A change in moderator coverage of the site July 14, 2021 3:16 PM   Subscribe

I want to update everybody about how moderator schedules have changed recently to account for budget constraints. The short version is: we’re actively monitoring the site most of the time instead of 24/7 to reduce costs, and while this shouldn’t directly affect member experiences overall it does mean occasionally waiting a little longer than previously for moderator responses on flags and emails. Come on in for some more detail if you’re interested.

With our new schedule, we have someone on shift about 75% of the time, with gaps between shifts during quieter periods on the site. US daytime is when the site is busiest and when mod coverage will be uninterrupted -- this is overwhelmingly when the most moderation-heavy situations arise. There are 1- or 2-hour gaps in the evenings; on weekends we’re working a 3 hours on, 3 hours off schedule.

This is all scheduled shift time, with a dedicated moderator on duty; we also have alert systems for when multiple flags pile up on a comment or post, to which mods can respond situationally if available, so a gap in moderation shifts does not translate to a guaranteed lack of moderation response. But there may be times when no one is available to grab something for an hour or two: that’s the main change.

The goal here is to keep reasonably solid moderation coverage available every day, throughout the day; we’ve been doing this since the start of July and so far it has worked without issue.

We’ll continue to assess how the change is working and what if anything we want to change about our alert processes and any other wrinkles that arise. But aside from a slower response to some contact form messages and the probable occasional easy delete sticking around longer than it traditionally would, the experience for site members should remain essentially unchanged; we'll be using the same communication channels (contact form, flags, mod notes in threads) as we always have.

I’ve worked hard the last several years to maintain 24/7 moderation on the site despite the ongoing decline of web ad revenue, both for the sake of coverage itself and for the moderator team who do this work for a living. It’s not currently possible to keep doing that, hence the change; if the situation changes again such that we can return full-time coverage, we will.

We'll talk about fundraising a bit more soon, but: we’re able to maintain as much as coverage as we are now thanks to the ongoing funding provided directly by MetaFilter members and supporters. Thank you everyone who has been and is currently supporting the site; if you aren’t and you would like to do so, or would like to increase your funding amount, you can do so from our Funding Page.

In any case, thanks everyone for bearing with us in this change. I'll keep you posted if there's any significant further changes to how we're apportioning moderation hours on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) to Etiquette/Policy at 3:16 PM (58 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

I have a lot of sympathy for moderators facing reduced hours and pay, and for cortex having to make another gloomy announcement.

At the same time, I'm finding it frustrating that we are hearing about cutbacks to moderation — which is core to the user experience and site culture — before we've heard anything about planning or strategy to stem the decline in site participation and put the site's finances on a sustainable footing.

It's been 10 years since active users started steadily declining, and 7 years since the big switch from ad revenue to member donations. As recently as February, we were told there was "not enough of a net loss to be immediately worrying" — but five months later here we are, with core site aspects being chipped away at.
posted by Klipspringer at 5:15 AM on July 15 [28 favorites]


I realize money is tight but you guys need a fundraising consultant.
posted by all about eevee at 6:27 AM on July 15 [32 favorites]


I agree with Klipspringer: I think cutting back on mod coverage during slow times is fine, but I would hope that it is a part of a bigger plan to identify areas where staff can cut back time/energy so that more focus can be paid to some of the higher priorities, and I don't hear that thrust in this announcement.
posted by tivalasvegas at 6:27 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I also know that these comments might be frustrating and anxiety-inducing, and I feel real sympathy for you, cortex. I know these are hard decisions and that you love Metafilter with all your heart, but it is clear that you need help and guidance from experts in areas that don't come so naturally to you and your team. I wish for you a future in which you have all the time and money you need to solve these problems.
posted by all about eevee at 6:50 AM on July 15 [23 favorites]


I have commented numerous times on your updates that I appreciate your dedication to and love of this website and the community. That hasn't changed.

But this update is sad to read, because for years you've had members chomping at the bit to volunteer and help modernize the codebase, to make the site easier to use and more welcoming, and even to talk about fundraising. These update posts have been full of offers and suggestions. And as someone who is here almost every day, other than the increased vigilance about slurs (highly appreciated!), I have seen little to no change in operation or direction or even a plan other than wait and see. People want to help - let them in!
posted by kimberussell at 7:44 AM on July 15 [20 favorites]


Is it possible Cortex is doing a good job and that these are not reasonably avoidable problems? I don't know the inner workings of metafilter, but I also don't know why people are so confident it's being run poorly, or that the failure to adopt the myriad solutions offered is the reason the site is not thriving. Not every problem has a complete solution.
posted by skewed at 7:48 AM on July 15 [72 favorites]


