[MeFi Site Update] November 17th November 17, 2021 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Hello Metafilter! Please find more details on the state of the site below. Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions.

For this particular update most of the projects we’ve mentioned in the past 2 updates are still ongoing, some high-level details below:

Plans for growth
- Consultation with marketing experts for possible strategies to promote MeFi is progressing. While there are a lot of great ideas, it all comes down to how we want to prioritize them. I’ll report back in the next few weeks.

Improvements to the Signup flow
- I’m already going over the signup flow and will propose the necessary changes/revisions.

BIPOC board Updates
- We’re meeting this week with Thyme and the other mods to reprioritize and have a more clear plan on how to move forward. I’ll report back in this thread.

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.
posted by loup (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 1:11 PM (25 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Thank you for the progress report. It seems like MeFi staff is in the middle of a lot of things, but I appreciate knowing what those are.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 9:39 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


Mod note: Quick Update: We just had a meeting about the next steps with the BIPOC Board and defined a better action plan moving forward. The goal is to prioritize it and making sure it lives up to its purpose. I'll share more details once we have been in touch with the Board members so that they are the first ones to know and provide feedback.
posted by loup (staff) at 11:35 AM on November 18 [5 favorites]


Can you also let us know what's become of the redesign of the flag function? The past few months the MeTa site updates have been emphasizing that with the mods not being present 24/7 anymore, you'd be asking users to make greater use of the flag function to alert staff about problems.

In June 2020 nebulawindphone brought up that "The flag button's design is bad enough to be a social justice issue"

I asked cortex about this in July 2021 and he said: "we have a reasonably settled take on what changes to the flag function we should try to make [...] and that the holdup is that implementation of any site-wide change to flags is a big job for messy legacy codebase reasons."

At the time, cortex had presented the problem as being a choice between one solution that was "[t]edious, doable as a one-off, doesn't scale to ongoing tweaking" and another choice that was "frimble reworks the site's byline code so everything is operating off of a common template, and then changes can be made to that template rather than a bunch of different places. This is what they've been putting some time into [...] I don't think frimble has a good estimate on the time there, but I'll check in with them about it."

That was nearly 4 months ago. I submit that either frimble has had some time and made some progress, or they haven't had the time and have made no progress. Either way I would ask for an update on that situation. If the plans for Metafilter's growth involve bringing in new users, it would be extremely helpful if the modified tag system was already waiting for them when they get here.

I also respectfully submit that, if frimble hasn't had the time, this project would be an excellent candidate for SOLICITING HELP FROM THE USERS, which I've talked about before and won't belabor here.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:06 PM on November 18 [3 favorites]


I appreciate this update. At the same time I feel like there have been enough MeTas about possible improvements (as noted above) that have gotten tabled for various (often good!) reasons and I'd love to see the mod team going through those and maybe trying to capture them in some sort of way, even if it's just a way to say "Hey, yeah, with current staffing we're not going to get to that before Q2 2022" or something.

The charitable interpretation is: someone is working on these issues and there is a list or ticketing system somewhere.
The less charitable interpretation is: there is no list, there is no one working on these issues, or people have forgotten about these issues.

Various users have differing views on which of these things is more likely, but I think most (all?) people would agree that after a thing has been brought up and discussed in MeTa by the community, it's mods' (or management's) job to keep track of those things that they did not say no to, things that might happen and slot them in on a ticketing system somewhere. Members don't need deadlines, but even a prioritized list of what's coming, that shows up in these updates?

I've been on the other side of the page, I know dealing with community disappointment when everyone's overtaxed is unfun, but I maintain that with better accounting of site updates as an ongoing process, not an on-Wednesday process, more of these community conversations can seem like they're working towards something.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 PM on November 18 [45 favorites]


I'd rather the staff focus their efforts on what outside experts recommend rather than catalogue and respond to each and every comment a comment has written.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:26 PM on November 19 [4 favorites]


Coming from the ''inside'' this is pretty strong stuff and deserves a straight reply with no obfuscation.
The charitable interpretation is: someone is working on these issues and there is a list or ticketing system somewhere.
The less charitable interpretation is: there is no list, there is no one working on these issues, or people have forgotten about these issues.

