Can we stop directing threads? April 9, 2022 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I've noticed a recent trend of non-moderators directing what is okay and not okay to talk about in threads. Speaking for myself, it has restricted good faith participation and is off putting in a way that promotes a cliquish community. Especially such authoritative tone coming from a non-moderator can come off at best confusing and at worst discourage discussion, especially from users are not frequent visitors.

I have seen good discussions come from tangents or from discussions that weren't anticipated. I think it is what makes Metafilter a community of diverse opinions and viewpoints. I do understand and respect that certain, very sensitive topics need this level of guidance. I also understand that bringing in say the Palestinian/Israel debate into the oldest park ranger thread is absurd and shouldn't happen. But we have mechanisms in place that prevent that.

I really think it should be the exception and moderator driven, otherwise it becomes confusing to old people like me. There a lot of specific groups elsewhere on the Internet if someone wishes to restrict the discussion.
posted by geoff. to Etiquette/Policy at 11:02 AM (378 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

Can you link to specific examples?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:36 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I actually think of myself as more of a thread cinematographer. (Just a coffee gofer, actually.)
posted by michaelh at 11:38 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Can you link to specific examples?

I was trying to avoid specific examples to avoid embarrassing anyone or get in a debate as to why any specific case was okay or not okay. Here's an example from today, it is far from an isolated case though. Really I think any type of requests that the discussion take a certain direction at the beginning of the thread really should be deleted if not from a moderator, which would be easier than trying to figure out what's okay and what's not. That's an endless debate and a case could really be made for anything.
posted by geoff. at 11:48 AM on April 9 [15 favorites]


Today's Noom discussion includes an example of this. These kind of comments seem to pop up every week or so (often at the very start of the thread before any of the "offending" content has even been posted), and are generally about one specific tangent that someone doesn't want to see; but the things they don't want to see generally are related to the post and are often a reasonable addition to the conversation. It seems that rather than try to direct people to not talk about things that the commenter is sensitive to, the commenter should avoid threads where those things are going to be discussed. Leave it to a moderator to decide what's in and out of bounds or if a specific sub-topic is sending the thread off the rails. In this case, if you're sensitive about issues involving eating, weight, weight loss, etc. telling people they can't talk about their weight loss experiences in a thread about a weight loss app seems rather dictatorial.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:49 AM on April 9 [26 favorites]


Appreciate it, and appreciate you're reasons for shying from it, but i think specificity is going to be crucial here for people to know if it's something that feels reasonable, or something that feels analogous to this.

From my part I really sympathise with the linked objection, and maybe more relevantly / systematically... we all know when this sort of request is made with the Voice Of Mod and when it's made by just another member of the hoi polloi so... why not just let people ask?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:54 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


. It seems that rather than try to direct people to not talk about things that the commenter is sensitive to, the commenter should avoid threads where those things are going to be discussed

Can't you let me tell fat people they suck in peace
posted by ominous_paws at 11:55 AM on April 9 [39 favorites]


I thought this would be the example. I've seen it a lot; more from some posters than others, and it just seems patronizing.
posted by sagc at 12:04 PM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Can't you let me tell fat people they suck in peace

That's not what the request was about. It was about not sharing your weight-loss stories, which could certainly be pertinent in a thread where at least some people are going to insist that diets don't work and weight loss is impossible, statements that the request is insisting should remain unchallenged by personal experience.
posted by FencingGal at 12:11 PM on April 9 [44 favorites]


I will post a counter-example to discussions veering a bit from the posted content so it doesn't get mired in a hot button issue of weight loss. Dee Xtrovert frequently posted the best comments on this site about her experience in Sarajevo and were often not directly on the topic of what was posted. I would be disappointed if she didn't feel comfortable posting because the topic wasn't strictly about Finnish snipers in WWII.
posted by geoff. at 12:14 PM on April 9 [18 favorites]


Preventing members from telling other members what they should or should not say or do would turn this place into A Quiet Place III: *crickets* punctuated by suddenly deleted screams. Or, if you prefer, has pretty much already done so.
posted by y2karl at 12:28 PM on April 9 [7 favorites]


Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been wanting to participate in the Ukraine threads in particular, but I’ve held back because of the group of non-mods that are being so aggressively prescriptive about directing the discussion.
posted by buntastic at 12:49 PM on April 9 [27 favorites]


Does a polite request about something known to have caused direct harm in the past really hurt that much?
posted by Miko at 1:23 PM on April 9 [61 favorites]


From what I've seen in the Ukraine threads, people directing discussion are trying to avoid two things:

1. Multi-comment derails in a fast-moving, thousand-plus comment thread. This helps prevent dragging down browsers for mobile and tablet users who are trying to get updates about the situation;

2. Purely academic discussions from people who don't have experience living in that part of the world; meanwhile there are MeFites following those threads who are directly impacted by the war.

Avoiding the former has been a best practice for current event longboat threads going back to the 2016 election. Avoiding the latter is part of the site's guidelines.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 1:28 PM on April 9 [37 favorites]


"Does a polite request about something known to have caused direct harm in the past really hurt that much?"

No, but if the "something" is related to the topic, and specially people's experiences with the topic, then perhaps that thread is not the thread for the requester. I wouldn't go into a room where I know people are talking about X and expect people not to talk about their experience with X. I'd stay out of the room if I didn't want to hear people talking about X. People can always flag post or a comment with a note or send a note to a mod.
posted by jonathanhughes at 1:48 PM on April 9 [20 favorites]


I think where it gets tricky is asking people with lived experience to not discuss that lived experience in a thread about things that are topically about something some users have lived experience with, was my take on the Noom-thread request. I'm not sure you can talk about a weight-loss app without talking about people's personal experiences with weight loss or lack of weight loss.

I have not been following the Ukraine threads and could not speak to those except that in any fast moving thread about a breaking news/current event thing, trying to re-rail threads is useful, trying to curtail on-topic discussion is not. But figuring out which is which is tricky and not always something mods will be able to jump in on in a timely fashion.

Part of the trick is how much users feel bound by requests that come from other users. Some users don't pay them much mind, others feel kind of bound by them for manners reasons (I tend towards the latter personally).
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:49 PM on April 9 [33 favorites]


No, but if the "something" is related to the topic, and specially people's experiences with the topic, then perhaps that thread is not the thread for the requester.

I would flip that around and say that maybe if what you want to add to the thread is exactly what the poster politely requested people not to add, then maybe that isn't the thread for you.
posted by octothorpe at 1:54 PM on April 9 [17 favorites]


So when I saw this thread I thought "Hey, I've been doing that on FPPs I've posted, let me go find some examples of where I've been doing that and post them here so I can ask how people have felt about me doing that" but when I went and looked at my recent FPPs I couldn't actually find any examples of me having done that. But I know that I've MEANT to do it, because I am way past my breaking point with people taking nice posts about good news and turning them into axe grinds and doomsaying, and with the usual derails onto the same old topics we have rehashed billions of times (like turning every post related to the Supreme Court into yet another argument about whether and when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should have retired).

I guess I did do it once, about 2 hours in to my post about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson: While I, too, find expanding the number of justices to be an intriguing idea, might I encourage people to focus most of the conversation on this fantastic nominee?.

MetaFilter already feels like a place where I can't expect to talk about things that give me hope or make me happy without being bombarded with negativity and pessimism. I had hoped that asking, recommending, suggesting to people how I'd like a thread to go would be a way for me to shift that balance a little.

I feel like maybe part of the problem is that some people put an enormous amount of energy into trying to keep the conversation feeling respectful and inclusive and being aware of how comments might negatively affect others ... and others don't; and as the more cautious commenters self-edit, and spend more time being careful with wording, the less cautious commenters win out, often with drive by hot takes.

Personally, I would like to see MORE instances of the community reminding each other to be considerate and thoughtful about the community as a whole, and to remember and respect the guidelines. I actually think the above links ("could we please avoid posting in great detail about “diets that worked for you"" on the Noom thread and "Right, so let us go back to Ukraine again. Thanks!" on the Ukraine thread) were good and helpful.


I am really surprised to discover that I thought I had been doing this, but I actually, apparently, haven't.

I'd like to see MORE of it.
posted by kristi at 1:55 PM on April 9 [43 favorites]


I would flip that around and say that maybe if what you want to add to the thread is exactly what the poster politely requested people not to add, then maybe that isn't the thread for you.

I think it's fine when the original poster requests this. But it's frustrating when a different poster comes in, sometimes in the very first reply such as in the example that geoff linked, and tries to limit everyone's discussion.
posted by buntastic at 2:10 PM on April 9 [24 favorites]


I couldn’t agree more, geoff.

I live for your anecdotes, people!