I don't think the site is being run poorly. I think that the team doesn't know how to fundraise because fundraising doesn't just come naturally to people. Fundraising is a profession and most brand new fundraisers need to learn from a professional.
posted by all about eevee at 8:44 AM on July 15 [21 favorites]


I’ve been a lurker for a long time and then an occasional poster and I gave MeFi $25 a month for a while and was active in meetups, so MeFi has been a part of my life forever. But I’ve really cut back - not because of the site’s design or moderation, or any of that. Fundraising and a different look and feel aren’t going to make up for the fact that we have the same conversations all the time. I can see a topic of a post and think, “oh, I bet I know how this conversation is going to go” and be right. Ask has the same advice all the time, too. And it’s all gripey and depressing, which i get plenty of in my own head. So that’s my take
posted by heurtebise at 9:19 AM on July 15 [31 favorites]


I just want to know things are “stable” or what stable looks like. Cutting into mod hours for budget reasons sucks, and I’m sorry to all the mods.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:56 AM on July 15 [5 favorites]


and I don't hear that thrust in this announcement.

I want to be open here about how much I debated the when and how of this announcement specifically because I was worried it would be turned into a catch-all, "but what about this other stuff?" discussion. Which, I get it, there is other stuff, but this is me telling the community about a specific thing in the interest of open disclosure about that specific thing. I can't tell anybody what to want to talk about but I really would like this to be a thread about, specifically, the mod schedule and questions/concerns/etc., if any, about that specifically.

It's going to help me a lot to not have to carve out energy and headspace to tackle the everything-else in here as well.

I just want to know things are “stable” or what stable looks like.

I get you. So, what stable looks like is:
- we can pay monthly recurring and misc. administrative costs: hosting (AWS server and storage and bandwidth), tech/dev hours (what frimble does), a handful of service and subscriptions, business admin costs (non-mod stuff I do), and so on.
- we cover dedicated projects like the BIPOC board honoraria fund and consulting costs
- we pay most of what is left in payroll for moderator hours
- we save a little bit against future unexpected expenses

Most of our costs are, and always have been, payroll. We pay $30/hour for it. 24/7 coverage is 168 hours a week, or $5040, or about $21.5K per month, assuming (unrealistically) no additional time worked outside of scheduled shifts. For a while we were able to do that on top of administrative costs and room to spare for things like benefits or small year-end bonuses. We've been trimming for years as ad revenues across the web have continuously declined, and we're now at a point where keeping that 168 hours in place isn't possible.

So, maintaining stability with a budget shortfall here means reducing payroll hours. This current schedule rework is an attempt to accomplish that: if we can get back to a black line on monthly spending, that's the short term goal accomplished. If the current schedule doesn't end up fixing that entirely, it will have at least put the brakes on month to month losses in a way that will let us plan the rest of the year better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:44 AM on July 15 [37 favorites]


Thank you for all you all are doing for this site.
posted by halehale at 11:39 AM on July 15 [20 favorites]


> I have a lot of sympathy for moderators facing reduced hours and pay, and for cortex having to make another gloomy announcement. At the same time, I'm finding it frustrating that we are hearing about cutbacks to moderation — which is core to the user experience and site culture — before we've heard anything about planning or strategy to stem the decline in site participation and put the site's finances on a sustainable footing.

Well, cortex didn't really have to make this announcement, he is choosing to be much, much more transparent about the operations and finances of Metafilter than...any other site that I can think of. Maybe to a fault.

Why is this announcement even gloomy? It seems like a completely legitimate business decision. During times of the day or night when usage is very low, folks might have to wait an entire hour or two for a moderator to read their email. Um, that strikes me as far more fiscally-responsible than maintaining 24/7 staffing. I question the expectation that sustaining literally 24/7 active moderation is core to the experience and culture of the site.

/I'm a professional fundraiser.
posted by desuetude at 11:43 AM on July 15 [91 favorites]


Just a thank you to cortex and all of the people who make MetaFilter possible and also a thank you for linking the funding info. It was the kick in the pants I needed to actually start pledging monthly, I'd always been in a state of budget uncertainty before, and now I'm on a monthly plan. Keep linking that info with every "state of the site" update, it's easy to get distracted and plan to start donating "tomorrow" but never get to it.
posted by rogerroger at 12:19 PM on July 15 [8 favorites]


This: "we also have alert systems for when multiple flags pile up on a comment or post, to which mods can respond situationally if available, so a gap in moderation shifts does not translate to a guaranteed lack of moderation response" seems like a very reasonable way to address slower periods on the site. I agree with desuetude that literal 24/7 eyeballs on the site may not make the most sense.