Thank you Jessamyn for voicing what I suspect many of us are wondering.
posted by adamvasco at 12:45 PM on November 20 [5 favorites]


When a (former?) staffer doesn't know what's going on, despite talking to the site owner at least once a month for the podcast, that looks bad. When there's no reply to her questions or concerns for going on four days, that looks awful for a site that is trying to attract new users, not to mention retain current users.

I get it, the grey isn't the focus of the site, but jessamyn has (at the time of writing this comment) a "staff" tag next to her username, even if her comment isn't in the new "staff comment" frame, which is terrible for optics if someone were a potential new user who is reading this to see if this is a community to join and isn't versed in the nuances of framed versus unframed staff comments.

Yes, loup is the one to monitor this particular thread, but how much activity is there on the site now? From a casual glance as now a very occasional browser of the site, it looks like someone could read all comments as they come in and not be overwhelmed most days. I can't imagine that only loup is reading the site update threads, give how quiet the site is. Maybe that's not a charitable evaluation of the state of the site, but it doesn't seem that it should take more than a day to get back to the questions of "what is being tracked and prioritized" by someone whose voice (and concerns) should be elevated above the quiet hum of a quiet site.

So maybe a potential new user sees this thread, sees that one staff is charged with reading this thread, and another staff asks "what is being prioritized, if anything, to improve the site?" And they notice it's been days since that comment was made, and there is still no reply. This would seem to imply that either loup isn't on duty for days at a time, or loup doesn't have the answers to this particular question and is equally uninformed. Or worst of all, there is no list, no prioritization, and no one wants to admit that, so nothing is said in the hopes that this thread will close and be forgotten, as new posts push this off the first page of MeTa.

As jessamyn noted, there are often good reasons things don't happen. But until there's any description of what is or isn't happening and what can be expected, it's all speculation and guessing, and that's not going to encourage anyone to join what feels more and more like a dying community.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:02 PM on November 22 [13 favorites]


It’s frustrating how preventable this slow-rolling communication breakdown is. What is going on?
posted by iamkimiam at 2:48 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


Maybe they're busy deciding whether to ban all the people pushing back against the rape apologist over on the blue for being incivil.
posted by knucklebones at 3:44 PM on November 22 [4 favorites]


That's a great example of why the mods are largely not participating in these threads.
posted by Mid at 3:54 PM on November 22 [1 favorite]


My experience from the trans threads suggests that the only way to get the answers that Jessamyn asked about posted here or guarantee a response from staff is to contact the moderators, and then let us know what response is given.

Mods don't reply to comments on even the main site with any feeling of urgency unless they are flagged.

They respond to those contact the moderator forms pretty quickly though, and if you actually share their messages here, it's almost like they are posting. I mean I guess folks could flag the comment with a note too.

Discussion of new users does beg the question, are there new users?

Here's some data. Looks like engagement, as measured through posts, comments per day, unique commentors AND new users, continues to decline(see charts).

We are supposed to talk about our own perspectives though. New users can speak for themselves, if the one or two new ones even read meta.

So what do you think? Will these plans turn things around? Are they enough to tell your friends to join?

Because I'm thinking about joking to hide the pain. Hey we are below replacement rates, maybe we can get new users when the DPRK invades us? Hey, maybe we should edit the faq to answer the question, "Is this a place of honor?"

Just trying to get used to amusing myself.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 4:26 PM on November 22 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine that only loup is reading the site update threads

To be fair, that is precisely what is said in the first line of the post: Loup is the only mod regularly monitoring the thread. The logic and usefulness is debatable, but that's the reason why, in previous MeTa posts, I've waited at least 7 days before updating with a "hey, where is a mod response?" question.

This would seem to imply that either loup isn't on duty for days at a time, or loup doesn't have the answers to this particular question and is equally uninformed.