Let nothing deter you from sharing them with me!
posted by jamjam at 2:12 PM on April 9 [18 favorites]


I thought the Noom request was (a) politely phrased and (b) not about not discussing one's personal experiences with dieting, but with going into a diet in great detail. It's common knowledge, isn't it, that that kind of talk can help induce relapse in the eating-disordered? Someone requesting the avoidance of a narrowly defined and fairly peripheral sort of tangent so that certain people can continue to participate in the conversation (with a clear explanation, as here, of why) doesn't seem to be a problem to me.
posted by praemunire at 2:13 PM on April 9 [36 favorites]


(Maybe it's just that I don't feel required to observe this kind of request from a non-mod, but would like to make an informed choice.)
posted by praemunire at 2:14 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Moderator: "I'm ashamed of you User. Tell me! Where you learned to curate from?"
User: "I learned it from you, Dad! I learned it from you!"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:17 PM on April 9 [8 favorites]


I feel like the user requests we've seen brought up in this thread so far are all fair requests. Like praemunire, I feel like they don't have the weight of policy by a moderator, but it's good to know about what the community would find helpful or not. Not every discussion needs every bit of my $0.02.
posted by Alterscape at 2:46 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


The Noom request, in my understanding, comes from the tendency for Metafilter threads about anti-diet/health-at-every-size (HAES)/body-positivity to go from someone sharing a thoughtful, vulnerable story about their own journey out of disordered eating and yo-yo-dieting, to the next person posting But You Should Try What I Did, I Lost 50 Pounds And Kept Them Off By Eating Only Carrots By The Light Of The Moon!!!!111!!! *, or, someone tsk-tsking the first person because "Actually, fat-shaming IS healthy, it's Science, trust me I'm [not] a Doctor." **

I'm quite sure the MeFites who consistently pop into every post that explores the notion that maybe a focus on diets and weight loss is unhealthy and turn it into a debate on "do diets work" or include vague "but that's not factual" or "But just follow my one weird trick!!!" believe they're doing the Right, Moral Thing. And I don't think it's the moderators' job to prevent this -- it's the world we live in. But I appreciate the sentiment of that request, since I find this dynamic a huge downer (and noped out of that Noom thread once I saw where the conversation was going).

* or keto, usually it's just keto
** fat-shaming is not effective
posted by rogerroger at 2:49 PM on April 9 [57 favorites]


I have been following and participating in the Ukraine threads, and on occasion asked that certain directions the thread veered be dropped, as have a few others and each time i was am grateful to them.
Examples included extensive arm chair general comments on how it will soon turn into www3, a coming nuclear war, calls to bomb Russia into dust in order to bring on "shame", what "Europe" ought to do, energy policies, and questions that boiled down to why don't europeans just drill for gas and build more nuclear plants. Or anti-Russian generalisations, eg all Russians... No, Not all Russians.
My reason for interfering was and is that Ukraine is close to Vienna, Austria (about 450 Miles), and i am scared enough without thoughtless hot takes by an arm chair general living in another continent.
Also there are a number of people i know personally through my work, in both Russia and Ukraine who live this nightmare all day everday day without choice. I cannot deal well with seeing comments that suit more to gaming than Real Life war.
But i live and learn too, so today when there was yet another hot take on why the idiotic Europeans don't just drill for gas, i went and had a cigarette instead of rising to the bait. Arm chair general comments are just pixels in a screen.
posted by 15L06 at 2:57 PM on April 9 [27 favorites]


But figuring out which is which is tricky and not always something mods will be able to jump in on in a timely fashion.

@jessamyn, I agree and in-thread re-railing I think can be useful especially if topics get railroaded by a couple of people having essentially a back and forth chat.

The trickiness that you brought up is one reason why I believe not focusing on a single topic or thread is useful and just removing comments at the beginning of threads that preemptively steer direction is a good idea. That way whether it was fair, polite, etc. doesn't come into play.

I personally am often confused and tend to err on the side of caution when members make requests. People tend to weaponize this a bit and go to the extreme of, if you're confused you probably are fat shaming or just another Westerner telling Ukraine how to wage a war, etc. It happened in this very thread! And it is hard to capture the voice of people, who again, just simply are discouraged by these posts and leads to, in my opinion, a narrow view of just the extreme opinions.

There's a clear delineation between moderating your own threads before anything happens and addressing thread-jacking. Unless this is no longer a "community weblog," which maybe we've changed a bit, I'd like not to frustrate or discourage users from posting. We've already seen a huge loss of membership and a reduction of a diversity of opinions.
posted by geoff. at 3:02 PM on April 9 [9 favorites]


I think topic framing and requests are fine sometimes, and not fine sometimes, and what is being asked for is way more important than who does it. It's a tool to guide a conversation, and tools can be used poorly or well.

I often value guidance and suggestions here and elsewhere, especially from marginalized folks and/or folks more impacted by a conversation, on how to avoid common issues and harms.

OTOH, If it's someone making some request that after due consideration I think is BS, I can and do ignore it, or call it out explicitly.

The mods aren't always on duty, and I think as a community we shouldn't always expect them to do all the work.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 3:04 PM on April 9 [20 favorites]


The mods aren't always on duty, and I think as a community we shouldn't always expect them to do all the work.

I want to be clear on why I brought up mods, because it has come up multiple times. My request was not that mods do more work just that moderators do indeed run the site, relatively rarely preemptively direct a thread and often have insight to information we don't possess: what got deleted, people contacting the moderators directly for offensive things, etc.

So rather than deal with that topic, I thought it would be better to keep a narrow scope of users preemptively guiding threads.
posted by geoff. at 3:11 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Listen, they made a request. Based on how any past discussion of weight related topics go. You can reflect on this and think about whether you will disregard the request or whether there is some good reason to make this request. If you don’t find it reasonable they don’t have the ability to ban you.
posted by JenMarie at 3:16 PM on April 9 [34 favorites]


The OP setting a tone expectation right off the top is totally different than other users bring it up later as a response to other comments. The former is fine but I find the latter a little off putting especially when it happens repeatedly in the same thread.

However the ones that really grind my teeth are concern comments about the length of the thread with a plea to minimize comments to preserve readability/loadability/amount of scrolling/etc. Like reply-alls to mailing lists imploring recipients to not reply-all on the list. Sometimes I just have to walk away.
posted by Mitheral at 3:24 PM on April 9 [25 favorites]


15L06 wrote...
My reason for interfering was and is that Ukraine is close to Vienna, Austria (about 450 Miles), and i am scared enough without thoughtless hot takes by an arm chair general living in another continent.

Just by way of cultural exchange, most Americans grew up expecting to have our country attacked with nuclear weapons, and the concept of limited nuclear exchange in other countries was never really talked about. Once nukes were used anywhere, the U.S. was going to take it in the shorts.

So I can imagine being 450 miles away is scary, but ICBMs have a much larger range than that. We're as scared as you are.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:33 PM on April 9 [14 favorites]


MetaFilter uses "read the room" as an input to the moderation algorithm, so requests like this can become moderation indirectly. Although I don't feel bound by such requests, they do subtly "move the needle" of what's acceptable in-thread, and hence, are essentially a (minor, but existent) form of moderation by non-moderators.
posted by saeculorum at 3:57 PM on April 9 [10 favorites]


Wouldn’t you just reply then that you disagree? I’m not really getting the victim hood going on here.
posted by JenMarie at 4:01 PM on April 9 [5 favorites]


Wouldn’t you just reply then that you disagree?

No, among other things mentioned previously I do not think we want to derail the thread in one of the very first comments on a conversation about how the conversation would go. If anything that would traditionally go in Metatalk.

The very fact that it would derail a thread up front, should alone be a reason not to make such hand-holding type comments. Second, you'd immediately get someone calling you fat shaming, an armchair general, whatever insult of the week, further creating the sniping that's toxic to discussion and the site.

This is not victimhood at all, this is merely asking the community to stop playing hall monitor.
posted by geoff. at 4:29 PM on April 9 [35 favorites]


These comments seem to me to be a way of pointing out patterns that are known to have taken place. They are a way to note that short of making a MeTaTalk thread about it. They don’t control anyones behavior and they can’t levy any consequences; but they are a way or putting on the bulletin board “this stuff has gotten ugly in the past and perhaps we can prevent doing that again.” It might just in the end be data for the mods about issues they will want to watch and perhaps develop a stance on in future.