One implication of this decision, is that flagging problem posts or comments is even more important during low moderation periods. It would be good for all users to be aware of that, not just the people reading this meta. So, some link / announcement on the blue, update the FAQ, etc.
posted by Gotanda at 3:16 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]

During times of the day or night when usage is very low, folks might have to wait an entire hour or two for a moderator to read their email
I second that that reasonable-ing of expectations is only fair. I'd add that that becomes a user responsibility for those of us who live outside North American timezones—to self-moderate during the prime Australian Drinking Hours.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:27 PM on July 15 [15 favorites]


Mods are asleep, post kangaroos.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:28 PM on July 15 [23 favorites]


I don't think that waiting a few hours for moderation (as opposed to a few days, or weeks, or nevers on other sites) is all that unreasonable.
posted by signal at 6:53 PM on July 15 [10 favorites]


Thank you, Cortex. You're doing hard work. And it's really good work that you're doing. Thank you for being a community shepherd.
posted by amtho at 9:40 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]


So, in a manner of speaking, you have increased the moderation of the moderation?

(Okay, that's a terrible pun. I'll see myself out..)
posted by Alterscape at 12:04 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


I mean, in isolation yes the mod schedule change would be innocuous, I'm sure I wouldn't personally notice the difference.

But that's not the context here? It's not a choice the mods want, it's been enforced by the constant declines in revenue. (Just look at cortex's comments from a couple years ago: "MetaFilter works best when moderation can happen 24/7", "more and more difficult to operate the site with a baseline number of mods to cover a 24/7 site the way we want to"). So yeah, I'd describe it as gloomy. Also for employees having their hours cut. And cortex's last para suggests it might not be the last schedule cut.

One of the consequences of Metafilter's sole-ownership structure is that discussion of the site's sustainability and finances often turns into a personal referendum on the site owner ("Is it possible cortex is doing a good job", as one person unhelpfully framed it). So inevitably, people come out and loyally defend cortex — which is an instinct I totally get! I've been here since 2005, I have a lot of personal affection for cortex and respect for how much he cares about the site. But the end result is any kind of honest, realistic discussion is squashed. Site finance updates went no-comments then stopped and have only recently restarted in a tentative limited way, and the last significant MeTa discussion tagged funding was 2019. The declines in participation and sustainable revenue (i.e. excluding the big anon one-off donation which bought some breathing space) haven't gone away, we've just stopped talking about them — and we hear about mod cutbacks first, instead.

For the professional fundraisers among us, do you look at a chart showing activity has fallen for ten years and three quarters of users have left — and think, "yes this is fine"? Sorry to keep linking it, but activity levels are pretty fundamental to the future of a community weblog.

skewed says maybe these are "not reasonably avoidable problems". Well, possibly! But I like MetaFilter and am not quite ready to give up on it yet — and I don't think anything has really been tried yet to arrest the decline? From a user-experience and technical point of view the site is basically exactly as it was in about 2014-15 — FanFare was launched, fundraising started, ownership changed, and since then we've seen ... the slur filter and that's it? So it's a little early to declare "well, we've tried nothing and we're fresh out of ideas", imho.
posted by Klipspringer at 1:55 AM on July 16 [28 favorites]


> It's been 10 years since active users started steadily declining,

Coincidentally that’s when 24 hour moderation was started too. Perhaps they’ll turn out to be related.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:13 AM on July 16 [9 favorites]


Mefi has a kind of avoidant culture in which difficult questions are often smothered in effusive expressions of praise and support. We huddle together for comfort, but the circle keeps getting smaller.
posted by dmh at 3:16 AM on July 16 [29 favorites]


METAFILTER: to self-moderate during the prime Australian Drinking Hours
posted by philip-random at 7:04 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


“smothered in effusive expressions of praise” is not how I would describe the typical MetaTalk thread about the state of the site.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:51 AM on July 16 [54 favorites]


Everything stems from the decline in active users: fundraising, number of posts, diversity in all aspects of the site, robust discussions, etc. MF won't survive if we keep:
  • alienating current members, often en masse as has occurred with BIPOC and trans folks.
  • failing to market the site to potential new users except in the most indirect ways.

    Ask, for example, has a secondary function as a low key way to market the site to new users who, in theory, discover it after googling their issues, poke around and join. FanFare's genesis included sadness over the demise of Television Without Pity and hope that its users would find us. Apparently there's insufficient resources to maintain even simple and free outreach efforts beyond word-of-mouth. The Metafilter Twitter account has been silent since July 14, 2019 (the 20th anniversary), which is not a good look. Meanwhile its Reddit equivalents rack up followers and prompt page views.