I don't think any of the mods are full time anymore because of the budget shortfalls. Also, speaking only for myself and the question that I posted, it's not something I expect loup to be able to answer -- the information can only come from cortex and frimble, and loup will pass it on because things get heated when cortex posts here himself.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:54 AM on November 23 [2 favorites]


things get heated when cortex posts here himself

I feel like this is an issue we need to address as well. Not pointing fingers as to why this is happening, but hearing more from cortex feels important.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:17 AM on November 23 [5 favorites]


Maybe they're busy deciding whether to ban all the people pushing back against the rape apologist over on the blue for being incivil.

Huh?!
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:55 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Mod note: Hi there! I wanted to first acknowledge that I am checking this thread pretty much every day. If you don't see an update from me every day it is either because I'm bringing up the points being raised to the larger team or because I'm letting other members chime in before I say anything.

I do know that the site updates are not an extensive list of what is going on with the site and the things we are working on but rather a list of the biggest projects that we are focusing on.

Having an extensive public list updated would be a huge endeavor and, while this is something I would like to be able to do, I'm still balancing my hours between communication here, communication with the larger mod team, updating and prioritizing current and future projects for the site, and regular mod tasks.

As it happens with any organization, the backlog of projects and requests we have keeps growing and that takes time to track and prioritize. A lot of the time is intentionally being used towards tracking and execution.

Ideally, we would will be in a place where we do have more bandwidth to report back more in details, but, as of now, most of the things being prioritized are listed above: Marketing/Growth Plan, BIPOC Advisory Board planning, and Improvements to the Signup flow. Other than that, there are efforts to continue with the newsletter and have a more stable schedule for it.

These particular projects have one thing in common: the amount of resources and time they will take is hard to estimate so, reporting in detail becomes hard as we try to determine how to proceed and how to allocate resources.
posted by loup (staff) at 12:26 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Hi there! I wanted to first acknowledge that I am checking this thread pretty much every day. If you don't see an update from me every day it is either because I'm bringing up the points being raised to the larger team or because I'm letting other members chime in before I say anything.

Hi loup,
Happy Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it!) and real thanks to all mods present and past for keeping this place up.
With regards to the conversation in this thread, I'd like to ask once again to consider not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good - none of the mods needs to wait days/weeks/months until they feel they have enough material for a substantial, meaty update. Even just something like "good question, I'll bring that up with __ and aim to get back to you next week" or "hey, I hear you and am thinking about this. Before I respond though I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else has thoughts on this" would be amazing if it's timely (and has followup) and go a long way to addressing people's feeling that there's no communication or action. Silence does the opposite. C.f. the extensive heartfelt discussions from the past few months' threads.

As it happens with any organization, the backlog of projects and requests we have keeps growing and that takes time to track and prioritize. A lot of the time is intentionally being used towards tracking and execution.

Is there a good-enough intermediate solution that could help increase communication and visibility? Instead of addressing the full backlog, how about starting with just the short list of categories in focus right now ((1)Marketing/Growth Plan, (2) BIPOC Advisory Board planning, (3) Improvements to the Signup flow, and (4) flagging UX): could we commit to getting status updates on each one of those in every update -- even when the status is just "nothing new to report, this is currently lower priority"? And any future issues that come up could be added to that list?
posted by trig at 5:52 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Great points Trig. Let me answer both briefly:

1. Deal. I'll do that.
2. Definitely. These 4 projects are critical so you will keep hearing about them for a while.

Let me start with quick updates on all of those right now:

- Marketing/Growth Plan
Still ongoing, I've talked to 4 different people from different organizations (both big sites and startups) and there's a list of suggestions to be discussed with the team this week, some of them are a no-brainer and we just need to discuss who/when/how to proceed; others are more complex and we need to discuss the balance between resources and the value they might bring.

- BIPOC Advisory Board planning
We went over the Commitment Statement to the Global BIPOC Advisory Board last week and a message regarding next steps and proposed changes should go out to the board in the next days. Once that is out to them and we have enough feedback from them I'll report back.

