[MeFi Site Update] February 9th February 9, 2022 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Hi there, 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.

- Brand & Marketing Deck and and overall Marketing Strategy
Still ongoing. I’m meeting with the Marketing experts I’ve been consulting with this week to review the Deck and collect feedback. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

- BIPOC Advisory Board
Aiming to work with Thyme to get the February meeting scheduled next week and take it from there. The idea is to have a more agile cadence after this first meeting of 2022.

- Improvements to the Signup flow
I’m aiming to hand over the last draft to the team by Friday this week. Once the team reviews it I’ll report back as these changes progress.

- Flagging (UX) Changes
This is still ongoing. Frimble will report as soon as there are any releases.

- Removing the limit of questions you can post in ASK
I’m trying to get a clearer timeline on when this will be deployed. Stay tuned.

- Free Threads on the front page.
These are now ongoing and you can find them here.

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 12:35 PM (81 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Removing the limit of questions you can post in ASK


It's not that I want to ask five questions a day, but when the cap was raised I asked questions which before then I wouldn't have, in order to "save" that week's question. This is super, and I pinky-swear not to abuse it.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:53 PM on February 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

- Removing the limit of questions you can post in ASK

Trying to keep up a daily post tempo for the theme month reminds me of something I'd love to see along these lines: either reducing the FPP limit to once every 12 hours, or allowing work on a draft before the 24 hours are up instead of showing an error page. It's annoying having to wait for a specific time of day to even start putting a post together, and even short delays ratchet the time you can post later and later into the day. I've been writing them up as MetaTalk posts to copy over, but here drafts don't save between devices, don't show doubles (less of an issue this month ofc), don't let you check tags easily, etc. It would be a nice quality of life change and encourage more posting, and hopefully not be too difficult to implement.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2022 [12 favorites]

Even making no change but setting the time out at 23 hours would help alot.
posted by Mitheral at 2:34 PM on February 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

Have you engaged with any members who have offered advise from their own expertise in any way re marketing and revenue enhancement.?
Glad to hear the BIPOC board is actually going to be active after so long. This is important but probably seems less so to non BIPOC members.
posted by adamvasco at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

My question last month, which is not super important but which I would still like an answer to, remains unanswered. Would you mind inquiring? "I've noticed that I don't seem to see cover images on the main FanFare page failing to load as often as I used to. Is this just luck or is it possibly related to some of the other fixes?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:31 PM on February 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

There are images in fanfare? (I've no objection to there being such or wanting more. Just surprised. I am also a weirdo who uses weird browsers with weird plugins that break many things.)
posted by eotvos at 10:23 AM on February 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

The entire site used to support inline images at one point. My family received harassment via the mechanism, and I'm not much of an inline image person to begin with, so I'm personally glad it's not a thing any more.
posted by majick at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

So maybe just change "This sideblog keeps track of site news and noteworthy posts" to "This sideblog keeps track of site news"?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2022

I don’t think Fanfare allows images in comments, but TV shows and Movies have cover images inside the posts. There are some along the sidebar, too, but you have to scroll down a bit for those.
posted by soelo at 11:41 AM on February 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah there are cover images that are on the side which can show you the more recent movies and TV that are being discussed. It's cool but it also seemed in the past to have at least one broken image every time I'd looked which was admin-fixable but kind of "Hey if this is broken SO often maybe it needs fixing?" kind of thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:29 PM on February 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Has posting picked up this year? Seems like the whole site has a lot more activity than it has in a good long while.
posted by rikschell at 12:56 PM on February 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

The idea is to have a more agile cadence

You mean you want it to end gracefully? (As opposed to dying on its arse slowly, presumably?)
posted by Phanx at 7:16 AM on February 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Hello! A few notes:

Removing the limit of questions you can post in ASK
- This should be release this week to the site. I'll let you know once it it live.

Have you engaged with any members who have offered advise from their own expertise in any way re marketing and revenue enhancement.?
- I have not, if anyone wants to help Contact Us and address your message to me please, or Mefimail me directly.

I've noticed that I don't seem to see cover images on the main FanFare page failing to load as often as I used to. Is this just luck or is it possibly related to some of the other fixes?
- Rather than a technical change this seems to be Mod work. We have been adding more backdrops/posters manually, and you can help with this by flagging posts without cover images with a note and we'll fix them.

You mean you want it to end gracefully?
- No, we mean prioritizing it a lot more this year and making sure this project brings more value to the community. The contribution from the Board is something that needs more attention and more work from our side.

posted by loup (staff) at 4:31 PM on February 13, 2022

Have you engaged with any members who have offered advise from their own expertise in any way re marketing and revenue enhancement.?
- I have not, if anyone wants to help Contact Us and address your message to me please, or Mefimail me directly.

That train has left the station long ago, people for years have been volunteering. Being ignored and now having the new guy telling them to volunteer again (so they can be ignored again) just adds insult to injury.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2022 [17 favorites]

Yeah, as Meatbomb mentioned the best approach on that front is more likely to be maybe scanning old threads and reaching out to still-active/MF-positive folks who volunteered over the years? Pretty sore subject (fairly) at this point.

Seconding Rhaomi's thoughts above. Seconding Tell Me No Lies on the sidebar.

For marketing/fundraising stuff, I asked about merch stuff a bit ago. It'd be great if there was a clear link to merch somewhere (I had to search Metatalk to find working links I think?) and maybe the consideration of fresh merch (another somewhat sore subject but throwing it in again nonetheless)/an existing merch push?*

Can the mods plan to share some post-Jubilee numbers integrated into the relevant update a few weeks from now? It would be nice to have numbers on whether it increased posting/number of unique posters/traffic/comments per post/anything like that. I also think keeping the themed months going would be beneficial.

As always, thank you!

[*Also if any MeFite wants to embroider my member number on the back of a plain black cap, I'm down to buy one! Else, some random Etsy member will soon be tasked accordingly.]
posted by youarenothere at 12:15 PM on February 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Have you engaged with any members who have offered advise from their own expertise in any way re marketing and revenue enhancement.?
- I have not, if anyone wants to help Contact Us and address your message to me please, or Mefimail me directly.

Slightly gobsmacked here as it seems your management team hasn't given you much history.
If you haven't already I suggest reading these comments from Miko and Rhaomi. That whole thread is worth a re-read.
Over the years so many people have offered time, advise, and ideas on many aspects of keeping this place together and running and all seem to have been ignored.
If Metafilter continues to ignore its members then it only seems logical that the members will start to ignore Metafilter as so many already have.
posted by adamvasco at 9:06 AM on February 18, 2022 [14 favorites]

With kindness, I feel like each Site Update is seeming to exist on its own without the history and responses and feedback on the past site updates and discussions to inform them. I appreciate that when I've mentioned this in the past some people felt it might not be a good use of paid staff time to go combing through older MeTa threads to assemble these lists, but (because of what Meatbomb said upthread) it would be a show of good faith to acknowledge the volunteer work and list/idea generating already done by community members as we all work to keep this place alive and vital.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:56 AM on February 18, 2022 [21 favorites]

Very much agree that in the process of planning, it's essential to know the history. Reading through some of those discussions will likely illuminate why the burnout has become so great that many people who could have helped no longer want to. But it will also provide some fodder for listing and organizing the critical issues and identifying potential solutions to explore.