    If the need to attract more members is a given, and I believe that it's fundamental to the site's survival, then strategic choices lies ahead about how to invest in MF's growth. Obviously this will be an enormous conversation, but the question boils down to a stark choice, e.g., should MF:
  • Eschew technology upgrades and, instead, use available resources (or fundraise) to identify and recruit the people who want what MF offers and are charmed by the site's anachronisms, like a completely text-based experience, or;
  • Use available resources (or fundraise) to implement technology changes to broaden the site's appeal, which will change its culture and therefore potentially alienate the existing user base.

    As with so many things MetaFilter, the current tack is trying to blend the two. For example, a stated goal has been to move site culture in response to members' many valid concerns, which is being accomplished using both tech (implementing the anti-slur function, changing how mod comments are represented graphically) and non-tech (hiring a consultant to train staff, stepping up moderation, making certain threads safe spaces, updating site policies) tools. That's important work, and hopefully it will pay off in additional engagement from new and existing members, but is it enough given the current trajectory towards insolvency and/or an MF experience diminished by reduced resources?

    Strategic planning remains sorely needed to answer these and other Big Questions with which most member-dependent organizations, whether virtual or IRL, eventually must reckon. Metafilter's been slowly bleeding out, periodically helped by emergency bandaids that only staunch it for a short while. Was any part of the big gift devoted to tackling the core strategic issues that underpin Metafilter's sustainability? If so, what were the outcomes? If not, can the next fundraising push call out this critical need?

  • posted by carmicha at 9:53 AM on July 16 [6 favorites]


    Klipspringer: ... activity has fallen for ten years and three quarters of users have left ...

    I'm not so sure what's useful about this fact. Internet forum use and participation has been in steep decline for well over a decade. Reddit notwithstanding, and that's a different-enough model that it's not a useful comparison, not so many internet fora have even survived the last ten years, and I doubt that many (if any at all) haven't seen a sharp reduction in activity and numbers of participants. If anything Metafilter seems to have better activity, active user base and relevancy that the vast majority of internet discussion fora that existed a decade ago. But it's hardly realistic to expect substantially different numbers.
    posted by slkinsey at 10:30 AM on July 16 [25 favorites]


    One consideration when looking at that chart of declining site participation is the way that people's relationships with the internet have changed in the past 10-15 years. Twitter and Facebook and reddit have sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room for the kinds of conversations that might otherwise be happening here. Blogs now primarily exist to game SEO and to sell you things, rather than as a place for conversation.

    A decline would be expected, as people leave and are not replaced, because the blog culture that naturally grew the site to its peak in 2010 no longer exists.

    Which does, as carmicha says, require a change in strategy.
    posted by JDHarper at 10:35 AM on July 16 [8 favorites]


    "Why is [folks losing access to paid labor they enjoy] gloomy?" being the most favorited comment in this thread is a big mood. Justifying something as not gloomy b/c it's a "legitimate business decision" is so much part of that mood. A big, United Statesian, supremacist mood.

    You want a space that attracts folks? Stop reinforcing the safe space for folks that think "it's just business!" in the United States, in 2021, is a legit stance to take to make something not Sad. Anyone not 1-2 degrees of separation from supremacist ways of being is gonna be terrified of you folks in here. This site tries to sell culture that's not supremacist, then the community gives away the game with this type of hegemony.

    That's not to say the decision shouldn't have been made. I don't know. But holy shit. If this ship may ultimately sink, maybe try and not be the rich folks on the titanic saying "well we paid the most and may be repeat customers, it's just good business sense to prioritize our rescue!". Yeesh. Yuck.
    posted by CPAnarchist at 10:55 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]


    I haven't noticed any particular changes or delays these past weeks. Thanks for letting us know, cortex. Looking forward to helping with budget convos in the future.
    posted by mochapickle at 11:34 AM on July 16 [5 favorites]


    Also: I love you all.
    posted by mochapickle at 11:35 AM on July 16 [12 favorites]


    "Why is [folks losing access to paid labor they enjoy] gloomy?" being the most favorited comment in this thread is a big mood. Justifying something as not gloomy b/c it's a "legitimate business decision" is so much part of that mood. A big, United Statesian, supremacist mood.

