc or case-by-case or informal moderation is appropriate."

    maybe once Metafilter outgrew that size, but it's possible that in its old age Metafilter has shrunk back to the size for ad hoc moderation.
    posted by crazy with stars at 8:39 PM on February 26


    It may be that the actual community size is the same as earlier years, but the alignment of its users around a commonly understood and shared purpose isn’t, which results in a more varied set of expectations that community members are operating from when they contribute. A more aligned community scales better and requires less ad hoc moderation. Plus, this community has more emotional turmoil and trauma than previously, which requires a different set of skills to address and bring about healing.
    posted by iamkimiam at 9:02 PM on February 26 [4 favorites]


    well, the gates were once closed, the 5$ barrier installed. I believe peak was like 2011-2012 for comments and posts. But I see more posting today then say 2002 and threads were open forever until the 30 day cap. I'd say, traffic up in January, the participant aspect is like 2005.
    posted by clavdivs at 10:43 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]


    The site was very much old school internet/BBS in expectations in the old days. Metas (not that there was meta in the real old days) asking for consideration of women, BIPOCs, LGBTQ2+, ESL, blind users, etc. would have been dismissed mostly out of hand for anything but really egregious examples. Metafilter, though still needing improvement, has come a long, long way to be more inclusive, less GRRARR, less antagonistic, less -ist of all flavours. A lot of the loss in numbers is from users who didn't like the better Metafilter dropping out or being asked to leave.

    See for example the Cooter Clock where a mod didn't just make a request to curb offensive language they offered a reward for compliance for 30 days and never came close to having to pay out.

    Personally I liked the smaller Metafilter over the massive number of users/comments of the peak days and don't really desire to return to those sorts of levels. It felt more small town than big city where everyone knows everyone else at least in passing. More users than now possibly but quite a bit less than the max would be ideal.
    posted by Mitheral at 11:06 PM on February 26 [2 favorites]


    I want to speak to that "it used to be so much worse" point that tends to come up. This is in response to that general point, not just to Mitheral's comment above.

    It's undeniable that MetaFilter has "come a long way" from the days of egregious, open and celebrated biases. At the same time, so what? No points for looking back and noticing the distance traveled between two past moments. Our wider culture had "come a long way" in 1971 when my mom could finally get a bank account in her own name. It had "come a long way" when same-sex marriage was finally affirmed by law. We've "come a long way" since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Does that mean that fights for equality and representation are done? Do we use these past credits as a way of denying the urgent need to act in the moment? That wasn't the spirit of those movements then, and it shouldn't be now.

    Remember that we all have a different baseline. Many users who are here now would have immediately noped out of 2010 MetaFilter. They arrived in a time when expectations were already different. Also, many users who have been here throughout have witnessed that whole trajectory and helped drive it, or moved along with it instead of resisting and grudgingly accepting it.

    If "a lot of the loss of numbers" was people who don't like behaving in a moderately respectful manner to people unlike them, then good riddance. Who wants to run a web community like that? Why would we want one now?

    I don't see users with issues today bringing up grievances from 5 years ago. I also don't see them saying "whew, at least I'm glad things aren't as bad as they were then," because they just wouldn't still be here if it were. They are existing in the now and wanting MetaFilter to support their participation in the current present moment, in ways that it has become pretty normal to be supported in participation in any number of contexts on and off the web.

    Is the observation that it's "gotten better" true? Sure. Is that a point of pride? Not really. Because it had to get better because it was bad. It should continue to get better because it is still bad for many people, and there are many people not here who could be great contributors and community members, because it is bad for them. Standards change. Expectations move forward. Inclusive cultural norms are not too much to ask. They never been. The observation that "it's gotten so much better" is a very unwelcome one at some moments. It can feel like asking for cookies for doing the bare minimum to curtail egregiously hostile elements of the culture. Yes, things improved, like the way a restaurant getting a "conditional" health inspection is improved over one getting a "failed." Things still need to improve.
    posted by Miko at 7:57 AM on February 27 [25 favorites]


    I could have swore there was a comment asking about what the site was like in he old days but now I can't find it. Maybe it was synthesis from several comments? Any ways I wasn't trying to make excuses or argue against required changes just anchor some old days expectations.