To simplify the "combing through" process, you could go to this document, The Business of MetaFilter, to find a good number of threads related to the site's direction and plans for survival. Even just the threads from the past 5 years would, I think, create a sufficient body of data to begin some strategic work with.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on February 20, 2022 [11 favorites]

Agreed. Those threads had not only offers of help but tons of member input, including about serious problems in members' experiences on the site, which some of the recent changes are ostensibly going to address - but how can the mods address them if they've never even read the threads in the first place and aren't keeping track of the issues that were raised?

Also, I hate to keep harping on this, but loup, unless I misread you entirely, you committed to being more active in these threads, and not waiting for long stretches to respond to questions. I don't mean to pressure you specifically - I don't think it's right or smart for member input threads to be relegated to a single mod - but given that that's the situation, and given how many pleas there have been for responsiveness, this is disheartening.

To be honest, the whole siloed-feedback mechanism feels like it's intended to "manage" the membership rather than interact with it, cooperate with it, talk with it. I get that it's not been easy and it definitely seems like the mods have just decided they'd rather have the peace and quiet that comes from kettling and ignoring input, and effectively shutting it down. But that feels like a very cynical move, and a very un-Metafilter move. And for a member-supported site that intends to grow, or at least to maintain its membership, it seems off-key and short-sighted.
posted by trig at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2022 [15 favorites]

Anyway, about the sidebar - one thing to keep in mind is that the Best Of page basically mirrors the sidebar. Which means that any new/prospective member checking out what "Best of Metafilter" means is going to see a bunch of free threads and not much else. Likewise any current or past user looking for highlights from this site.

I agree that if there's no interest or energy for maintaining them, maybe just rename them to "Community News", since that's basically what they currently are.

- Flagging (UX) Changes
This is still ongoing. Frimble will report as soon as there are any releases.

Any ETA, or updates on what the priority of this item is? It's been months (more accurately, years) since it was first brought up.
posted by trig at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm just imagining it but I thought we were already waiting for the result of some sort of process of combing through past threads. To hear that it's square one on that and we're proceeding without it, it's truly crazy. It's really hard to take any part of this seriously after that.

Here's an instance of other regular participants being under the same impression as me. What happened here? I mean really, can we get a straight answer? I feel like we've been misled at best on this point.
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:56 PM on February 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

I want to get some thoughts out in here to try and touch on some of the stuff above. One element of which is: loup's stretch of non-responsiveness in this case is largely on me. I am having a hard time and it's bleeding through in my availability for stuff, including some asked-for feedback on this thread as of a few days ago. I'm sorry about that, to loup and to folks in general who've been frustrated by the resulting delay.

The idea of a single mod liaison to these threads is something loup proposed a while back as part of an attempt to get the site back to more regular, open-comment site update threads, and I think a lot of that has worked well: more frequent updates, more granular week-to-week detail on what's up, an open place for feedback. But it also has issues, for sure, and one of those is creating a new single point of failure. I don't think the older practice of effectively expecting the mod team to be all hands on deck any time something came up in MetaTalk was healthy either, and the long-term unhealthiness of that is part of what got us here in the first place, but I think there's something in between that probably is a better fit than either and we need to explore that some.

As far as volunteering goes: I understand the frustration folks have expressed about not seeing more community volunteer stuff visibly happen on the site. I am certain there are concrete, specific offers I haven't followed up with. But there are also a lot we have in fact followed up with over time. Most of those haven't turned into anything visible on the site because that's the nature of the thing: it takes the form of behind the scenes discussion or advice or consulting, or it ends up being unworkable logistically for whatever reason, or it turns out not to be of practical use even though the offer was entirely in good faith, etc. The lack of visibility for those outcomes is tricky for perception because...it's not visible. I don't have a solution for that at hand.

Anyone who had a concrete, specific offer to help ignored, I get feeling burnt there and I'm sorry for my part in that. And nobody is under any obligation to offer, or re-offer, to volunteer their time or brain or effort. It's not something anyone on the mod team has ever felt entitled to.

But folks who do feel like they have a specific concrete thing to offer: it is welcome. We're trying as a team to better incorporate these kinds of community resources into how the site gets stuff done, where and when we're able to, and I agree with folks who feel that's an important thing for the site on into the future.

One of the things I've personally been trying to do—going back to the issue of having a hard time and not being as available as I want—is get out of the way more and not be the bottleneck on that stuff; it doesn't need to be me brokering any of those discussions or offers. To the extent that anyone has a feeling like something's not happening—or didn't happen historically—specifically because it's a cortex problem, I'm trying to help make a route around that. I care more about the site's health than I do about my involvement with any specific part of it.

I'd also ask folks who are not volunteering, who aren't speaking specifically for themselves on that front, to take a step back on campaigning on the topic; effectively shutting down other people's potential enthusiasm for helping with the site by grumping about how in your opinion the site won't accept it anyway isn't helping anything and is one of the more deeply frustrating social patterns of MetaTalk. Constructive, "here's what I think could work well" stuff makes sense to me, but weighing anchor in perceptions of past problems makes the discussion about past problems and not about what can work now, work better, work differently.

I know from personal experience the last couple years that loup has a reserve of energy and forward-looking optimism for the site and what it can accomplish that is admirable and an asset to the community and the mod team. And that comes in part from them not having 20 years of site history hanging around their neck. They've reviewed a lot of these older discussions without having been in the cauldron while it was boiling, and have been able to draw ideas out of them in a useful way because of that. It's more indirect, but it's been a very real part of the work they've been doing since they joined the team.

Trying to root some of this stuff more in a sense of past history is understandable, but it's also very possible for that insistence on dwelling in history instead to just end up being sheer drowning weight. Folks don't need to be amnesiac about it, but if the idea is for the site to change and grow then some greater degree of being able to let go of past baggage or grievances has to be a part of that. Try to focus on what you think is possible and what you want to see happen, not on what you're already convinced never will.

This is already the shortened version and I don't have the brainpower to make it shorter and I don't want to keep not getting this posted. It's an imperfect and abbreviated treatment of a lot of this. I'll try to follow up as is actually needed and as I'm able in the next few days, but I'd ask that folks figure out in responding if what they want to do is push toward some constructive outcome with the site or argue with me about my framing etc. I give a lot more of a shit about stuff working better than I do about going ten rounds in MetaTalk and I'd rather folks do the AskMe thing of taking what's useful and leaving the rest.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

The lack of visibility for those outcomes is tricky for perception because...it's not visible. I don't have a solution for that at hand.