    It has been suggested before, by the owner, that winding down was a possible option and that the one real priority was that the site still exists as long as possible, even if no one is paid to keep it going. I don’t think that was presented as a goal, and I agree that it isn’t good for someone to lose a job or lose hours at a job they like. I do feel like the site getting smaller has been floated as an acceptable outcome, so in the context of the ongoing discussion of this, an adjustment of hours doesn’t seem particularly gloomy.
    posted by snofoam at 11:38 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


    Hmmm.... if the site winding down is one possible ultimate outcome, maybe other options that seem extreme aren't inconceivable. Like -- I am not recommending this unless the only other option is "nothing" -- changing focus in a way that some/many people would be more motivated to pay for as a service, and actually increasing the number of paid hours put into the site by adding specialized services of some kind.

    If anybody is like, what? no! I can't think of any paid service that's not counter to the spirit of Metafilter.... hey, just because you can't think of any _right_ _now_, that doesn't mean something awesome might not be invented.

    If anyone wants me to brainstorm, I'm down.
    posted by amtho at 12:12 PM on July 16


    Regarding brainstorming:

    cortex
    : I can't tell anybody what to want to talk about but I really would like this to be a thread about, specifically, the mod schedule and questions/concerns/etc., if any, about that specifically.
    posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:38 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


    cortex: I can't tell anybody what to want to talk about but I really would like this to be a thread about, specifically, the mod schedule and questions/concerns/etc., if any, about that specifically. It's going to help me a lot to not have to carve out energy and headspace to tackle the everything-else in here as well.

    Apologies, cortex. I do appreciate you and regret violating your request to help you insulate yourself from burnout and protect your time and focus.
    posted by carmicha at 1:15 PM on July 16


    > Justifying something as not gloomy b/c it's a "legitimate business decision" is so much part of that mood. A big, United Statesian, supremacist mood.

    You want a space that attracts folks? Stop reinforcing the safe space for folks that think "it's just business!" in the United States, in 2021, is a legit stance to take to make something not Sad. Anyone not 1-2 degrees of separation from supremacist ways of being is gonna be terrified of you folks in here. This site tries to sell culture that's not supremacist, then the community gives away the game with this type of hegemony.

    That's not to say the decision shouldn't have been made. I don't know. But holy shit. If this ship may ultimately sink, maybe try and not be the rich folks on the titanic saying "well we paid the most and may be repeat customers, it's just good business sense to prioritize our rescue!". Yeesh. Yuck.

    Hi, as the author of the comment you're referencing, I'm sorely offended by your response. I'm not part of the evil empire for suggesting that rethinking expenses can also be an important consideration toward improving the site's operation and its culture. I am absolutely not glibly suggesting that Metafilter "just" reduce staff hours because it's "just business" nor am I promoting the supremacy of cold hard efficiency. JFC, as a fundraiser for a nonprofit, I spend a significant amount of my professional energy debunking that very attitude.

    Lots of folks are focusing on fundraising! and ad revenue and site traffic, but you think I'm the one prioritizing the protection of the rich folks on the Titanic? What is that?
    posted by desuetude at 2:21 PM on July 16 [50 favorites]


    To follow that, I think the general risk is that “gloomy” is very easy to parse as “catastrophic” in plain text - there’s a reason exclamation points are rife in online communication and greetings in a way that they aren’t offline. I personally have tended to parse any site news in the worst way. Knowing that things are actually kind of stable is a great relief.
    posted by Going To Maine at 4:12 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


    So far I’ve passed out before I could post my cialis and auto warranty links during the opportune wee hours, but I’ve taken a long nap this afternoon, brewed an extra pot of coffee and set two alarms. Wish me luck!
    posted by michaelh at 3:53 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


    I'm not so sure what's useful about this fact. Internet forum use and participation has been in steep decline for well over a decade. Reddit notwithstanding, and that's a different-enough model that it's not a useful comparison, not so many internet fora have even survived the last ten years, and I doubt that many (if any at all) haven't seen a sharp reduction in activity and numbers of participants.

    This is absolutely true. People use the web differently and use different tools than they did ten years ago. Long public journal entries and blogs gave way eventually to fragments of visual meaning and jokes; contemplative discussion faded into Twitter snippets; thriving ecosystems of linked boards with hundreds of users fell off into Facebook and then into Tiktok. This is not an original take, just a confirmation that my own online engagement started back with alt.music.alternative, moved through blogging and Metafilter, and then to moderating a board that doesn't even exist anymore after Facebook siphoned off the conversations into personal updates with pictures. Metafilter still holds on, and I bless it, but we're a niche site now. I still think there's many potential users who would like to share their thoughts here, but I am no expert at outreach.
    posted by jokeefe at 4:18 PM on July 17 [10 favorites]


    You work hard, michaelh, but crypto works harder.
    posted by taz (staff) at 1:54 AM on July 18 [14 favorites]


    >For the professional fundraisers among us, do you look at a chart showing activity has fallen for ten years and three quarters of users have left — and think, "yes this is fine"? Sorry to keep linking it, but activity levels are pretty fundamental to the future of a community weblog.
    FPP and comment counts are trailing indicators for engagement -- it's not obvious what leads the call for people to participate and log web items to this web log.

