[MeFi Site Update] May 10th May 10, 2021 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Hello Metafilter! Here’s another update on the state of the site.

Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread, please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions. If you have any questions or feedback not related to this particular update, please Contact Us instead. If you want to discuss a particular subject not covered here with the community, you’re welcome to open a separate MetaTalk thread for it.

Technical Changes
- frimble added two links to the mobile menu on the Modern theme: a donate link and a link to the contact form. Thank you frimble!
- Highlighted threads in the US Politics widget now disappear after a fixed period of time, so we won’t have The Last Time Trump Did Something hanging around forever in the sidebar anymore.
- New maps/geocoding work is pretty much complete. Let us know if you see map or location related bugs
- We’ve removed some early-COVID notes on the MetaFilter and Ask MetaFilter posting pages now that there’s a lot more information on the subject widely available.

Things we are working on
- Privacy Policy updates. I will report back with more details soon. For now, we are going over revisions with the attorneys.

BIPOC Advisory board
- I will work with Thyme to give you an update from the third BIPOC Advisory board meeting that happened a couple weeks ago.

Reporting back on feedback from previous Metas
- I will start going over these this week and build a list so that I can track them and start gathering feedback and tracking them.


Reporting back on the anti-oppression consultant

I discussed this with the team since this is a process that started before I joined the team, here are some notes I want to share with you on this:

Overall, the team agrees that this is not a "We did this, we're done." situation but more a “we have new awareness of these issues and that has changed and will keep changing how we operate” case.

These are some of the things that happened as a consequence of the anti-oppression consultancy sessions:

- Hiring BIPOC mods. (hiring more than one person; hiring people with different backgrounds). This resulted in both Thyme and myself joining the team.

- Letting new mods take the lead. We have spearheaded several projects, mostly helping with website content/guidelines, moderation policies, documentation and, of course, the creation of the BIPOC Advisory board.

- Updating Moderation Content. The Guidelines, Content Policy, and Microaggressions pages were reworked collaboratively by mostly Thyme and myself to be more explicit about the issues around minorities. Also, several parts of these pages were written based on feedback from trans/BIPOC members of the community.

- Changes to moderation practices. The above pages have also affected how content is moderated and the actions we may take. (You can find more details under the “Enforcement” section of the Content Policy).

- Redistribution of responsibilities and staffing hours. To reduce possible burnout and allow new mods to have a voice and impact with the new initiatives listed above. This has helped the mod team's practices change and grow.
posted by loup (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 1:27 PM (23 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you, loup and the rest of the mods!
posted by mbrubeck at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the update, loup!
posted by kimberussell at 7:33 PM on May 10, 2021

posted by Joe in Australia at 7:57 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thank you!
posted by limeonaire at 8:57 PM on May 10, 2021

I just noticed the contact link on mobile! Thanks!
posted by mochapickle at 8:15 PM on May 11, 2021

Thanks again for these updates.

Reporting back on the anti-oppression consultant

Did any of the sessions with the consultant address how to deal with discussions on MetaTalk in a good way, and how mods learn about and respond to issues that members bring up here? MT is where members have traditionally brought their concerns regarding oppression; it's the most direct point of interaction between members and mods; and there have been significant, and controversial, changes in its role over the past year+. I really appreciate the efforts that you (loup) are making here right now, and at the same time things still feel somewhat uncertain and decentralized. I'd like to know how MT's role was approached with the consultant, and to hear about whether there's any long-term strategy for the team as a whole about how to use and respond to members' input on MetaTalk in ways that make MetaFilter better.

Also, are future one-off or periodic sessions with the consultants in the works?
posted by trig at 6:11 AM on May 12, 2021 [11 favorites]

- Did any of the sessions with the consultant address how to deal with discussions on MetaTalk in a good way, and how mods learn about and respond to issues that members bring up here?

Yes, that has been a big part of it, and it has mostly resulted in the points above. It was clear the old way was not working and we have tried and will keep trying better ways to funnel and implement feedback from the community.

There are a lot of ways we get feedback from members and that feedback is incorporated very directly into mod decision making. Particularly, Flagging and the contact form are still the main way that we get direct feedback from members on specific comments/posts that are concerning, if you leave a flag note on a comment, it will, most likely, be reviewed collectively discussed with the rest of the team.

That is also one of the reasons why we have put so much focus on updating the moderation content in the past months.

Going over the feedback in the previous MetaTalks, tracking it, and reporting back on it is probably my main project right now and I hope to start including this in the future site update posts.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:49 AM on May 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Godspeed loup, that is a huge and important job.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:48 PM on May 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ahh, US Politics sidebar widget update makes me happy! Thanks for that & everything else.
posted by obloquy at 2:42 PM on May 14, 2021

It was clear the old way was not working

Can you elaborate on what the consultant and staff understand as what the "old way" was and what was "not working" about it?

Also, do you "hope" to start including Meta feedback in future State of the Site posts...or plan and commit to doing so?
posted by Miko at 9:21 PM on May 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Hi loup,

Thanks again for answering our questions, and for making it possible to ask them here in the first place.

When I asked about MetaTalk, I meant MetaTalk specifically -- not other means of submitting input, like the contact form or flagging.