Here are some solutions, or at least healing and constructive directions, for that:
1. Be transparent about the offers you've explored.
2. If that list of identified issues has been made, share it.
3. If that list exists, ask for specific next-step help.

I personally know that I've never gotten an email, MeMail, text or anything at all about working on management infrastructure or strategic planning, things I offered to do in the past and things I know how to do. So I definitely understand people feeling very, very skeptical about the sincerity of requests for volunteer support, and also the lateness of interest in such support. People with skills are usually in demand, and they have to evaluate whether something is worth their time. It's not a failing in someone if their interest in pro bono contributions to an organization weakens because they see signs the organization is not ready to do the work.

I get wanting to make a past/today boundary, but you must understand that when you plan, the past is your most important source of data. It's not like people are stuck grinding some ancient axe, it's that planning starts with self-understanding and reviewing the road that got us here. Organizations start this process with a detached assessment of their raw material, and what is here to work with is 20 years of documented interaction - that's what there is to build from. You can change direction from there, but it's not advisable to push through the New Coke version without understanding what's left in terms of the value proposition here.
posted by Miko at 6:55 AM on February 21, 2022 [18 favorites]

I'd also ask folks who are not volunteering, who aren't speaking specifically for themselves on that front, to take a step back on campaigning on the topic; effectively shutting down other people's potential enthusiasm for helping with the site by grumping about how in your opinion the site won't accept it anyway isn't helping anything and is one of the more deeply frustrating social patterns of MetaTalk.

That seems pretty clearly directed at me, and I just want to stake my claim as a long term community member who cares a lot about this site and is disappointed in the ongoing decline. I am glad that my comment seemed to spark a little bit of dialogue and even propted some explanation from you, cortex, leadership and open communication is someting that is sorely needed here!

but I'd ask that folks figure out in responding if what they want to do is push toward some constructive outcome with the site or argue with me about my framing etc.

And not just the one "don't talk about the past" but a preemptive "and don't try to argue back", is how that sounds to me. It is anti-community. Aside from asking that people are polite, kind, following the guidelines, etc., part of being the leader should not include telling other people how and what they are allowed to say. Honest and well meaning critique should not be discouraged, and I think loup's "hey, no, I do not know about past volunteer ideas" suggests a real problem with process that I am happy to see is being addressed in some manner now.

I am very much looking forward to positive meaningful change and will cheer it on at every step, thanks a lot cortex for sharing here!
posted by Meatbomb at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2022 [15 favorites]

Miko, I haven't asked you, specifically, for help because I do not trust you, specifically, to help. There's no polite way to say that, and for several years now I've just opted to not engage with you much at all instead of putting a fine point on it. Which was probably a mistake, looking back, but it's a shitty no-win either way. You have a long history of holding forth and grandstanding and speaking confidently with ignorance about site stuff and refusing to be swayed by any comment from the mods that contradicted you or explained why the thing you were advocating for wasn't a good fit or helpful in practice. It's exhausting and absolutely eroded any ability to trust and work with you. It's a bridge burnt again and again.

Your view of the site and your personal experiences do not generalize. I used to try and at least reach out and sort out whatever long-ago disconnect made this into your mode of engagement on MetaTalk, but I eventually stopped trying because it was a huge waste of emotional energy and mod effort. No, I haven't asked you for help. I don't see that happening in the future. That's a you thing, not a site thing. It sucks because a long time ago I did trust you, and I think there are things that you could probably help with, but that's not a risk or effort I'm going to bother venturing.

Honest and well meaning critique should not be discouraged

Meatbomb, the fact that critique is honest and well meaning does not make it inherently correct or useful. MetaTalk is basically an open forum and people can have their say and talk about their opinions and ideas, but that does not mean that what any given person has to say is always going to be helpful or well-founded. I think, in a very real way, part of the difficulty of usefully moving forward with stuff in MetaTalk is long-time users who want the discussion to be about their baggage with the site more than about moving the site forward. It's understandable, it's human, but it's—like I said above—very easy to turn into an anchor on the conversation. It's a big part of why the mod team is generally so absolutely burnt out on dealing with MetaTalk; it's why loup taking point on these update threads was a useful direction to go. They don't have the baggage, and they don't trigger other people's baggage, and more actual site-centric, now-focused stuff can get done as a result before the old patterns spin up and chase everyone else out of the room.

You are, as you say, a long-time member who cares about the site. Miko, despite all of the above, seems at some level to be too. That can true without making all your choices about engaging on the site inherently good or helpful. Are you being honest when you decide to doomsay about people helping out on the site, saying the train has left the station? I believe you are. Are you actually helping by doing so? I have a real hard time seeing it. What's the message you're trying to communicate to people who do have some enthusiasm? What's the practical effect you're trying to achieve?

Every person who has told me they just don't touch MetaTalk anymore because of what a depressing gripey shitshow conversations become is absent from this conversation because why on earth would they want to be present? It's an enormous problem rooted in this dynamic of falling constantly backward to "yeah well what about..." historical entrenchment. It's a running cliche of MeTa.

But we've seen some turnaround in that balance of participation and in the overall mood and optimism and energy in MetaTalk in foregrounding the new instead of the old, with loup doing update posts and engaging in more of a "okay, what's now, what's next" approach, with thyme bringing new energy and thoughtfulness to mod messaging. That's not coincidence. It's also a direct reflection of what folks in the more positive and future-leaning crowd have said makes them feel engaged and plugged in to the site as a living space. I want to support that progress and put my energy (and have other people put their energy) into that end of things.

So be honest and be well-meaning, absolutely, but—and this has gone for me as well and driven a lot of my stepping back in general on MetaTalk interactions—make the effort to be self-aware enough to really, truly consider whether reflexive grumping or grudge-holding or nay-saying is actually improving anything or just providing a personal outlet in a habitual context. There's too much of that here, too often, and it doesn't make MetaTalk or MetaFilter a place newer people want to be.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on February 21, 2022 [18 favorites]

I'm not sure how to interpret or respond to your post, cortex, but I'm glad to see you share your thoughts and I'm sorry to hear you're having a hard time.

I guess I would second what Miko has said — I have never received a communication in any form to take up on my offers to help. I realise though that part of my confusion around this is that I have no way of knowing if it was seen, if I've been heard, or if so, what that reaction was. Maybe they weren't viewed as specific offers of help. Perhaps my comments are perceived as enthusiasm-dampering grumping. I honestly have no idea. So, like Meatbomb, I suspect that the comment is directed at me too. But I also welcome the communication this has sparked, even if it's left me with more questions.