In a lot of spaces, it’s okay for people to make requests about the kinds of conversation we’re about to have. The request doesn’t have to be observed. Buf the fact that it was made may make the comments to follow more thoughtful.
posted by Miko at 4:30 PM on April 9 [39 favorites]


“merely asking the community to stop playing hall monitor”

Okay, even if your characterization is assumed to describe the situation, hall monitors try to get people to follow established rules that keep people safe. Is there some other meaning you are referencing? You are pushing back very hard against a request to avoid ways of engaging that have caused harm repeatedly in the past. Furthermore, asking the community to stop weighing in on ways of making the community safer, more respectful, and more inclusive is the opposite of community-building to me. Communities are built around shared values that are self defined.
posted by JenMarie at 4:42 PM on April 9 [27 favorites]


You're right, if the rest of the community doesn't want it, that's fine and why I started the discussion.
posted by geoff. at 4:50 PM on April 9 [5 favorites]


I wish more people felt comfortable enough to post what topics to avoid. Like this thread would have been much better if the first comment (or the post itself) had a "please don't complain about the scroll jacking, we know" message. Or every thread with a long youtube video, to stop the complaining about the length.
posted by simmering octagon at 4:55 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I guess part of my thinking is this should be viewed case by case, so some general rule isn’t that helpful. Maybe for some threads and some specific requests, a preemptive comment is a good thing and in other cases it’s not a good thing.
posted by JenMarie at 4:56 PM on April 9 [5 favorites]


You are pushing back very hard against a request to avoid ways of engaging that have caused harm repeatedly in the past. Furthermore, asking the community to stop weighing in on ways of making the community safer, more respectful, and more inclusive is the opposite of community-building to me.

If something is potentially harmful, that can be taken to the mods. This request isn't against making the community safer - it's against individuals who did not start a thread and are not mods appointing themselves to direct the discussion.

(I've had posts I thought were perfectly fine deleted by the mods because people complained. I accept that the mods get to make that call. If a thread is turning out to be truly hurtful, going to the mods is totally appropriate. If they agree, they can step in and redirect.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:08 PM on April 9 [16 favorites]


If something is potentially harmful, that can be taken to the mods.

Or we can...talk about it?

I'm not sure you can talk about a weight-loss app without talking about people's personal experiences with weight loss or lack of weight loss.

The thread itself is not bad, and elements about those personal experiences are at a real minimum. It seems that the word to the wise produced a better thread, generating more insight, shaming no one, and (so far) blissfully free of unsolicited advice or simplistic reductions. So, it is certainly possible.
posted by Miko at 5:24 PM on April 9 [17 favorites]


geoff, you seem to be trying to navigate between relevance and resonance. As this thread illustrates, slippery slopes on both sides (necessarily) turn the discussion into a whack-a-mole session. I don't see that as a bad thing. Commenters have converged with civility, a thing not present in other venues. That's my opinion of the thread. Your polite suggestion was a good thing.

I believe guiding a discussion ought to be left to the mods.

As for resonance: 15L06, I see your point. I live in North America. From 1968 to 1971, I sat in a bit of room without windows in Northern Japan, watching launches of Soviet missiles. Every shot above 79 degrees inclination from the equator was a polar shot. Polar shots could be photo recon launches, or they could be ICBM launches. I had approximately three minutes to decide if a bird was the former, or the latter, by looking at its telemetry. Had any of those shots been the latter, about 20 minutes later, they would begin impacting somewhere in North America. Even if the Soviets didn't want to bomb my little hut in Japan, I probably would never see my home again. You can be sure that I was well aware of the IRBMs pointed at each other between eastern and western Europe. I haven't kept up on the nuclear subs in a long time, but in my day, they alone had enough firepower to make "On The Beach" a reality instead of depressing novel.

Howevermuch I share your distaste for armchair generals, I submit that my fear of WWIII is as palpable as yours. However, I admit that I'm relieved to not have to worry about those god-damned Russian tanks. Glory to Ukraine.
posted by mule98J at 5:33 PM on April 9 [9 favorites]


I think both the Noom and Ukraine examples are exactly the kind of request that I think is worth posting. In my opinion, the best metafilter is not everyone posting their hot takes or tangentially related comments. At least not in busy threads. Ideally there is situational awareness. Sure, if there is a quiet thread with almost no comments, then adding anything to the conversation might have some value. Or some threads may be freewheeling by nature.

In a thread about the war in Ukraine that will quickly get so big it has to spawn another, rehashing the same stuff that was not really relevant in previous threads is tiresome and self-centered. Discouraging people from making a certain kind of tangential comment in a diet thread makes complete sense to anyone who has seen similar threads. The comments making an effort to keep the discussion more relevant have been respectful and often suggest the very practical alternative of making a different post for other discussion.

It seems people are making useful recommendations in pretty specific situations, based on clear evidence that it is worth pointing out. In the vast majority of threads, no such recommendations are needed, and none are made.

A good party guest doesn’t butt in to every conversation they overhear. One might listen and find a relevant moment to chime in, or occasionally be content with just listening. Or perhaps take a step to the side and join a different conversation. Or start a new one altogether.
posted by snofoam at 5:49 PM on April 9 [19 favorites]


For what it’s worth, I think there could be a very interesting thread about what the war in Ukraine means to Americans. I think it would be fine if someone requested not to clutter such a thread with general Ukraine war stuff that doesn’t connect to the US. Or if someone posted about how sometimes diets work, I think it would be reasonable to request that people avoid posting that diets never work. As mentioned above, no one is bound to follow that guidance, but it could help create space fore a more interesting and productive discussion.
posted by snofoam at 6:02 PM on April 9 [7 favorites]


My druthers list for a few years has included "front page posts but with stricter guidelines for posting comments," because I think it would be interesting to see what people come up with, given some constraints. Constraints could be the post at the top of the thread requesting a direction, or maybe something weirder, like "there can only be 20 comments on this thread." *shrug* I think this community has a lot of potential to do weird things and learn from them, you know? What happens if we put a little speedbump right there. How do people navigate it? What will grow if we give it space?

Having visited a few of these threads before, it does, in my experience, tend to turn into a Battle for the Soul of the Site, which is just a lot of weight to throw around in a thread, in any direction.

Some people want it the way it's currently run, higgledy-piggledy, freewheeling, come what may.
Other people are interested in clearing space, some order and direction; creating a safer space for ideas and people that could use them readily.

And it's not like we... can't do both? LOL. We don't have to Decide the Fate, red lightsaber or blue. We could try some direction, some weird ideas and maybe they're not popular, or don't have engagement, so we don't keep doing them. And we can have spaces for anecdotes and free-association too.

In the case of the noom thread, and threads that deal with dieting, I think "try this trick that worked for me" is a great type of comment to try to forestall because a) people loooove talking about their weird little tricks/hacks and share them without much thought and b) people who struggle with their weight have often tried all the weird tricks and are tired of hearing how they could be different / that they're not trying hard enough / it's their fault they are like this. You get a lot of discussion from people who managed to somehow fit the prescribed cultural narrative in the thread, and a lot of people who are othered taking their stories elsewhere.

MetaFilter has a reputation for being shitty at certain topics, and I see post direction as a way of guiding us to be better.
posted by snerson at 6:05 PM on April 9 [12 favorites]


For what it’s worth, I think there could be a very interesting thread about what the war in Ukraine means to Americans.

We have You can't fight in here, this is the nuclear war thread, but the resulting dynamic is "Why isn't America doing more" questions popping up in thread A with answers forbidden by the community.
posted by pwnguin at 6:09 PM on April 9


We have You can't fight in here, this is the nuclear war thread, but the resulting dynamic is "Why isn't America doing more" questions popping up in thread A with answers forbidden by the community.

From my point of view, the issue in a practical sense is that it is one question (why not do more, USA?) and one answer (avoid nuclear apocalypse escalation). It is one of the clearest examples of redundant clutter imaginable in a topic that is very dynamic and active. I think it is totally reasonable for people to hope that this doesn’t get rehashed ad infinitum.

To me, “forbidden” is a very odd way to describe something that is being edited out because it has already been repeated too many times. Like if a karaoke dj has already let several people sing Sweet Caroline, but they aren’t letting more people do it, they aren’t censoring Neil Diamond.
posted by snofoam at 6:33 PM on April 9 [14 favorites]


I find it condescending and overbearing, but at the same time, they can make their request and you can ignore it, just like Americans used to ignore requests to stop making posts about Boris Johnson all about Trump.

It doesn't annoy me when it comes from the OP because they're starting the conversation. It's like they created a chatroom and invited me in.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:59 PM on April 9 [18 favorites]


To me, "As a request to other commenters, could we please avoid…" seems pretty polite, and clearly a request not a demand. Not sure I'd count it as "such authoritative tone" or expect users, even old ones, to somehow confuse this with a command from the mods.

Relying on moderators to leave comments at the start of threads to help guide them or to delete comments at the start of threads that attempt to guide discussion so you don't see them both seem like non-starters with the more limited mod coverage and slow response time we have now. A part of adapting to a budget that doesn't include full time moderator coverage is doing a little more communal shaping of discussions, which is sometimes going to involve people, with no authority to enforce their requests, suggesting things.