I asked because MetaTalk has a unique value. Through the specifically public discussion on MT, I've been exposed to issues that other people have on this site and which I wouldn't otherwise be aware of. Through MT I have found out that issues that I've personally experienced are also shared by others. Through MT, and the discussions here, I've learned to understand a lot of member experiences I didn't before. And through the mods' responses on MT, I can see what the site's direction is at large, what its ethos is, the reasons for its decisions, and on a few occasions even -- unfortunately -- examples of exactly the kind of dynamics that other users have brought up as problematic and that I had always dismissed, until seeing them for myself. None of this would be possible if people's input were restricted to private backchannel conversations.

That gets messy for the mods, I know. It makes the job more difficult and less pleasant. But if the goal is to act against oppression, then I think the work that MT requires is both necessary and ultimately worth it. And then the question is how to do it well.

That's why I asked if the mods had used any of their time with the anti-oppression consultant to talking about MT, and if so what came out of that.

We're in the midst of a pretty strange time at Metafilter. For the first time that I can remember, MT is basically dead. I think at least some of us want to know what the plan is, and if the current setup is a temporary breather before getting back to the business of community involvement in an active way, or if this is what the mods see as their direction for the future.

For me the latter would mean a significant change to the character of this site, and for my relationship with it. I'd been assuming/hoping that the current state is temporary and that the mods will finally look at all the serious, heartfelt discussions that took place here last year. I'm really glad that you're starting to do this. I'm wary about the fact that it seems like you (loup) are the only one who's doing this. I hope that's not the case. And I would like to know - if not now, then hopefully not too much longer from now - what the plan is for this site/business/community in the future, so that I can evaluate my own participation in it.
posted by trig at 9:04 AM on May 15, 2021 [7 favorites]

loup, the things you describe sound good, and I appreciate all the work you and Thyme have been doing to update moderation content. Simultaneously, it's incredibly frustrating to see threads like this one (about the uneven burden of childcare and domestic work falling on women) remain apparently unmoderated, despite a literal notallmen comment as the second comment in that thread, and repeated derails by two posters in particular (along with one screen-filling comment detailing how one male poster does most of the housework in his house) re-centering the discussion on men. It seems like such an excruciatingly textbook case of the things that are driving away members, such an obvious example of the type of thing I would have thought the updated moderation policies were meant to target, that I am just so disheartened right now.

I want to believe Metafilter and the mods can and will do better, but this thread has been up for days now. I'm only seeing it today because I mostly read the blue on weekends, and I surely can't be the only one, so I don't think it's the case of it being "too late" to be worth moderating. And according to at least one poster in the thread, they flagged the inaugural #notallmen comment "within minutes of it posting" so I can't imagine the problem is that nobody is flagging this nonsense ... so what is happening? What efforts are moderators taking to actually DO better? Because right now that is very hard to see. If this would be better as a separate Metatalk I'm happy to start one, but I'm really using that thread as an example and not the one and only case (the thread about Apple hiring and then dismissing a virulent misogynist sure did give a lot of space and time for one poster to suck all the air out of things before a mod finally stepped in, too, for instance).
posted by DingoMutt at 10:57 AM on May 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

Ugh, and apparently I was more accurate than I'd realized when I noted that that #notallmen comment is the type of thing driving away members, as it looks like the first person who pushed back on that turd of a comment has buttoned.

Frankly I would much rather be in a community that supports and cultivates the kind of member who objects to #notallmen comments and that sheds the ones who would make those comments, but here we are.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:40 PM on May 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh my! How indeed has that thread gone so unmoderated?!
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on May 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm glad, I guess, that travelingthyme finally did step in today, but given that the thread has been up and active for multiple days now it really baffles and upsets me that nothing had been done beforehand. I would love a triage discussion here to understand what the ever-loving hell happened on the moderation end, and how the ball was dropped SO badly - especially after so many rounds of what feels like the same discussion here in Metatalk. I would like to know why it was up to the new mods to fix what was obviously a deraily shitshow, with so many (now mostly deleted, thanks to travelingthyme) comments centering the discussion on men - just, why? From what I can tell it's not like there's some other thread that's been so fast moving that the on-duty mods couldn't look at anything else, so ... what happened? And more importantly, what is the entire moderation staff doing to make sure this doesn't happen again?
posted by DingoMutt at 9:58 PM on May 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Is there ever any followup on why people have buttoned?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:53 PM on May 15, 2021

I thought about making a metatalk thread about the housework thread - it was really disappointing.
posted by medusa at 5:08 AM on May 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

That thread was like watching any progress on sexism in the last 10 years just slide away.
posted by Miko at 7:19 AM on May 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Hi everyone and thank you for waiting. Monday was a bit busy so I’m catching up. Let me try to summarize my points:

- Going over the feedback in the previous MetaTalks, and reporting back on it is definitely something I am committed to do and I hope to start soon. It all comes down to bandwidth.