    If "a lot of the loss of numbers" was people who don't like behaving in a moderately respectful manner to people unlike them, then good riddance. Who wants to run a web community like that? Why would we want one now?

    Agree 100%. It's important to keep in mind when talking about declining numbers that a pretty significant percentage are users who behave in a way we don't want (just look at the users names who reset the clock; practically none are still here and a lot of them were pretty active to the point I recognize the names). I remember plenty of flameouts where the user didn't like a deletion of over the top bad behavior and who not only performed what passed for buttoning at the time but often went on out of band crusades against the site. People getting nostalgic about the old busy days need to remember that it was an -ist hell hole; it just wasn't as much of an -ist hell hole as most other community sites which was an incredibly low bar. The worst days on Metafilter were just average days on /., K5 or SA (or holy crap something like Fark). Reading old Metas especially so many are so shockingly bad. I'm very glad we aren't like that anymore even if I didn't recognize the path to improvement at the time or even the need.
    posted by Mitheral at 9:24 AM on February 27 [3 favorites]


    crazy with stars: maybe once Metafilter outgrew that size, but it's possible that in its old age Metafilter has shrunk back to the size for ad hoc moderation.

    mitheral: Personally I liked the smaller Metafilter over the massive number of users/comments of the peak days and don't really desire to return to those sorts of levels. It felt more small town than big city where everyone knows everyone else at least in passing. More users than now possibly but quite a bit less than the max would be ideal.

    I don't disagree. One way forward is certainly for Metafilter to be comfortable at a smaller scale that's more manageable with the general modding structure we have now. With that, there's also the financial piece to consider of course: a userbase with the size and posting frequency of 2008 isn't going to support the staff and site expenses that it did then (particularly as new people were signing up and paying $5, which will be less the case if we expect that there will be less churn and fewer new signups, and the changes in ad revenue since then.)

    With that said, the question is how Metafilter would make sure to address the concerns of LGBTQ and BIPOC members in this context. Yes, a more homogeneous (which means straight, white, cis, male) site is going to have fewer contentious discussions about how to address equity problems. That's not a good thing if Metafilter's community values a diverse set of voices and a broad welcome, and it's a question that has to be answered regardless of how the site moves forward. (Or if it isn't directly addressed, that's the answer in and of itself.)
    posted by tivalasvegas at 9:41 AM on February 27 [3 favorites]


    Yes, things were worse and so what? The culture is moving, the people are moving, the site is moving along because it is made out of the people in it. The people still around and passionate about the place are people who have grown in the last 5, 10 or whatever years.
    So there is a mismatch in "let's have a busy site" = "let's be assholes like in olden times".
    The site has crashed because in the last 10 years Facebook and Youtube have become well, whatever they are, and the kids are Tiktoking, and Google screwed MF out of the money it was making. Not because all the assholes left, or because so many BIPOC and LGBTQ people left... people, in general, are leaving because MF is a strange old place and people always leave. We need a way for new people to replenish, and try to keep people around. If they are here now chances are they are not grumpy about "I can't be an -ist here", those people are on Parler or Stromfront or wherever.
    There is a certain tipping point, where if there is not enough content to keep people regularly engaged the place slowly dies, and I think we have been teetering around there for the last few years.
    posted by Meatbomb at 11:12 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


    Meatbomb: "people, in general, are leaving because MF is a strange old place and people always leave. We need a way for new people to replenish, and try to keep people around."