It seems somewhat ironic that you're upset about "non-moderators directing what is okay and not okay to talk about in threads" (even if it's just polite requests), and your response is to… direct what is not okay to say in threads, and suggest that comments you don't like "really should be deleted" by the moderators.
posted by JiBB at 7:29 PM on April 9 [13 favorites]


It's taken me literally decades to learn that my frequently strong negative reaction to being "shushed" (including preemptively) is sometimes my own issues making me unreasonably sensitive and, other times, precisely because someone really is being an overbearing, self-appointed hall-monitor and . . . my best strategy for figuring out which is which is to look to how other people are reacting. It requires some self-discipline to restrain an immediate response, but it's worth the effort.

The hall-monitors often get reined-in, eventually, and a) my own irritation is usually excessive, and b) people immediately arguing with the shushers usually just makes things worse.

And, to repeat, polite guidance from within the community in a thread can be extremely helpful.

That said, I think a super-important factor in this is how such reminders are phrased. While I am certain I am unusually sensitive about these sorts of things, I think everyone is at least a bit sensitive to them and it makes a huge difference if the comment avoids being aggressive and confrontational and, instead, emphasizes the ways in which the intention is to help the experience of the thread to be better for everyone.

This can sometimes veer into something that sounds patronizing and disingenuous but I think that can be avoided with a rewrite. I mean, if you think such a comment is needed and you're the one to write it, then it can't be asking that much if you put some real effort into it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:35 PM on April 9 [26 favorites]


If I can add my own small request, while I appreciate the idea of asking Americans not to make every topic all about the USA, it's particularly irritating when an American person responds to my comment about my experience of, for example living in "a large city" with a "please don't make this about America".
😐😑😐
posted by Zumbador at 11:11 PM on April 9 [15 favorites]


Am I wrong in recalling that previously on MeTa there have been various threads about making the blue more welcoming to ongoing community and discussion by actively guiding threads in just the manner described here? And a lot of the consensus from those threads was basically “yeah, this would make it feel friendlier and help out the mods and maybe more threads would go well”? Essentially the exact opposite of the argument here? Maybe I am misremembering. But anyway, metafilter is a land of contrasts
posted by Mizu at 1:21 AM on April 10 [12 favorites]


Metatalk will be arguing about how much more prior restraint is needed on expression here as the last server is switched off.
posted by spitbull at 4:22 AM on April 10 [16 favorites]


And a lot of the consensus from those threads was basically “yeah, this would make it feel friendlier and help out the mods and maybe more threads would go well”?

I have seen more than one MetaTalk thread where "consensus" is reached by a very vocal group shouting down anyone who disagrees. I have ended up giving up on those threads, and I know I'm not alone. This is not true consensus and should not be taken as what MetaFilter as a whole wants.

It's pretty clear from this thread that a fair number of people don't think it feels friendlier to have self-appointed arbiters of what's OK in a thread.
posted by FencingGal at 5:49 AM on April 10 [68 favorites]


I have learned a lot about trans issues on this site. I've learned about the experiences of racial minorities, fat people, neurodivergent people, and others who face prejudice and discrimination. And I've learned more when those voices are centered in conversation threads about them and their experiences.

I've been here long enough to remember the boyzone days and how easily awful toxic comments were bandied about without consequences. There is enough room on this site that Every Thread Doesn't Have to Be About You. I think having a separate nuclear thread has generally helped the main Ukraine threads. I think reminding posters to keep other readers' feelings in mind is a good thing.

MetaFilter certainly still has its problems, but I don't see how asking people to be kinder toward one another and to consider what they say before they say it is a BAD thing.
posted by rikschell at 6:03 AM on April 10 [43 favorites]


I don't see how asking people to be kinder toward one another and to consider what they say before they say it is a BAD thing.

Well, it is passing judgment on the people currently in the thread and if wielded by any user then it ends up as a way for the least resilient people on the site to passive aggressively try to control the conversation.

In the long run it seems like that might be stifling for other contributors. It seems like it might work better to leave that sort of policy enforcement up to the mods.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:25 AM on April 10 [16 favorites]


I don't see how asking people to be kinder toward one another and to consider what they say before they say it is a BAD thing.

One person's kind is another person's kryptonite, though. I don't find it hard to imagine a statement like "If only you would be more kind/respectful/compliant" as coercion or even abuse.
posted by dmh at 7:29 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


if wielded by any user then it ends up as a way for the least resilient people on the site to passive aggressively try to control the conversation. (emphasis mine)

I mean, the question here is what kind of fragilities are we trying to protect people from? Are we trying to protect people from things like fatphobia¹ or from other people's pontification about existential threats to their lives², or are we trying to protect the rights of people to express a point of view on any given subject without having to consider its effect on people for whom the subject has a much higher emotional valence?

Because I know, in that circumstance, which group is the less resilient.

¹The Noom thread, obviously
²The Ukraine threads

posted by ambrosen at 8:04 AM on April 10 [23 favorites]


Frankly, I just don't want to have another thread where we debate whether trans women are ruining cis women's sports or whether people in food deserts could lose weight if they just tried harder and ate more unseasoned beans and rice. I feel like a lot of the time conversations are better here when they don't go down the same paths I've seen trodden over and over again on internet forums since the late nineties. Most of the time, "let's not Do The Thing" is from people who have Seen The Thing over and over and over and over.

I like that metafilter can often push conversations a little further than they go in other places because we don't veer into the same pointless culs-de-sac.

~~
I haven't been commenting nearly as much as I used to on here and honestly it's because i feel I've almost always said my say. A lot of the really old-hat conversations we used to have ("but are the cops really the bad guys?") have been had and it's nice to be able to read something a little more sophisticated. I can always go to many, many, many other places on the internet if I want to debate that stuff.
posted by Frowner at 8:04 AM on April 10 [58 favorites]


I strongly agree with Chrysopoeia's comment above. Sometimes these requests are helpful and sometimes they're inappropriate or harmful. Personally I think the examples that geoff cited are actually pretty much fine, but I do agree with the point that in other cases, people sometimes claim excessive "ownership" over a thread's topic in ways that are detrimental to both that specific discussion and the site's overall welcomingness. However in other cases I think there's behavior that's clearly against site best practices (e.g., "threadshitting": tossing in some low-effort negativism that doesn't substantially engage with the FPP or the conversation happening but will probably attract a whole lot of deraily comments responding to it) that it's good to call out directly (but politely). When we had 24/7 site moderation, "flag it and move on" was a reasonable strategy for this, but that's no longer the case, and letting such comments sit unchallenged tends to increase the amount of derailiness and raise the heat.

Personally, I'd like people to consider that requests about thread direction are something they should have a pretty high bar to make. If your impulse is to ask people not to talk about something on a general discussion forum, or not to talk about it in a certain way, just be mindful that that's a pretty big ask with potentially negative side-effects on overall site participation and how welcoming the site may be to people with differing points of view. But even with those things considered, it may be that it's worth saying. However, that judgment isn't always easy to make, which is part of why we have professional moderators. Personally I don't think it's bad for non-mods to engage in some light and polite thread direction in certain cases, but we should be careful about it, and if in doubt leave it to the pros.
posted by biogeo at 8:10 AM on April 10 [21 favorites]


it is passing judgment on the people currently in the thread

You can't pass judgment on something that has not yet happened. These notes are based on past patterns, not the current threads.

Especially on this issue, there is such a miserable track record on this site. We talked about this in MetaTalk a little over a year ago:

Please stop posting about your diets

And here is a sampler of past threads that show a definite trajectory that's only gotten a bit better because people have exercised voluntary restraint (CW for some of the older ones for sure):
Should we just stop posting topics that involve weightloss issues?, 2015
Joke Taboos, 2014 thread involving fat jokes
fat hate is ugly, from 2009
MetaFatty, 2007
Challenging others' answers in an obesity thread, 2006
Fark-fatbashing-fusion, 2004
Callout-fat-lazy-no-discipline, 2002

There's a bit of a tension here, I think, in philosophies of community management. It seems that some would like all discussion of the appropriateness of user contributions to come from and be enforced by the mods, and that we can never speak directly to one another about what would be helpful for the discussion to be productive and insightful and avoid harm. Yet I'm not sure how the mods are supposed to become aware of user concerns without users themselves first noticing and raising the issue. This is how things actually began as we moved on from being a boyzone and an overtly TERFy environment - not by going right to MetaTalk and pleading for mod intervention, but by saying in threads "can we not?"

Not everything in a community has to be legislated and enforced by those in authority. We have choices here about individual participation. As users, we can be respectful of one another's wishes out of a desire to participate harmoniously, and perhaps remain open to a shift in perspective. Or we can ignore such requests and push whatever point we want unless and until we are directly chastised by a mod. Or we can express curiosity about how the community feels in general, and bring the issue up for wider discussion here in MetaTalk, as we can see has already happened.