I don't know what more to say — are my contributions helpful? Are they more unwelcome campaigning?
posted by iamkimiam at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2022 [8 favorites]

Oh my god, I didn't read your latest comment before I posted my reply. I literally do not know what to say.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:49 PM on February 21, 2022 [28 favorites]

iamkimiam, I have found your interactions on the site and your attempts to brainstorm and help etc. generally pretty darned helpful. I know for sure I've taken some of your comments in past MetaTalk discussions, including some of the very big and contentious ones, into account in how I and the mod team more broadly has tried to work on stuff; it's been very much appreciated, even where it's been at times starkly critical. There's been plenty of things about the site to be starkly critical about and that's not a problem in its own right.

Like I said above, I'm sure there's concrete offers that I've failed to follow up on and that may include ones you've made; that's on me and not a reflection of the value of you offering to help. If there's stuff there you do specifically feel like you could help the site out with by having a conversation with someone on the mod team, it's absolutely welcome and I'd encourage you to reach out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:57 PM on February 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Holy shit.

Miko, I haven't asked you, specifically, for help because I do not trust you, specifically, to help.

And that's supposed to encourage other people to volunteer how?

Super shitty. I'm out, and I don't expect I'll be the first. Some community this is.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:24 PM on February 21, 2022 [23 favorites]

I think it would've been better to leave loup to make the moderator notes in this thread.
posted by ambrosen at 1:24 PM on February 21, 2022 [43 favorites]

It's really sad to watch a community I've been part of since 2001 so willfully self-destruct like this. I don't know what else to say. I suppose cortex has already reiterated that my response doesn't matter anyway, so it's just as well.
posted by knucklebones at 1:43 PM on February 21, 2022 [11 favorites]

This is my third comment on MetaTalk. I don't know if that's low enough to count as new; I've been aware of the general slowdown in posts on the blue, and read previous site updates with a kind of puzzled sense that nothing much seems to be changing month to month, but I haven't been reading the site update comment threads with any kind of thoroughness.

I happened to read this comment thread today, and, well, um...ambrosen seems to have hit the nail on the head. it really does seem like this whole situation isn't working for you, Cortex.
posted by Fraxas at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2022 [7 favorites]

Damn. I think it might be time to find someone to take the site off your hands, walk away and go get a day job. This is obviously just not your thing at all.
posted by octothorpe at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2022 [22 favorites]

Cortex -- Josh -- I think this has been really hard for you. I don't think you want to be in this position any more than any of us want to be. We really all do care about the community that Metafilter has been, but... it's not working. The site isn't supporting itself financially, a lot of people who were deeply involved in the community have stepped away for various reasons: and ultimately the ball's in your court here.

You own this site. Do you want to engage with the community and help it to transition to a genuinely democratic space, or do you want to keep stressing out and feeling overwhelmed about stuff that you're not really interested in maintaining and regulating?

To be honest, I'm not sure that is even a possibility at this point. I think a lot of people who would've been willing to help with this two or four years ago have thrown up their hands by now. But it would be okay to say this, at least.

To be willing to say, here, let me help transition this site into the community all of us would like to see it be.

Can you at least open up the space for that conversation to happen?

I've personally expressed my frustrations over time, I've stepped away and stepped back and I'm sure I've been unhelpful at times. But I can genuinely say it's because I care about this community and I want it to do well.

I'm personally willing to commit to being a part of this conversation, difficult as that might be. And I do not think that I would be alone in that.
posted by tivalasvegas at 1:55 PM on February 21, 2022 [31 favorites]

At risk of dragging in baggage, I think what cortex is prickly about here isn't the offers of help generally because there's something wrong with Miko as a member or a person, but rather the specific goal of converting the site into a nonprofit. It's something Miko has professional experience with and feels very strongly about but after some investigation cortex has firmly shut the door on that idea for a variety of reasons I won't rehash here.

I can understand not being receptive to further offers of help from somebody on that front if it just keeps returning to that particular non-starter, but there were *definitely* better ways to express that.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:36 PM on February 21, 2022 [14 favorites]

If that were the only thing, an interpersonal conflict between cortex and Miko or something, then that would be one thing. But cortex has consistently refused the help or support of many people who've offered to step up in good faith. That's the problem here, and it's not an us problem.
posted by tivalasvegas at 3:59 PM on February 21, 2022 [17 favorites]

There's a power differential between site owner and user, right, and when that power differential is used to smack a user down, it feels very bad and sad to me. Like, I want to offer my support to cortex because clearly things are not good, but a user who has been a valuable contributor to the community has just been seemingly unnecessarily shat upon.

How can I feel good about this place? How can I want to contribute to a place that seems to be operating with such dysfunction?
posted by angrycat at 4:01 PM on February 21, 2022 [28 favorites]

I'm not sure anybody should care about my opinion. But, I do want to point out that, despite its faults, this remains among the most thoughtful and interesting sites on the internet. It's not perfect. And I absolutely believe people feel ignored and are frustrated by the staff responses over the years. I also don't know the first thing about online revenue generation. But, in my opinion, everything seems to be moving in the right direction. I don't personally see a need for anybody to quit. Or for them to regret decisions.

We've all entered into an implicit agreement with our mods. Just like we do with museum curators or journal editors. Sometimes I think they're wrong about specific things. But, that's okay. I haven't opened my own museum, 'cause that's a huge pain in the ass and also not something I actually know how to do. I'm glad imperfect museums exist. I'm glad metafilter exists. (Which doesn't mean listening to a history of user suggestions would be a bad idea, or that people who feel unheard are wrong about specific complaints.)
posted by eotvos at 4:45 PM on February 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

I've been inactive on the site for a while - but I've maintained an account, because I've always held out some shred of hope that maybe the user attrition or the lowered activity or the disappearance of long time members or any of the other things that have come up repeatedly over several metatalk threads would make it clear that some real change is needed.

But that response to Miko, more than anything else I have ever seen on this site, crossed so many lines that I no longer hold what little hope I had. It makes me incredibly sad to see that come from the ownership of a site that has meant so much to me over time, but it also makes it pretty clear what said ownership really thinks of the people who have invested so much into what this site is, and who would be invested in making the site what it could be.

With all that - I think I'm finally done.
posted by MysticMCJ at 5:07 PM on February 21, 2022 [22 favorites]

I have reduced my contribution over the years for a variety of reasons. As of now, I am buttoning, permanently. I have never seen such an expression of contempt for users. I will also be blocking you, Cortex, on social media, and good riddance.
posted by maxsparber at 6:45 PM on February 21, 2022 [14 favorites]

Every person who has told me they just don't touch MetaTalk anymore because of what a depressing gripey shitshow conversations become...

Do you not understand that this is the consequence of your own actions? Where's the positive leadership? Don't you see that this so-called gripey shitshow was created when you decided not to engage with the community while at the same time having to run a series of increasingly desperate fundraisers to cover operating expenses because the wheels are falling off? This is what happens when people are in denial. Give me money but don't act like you know anything about how it should be spent, that's your line now.