    Totally agree with this. I did not mean above that Metafilter's shrinking was a good thing. Far from it.
    posted by crazy with stars at 11:25 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


    I’ve been on web fora that stuck around with far fewer users than we have now - or never had more to begin with. The thing about those is just that they sort of became a little club for people who were mostly among the most active members of the forum all along. MeFi at this point feels like it has conspicuously lost a quite a few of those longstanding major contributors.
    posted by atoxyl at 1:21 PM on February 27 [8 favorites]


    Also it feels like we lose users from “both sides” of the same conflicts - see any of the Democratic primary shit. I don’t know if that is because of how the site is or just how everything is right now, but as a result it doesn’t even feel like the range of users is naturally narrowing and consolidating so much as falling apart.
    posted by atoxyl at 1:25 PM on February 27 [10 favorites]


    Plus, this community has more emotional turmoil and trauma than previously, which requires a different set of skills to address and bring about healing.

    Well, it's not like there's no one here flipping out from pandemical cabin fever...
    posted by y2karl at 6:00 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


    I'm wary of unmoored featurism (ie. "tech") in general but I think Metafilter's W E L C O M E  -  P R E P A R E   T O   D A T A B L O G aesthetic/ethos could benefit from features that afford a bit more embodiment or sense of context. Plebian as they are, I find avatars or moods or signatures or taglines or plans or statistics displayed next to comments or usernames on hover/touch/whatever do help to provide context or I guess situatedness that can aid mutual understanding and help anchor/orient the community around aspects other than our wrong/problematic/clumsy comments/thoughts/feelings/being. Just an idea.
    posted by dmh at 8:51 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


    could have swore there was a comment asking about what the site was like in he old days but now I can't find it.

    Is this it?
    the best times at MetaFilter?
    February 10, 2002

    Matt has some good stuff to say in that one.
    posted by clavdivs at 9:09 PM on February 27 [5 favorites]


    I’ve hesitated several times in sitting down to write this comment, trying to redraft my thoughts into something coherent. To be honest I’m not sure if it’s done, but I know I’ll be upset with myself if this thread closes before I say what’s bouncing around in my head, so here goes.

    There are two main bottlenecks (chokepoints?) for everything that users have asked for, in this and other MetaTalks, for years: frimble’s availability and cortex’s intransigence.

    Frimble is quite clearly a genius, and nothing I’m going to say elsewhere in this post should be interpreted against them, but one consistent theme over the past five (or more?) years has been that “X feature can only be added once frimble is ready” or “frimble has to prioritize site maintenance over X feature”. Hearing this over and over again leads me to some conclusions:

    1) Frimble’s availability, and the lack of anyone else who can take up their burden, is itself a social justice issue this site must address.

    The best time to have trained a second person to do Coldfusion work and dive deep into Metafilter's code was years ago, but it never happened. Now the site can’t truly prioritize anything because all the work has to be filtered through one part-timer’s availability, but at the same time they can’t admit that anything is not a priority either. The end result is that improvements that users consider to be absolute must-haves — the deletion ability for posts and histories, pronoun specifications, revamping the flag function, slur filters, moderation logs — get dragged on and on until users have to say “I will leave the site unless this feature exists.” Continuing to say “frimble will get to it eventually” is for all practical purposes a lie. Someone else has to be trained to do the work, to fill in the gaps.

    2) We have to admit that most site innovations are spurned or blunted by Cortex until the last possible moment.

    I don’t know the man personally, but I do remember that in loup’s first week on the job, he undercut them after they deleted a comment with a clear mod note that specifically called out a user for violating rules, by reediting the note to omit the user’s name, and then had to be called on it in MeTa. I do remember that when a user who was concerned about stalkers needed to have their site history erased, he publicly told them they would be accommodated, then told them in private that they should not return, and then was very disingenuous when called on it in MeTa. I remember he had to be positively dragged into the formation of a BIPOC board, users had to threaten that they would not only stop donations, they would depart and warn other people away from the site, if the advisory board didn’t exist.

    But he’s the owner! It is literally impossible to turn Metafilter into an employee-owned site, or god forbid a non-profit, without his cooperation. So for all the talk about “which users are the missing stair” earlier in the thread, we find that the missing-est stair of all is the owner.