- Improvements to the Signup flow
I'm already making suggestions to changes in the copy. Next steps will be to map the full flow and suggest changes.

- Flagging (UX)
As far as I can remember this was in "yes we want to do/prioritize this" but we were looking into how much work this involves to decide when. I'll follow up.
posted by loup (staff) at 10:15 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


Discussion of new users does beg the question, are there new users?

Here's some data. Looks like engagement, as measured through posts, comments per day, unique commentors AND new users, continues to decline(see charts).


At zero-to-three new accounts per day average over the last year or so, there are very, very few to almost none once you remember that many of those new accounts are socks for anonymous answers on ask.
posted by Gotanda at 4:20 PM on November 26


That is awesome, thanks loup!
posted by trig at 4:20 PM on November 26


@Loup, great update, thanks!
@Gotanda, why are you so confidant they're all socks?
posted by Violet Blue at 8:34 PM on November 26 [1 favorite]


Not all socks, I may have gone overboard, but we do see plenty of talk in these discussions about people throwing in their five bucks for sock accounts and you see them in ask. So, not all, but when new users are in the low single digits anyway, we still have a problem.
posted by Gotanda at 9:36 PM on November 26


i guess there are no new users because the site is a bit boring overall, discussion is stale and usually echo-chamber-ish... but i am very curious about how the marketers and consultants hired by the ownership are going to frame this.

i hope they are not going for the "internet retirement home" experience, like "it's a very quiet community". that would be an auto-goal. it’s like a dead mall re-dynamization effort
posted by - at 9:17 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


As much as I have been disappointed that there hasn’t been more action on this earlier, there’s no reason to assume they hired Eeyore as a consultant or commissioned Billy Ocean to sing “Get out of my dreams, get off of my lawn” or something. There is effort to grow the site, that’s great, let’s see what happens.
posted by snofoam at 2:08 PM on November 30


loup, thanks for the brief updates. This is good information, and for me, the level of information works. I understand the desire to not spend all your time documenting work, so no work is getting done.

Is there any interest in reaching out to members who haven't been active to see why they stepped away? I imagine that it's easier to re-engage with former "lapsed" MeFites instead of find new members.


filthy light thief: I can't imagine that only loup is reading the site update threads, give how quiet the site is.

The Pluto Gangsta: To be fair, that is precisely what is said in the first line of the post

I was, probably naively, hoping that because the site is so quiet, other mods have time to read these threads and comments, instead of waiting for loup to provide them a summary and look for their input and ideas. Delegation of duties makes sense when there's a lot of work to go around, but when there's a lull, it would seem more efficient for mods to read things themselves and then discuss, even if loup is the mod charged with providing feedback to these threads.


iamkimiam: It’s frustrating how preventable this slow-rolling communication breakdown is. What is going on?

knucklebones: Maybe they're busy deciding whether to ban all the people pushing back against the rape apologist over on the blue for being incivil.

Mid: That's a great example of why the mods are largely not participating in these threads.

Without getting into specific details, as to avoid a possible derail, one criticism of moderation is that people who write terrible things civilly get gently chided despite repeated examples of being bad actors, but people who call those bad faith actors racists get temp-banned. In other words, you can get away with saying awful things if you're polite about it, but if you get angry about awful things being written by other members, it's you who are the problem.

This is the reason that I have been away from the site, and why I only came back here instead of being active on the blue. For me, if a mod sees some language that they recognize to be posted in bad faith, I'd like that language removed, and the bad faith actor temp-banned for spreading that misinformation if they've done it more than once (and the recent examples are not these individuals first offenses, as seen by their still visible post history).

I appreciate people taking time to rebut misinformation, but if it's still on the site, it's still being platformed.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:06 AM on December 1 [2 favorites]


Mod note: Hi everyone! The [MeFi Site Update] December 1st is now up. Feel free to continue the conversation there.
posted by loup (staff) at 11:57 AM on December 1


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