I really didn't appreciate how much of an us-vs-them bunker mentality has taken over here. I guess I have an answer to my question now.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:27 PM on February 21, 2022 [21 favorites]

Cortex, I know you care deeply about the MetaFilter and its community, and I believe you are a good and kind person, but the way you have treated Miko -- another person who cares (or cared) about the community -- is beyond the pale. I agree with tivalasvegas that it appears that the time has come to have a discussion about foundational changes to the way the site and the community operate. My undergraduate advisor used to love to cheekily quote a saying - "A university without students is like an ointment without flies." I worry that you have come to see the users of MetaFilter as a problem instead of the reason that the site exists.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:18 PM on February 21, 2022 [18 favorites]

I’ve not posted here in a while, but I want to say I have enjoyed the uptick in posts on the blue and the engagement of the new mods.

I’ve supported MeFi since donations were solicited and I’ll continue to support it. It’s a community space and there’s always areas of disagreement. It has provided incalculable value in my life and ensuring it sticks around is what I want do to. I can afford to donate so I do - call me naive but I trust the people asking for help to know what kind of help they need and how to execute on that. I’ve not run a community website for 20+ years, so I don’t know what that entails.

If I had argued that moving Metafilter to web3 where members were issued NFTs of cat scans in exchange for posts would fix everything, ignoring all arguments to the contrary, and making it the topic of conversation whenever the health of the site was brought up, why would I expect Cortex to come ask me for help when it came to server infrastructure capacity planning. Or help in general, because I’d probably just talk about some bored fucking apes or a DOA thing.

I’d not shown any capacity for listening to what the people who are asking for help are saying - including what parts of the help I am offering they don’t need - and I am instead pushing my own understanding of how to fix their problem onto them.

In the end I’m showing I’m not trying to help, I’m trying to be a savior for my own sake.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:44 AM on February 22, 2022 [9 favorites]

Thanks for your reply to my questions, cortex. However, I'm feeling cautious, angered, and disappointed by the contempt you displayed for others here. It's no consolation to be spared from this, because none of us can move forward and participate productively when we're feeling uncertain, unsafe, and judged. That is true coming from anyone, but it is especially harmful directly from the site leadership (and even more so after periods of ambiguous silence).

Your interpretations of comments here are a choice you make. You've chosen to see some site users' contributions as dishonest, ignorant, negative, and baggage-laden. As such, your reactions and response have been uncharitable at best.

I can only imagine what stress and great pain you must be experiencing to be in this place. And I hope you continue to find the support you need. I hope MeFi does too. It needs leadership. And healing.

But how DO we heal from all of this? Individually and as a community? How do we begin to answer this question?

I'd be curious what questions others have. And what you're all thinking and feeling. I'm experiencing sadness and grief over what's happening to this place and I'm sure I'm not alone. Honestly, I don't even know if it's a helpful conversation to be having at this point. I'd be open to hearing people's thoughts on that, too.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:18 AM on February 22, 2022 [22 favorites]

> call me naive but I trust the people asking for help to know what kind of help they need and how to execute on that

With all respect, you are naive, sorry.

I think the common thread amongst the users who are most vocal in offering advice is experience working with a variety of businesses and seeing how they succeed / transform / fail. Experience beyond that of the Metafilter team. This experience is a valuable resource that Metafilter should be using, as a matter of urgency (given its critical revenue and engagement issues).

Yes, the specific advice may not always be relevant, but the general approach is. Transform the business: professionalize, prioritize, delegate, communicate. Think and plan strategically (rather than tinkering tactically in a panic). Define success, and adapt when needed.

Amongst the offers of help are people who can assist the Metafilter in making these changes. To understand the real challenges and draw on previous experience to offer real solutions.

Was Miko too focused on offering a solution that doesn't fit (a non-profit)? Did that need Cortex's response? It looks like Miko generously offers such insightful, passionate advice, and to have it all written off as in bad faith, somehow an attack (unless I'm missing something behind the scenes) is pretty shocking. And as mentioned, very offputting to anyone else who would otherwise step up.

Is Metafilter engaging with outside professionals who can help them transform the business like this? (Beyond the marketing team we've heard of so far). If so, fair enough, let us know, and I'm sure some of the more vocal commenters would be satisfied that real change is coming. Otherwise it feels like demands for positivity without evidence of progress are unjustified.
posted by iivix at 5:29 AM on February 22, 2022 [14 favorites]

loup Reminder: I will be the only mod monitoring this thread so please be patient as I reply to your feedback and questions
Rule number 1: don't be a dick.
Cortex: 3 people who were or could have been valued $$$ contributors have already left the site because of your vile reply to Miko.
Invested people who could assist / offer assistance are running for the hills.
It really woiuld be better for this sites continuation if you stepped aside and let some professionals with actual business & communication experience help transform the actual business model.
posted by adamvasco at 6:37 AM on February 22, 2022 [16 favorites]

Nothing is going to change. This community is going to continue to circle the drain until the final merciful end because of the attitude of leadership on display here. Metatalk being a "depressingly gripey shitshow" is a symptom, not a cause. Making Metatalk more upbeat isn't a cure, it's a band-aid. People repeatedly offering criticism and advice isn't an annoyance, it's the only path out of this mess. Do you think you alone have all the answers? You sure act like you do, and you consistently treat all outside offers to help with contempt, though rarely as openly as this. We care deeply about this website! That's why we're here! And you treat our feelings like a bother while you placidly watch the site slip below the waves.

I've been a member here since 2005, and a lurker longer before that. I'm sure my absence will not be felt so strongly as the many great community members who left before me, but it shall be an absence nonetheless.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:07 AM on February 22, 2022 [23 favorites]

It does seem very strange, as a user, when something contentious happens, particularly as a result of a mod statement, and then there’s no mod follow up. Is this situation under discussion, or is there a decision to make no further mod comment on this thread?
posted by JenMarie at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2022 [12 favorites]

make the effort to be self-aware enough to really, truly consider whether reflexive grumping or grudge-holding or nay-saying is actually improving anything or just providing a personal outlet in a habitual context.

Flagged as ironical as fuck.
posted by carsonb at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2022 [19 favorites]

Without endorsing or opposing cortex's evaluation of the situation, I want to register a (maybe minoritarian) opinion that the kind of honesty about his own feelings/positionality that he displayed a few posts ago is a step in the right direction, as it's absolutely impossible to break through a years-long community logjam like Metafilter is in without getting real, even if it's painful or impolite or unfair. I'm saying that as someone who has often nodded along to Miko's posts in MeTa, so I'm in no way delighting at seeing anyone be smacked down or whatever. It's just, there's no way through the pipe of change if some of the blockages are dynamics that can't be talked about.
posted by dusty potato at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

I shouldn't have posted that comment. It's born of very real, very long-running frustrations, but it was a bad approach to those issues, and my own mental health struggles and profound burnout contributed to my making a bad decision there. That burnout and headspace stuff is part of why I've been trying to keep myself out of frustrating policy discussions, to avoid the possibility of these kinds of situations and bad reactions and let the rest of the team make better progress in MetaTalk. This is a real stark reminder that I really need to keep to that plan, for the team's sake and the community's sake.