I personally don't think user passivity on issues of concern is a great solution. As we know, mods are overburdened and don't have time to post reminders at the head of every potentially sensitive thread. Also, there's something childish to me in expecting that - "do whatever you want until you get called to the principal's office" is not a recipe for healthy interactions. If you've been here a while, you know the potholes that exist in certain topical discussions. If you're new, you may not know about them at all. Reminders from fellow users are, to me, quite welcome; I don't need to wait for the police to come along and set up the CAUTION tape. I'm generally glad to know if there's a trope or a 101 item that I should be aware of before contributing. It's interesting to me that some seem to want that sort of heavier hand in management. The only endgame I can see to that is having the expectation that mods have a long long list of verboten topics and behaviors and must be present in every thread to set up the guardrails. That doesn't seem practical, or MeFi-like.

If we are a community, then we can make requests of one another and have conversations about what behaviors are likely to cause harm and hurt. We can talk to one another as neighbors before calling 911. If any such issue raised by a user reveals a need for a MetaTalk and new mod working policy, then that's the next step. But in the meantime, I like to think we're adults and can make requests of one another about what allow us to continue participating in the conversation.
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on April 10 [43 favorites]


I find it condescending and overbearing, but

dragging things into the real world* for a moment ... one of my more recent epiphanies amounts to a sort of profound grasp of the obvious, which is that people (some of them way more than others) generally don't like being corrected. THEY HATE IT.

Which is not to say that sometimes people are very much are crying out to be corrected, or certainly deflected/angled off into some zone where whatever they're doing will cause less harm. But the fact remains: it annoys them to be corrected, the condescending/overbearing impression they take from the action (generally taken by someone who's not exactly perfect themselves) spikes some stress that wasn't there previously.

Which raises the question that I try to ask before I make any sort of corrective statement -- do I really want to do this right now? is the upside going to be worth the downside? To which there is no simple applies-to-all-situations answer. It's always context dependent.

[Worth noting: I came of age in the late 1970s/early 1980s, a time when there was a lot of provocative behaviour tolerated in the various scenes I was part of (punk, hardcore, etc). You learned early and you learned hard that oft times, you just needed to get out of peoples' way once their passion achieved a certain velocity. Proscriptive positions generally got you nowhere worth being. Hall monitors got trampled. I'm not saying this was either a good or bad thing, but it was definitely a thing, and reflective of a not entirely negative cultural reality of the time -- something to do with everybody needing to go a little crazy every now and then ... for the greater good.]
posted by philip-random at 8:42 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


Well, it is passing judgment on the people currently in the thread

If you think you're being "judged" every time someone suggests that something you've said or want to say in a conversation might not be helpful, well. When people don't tell you that because they think you're unable to distinguish the twinge of conscience or empathy you might feel from an injury from an attack, they're actually judging you a lot harder.
posted by praemunire at 8:42 AM on April 10 [19 favorites]


--This kind of thing does sometimes bother me, in part because (1) it sometimes reflects people who want to shut other people up about things that shouldn't be shut up about (e.g. if you want a thread to be lighthearted, but it's about something that isn't actually lighthearted, it's a bit shit to try to police that), also, (2) these comments are sometimes fairly harsh or rude and directed towards seemingly well-meaning people for fairly benignly breaking unwritten rules, and I am, against all evidence, a sensitive soul who kinda hates seeing people be told off.

--I think the noom thread is, unfortunately a horrible example (and geoff, I acknowledge that you didn't want to provide examples initially), because the request was very narrow and also phrased very pleasantly and kindly. I don't think it's at all bad to ask that people don't talk about their personal diets in great detail, if only because that kind of thing bores everyone half to death anyway. When the request is made gently and non-shamingly, I don't see anything at all wrong with it.

--I also bristle a bit at the idea of in-thread moderating in part just because I've been here for so long and the standard habit/practice would be to talk it to metatalk and hash it out here, and then if there was reasonable community consensus, to have the mods take care of enforcement, but I guess I have to accept that metatalk doesn't really serve that kind of meta-governance function anymore. I am not averse to community governance, and miko makes some good points about it, but I generally don't like it when the moderater/user streams cross too much. Usually, my issue with it is moderators taking up too much space as (essentially ungovernable) users, but I also find it to be kind of a pain in the ass when people are able to basically majority-overrule stuff that they don't like based on who's in the thread that day or whatever. Sometimes the outcome is good, but sometimes the outcome is shitty and not in line with what we'd overall want metafilter's values to be.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:12 AM on April 10 [10 favorites]


these comments are sometimes fairly harsh or rude and directed towards seemingly well-meaning people for fairly benignly breaking unwritten rules, and I am, against all evidence, a sensitive soul who kinda hates seeing people be told off.

I want to expand on this a bit -- I don't actually always blame the people doing the telling-off in these situations, either. Surely I have been that person before. But this is one of the main benefits of having a professionalized moderation staff -- they can (hopefully) be expected to be patient with the fourteenth time someone messes up in the same way thirteen other people already messed up. That ship may have already sailed, of course.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:14 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


A polite request is fine - about almost anything. If you ignore a polite request, that's on you and your choice- resulting in either no repercussions, social repercussions (people will remember you are a jerk sometimes about polite requests), or you'll eventually get a note or a time out from a mod.

I don't think it's at all bad to ask that people don't talk about their personal diets in great detail, if only because that kind of thing bores everyone half to death anyway.

Absolutely resoundingly yes. Personal diets and workout routine discussion can go in an AskMe thread if you want to discuss that stuff. It is EXTREMELY boring at best. Definitely never something I want to hear about unsolicited (and the Noom thread was NOT a place begging for that discussion).
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:23 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]


It's common knowledge, isn't it, that that kind of talk can help induce relapse in the eating-disordered?

I didn't know that. But if it is common knowledge why would someone engage in a post about a topic that could do that to themselves ?

And is the question here then that should some people should remain silent in a discussion so that other people don't have to engage with their obstacles ?

Can you cite some examples of how that this is good for discussion ?
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 9:35 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


Folks with experience with disordered eating are EXACTLY who I would want in a thread about some sham diet app. I’m for anything which encourages them to engage with a topic they have expertise on, but which can be difficult when discussed insensitively.

Why would someone post in a topic about something they have very personal, relevant experience about instead of avoid it in fear? “Because it means a lot to them” seems so obvious.
posted by thoroughburro at 9:42 AM on April 10 [30 favorites]


Why would someone engage in a post about a topic that could do that to themselves?

Consider, if you will, that such people are in fact the target audience of those posts.
posted by Miko at 9:44 AM on April 10 [24 favorites]


Seems charitable!
posted by sagc at 9:44 AM on April 10


I think that it's easy to overestimate how innovative and insightful one's own comments are and how much it benefits others to hear them - that's a bit why I've stopped commenting as much too.

A lot of the time, when I have typed out and deleted a comment, it's been something that I didn't think would lead the discussion in a useful direction. It doesn't benefit us to hash out, over and over, whether we are all going to die in a near-term nuclear holocaust, or whether because it was possible for 2% of the population to lose over ten pounds and keep it off for over five years it would be possible for almost everyone if they just did better, etc etc. Those are debates that may be deeply felt but don't do metafilter much good.

Like, it might make me feel better to type out my reasoning about [various likely and bad near-future things] and that's real - it would be an emotional release. But that's not what I pay my $5 a month for. I pay to read new and interesting stuff and hopefully to contribute something that is helpful and new, at least new to some.

It might be helpful to me to spitball about weight and dieting - that might feel really new and important to me. But spitballing about stuff that is going to lead to a boring, unproductive, stale discussion once again is not what metafilter is for.

I'm a lot to the left of some people who post in the Ukraine threads. I have feelings about that stuff. But again, unless it's a thread where we're going to hash that out, I'm not going to jump in and hold forth - there's new information in the thread and frankly "I suspect that the US is going to use the Ukraine crisis for bad things even though this is also something that gets said by tankies" is not a new observation.

In short - even the real, strongly felt desire to say something to an audience does not necessarily make metafilter the right place to say the things.
posted by Frowner at 10:04 AM on April 10 [31 favorites]


In answer to the original question: no, I don't think so. And this would be a far worse place if we did. It's a community. Just because you can say something doesn't mean you should, and the only way you'll learn not to say something stupid/hurtful/inappropriate is to get called out on it. Maybe not everyone agrees what inappropriate is, but finding a balance is always about putting things on both sides of the scale. Doing it with politeness is much better than bluntness, but sometimes people don't have the social skills to understand a polite request and need to be brought up short.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:12 AM on April 10 [14 favorites]


["I would flip that around and say that maybe if what you want to add to the thread is exactly what the poster politely requested people not to add, then maybe that isn't the thread for you."