- Yes, MetaTalk has a unique value and yes, this has been discussed with the anti-oppression consultant extensively. The actions I listed above are a direct consequence of those conversations. When I said the old way was not working, I mean that using MetaTalk as the primary way to gather feedback has proven to be unsustainable so far. That being said, there is a lot to be done in that regard, and particularly one of the main goals of the team is to improve how we (the mod team) track, review, discuss and implement the feedback from the community. Also, that is the main goal of these threads.

- That leads us to the next big point: what the plan is for Metafilter in the future.

More to come on that in the next few weeks, but overall, we have been working as a team on 3 main goals: better infrastructure, sustainability, ongoing improvements.

Let me summarize them:

- Infrastructure: This leads back to the content overhaul we’ve been working on (Guidelines, GDPR and other Data Privacy Laws compliance, privacy policy, terms of use...). All of these have been advancing at different paces and we provide updates as often as we can, but this is a long process and definitely one of the main priorities as it defines a lot of what Metafilter is and what Metafilter can be.

- Sustainability: This is basically how we use the resources we have to keep the site running more efficiently and to keep making changes and improvements. This is tightly related to the Redistribution of responsibilities mentioned above.

- Improvements: When it comes to the improvements we make to the site, these have been and will be included as they happen. We do have other plans on the horizon as well, but Infrastructure and Sustainability have been prioritized to make sure we can support all these changes first.

Lastly, about the housework thread, as you can read in the “Enforcement” section of the Content Policy, if you report something to us and it is not removed it doesn’t mean that we have not taken any actions. We evaluate each post/comment reported to us (we often do this collectively) and, while we don't always remove content, we do keep a record of every report. Over time this helps us to identify patterns of abusive content, and take the appropriate actions.

Sometimes, a comment is not removed not because we think it is OK, but because we believe it allows other MeFites to make informed decisions about the person posting said comments.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:12 PM on May 18, 2021

Sometimes, a comment is not removed not because we think it is OK, but because we believe it allows other MeFites to make informed decisions about the person posting said comments.

And sometimes it's because the moderation is not great. Sometimes it's because the moderators lack empathy or insight, or are unable to see past their own biases. I think that happens much more often than some 10th-dimensional chess strategy of letting people condemn themselves from their own mouths. If that sort of thing actually worked there would be no racism or antisemitism; we would just have to wait for people to figure it out for themselves.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:05 AM on May 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sometimes, a comment is not removed not because we think it is OK, but because we believe it allows other MeFites to make informed decisions about the person posting said comments.

That's where other mod tools like mod notes or private warnings come in, right?

Thanks for answering my questions. I do hope the direction that MetaTalk seems to be going in isn't the ultimate direction, for the reasons I gave above.
posted by trig at 5:03 AM on May 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

loup, I really appreciate all of your input here - thank you for doing the work to provide us information on the things people have been asking about. I'm looking forward to your input on the feedback from previous Metatalk threads and am grateful to you for taking that on as well. Thank you for being part of the mod team.

In the spirit of improvement, with regards to the plan to leave problematic comments up so other MeFites can make informed decisions about the posters, I know this is something that had been asked for in previous Metatalks and appreciate the responsiveness to that request. At the same time, I would add that doing nothing that's visible in-thread can - as happened in that housework thread - make it look like nothing IS happening, and I think that gives further space for the shitty/deraily discussions to continue (again, as happened in that housework thread). As I'd mentioned earlier, I first read the housework thread several days after it had been posted, and for all intents and purposes it looked like the mods had ignored the problems in it. At least one user buttoned, and others spent time and effort rebutting the #notallmen garbage that continued to be defended and doubled down on by two members in particular. If I were a potential new user reading the blue for the first time, I would have noped right out after reading that thread.

What I would ask is that if a decision is made to leave up a shitty comment, please let us know IN the thread as quickly as possible - and please be clear why it's being left up. Please let us know mods actually are watching and are not tolerating this kind of comment. Otherwise, invisible behind-the-scenes work is exactly that - invisible.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:52 AM on May 19, 2021 [7 favorites]

Thank you for the feedback! This is exactly the reason why going back to open threads was so necessary.

"What I would ask is that if a decision is made to leave up a shitty comment, please let us know IN the thread as quickly as possible - and please be clear why it's being left up." - Yes, lesson learned, I'll raise this to the entire team in this week's meeting as well.

Also, yes, as mods, we recognize we have areas of ignorance and this happens often, even wen we review issues collectively. That is one of the reasons why capturing feedback from you, the community, is so vital to improve what we do.

Remember you can let us know if there's a problem we may not recognize or if you think a Mod note is necessary by adding a note to your flag or contacting us directly.

I'd like to elaborate a bit about the “Enforcement” section of the Content Policy:

Aside from removing content or public mod notes, the other actions we take in the background, are far more common than you would expect. We also evaluate trends over time to make a decision, so if we detect that there is an ongoing behavior of "seemingly minor" shitty, jerkish or otherwise problematic behavior we'll reach out to that member privately to address it and follow up on that as needed. Let me know if you have questions or feedback about this.

Lastly, when it comes to the future plans for Metafilter, there is a lot in the horizon BUT, I'd say that Infrastructure will be a big component of it for a while, particularly compliance, privacy policy, and ToU. I'll make sure to keep you updated on that even if may sound repetitive some times.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

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