I'm gonna aim to be scarce for a while outside of zero-stakes stuff and necessary mod-coverage hours, and just support the team in the background as best I can in their work. This was me fucking up and isn't their fault; if folks are angry at me I can understand that but please don't take it out on them or the rest of the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2022 [7 favorites]

Before you go, an apology would be nice. To Miko at least, but the community at large if you can muster it.
posted by carsonb at 3:03 PM on February 22, 2022 [36 favorites]

I typically find myself somewhat empathetic, if not always sympathetic, to the moderation staff here. I can't imagine what it's been like to deal with a community this old and this big, and that's changed this much over the years. On top of that, MetaFilter has not always been... the most grounded community, let's say. (I'm thinking about fairly recent and very gross experience involving a member who, funnily enough, just buttoned.)

It has never really felt like MetaTalk is the best way to handle the kinds of community discussion that people keep trying to have here. As a barometer of community feeling, it's great! (Or at least, it sure is something!) But the kinds of ongoing community work that people talk about here, and ask for, requires something a little more basic. Something like:
  • A discrete set of things being worked on, agreed-upon as important by community and staff alike.
  • Articulation, not only of progress, but of significant challenges. Really, more than anything, an explanation of where the time goes—because it's hard from the outside to see why things take forever when they feel like they shouldn't, but from within there are often pretty significant obstacles.
  • Ways for people to share requests, or feelings, or needs, in a way that's maybe less conversational and more pointed. Because conversation invites sprawl and kills focus and leads to spiraling or restless circling in a way that's just not important.
  • I'm struggling with the phrasing of this, but: a way for staff to gently let the community know what shouldn't be expected. What's the priority, what isn't, what sounds great in theory but is difficult in practice, and what are the things that one major subset of users want that another subset would have their own significant issues with?
The way things are handled here (as in "on MetaTalk", not "in this whole dang establishment") feels like a Catch-22. The community is always going to simultaneously want perfect transparency and perfect poise; we will always want the staff to answer every single thing immediately and to fully disclose every little detail and to never once ruffle a single feather and to not sound even slightly like a PR person rather than a real human being. We simultaneously want Many Things to change, but also don't want to shake up any of the site's Core Traditions. It's amazing that a space like MeTa even exists, or that staff try this hard to create a space where they're closer to "being users" than to being on a whole separate stratosphere from the rest of us... and at the same time, the more level that playing field seems, the more people are going to begrudge the staff's authority and their own inability to make an impact.

On top of that, I'm sure there are private user disgruntlements and staff conflicts that never get made public, and—given the size of this community—at least a few instances of that which involve some amount of Machiavellianism, in which someone takes advantage of things the staff either can't or would rather not disclose to fuck with the more public perception of what's going on and where. And I'm not saying that because I have the slightest idea of what happens where: I'm saying it because I've dealt with online audiences a fraction of the size of MetaFilter, and even there some really janky shit was popping up. No amount of institutional experience makes up for that.

(Though I will say that, for all I've been fairly away from here until very recently, it blows my mind that Miko, of all people, drew that sharp of a response. Seriously! Miko?)

I'm not sure why I'm leaning so heavily in the direction of mod empathy here, though the more I read MetaTalk or catch up on the last year's worth of big public kerfuffles the more I feel like y'all staff are caught up in a total lose-lose situation when it comes to this. I do feel like a lot of community comments tend to have some incredibly unrealistic expectations for the staff here—it's often pretty conspicuous who's dealt with community management before and who hasn't. At the same time, some of these feel like things that have been asked about for years, maybe even half a decade at times. And progress does feel excruciatingly slow—as in, when I wrote that thing about transparently revealing obstacles to progress, it was because that kinda feels like something that needs an explanation, at this point.

But if things have been rough enough that blowing up at two long-term users like that felt appropriate, maybe that's a sign that this space is not actually doing anyone the favors it was built to do. Running a place like this must be unbelievably hard, and these conversations obviously don't make it any easier, but maybe there should be a protocol that keeps a staff member having a bad day from venting in a public way that leads to yet another miniature firestorm. I don't know what invisible burdens you all operate under, and if they're so bad that that seemed like an appropriate thing to do, that's a sign that something pretty fundamental needs to change. And I don't mean staff stepping down, I mean figuring out what the bottlenecks are that make relatively low-stakes community discussion feel like a warzone in the making.
posted by rorgy at 3:48 PM on February 22, 2022 [20 favorites]

I don't understand why it's so important to keep MetaFilter a private for-profit concern, when it doesn't make a profit and when its only real reason for being is as a community. It seems clear that moving to a different model is necessary for survival, but that fact is so triggering to the owner that it seems he'd rather burn it down than admit the hard truths.

Mental health issues are a thing, I get it, but when they are interfering with your product so deeply you start abusing your users (didn't this just happen with gumroad on Twitter?) on your platform, maybe finding an alternate steward who CAN make a thoughtful transition for how the thing is managed is Job One.
posted by rikschell at 4:47 PM on February 22, 2022 [8 favorites]

cortex, that was a very hostile comment to a member who I know to be straightforward and very trustworthy. miko has had criticisms, but never personal like your comment, and their comments have been thoughtful and reasonably stated. I'm stunned that you would would make such a comment. This thread has little opportunity to be productive; you've derailed in it an unusually ugly way.

You seem so unhappy running the site; you seem far happier and engaged with your artwork. I hope you have a therapist to talk to. Basically, WTF, cortex, please deal with whatever is going on.
posted by theora55 at 4:58 PM on February 22, 2022 [21 favorites]

Aren’t personal attacks pretty explicitly frowned on? Yet we’ve got, not just a mod, the owner of the site attacking a member? Jesus, this is shit I’d expect on some crappy early 2000s message board. Those have mostly fallen by the wayside, yet Metafilter is still here. Why? Maybe because people don’t stick around forums where mods attack users?

Stepping away for a bit is probably a good idea, cortex, but not before making an apology to Miko, not some general apology to every one. Calling out a member by name like that, that’s the kind of thing that leads to moderation, not something that comes from it.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2022 [16 favorites]

Owning this site has had basically the same effect on two people now. That's worth thinking about.

I understand burning out and I have a lot of sympathy for that. I've had work induced panic attacks I thought were heart attacks and I've been there with that. It's an okay thing to deal with and to talk about. I am sorry you are there with it, cortex.

This decade plus of wasted energy was directed at things which would have diffused the burden of responsibility. These suggestions of changing the corporate model and/or adopting open development practices that have come up so often over the years would have served to reduce the burden you find so onerous. Nothing was done and now things have become unbearable and appear to be nearing or already unsustainable.