    Raising more money from fewer people strikes me as a way to dissuade free-at-point-of-use customers from pitching in. I pay recurrently but the thing that's going to make my contributions bring more registrations and commenters is more content from people invested in the community.

    For me, community means shared memetic jokes and overlapping intersections of interest. The moderation and the value I have in my reputation are readons I come back -- there are other cesspools I can join if I need an inconsequential bulletin board.

    I can't end this without thanking the mods and staff for what Metafilter is today and everyone else for what Metafilter was on the journey to now.
    posted by k3ninho at 11:04 AM on July 18 [5 favorites]


    I pay recurrently but the thing that's going to make my contributions bring more registrations and commenters is more content from people invested in the community.

    Do you have any idea how that content is to be increased? Because it's not coming from the mods. I don't have any idea, but IIRC a lot of former contributors specifically blamed their departure on bad moderation, so we may be in a death spiral here.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 7:25 AM on July 19


    There have been several threads wondering why people don't want to post links here anymore and there have been a lot of people (myself included) saying it's just not worth the hassle of putting together a post that strikes someone wrong ideologically and then it's a whole shitshow.

    Not too long ago there was a very interesting link posted going over why obesity is increasing and gathering up some interesting studies and refuting some common tropes (including the much beloved "calories out greater than calories in bing bong so simple") and the thread had people tumbling in to say they hadn't even read the article but it was offensive and triggering to fat people and shouldn't have been allowed. This despite the fact that the OP was fat, many of the posters were fat, and the article explicitly refuted many myths about weight loss.

    I mean why on earth would anyone want to share something cool they've found on a site teeming with people who won't even read the damn link before charging in to demand discussion be shut down if you frame it improperly?

    But the usual response is this sort of arms-folded harrumphing that people SHOULD still post and then SHOULD sit and eat their metaphorical vegetables if they screw up. But for some reason they don't want to, weird! Why's the site dying?
    posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:41 AM on July 19 [77 favorites]


    I've been a member here for almost 10 years and I have started several FPPs but never posted one, because I got stuck in the mud trying to anticipate and pre-empt the ways that it (or I) would be torn apart. None of them were outwardly controversial topics, but my perception is that Mefi is willing to fight over even the most mundane things. I'm probably more sensitive than average, but it's a data point. Unhelpfully, I don't really know what could be done to change that at this point. It seems inherent to the site's culture (maybe even the most prominent trait of the culture, cf. some of the arguing and namecalling upthread).
    posted by primethyme at 9:57 AM on July 19 [25 favorites]


    There have been several threads wondering why people don't want to post links here anymore and there have been a lot of people (myself included) saying it's just not worth the hassle of putting together a post that strikes someone wrong ideologically and then it's a whole shitshow.

    Hi. I am a very longtime user who closed their main mefi account about a year ago. I did so in large part because of the tendency for conversations to be immediately derailed by people trying to imagine and then react to the worst possible interpretation of other users' actions, which was honestly having real impacts on my own mental health. I stopped reading for 6+ months, and have come back as a reader only. I have no interest in posting FPPs. I have no interest in general discussion. I only sometimes read the comments, because often it's better for me not to.

    But.

    But.

    The specific thread you mention, where people demanded a discussion of obesity be shut down because it was "framed improperly"? That was not an example of a good thread gone bad. It was an example of the same behavior MeFi has had for basically forever.

    There were many deleted comments in that thread by people who basically had not read the link that more or less parroted "calories in, calories out". Some tried to frame it as "I'm not saying it's the only thing, but ...". But it was the same shit as always: fat people, who are in the room, listening to people talk about us as if we are not.