    So here’s the only path forward that I can see: Just like he was cajoled, bribed and threatened into forming a BIPOC board, he has to be pushed into accepting user volunteer help. He needs to receive this as a fait accompli. A spreadsheet with a list of user info, with people signing on and saying “I can give X hours a week to learn Coldfusion” or “I can spend X hours a month designing a better tag system” or “I can design a way to receive donations for specific site goals” and then he must be dragged into accepting that help. He cannot be allowed to refuse.

    To continue to insist that the current staffing can do it all themselves, that this site will implement the features that other sites already had a decade ago, without tapping into the user goodwill that still begrudgingly exists, is to lie in the face of all evidence.

    Another thing I remember about cortex is that when the site’s revenue dropped and money for mods was low, he promised that he would keep running the site, not shut it down, even if it shrank to a fraction of its users and him the only mod. I thought that was really admirable, but now the last 18 months have made me wonder — isn’t the current site on a path to that outcome? Is he aware of it? Is he planning to do something to change it?
    posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:01 PM on February 28 [21 favorites]


    Frimble’s availability, and the lack of anyone else who can take up their burden, is itself a social justice issue this site must address.

    This one sentence stopped me cold.
    posted by bixfrankonis at 5:15 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


    The best time to have trained a second person to do Coldfusion work and dive deep into Metafilter's code was years ago, but it never happened. Now the site can’t truly prioritize anything because all the work has to be filtered through one part-timer’s availability.

    That inadvertently places some blame on Matt and pb. Frimble was on board
    May 27, 2016 and they resumed full duties in June said year. Cortex aquired the filter July 31, 2017. 29th I think. But I believe your point is as to the time hence of cortex' ownership, call it three years. I am curious if that conversation has taken place, getting a 2nd person on board, or more if they volunteer. I think the most important question to ask is who can actually do cold fusion and all the other stuff. I say set up a side committee, ad hoc, of all the smart computer folks and there's oddles, here, and discuss some points and toss a prospectus to Staff. I can see were a hand wavey we'll get to it, stated that way and feature requests for months have little traction could be considered a lie, but I don't think so. keyworded frimble and was surprised at the work they have achieved under the conditions of finance, Covid and a site under change.
    posted by clavdivs at 10:01 PM on February 28


    Another thing I remember about cortex is that when the site’s revenue dropped and money for mods was low, he promised that he would keep running the site, not shut it down, even if it shrank to a fraction of its users and him the only mod. I thought that was really admirable, but now the last 18 months have made me wonder — isn’t the current site on a path to that outcome? Is he aware of it? Is he planning to do something to change it?

    That is what stopped me cold. Perhaps the reason why cortex has yet to articulate a vision for the site is because, subconsciously, this is what he wants. Or at least, this is a path he is comfortable with, and it's the path the site is on, so....
    posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 10:36 PM on February 28 [3 favorites]


    That is what stopped me cold. Perhaps the reason why cortex has yet to articulate a vision for the site is because, subconsciously, this is what he wants. Or at least, this is a path he is comfortable with, and it's the path the site is on, so....

    I also remember that quote and think it is something significant for Josh to address. There is a big difference for many of us stakeholders - current funders, people expending emotional energy on the site, people ready to invest sweat equity and spend social capital - between a place in a managed decline into complete insignificance and a place that we want to keep vibrant and relevant to our lives and our online community. If the plan (I really hope it is not the plan) is for MF to lumber along, ever diminished, then we need to know that. If we are going to make some radical shifts in owner policy towards, well, any of the dozens of good ideas on the table, let's hear it!
    posted by Meatbomb at 2:15 AM on March 1 [5 favorites]


    I am reminded of the opening sequence from 2013 BSG: "The cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan." And as the series moved forward, it became more and more clear that the writers DIDN'T have a plan, they were flying by the seat of their pants. They took a great concept and eventually crashed it, and it would have been a lot more forgivable if they hadn't made the claim all along that this was all going to make sense at some point.
    posted by rikschell at 10:23 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


    Yeah and didn’t they make a miniseries from the Cylond POV called The Plan and the whole point there WAS no plan isn’t the irony brilliant uh no
    posted by angrycat at 11:04 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


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