This is real look in the mirror stuff. A transition plan is a reasonable way out. Don't let it rot until it's irretrievable. Volunteers aren't necromancers.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:27 PM on February 22, 2022 [13 favorites]

Aside from all that. I kind of feel like MetaTalk is some weird not-this and not-that. Is metafilter a democracy or a dictatorship? Sometimes it seems like we would be better off with an anonymous suggestion box, or even a MetaTalk where the mods listened but didn't try to answer, and didn't promise to do anything.

One thing I've learned the hard way at work is "don't poll the employees if you're not prepared to act on their advice." It just gets people riled up.
posted by ctmf at 6:03 PM on February 22, 2022 [11 favorites]

But I will say this, Josh. I don't know you personally but I feel like from all your writing over the years I kind of do know you and greatly respect you even though you have no idea who I am. And you don't seem like yourself, brother. That worries me as much as I can be worried about someone I've never met. Take a break and take care of you.
posted by ctmf at 6:19 PM on February 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

‌I think it would've been better to leave loup to make the moderator notes in this thread.
posted by ambrosen at 7:10 PM on February 22, 2022 [14 favorites]

This has gone on for almost a decade, and it is literally absurd at this point.

This performance from the vaunted Metafilter moderation team is what's literally absurd here. What the fuck are you thinking? I cannot believe what I'm seeing here.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:18 PM on February 22, 2022 [9 favorites]

And now is the comment nuked? One of the things Miko has consitently pushed for is transparency. I can see why it might drive y'all to a nervous breakdown.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:18 PM on February 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

Fuck y'all
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:19 PM on February 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Apparently all I am allowed to say is this

This hard line on nonprofits is downright weird, with respect. Nonprofit is not synonymous with 501(c)3!
posted by dusty potato at 7:20 PM on February 22, 2022 [5 favorites]

Wow. I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for and can relate a lot to cortex and everything he's struggling with right now, I am perfectly willing to accept that a 501(c)3 structure may not fit, legally and practically, for MeFi in something resembling its current form, and I fully respect your rights as staff to choose who to take advice from and to (privately and respectfully, which is not what happened here) decline offers of assistance from those who don't share your desired direction, but to outright publicly blame a specific named member of this site, who didn't even post anything in this thread about non-profit organizations no less, for the state of cortex's mental health is unconscionable.
posted by zachlipton at 7:22 PM on February 22, 2022 [31 favorites]

Mod note: EM deleted a long comment above after I told her to as soon as I saw it. It was a bad idea, just like my original comment was, and we're not gonna fuckin' dig back in on that in here. Saying there are sore spots about this is an understatement but I don't see a good path towards sorting through that here or now or in this way and I'm gonna ask EM to, like myself, just take several steps back on this in here and leave it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 PM on February 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is pretty egregious behavior from the mod team.

I'm out too.

So long metafilter and thanks for all the good times.
posted by OntologicalPuppy at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

“Apparently all I am allowed to say is this” is not an adult response to being corrected.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2022 [38 favorites]

I don't see a good path towards sorting through that here or now

Let me set you on the right path. Start with taking ownership and accountability of this situation. Personally apologize in a clear and unambiguous manner which takes pains to lay out the ways in which you erred so that it's clear that it is a sincere and whole apology. Ensure that Eyebrows McGee does the same thing.

If you follow your proposed course and you two just pretend this never happened and you "leave it" then this damage will become permanent. Unless you plan on deleting this entire thread, this whole back and forth is part of Metafilter's history now and you have to live with the consequences of that. For the sake of the last 20+ years I urge you to put your heads together and come up with a sincere apology. If it weren't for the weight of those years, I wouldn't even bother to post this comment and even still it feels very much like pissing into the wind.
posted by feloniousmonk at 7:57 PM on February 22, 2022 [17 favorites]

posted by schmod at 8:04 PM on February 22, 2022 [13 favorites]

I bet loup's employee morale is stratosphere-high right about now.
posted by Drastic at 8:06 PM on February 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

As someone with ADHD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety, I know that mental health difficulties can mean you don't always feel in total control of yourself. Despite that, we are always, always responsible for ourselves. It's part of the shitty deal that comes from vulnerable minds in society with one another. There are many ways in which I admire you, cortex, and it is in the spirit of love that I say that what you said to and about Miko was hurtful, and warrants a direct, thorough, and unequivocal apology.

Gotanda's suggestion of workshopping MeTa communications sounds like an excellent idea.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 11:05 PM on February 22, 2022 [11 favorites]

The style of management — absent for long stretches, emerging only to scold, screed, or ask for money — brings to mind Ahab of the Pequod. Damaged & scarred but determined to steer the ship. Quo vadis?
posted by dmh at 12:52 AM on February 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

> Miko, it is not acceptable to harass the site owner into a nervous breakdown because you object to the federal definition of a 501(c)3, and it is dishonest to pretend that we have not fully aired and fully debated your desire for MetaFilter to become a non-profit.

I'm sympathetic to how emotional this all can be when you're so invested in it, of course. I think we all are.

But... I've worked at a product company with five employees, and we had customers like this demand the apparently impossible, often on a weekly or even daily basis. It's not unusual. These were paying customers, holding one of a handful of large contracts we had, the key to critical future revenue... not just vocal community members. And frustrating as they were, we had ways to deal with these requests that didn't involve anyone having a nervous breakdown. Simple, commonplace processes, and cheap, automated systems, that allowed requests and feedback to be logged, tracked, discussed, and dealt with. If someone is crying at the end of the day, that is not the fault of the customer, it's a failure of the system to adequately deal with their input. Unless Miko is literally turning up on your doorstep in the middle of the night (actual harassment), this is a workflow, process, systems issue and needs to be conceptualized as that.

When I say you need to professionalize, this is what I mean. Treat your business like a business -- not just so that you can focus on revenue, not just to get shit done, but also because this protects everyone's mental wellbeing while you do it.

Side note, we were able to discuss feature prioritization with customers because we had a clear vision, and could put things on the roadmap (or sideline them), based on how well they aligned with the vision (plus the usual impact / cost assessment). When Metafilter's only clearly articulated vision is apparently "Managed Decline" it's hard to get off the starting block here.
posted by iivix at 3:13 AM on February 23, 2022 [32 favorites]

I wrote and deleted two long things here, about how much empathy I have for the mods right now, about how shitty MetaTalk lets users get away with being, and about how nobody notes the irony that Eyebrows McGee got shamed for not leaving comments, then got shamed for leaving a comment, then got shamed for deleting that comment and for leaving a short placeholder instead. Because there is no winning move for the mods, there never was, and MetaTalk history is a history of a bunch of people getting pissed off at the staff and at each other and a dozen people buttoning.

Like, is it really a crisis that a dozen MeFites just buttoned? A dozen MeFites button in every MetaTalk. There are three in one month in 2007, and every single one of those got treated like it was a historic event too.