I think it's fine when the original poster requests this. But it's frustrating when a different poster comes in, sometimes in the very first reply such as in the example that geoff linked, and tries to limit everyone's discussion.]


[The OP setting a tone expectation right off the top is totally different than other users bring it up later as a response to other comments. The former is fine but I find the latter a little off putting especially when it happens repeatedly in the same thread.]


Quoting two different comments from above, just to clarify, hence the brackets.

Both, it seems to me, putting the forth the same idea, that I actually disagree with rather strongly - that the OP gets to set the parameters of the discussion. I feel like one of the strengths of MetaFilter is that we don't OWN our posts. Not in the legal sense as such, but in the "community" sense. I make a post about something interesting, or weird, or enraging, but I don't have any more right than anyone else here to ride herd on the discussion and comments that follow just because I'm the OP.

If anything, I think it's better that other members of the community - who will have different life experiences and knowledge and expertise than I - are able to weigh in with their perspectives on what may or may not make the discussion a good one.

The Noom thread would be a good example of this - its a Vox piece, I read Vox regularly, there's no reason I couldn't have made that FPP myself, if the piece had caught my eye. But I'm a middle-aged cis straight male, which means my whole experience & perspective on diets, weight, appearances, health, the whole shebang, is gonna be WAY different than that of other folks living under a different set of cultural assumptions and expectations. I feel like I should, if anything, appreciate another MeFite feeling able to chip in with "Yo, let's not have Round 457 of "One Simple Trick That Worked For Me !!1!!" because that doesn't wind up in a good place."

Or to put it another way, it's the community members being able to guide or even direct conversations that "makes Metafilter a community of diverse opinions and viewpoints" (to quote this OP), and trying to restrict this by insisting that such guidance should only be handed down from On High by Official Moderators is counterproductive.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:19 AM on April 10 [24 favorites]


I think we have gotten to a place of total mod burnout because people have stopped doing any of this work. Outsourcing the responsibility for shaping thoughtful conversation because someone else will clean it up is unsustainable. Some people are better or worse at it, and I hazard that the people who are very good at it don’t even come to mind because they’re able to do it subtly and gracefully in ways the rest of us can’t. But I don’t think that means the rest of us should just abdicate trying to keep people mindful of how to have a conversation that isn’t needlessly hurtful or unproductive. The Art of Conversation isn’t preserved or learned by relying on moderators to step in rather than individuals redirecting and self governing.
posted by Bottlecap at 10:21 AM on April 10 [21 favorites]


It seems weird to discourage users from stating their preferences. Are there really people among us who are so fragile that it is unbearable for them to ever face the concept that not all comments are appreciated by all people?
posted by snofoam at 10:25 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]


Quis moderabitur moderatores?

Quis non moderatores non moderetur?

Quis non moderetur non moderatores?

Quae semper...
posted by y2karl at 10:25 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


I think there’s an interesting question here about the extent to which these types of comments are reinforcing a preexisting community norm (which is how I understand the Noom comment) versus introducing a preference that commenter has that isn’t already a norm.

Here’s an example. I’ve come to dread threads about Gen Z/young millennial issues, because in my experience they so rarely center commenters who belong to those groups. The discussions often end up being about how older people feel about younger people, or how in their day such-and-such was different, or how they know some show or trend or slang because their children or grandchildren use it. And like, that’s fine! But it does make me feel a little alienated and reluctant to read or join those conversations.

Where this is relevant to the topic at hand is that when I’ve considered going into those threads and posting a comment asking to please refrain from centering the experiences of Gen X people, I always stop myself. I’m not sure if that’s because I know mine is probably a minority/unpopular opinion on a site that leans older, or because I’ve been socialized to be passive and avoid offending people in situations like this one, or because I don’t feel it’s my place as a non-mod to direct the conversation, or because I feel my concern might be a frivolous one.

So when I see these comments asking for the thread to refrain from discussing x or going in y direction, what I end up thinking is “oh, okay, that’s probably a previously-discussed and somewhat-agreed-upon norm”. I don’t know whether I think that’s a good or a bad thing.
posted by chaiyai at 11:04 AM on April 10 [13 favorites]


Consider, if you will, that such people are in fact the target audience of those posts.

I thought that posting something to metafilter meant that mefites were at the very least the audience.

There are of course sub-audiences or target audiences. I have never really thought of each post as a walled off community but rather a place for experiences to be shared, jokes developed, ignorances given light, tolerances redefined, et cetera.

But I can start to think of the target audience per post instead of a per metafilter basis.

Thanks, Miko.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 11:08 AM on April 10


A lot of the Ukraine threads' re-routing is repeating the directions the mods themselves have reinforced by removing certain comments (apocalypse talk, USA centering, the "the" derail just now). In a fast-moving thread it's a choice between one comment visible to everyone considering a response or flagging and waiting a few hours while 30+ comments pile up on the derail.

Personally I'm a bit better now, but I'm quite close to the Ukrainian border as well, and some speculations in the first two weeks of the war caused physical unpleasant reactions. It's also a region with a very bad history with Westsplaining and US-centering (see: Yalta), so all the requests aren't just personal preferences of the individual posters.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:20 AM on April 10 [18 favorites]


Personally I don't think it's bad for non-mods to engage in some light and polite thread direction in certain cases, but we should be careful about it, and if in doubt leave it to the pros.


This is where I've come down on this. I've been following the Ukraine threads with a lot of interest and have been very happy with the way things evolved to allow for different elements (current developments, nuclear issues, emotional reactions) to be expressed while keeping the discussion focussed and centred. In February, I was very pleased to notice how the discussions of the Ottawa convoy protest managed to stay mostly focussed on the Canadian situation and avoid going off into US-centred politics in ways that were not directly linked to the issue at hand. In these cases, community members and mods worked together to make preferences and expectations clear in a way that benefited the discussion. It also helps when the OP highlights the direction they are hoping to go in the framing of the post.

I do think, though, that it is worth thinking about how and when users express preferences vs. when mods should give guidance. Although I had no problem with the very polite request in the Noom thread, the fact that it was the first comment (and that I have my own issues with weight issues, dieting etc.) made me think "Uh oh, it's going to be one of those and nope out of the discussion altogether. Perhaps, in situations like that, we could consider flagging the post to the mods to let them know a particular post might warrant more of their attention? Or make a comment that contains the type of point we do want to see in the discussion rather than just warning people not to talk about a certain thing? For me, the best way to keep a conversation going in a certain direction is to provide fodder for discussion that takes it that way, rather than telling others not to pick up on aspects they don't like. (Frankly, for me, that's like telling people not to think about pink elephants...) The convoy posts worked to a great extent because Canadian voices were very active there, providing information and perspectives that generated engagement by others.

A people have also commented that there is community consensus on the ways some topics should be handled, and that certain subjects have been well-trodden and are no longer of interest to some. That's fair enough, but I do think we need to remember that new people are coming on stream with different issues all the time, and some of those will be new to Metafilter. If we want to be inclusive, attract new users, and encourage overall participation and engagement, we need to keep that in mind.
posted by rpfields at 11:41 AM on April 10 [11 favorites]


I think it's OK to request ground rules for a conversation (and to disagree with those requests), and most of the comments I've seen lately in that genre have been both gracious and helpfully explicit about what is being requested and why. What isn't helpful (but thankfully seems to be getting less common) is stuff like a bare "Can we not" or "Don't do this" or "That's 101" (unless responding to something clearly in bad faith or beyond the pale). Those comments, while usually coming from justifiable frustration at having to repeat former conversations, must come off to new users like a job posting that says "Must be fluent in Spanish, Arabic, and Korean, have 5 yrs experience with COBOL and a flexible schedule. 16 hrs/wk plus occasional on-call. $10.28–10.74/hr DOE." Nothing is ever permanently settled on a site with a changing userbase (and I hope we are a changing userbase in more ways than just member turnover). The memory of community elders, however, is a resource of great value.
posted by aws17576 at 12:32 PM on April 10 [10 favorites]


I am probably considered one of the people who's attempted to direct the Ukraine threads. It's not something I can recall every doing before on Metafilter, and I can certainly see the cons as well as the pros. Apologies to anyone who found my comments grating rather than helpful.

I would like to point out though that the conversation model on Metafilter - a single thread per post - does a lot to constrain the nature of effective conversation. The way I see it, a Reddit post is sort of like a conference where people can break off into their own rooms with anyone interested whenever they please. As such, you're basically free to talk about whatever you want. It's also very good at making information bubbles, though.