    That you only see the reaction to those shitty comments is because (rightfully) they got deleted. That doesn't mean the reaction was unwarranted. It'd be great if you had 1/2 as much concern about people not reading the article and then adding to the same toxic discussion about obesity as you do for those who are tired of having to listen to that same shit aimed at them, about them, as always.
    posted by a faithful sock at 11:00 AM on July 19 [6 favorites]


    First you say this:
    "Hi. I am a very longtime user who closed their main mefi account about a year ago. I did so in large part because of the tendency for conversations to be immediately derailed by people trying to imagine and then react to the worst possible interpretation of other users' actions"

    And then you say this:
    "It'd be great if you had 1/2 as much concern about people not reading the article and then adding to the same toxic discussion about obesity as you do for those who are tired of having to listen to that same shit aimed at them, about them, as always."
    posted by jonathanhughes at 11:47 AM on July 19 [14 favorites]


    Yes, I did say those things, in full acknowledgment that they may seem contradictory. Would you care to actually engage with that?

    My ultimate point is: the internet as a whole has a tremendously bad track record of talking about (usually talking at, or talking over) fat people. MeFi is only mildly better than average in that regard. It is not shocking that a post that is ostensibly not falling into the same unhelpful "lol just try harder" conversation that usually dominates our culture nevertheless gets pushback, particularly given that there were comments in that very thread in fact having that same conversation (even if people attempted to act like they weren't saying that).

    And so for someone to use that as an example to justify this statement:

    I mean why on earth would anyone want to share something cool they've found on a site teeming with people who won't even read the damn link before charging in to demand discussion be shut down if you frame it improperly?

    I'm going to react pretty negatively to that, and I don't in fact think I'm having to imagine a worst possible interpretation here. This isn't me having to decipher subtext. This is me just reading the text.
    posted by a faithful sock at 12:14 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


    There have been several threads wondering why people don't want to post links here anymore and there have been a lot of people (myself included) saying it's just not worth the hassle of putting together a post that strikes someone wrong ideologically and then it's a whole shitshow.

    That was my own experience, for what it's worth. I came to the conclusion that MeFi is an intrinsically abusive environment that, if it were at arm's length, would outrage us.
    posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 PM on July 19 [10 favorites]


    All of these conversations are terrible at some level because they identify virtues of the site that are explicitly in tension with each other. A thread is bad because people comment without reading. A thread is bad because it only consists of the same old comments (because all of the bad comments were deleted). A thread is bad because we can’t say what we want. A thread is bad because the community is allowing comments that are considered abusive to stand. A thread is bad because it’s a one-sided pile on. A thread is bad because it looks like a one-sided pile-on because the bad comments were deleted. A thread is bad because both the good comments promoting the correct view and the bad, abusive comments were deleted.

    I don’t know that MetaFilter is an abusive environment, but it’s an environment where users with particular Views are drawn to particularly threads. Notably, threads about the state of the site draw users who have grievances, and I don’t know how representative those grievances are, and that they seem to be circular. (They do represent the grievances of power users, which are of course quite important on their own terms.)
    posted by Going To Maine at 5:06 PM on July 19 [12 favorites]


    But the usual response is this sort of arms-folded harrumphing that people SHOULD still post and then SHOULD sit and eat their metaphorical vegetables if they screw up. But for some reason they don't want to, weird! Why's the site dying?

    yeah that post.....pretty much pushes me towards the 'ehhhh posting anything here is just not worth it anymore'
    posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:21 PM on July 19 [4 favorites]


    The conversation about why people don't post more often is important, and one that I think the site needs to have (again, and kinda especially about the obesity thread), but this doesn't feel like the right place for it.

    I also don't want to be the person who writes up the MeTa, for obvious reasons.
    posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:29 PM on July 19


    The two comments above by a faithful sock are exactly what some people are talking about when they say that mefites try to interpret posts and comments in the worst light possible.

    It's obvious to me that when Ghostride the Whip brought up the obesity thread they were not referring to CI/CO commenters. They were referring to commenters like Flock of Cynthiabirds who didn't read the article and just came into the thread to lash out at the OP and about the post title and the article that she hadn't even read.

    Flock of Cynthiabirds: I would expect better at Metafilter frankly. I'm already feeling angered enough at the way this was framed, that I will not read the linked article.

    Then a faithful sock comes into this thread and starts attacking Ghostride the whip about CI/CO comments which have nothing to do with anything GRtW said.

    When jonathanhughes points out the hypocrisy of a faithful sock's comment, they double down.

    And metafilter runs rampant with these types of interactions, which do start to feel like a type of gaslighting. This is at least part of the reason why people are leaving the site.