Anyway, I deleted both long things, because both of them got to the point of: we pretend like MetaTalk is this transparent space where everything's completely out in the open, but that's not at all true, because we lack collective memory and because we ignore how much happens in private messages and emails or in little shitty groups on Facebook and Twitter. And both times I realized I couldn't say what I wanted to say without getting into certain details about how I was hounded and harassed by MeFites to the point that one of them became a borderline stalker, all of which happened off-site because it doesn't take Machiavelli to realize that, if you're polite here and a shithead on another site, lots of users here just won't notice how awful you're being elsewhere. So I'm leaving the version that's a third as long and a tenth as vulnerable, because I don't at all trust the same thing not to happen again.

But I guess the point is, I get how a staff member would get to the point where they react to a seemingly innocuous comment by acting like they just walked into an invisible spider web, and Eyebrows, I appreciate your linking to something that added extremely relevant context. Staff behavior here has not been great, and I wish people were handling that with more empathy and less fury, but MetaFilter has never been a functional site. It's only ever worked by taking a series of smart, passionate, hard-working individuals and slowly rapidly grinding them to dust. I appreciate y'all for destroying your lives to give people an open democratic forum to verbally abuse you in, and I won't blame you when you finally say "Fuck y'all" and sell this place to Substack.
posted by rorgy at 3:46 AM on February 23, 2022 [38 favorites]

So let me try and get something straight here
This is Metatalk conceived as an area for the user base to discuss site policy and hash out matters between themselves often quite robustly.
Then metatalk began to be moderated and comments began to disappear often with no indication and now we have a Mod dissappearing Mod comments.

A mod posts an update with the first line including the statement I will be the only mod monitoring this thread
Site owner also at present a mod enters thread with opening statement loup's stretch of non-responsiveness in this case is largely on me and then a day later responds to a polite post from Miko with a more than problematic statement directed at two members.
Later apparantly another mod Eyebrows McGee makes a statement that is then disappeared. Said Mod then returns with a statement about 501(c)3 which was not even mentioned by Miko in this thread.
So transparent not. gaslighting yes.
This is a shitshow with gold stars
If this is the result of your vaulted Mod training paid for by user contributions then please ask for a refund.
Maybe time to close this up after some meaningful apologies are forthcoming including to loup who has been completely undermined.
All I can walk away with at the moment is that you have little idea what you are doing or the wreckage you are causing.
Gotanda has experience online community experiance and offers good advise. Will you take it?
posted by adamvasco at 4:20 AM on February 23, 2022 [21 favorites]

I can understand how a user constantly asking why MetaFilter refuses to become a non-profit over and over (even after being thoroughly answered) could feel like harrassment. But jeezus, use your tools. If you feel like a user has descended to constant bad-faith harrassment, use the ban hammer. Better to lose one member (and their friends) than to lash out and lose a lot more because you've gone publicly off the rails as a mod.

The thing is, "Why isn't MetaFilter a non-profit?" sounds like a really good question. It's an attractive idea, so it's sticky every time it gets brought up. But you've obviously explored it and it doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons. And it's become a burden to have to explain all those reasons every time it comes up (and it comes up a lot when it's become one person's hobbyhorse). Thing is, this kind of situation is a Solved Problem. The Internet invented the FAQ decades ago. All you have to do is write up a less defensive version of EM's very infomative linked comment, and every time it comes up, you can just link to the right place in the FAQ. Lots of us read MeTa occasionally but are not so steeped in it that we know all this stuff, and a simple link (Non-profit status sounds great, but this is why it won't work) would do wonders. Because frankly, there are a lot of ideas that DO come up that DO sound good that seem to be ignored over and over in these threads.

Having some kind of community involvement is another one. I'm used to communitites (clubs and churches and stuff like that) where the community members are expected to participate in running things and setting policies and dealing with bad behavior that comes up and all the things that keep a community running. MetaFilter is the only community I'm part of that takes this sort of black-box approach. And maybe y'all have ten great reasons for why that is. You probably do! But listing them out and putting them in the FAQ and linking to the answers would be a lot more productive than sulking or lashing out every time someone asks about it (and you know someone will always ask about it).

I've been part of other communities where the leadership attitude is "just trust us, explaining ourselves is too hard" and it doesn't end well. Y'all obviously see these questions as a very emotionally touchy issue. But users are entitled to have answers to obvious questions. And you have actual good answers in at least some cases here. But you seem to have gotten hung up on feeling hurt because people won't accept "just trust us" when it would be so much easier to write a FAQ answer and link to it every time it comes up.
posted by rikschell at 5:19 AM on February 23, 2022 [28 favorites]

Did you see the comment itself? If not, I'm happy to send it to you so that you can disabuse yourself of the notion that she's being shamed for merely "leaving a comment." This offer goes for anyone who is curious.

I appreciate your sending it to me. And I don't want to make a big thing out of a comment that is no longer public, but: it felt like an attempt to ameliorate and contextualize cortex's initial response, in the same way that her subsequent link did. It felt inappropriate for the same reasons—those reasons being "staff members shouldn't publicly pick fights with their userbase" etc—but it didn't change my overall take here, which is that we are completely okay with harassing staff members in pretty shitty ways.

Neither mod here said anything to Miko that Miko didn't say first in the thread that Eyebrows linked. I can understand them wanting to say "please cut out your sustained harassment" publicly, and I think that the broader issue here is that MetaTalk is a place that has always more-or-less permitted harassment to the point of encouraging it, and has further been leaning increasingly towards the policy that staff harassment is acceptable, even when it happens at a pitch that, were it to happen on a thread on the blue, would get not only the comment thread but the entire post deleted outright.

I agree 100% with every user here that's saying the staff should treat their responses here like it's a PR operation, and that they need to understand that professionalism is of the utmost importance. I just also think that MetaTalk is well past the point where we can pretend like it helps more than it hurts, for staff members and community members alike. And I hope you will forgive me for the controversial take of feeling bad for everybody involved here, because this just doesn't seem like a problem that can be fixed without a heaping dose of mutual de-escalation.
posted by rorgy at 6:17 AM on February 23, 2022 [20 favorites]

Reminder: Miko is the victim here.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 6:28 AM on February 23, 2022 [13 favorites]

Hey all. We all want Mefi to survive, as a place to hang out, share and discuss interesting links, ask and answer questions. I appreciate everyone who's brought their energy to this goal. As staff we have increasingly limited staff time and bandwidth for anything above absolute basics, and we've been trying to orient it toward at least supporting small positive things that might generate positive activity on the site. If we can only do one thing we're trying to look first at, "might this help a new person want to spend time here in the first place?"

We've said over the last several years: open-ended angry Metatalk threads that sit stewing 24/7 for weeks doesn't work as a way for us to gather actionable ideas; over and over, it ends up having the opposite effect of building more obstacles. There has to be another way. We'll be talking mod-side about changes and will keep you posted. (Also on a personal note, I want to let you know now that I am going to need to leave soon for family reasons, this has been in the works for months and it doesn't have to do with any of this.) Thank you and I'm closing this thread now.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2022 [14 favorites]

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