Commenting on a Metafilter post is like talking in a room that's small enough so that everyone in it can hear you. Etiquette thus dictates that you should make an effort to be sensitive to other people in the room before you freely say whatever you might like to say. This can be very difficult (especially since everyone's dressed for a Masquerade), and yah, sometimes someone might ask you to refrain from discussing certain things. Nevertheless, for all its limitations, the single-thread model allows you to hear interesting perspectives that you might not hear otherwise.

In contrast, Twitter is sort of like what would happen if everyone had a megaphone on a massive football field. Unsurprisingly it's a communication hellscape.
posted by Alex404 at 12:42 PM on April 10 [24 favorites]


I do this, mostly in threads about non-US topics, because we've had a lot of MeTas from non-US members complaining about the tendency for every thread to become a US thread. In the Ukraine threads, a number of members who are very much affected have asked that people stop certain behaviors because they found them harmful. I feel it's a responsibility of other less-stressed members to amplify these voices, because it's obvious that people don't read the entire thread before commenting, and they miss the previous requests (and the mods can't be everywhere). I do try to be clear about the specific problem and reasonably pleasant or neutral in tone. I could memail people, I suppose, but that won't stop a derail, and I have tried patiently rerailing threads, but that rarely works.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:35 PM on April 10 [9 favorites]


I'll bet there are community members more eloquent than me who can use rhetoric to frame the conversation and wall off derail-type topics without explicitly stating those guard rails. That's a skill in today's Internet.
posted by k3ninho at 1:40 PM on April 10 [7 favorites]


In terms of "let the new users redo the 101": Look, what happens in society is that conversations move on. It isn't 1950. For instance, we don't need to have big threads arguing that women should be able to have their own bank accounts or that segregation is wrong or that being gay is not a sickness because society knows better. "I think homophobia is very good actually" isn't a default ignorant position that needs to be debated; it's a reactionary choice.

My point being that we as part of society don't in fact need to hash out "trans women are women" and "dieting does not in general work very well" and other intellectual commonplaces just because perhaps, sometimes, someone joins metafilter who has never thought these things through. It's okay to say, "here on metafilter, we assume that if you don't have certain kinds of cultural literacy, you can seek them out as you become aware of what you lack". It's okay not to have an eternal September.

If anything, internet spaces are valuable when they help you to make an intellectual leap. Like, many years ago now, it was a huge deal when I started reading Crooked Timber because those people talked about all kinds of academic shit with which I was wildly unfamiliar. It was exciting to jump in and figure things out. I didn't think, "gee, it's too bad that I have to google Richard Rorty rather than having a big argument about the most rudimentary angle on pragmatism." It was exciting to learn new norms and ways of thinking, and to encounter people who had more knowledge and wider experience than I did. If the blog had been dumbed down to my lowest philosophical denominator, I never would have learned anything and the blog would have lost all character.

Metafilter can be for anyone but that doesn't mean it's the kind of thin gruel that everyone agrees they can swallow.
posted by Frowner at 1:42 PM on April 10 [42 favorites]


In cases like the Ukraine thread, I think it is reasonable to forefront people with more knowledge or closer proximity, and I think that has to be done "aloud" because otherwise not everyone is going to know who's who. But as a general practice, I can't say I'm a huge fan of the controlling quality of a fellow mefite pre-organizing a discussion that has yet to begin on a post they didn't make.

I'd prefer, actually, if we mostly just had at it, and that it became a gentle, civilized practice for someone to pipe up if they think, for example, the OP's feelings might have gotten hurt, or if we're so off subject, we might as well be talking about another thread. Long story short, people are people, and it's natural to be thick sometimes, or impulsive, or thoughtless. But generally speaking I think it's best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and only do a little steering if it proves necessary.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:54 PM on April 10 [8 favorites]


I agree, Frowner -- both with your general point and very much in the case of the examples you gave. I was talking more about stuff where there's site-specific history that doesn't necessarily reflect decent society at large (e.g. topics that old-timers know or believe we "don't do well"). I probably shouldn't have included "101" claims as a subset of that, although sometimes I do think people have an idiosyncratic idea of what counts as 101. But mostly I just think attempts to direct the conversation are at their most helpful and inclusive when some specificity/rationale, not necessarily an exhaustive one, is included.
posted by aws17576 at 1:59 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


I very much appreciate the interjections in Ukrainian megathreads to get back on topic. I read (and contribute) to gain knowledge of what is happening on the ground. Not speculation, or off topic musings. War situations tend to ebb and flow, not having constant new events. Analysis is fine, chatter is just noise and diminishes the signal. Those with direct contact add value. We are now in the 4th thread I think and each runs to way over 1,000 comments. Keeping it on track makes it a valuable record. Spin off threads are a good way to go to discuss specifics in general. The Nuclear thread is a good example.
I can't be arsed with other peoples diets, special or otherwise, so I have no observations to make as I don't read the threads.
posted by adamvasco at 5:21 PM on April 10 [5 favorites]


geoff disabled his account.
posted by MollyRealized at 6:28 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


That's too bad. I hope he's just taking a break and will be back soon. I don't agree with the specific examples he pointed to here, but I'm glad he raised the issue for discussion. There were one or two comments here that seem to have been deleted but which I happened to catch and were pretty nasty and personally-attacking towards him. That kind of mean-spiritedness is pretty effective at driving even long-time users away, even when it gets cleaned up by moderation. Much worse than either too much thread-direction by users, or people not wanting thread-direction by users.
posted by biogeo at 8:05 PM on April 10 [32 favorites]


I hope he’ll be back, too. I appreciate member direction in general but he brought up some important points for discussion.

Hope you’re okay, geoff.
posted by mochapickle at 8:21 PM on April 10 [13 favorites]


Wow, well that’s a disappointing outcome.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:43 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


geoff. please don't go. I appreciate your contributions to the converstions.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:46 PM on April 10 [16 favorites]


There were one or two comments here that seem to have been deleted but which I happened to catch and were pretty nasty and personally-attacking towards him. That kind of mean-spiritedness is pretty effective at driving even long-time users away, even when it gets cleaned up by moderation. Much worse than either too much thread-direction by users, or people not wanting thread-direction by users

I saw some of those comments too and I agree. Is it not the practice to leave a mod note when comments like that are deleted? It seems so odd when they just disappear without the nastyness being acknowledged somehow.
posted by Zumbador at 8:49 PM on April 10 [17 favorites]


geoff, you should come back. I did not see the nasty comments but you must remember that is just a couple bad apples and does not represent the opinions of the larger user base. This has been an interesting conversation you started, but this is also a big place (still) and there’s a lot of opinions (which is both a feature and at times, a bug).
posted by Glinn at 9:35 PM on April 10 [7 favorites]


Mod note: One (and a couple of responses) deleted. Don't be shitty. Don't contribute to making this space unusable. Just click away from the page and do something else if you cannot seem to control that kind of behavior.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:26 PM on April 10 [24 favorites]


I believe guiding a discussion ought to be left to the mods

So, I am super in the Ukraine threads, and wanted to talk a lot about one of the things that was interesting to me, the aspect of foreign fighters. People felt frustrated, and asked me and others to take it elsewhere. So I made an FPP! People commented! Sure, maybe not the same number of people who were in the Ukraine thread, but everyone there wanted to be there and it provided a good place to drop that stuff.

I encourage folks who feel too many people want a different discussion to make your own FPP and put it there. There could even be a “how America/it’s internal politics reacts to Ukraine” thread!
posted by corb at 12:05 AM on April 11 [25 favorites]


And another one gone. The pattern is inexorable.
posted by spitbull at 3:38 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


geoff has been here since 2001, in case people didn't notice that.

2001.
posted by spitbull at 4:01 AM on April 11 [29 favorites]


- gentle nudges / requests by non-mods in the thread itself
- MetaTalk posts by non-mods which gather community input on a perceived problem in a thread or multiple threads (we are here)
- direct mod action (deletion / timeout / banning / etc)

these three are imo all key pillars of mefite community regulation. the first two are self-regulatory, the latter comes from authority. i think they are all very helpful / necessary in aggregate.

i don't necessarily agree with all requests that fall into the first bucket but that's life, people are different. that's okay.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:21 AM on April 11 [11 favorites]


I think megathreads are a highly problematic way of consuming information, but I think it has not yet been pointed out that Ukraine as a topic is unique because the war is of global import and has a global context. It breaks the discursive model of a single minority or single power dynamic to focus on at one time. There's a Ukraine war going on but also a global conflict going on in which Ukraine is the epicenter. And so that's really two topics, the latter just happens to lack a commonly recognized name for it. So e.g. the nuclear thread can be understood as kind of an attempt by other members to address this gap.
posted by polymodus at 5:31 AM on April 11 [7 favorites]


And another one gone. The pattern is inexorable.

specifically the pattern is:
small group of members arrogate themselves moderation duties in mostly benign fashion.

actual legitimate mods, who are generally overworked, seem happy to have some help and tacitly endorse some degree of community self-moderation.

unofficial moderation becomes less and less benign.

someone raises mild objection to unofficial moderation, gets targeted and buttons or flames out.

original group leaves site or members become less active/cohesive. start from the top.
i guess from the point of view of official moderators, it's relatively easy to moderate the jerks and assholes. probably less easy to establish and enforce boundaries for unofficial 'helpers.' if you're going to rely on self-moderation as part of your strategy, though, it seems important to let people know where those boundaries are.
posted by logicpunk at 6:34 AM on April 11 [27 favorites]


> unofficial moderation becomes less and less benign

Would you mind posting an example of this? It’s notable that, so far, requests for examples have been met with instances of behavior most of us find somewhere between unremarkable and desirable.