    (Data point - I am a fat person and I was not offended by the title, original post, or linked article from the obesity post.)
    posted by Blue Genie at 5:30 PM on July 19 [45 favorites]


    If there was a site like metafilter that was explicitly for sharing interesting science, art, humanities, tech, etc stuff in a positive way, but explicitly forbid politics and other topics that generated argument, I think it could be a good place to learn interesting stuff, and I think people might be less upset with deletions and moderation because it was not set up as a place to discuss anything. I think it is harder when topics are not explicitly off limits, but are either deleted by mods or turned into a shitshow by members. I don’t know that metafilter should change, or split into funfilter and vitriolfilter, but I agree with comments that there are conflicting impulses that seem impossible to resolve. I feel like not explicitly banning topics or viewpoints, while also shutting them down, by mod or mob, creates a lot of bad vibes that might be unnecessary.
    posted by snofoam at 5:48 PM on July 19 [9 favorites]


    As Gotanda said:

    One implication of this decision, is that flagging problem posts or comments is even more important during low moderation periods.

    Yes! Agreed!

    Reminder that the most recent site update discusses the current status regarding updates to the flag feature itself.

    In past discussions about flagging comments and posts, some users have said "I've never flagged anything" or "I stopped flagging things because I perceived that flagging did not make a difference." Are any of you in one of those categories? Does this change in the moderation coverage make you more likely to flag things?

    (In my own experience, flagging does make a difference -- if I flag comments and posts, generally when I look back afterwards, it looks like the mods have taken some action to improve things.)
    posted by brainwane at 10:00 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


    Thanks, cortex! Sorry it's been difficult, I do feel bad that some people have lost hours, but this seems like a good decision at this time. I believe sometimes in these threads, people like to repeat their advice or remind the mods that advice has been given, without accepting that maybe that advice was considered but for any number of reasons, cortex decided against it or maybe tabled it for the current moment. I believe it is his right to do that.

    And then for the people that complain that people comment on threads without reading the original article - there is no way to force every single person not to do that. People are going to do that. It's not everyone. It's not most people. It is a few people, each time. And that is just a thing that is going to happen because people. Because not everyone reads Metatalk, because people have a bad day, because of things.

    I love this place despite its flaws. It is so comforting to me to recognize posters I know, to learn things, to learn from the arguments people have with each other. I don't have a lot of rl social life, even before the pandemic. Metafilter is valuable to a lot of people, all kinds of people, even if that number is less than it once was.
    posted by Glinn at 8:09 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]


    How is MeFi doing? Many of my favorite members have left, and that's sad. There's an element of fun and engagement that seems to be diminishing. Though, honestly, this has been a place where I felt I could get valid information during the Pandemic and it was an important place for community during Pandemic isolation. I'll still support the site (recently by opening accounts for people and socks) and encourage it for the foreseeable future.
    posted by theora55 at 11:23 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]


    Thinking about this several days later... There's a dynamic (often found in abusive relationships) where one person tries doing something for the other person, and does it to the best of their ability. The other person then proceeds to berate and criticize the first person because the thing wasn't done to their exacting standards, making the first person regret ever doing anything. That's how I feel about contributing to MeFi. I don't know what's the solution, either on MeFi or in personal relationships.
    posted by gakiko at 8:24 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


    As the amount of content that I find here dwindles and dwindles, I've cut down on my monthly contribution because quite frankly, and sadly, I'm no longer sure how much sense it makes. I would be more than happy to up it again if we could go back to the quantity and variety of posts from before. I hate to say it as my life for many years almost revolved around this site, but it's looking like Metafilter may join the cautionary list of once great websites that self destructed. The damage done from before the improved modding is a big part of it, where rules were applied very unevenly and many users felt unable to express themselves. The biggest problem now is that site dynamics have shifted against the wide variety of posts there used to be, and as I see it the only solution is to figure out how to get it back.

    Also, agree with what Blue Genie said.
    posted by blue shadows at 10:03 PM on July 26 [7 favorites]


    I think honestly the site is doing the best it can, but it’s coming up against some hard limits of what is possible.

    I don’t post as much here anymore because of safety concerns: at first I used to not post much about myself and people assumed the wrong things about me, now I feel I’ve posted too much and I don’t want that much info hanging out. I’ve thought of switching to another username, but I don’t want to miss those of you I still feel as friends. So I just don’t post much.

    And it feels like there’s less time overall to get thoughts out. People are quicker to jump to anger; that’s not a Metafilter thing, that’s a zeitgeist thing. Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes it’s not, but it does tend to interfere with the notion of us all being a glorious group of community. And Covid has been hard too - with less meetups, people feel more and more estranged.

    Blogs are failing. Reddit thrives because of factors that we can’t do and would ruin us to implement. I know it’s depressing, but I just don’t see a solution to it.
    posted by corb at 8:56 AM on July 27 [7 favorites]


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