And although we pretend not to observe them, they are also well favorited relative to their threads, indicating at least some degree of popular support. The impression of a narrow group of users stifling discourse has, so far, no convincing examples.
posted by thoroughburro at 6:42 AM on April 11 [12 favorites]


i'm not your site reference librarian.

giving specific examples is a trap, as geoff. found out. any one instance can seem mostly innocuous, so it's pretty easy to undermine the point of someone who actually cites an example. it also avoids the main point of a larger pattern of unofficial moderation being maybe overzealous.

i don't really oppose unofficial or self-moderation, but the boundaries of it need to be clearer. that's it. that's the point. no examples needed.
posted by logicpunk at 6:54 AM on April 11 [31 favorites]


You can at least agree that that is a suspiciously convenient rhetorical conceit.

If you want clearer boundaries, you will need to be willing to engage in a conversation about them, surely.
posted by thoroughburro at 7:10 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


i'm not your site reference librarian.

You are making a claim that needs some supporting -- when asked for evidence, responding with a snarky "not your librarian" does not bolster your claim.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:11 AM on April 11 [12 favorites]


Would you mind posting an example of this? It’s notable that, so far, requests for examples have been met with instances of behavior most of us find somewhere between unremarkable and desirable.

Well, there were the two deleted comments in this very thread -- I didn't personally catch them, but the people who saw them described them as nasty personal attacks on geoff.
posted by buntastic at 7:17 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


Nasty personal attacks != "unofficial moderation becomes less and less benign"

logicpunk is making a very specific claim regarding my fellow mefites in this community. it's an insulting and shitty claim to make, in my opinion, and i'd like to see some evidence for it.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:19 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I didn’t see the deleted comments either but I hate that they happened.

I asked for examples of “unofficial moderation becom[ing] less and less benign”. It sounds like the deleted comments were personal attacks, not thread guidance. Am I wrong?
posted by thoroughburro at 7:20 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


I think it's naive to think that ALL moderation be left to paid moderators -- this just isn't how a functional community works, with the police always on hand to sort out grievances. To this end, I have no problem with occasional requests from community members that certain sidetracks not be pursued in particular threads.

The initial comment that Geoff linked to (with the caveat that he'd rather not point out specific comments "... to avoid embarrassing anyone or get in a debate as to why any specific case was okay or not okay") read to me as a not particularly heavy-handed bit of unofficial 'hall monitoring' (and a popular one -- 88 favourites and counting) ... except that it was the very first comment in the thread. It assumed a potential derail and spoke to it before it happened.

I originally read it (before being aware of this Meta) and didn't give it much thought. It felt like a fair request ("hey, let's not go down this potential sidetrack if we can avoid it"). But thinking about it now -- reading some of the back and forth in this thread -- I can get a better feel for why some might find it off-putting. It's not the sentiment so much as the fact that it shows up before anyone has actually bothered to "transgress". Which could be taken as unnecessarily proscriptive -- over-policing.

In other words -- fair point. Thanks, Geoff, for using Meta to address it. It sucks that (for whatever reason) you've now chosen to disable. Hopefully, we'll see you again soon.
posted by philip-random at 7:50 AM on April 11 [19 favorites]


I am stopping by one last time on my way permanently out of MetaFilter to express my deep sadness at this thread as an example of so much that is wrong with this site these days.

May I direct everyone's attention to that little search box up at the top of the page and suggest using it with "can we not" and a few similar phrases that geoff. rightly flagged as too common and problematic? Ignore the instances where that's just a benign phrase in someone's comment, and there are countless more examples of people using it as self-proclaimed thread moderators.

As some folks upthread have noted, it's appropriate for all MeFites to be able to point out when they have views and preferences about how a thread should be going. But maybe it would land better if those comments were presented in what Nonviolent Communication calls "me statements" instead of the patronizing "can we" framing.

More broadly, this is part of the "How dare you!" school of comment that makes up too large a part of the MetaFilter discourse these days. Shitty ad hominem attacks appear far too frequently in far too many threads, along with "that's a bad faith argument" and similar jabs directed at fellow community members who just sincerely disagree.

I don't think MetaFilter can work without full-time moderation, and I don't know how to change the financial picture to make that possible again, as this site gets more narrowly self-selecting.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:09 AM on April 11 [54 favorites]


It sounds like the deleted comments were personal attacks, not thread guidance. Am I wrong?

The ones that I saw (and flagged) were celebrating the buttoning of a user over this topic, and then riffing on that. Really nasty stuff.

I will say that as a long-time metafilter member, it's pretty clear to me that when a thread is going a certain way, it can be a brutal experience to comment in a way that would push back on that. Sometimes this is probably even good, in that sometimes (often?) the thread-specific zeitgeist overall makes unthreaded discussions of specific topics less awful. But sometimes it doesn't, and there's huge incentive to succeed in shaping the direction of discussion early. Attacks like this are IMO at the extreme end of trying to nudge threads in a certain direction, and if seen, can have an impact regardless of whether they are deleted. The rhetorical goal of the deleted comments was almost certainly not simply a personal attack.
posted by advil at 8:24 AM on April 11 [12 favorites]


Thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been wanting to participate in the Ukraine threads in particular, but I’ve held back because of the group of non-mods that are being so aggressively prescriptive about directing the discussion.

When this thread was posted, I was absolutely positive that Ukraine threads were going to come up as examples, which aren't the only threads where this happens, but speaking to the larger phenomenon: it is usually the same few people dictating to everyone what may and may not be discussed, and it does appear to be threads about certain issues that are beset with hall monitors. I don't know what the solution is, but the problem is real.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:28 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


> The rhetorical goal of the deleted comments was almost certainly not simply a personal attack.

They were also unequivocally against the site rules and have been deleted. If they are examples of what we’re discussing, we’re literally all in agreement. But they aren’t.
posted by thoroughburro at 8:31 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


Hear hear PhineasGage. Gonna miss you too.
posted by spitbull at 8:33 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


Funny thing, it seems to me that a member who is able to use bullying comments to effectively drive away a 21 year member of the community, only to have the evidence of this handily expunged with no further consequences for themselves, is the most effective example of unofficial moderation possible.
posted by spitbull at 8:41 AM on April 11 [51 favorites]


I agree with spitbull that this is one time where completely invisible mod deletions do not serve the site. I disagreed slightly with Geoff on the content of this post, which I suppose means the people who said the cruel things are people I might think I agree with, but saying cruel things is emphatically not a thing I agree with (and yet they apparently "got away with it" because there's no record of who said the things, only of their.. I guess consequence? The causality is unclear to me -- did Geoff button over the comments, or were the comments celebrating Geoff's buttoning? Either way, I don't love that some jerk's just chilling out consequence-free after that...)
posted by Alterscape at 8:51 AM on April 11 [23 favorites]


The causality is unclear to me -- did Geoff button over the comments, or were the comments celebrating Geoff's buttoning?

The ones I saw were definitely the latter (posted after the comments saying his account had closed), but I don't know if there were earlier ones I didn't see.
posted by advil at 8:58 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]


this is one example where completely invisible mod deletions do not serve the site

Personally, I don't think mod deletions should ever be completely invisible. I saw a couple of comments before Geoff left that I found offensive even as a reader, let alone as the target, but when I came back--after taking a few deep breaths-- to see if I was over-reacting, they had disappeared without a trace. I understand that it doesn't make sense to repeat harmful comments in deletion notes, but a simple "a couple of snarky comments deleted, please refrain from personal attacks" would do the trick in most cases. It left me feeling a little gaslit, frankly.

It's a crying shame that a 21-year member should be giving up on MeFi due to that kind of nastiness, however righteous the intention behind it might--or might not-- have been. One of our laudable community commitments is to the understanding that you can do harm even with the best of intentions, and that applies to all of us. Whether we are snarking on somebody, steering a discussion, making a comment on something that seems interesting but tangential to TFA, we would all do well to keep that in mind.
posted by rpfields at 9:23 AM on April 11 [24 favorites]


You are not hallucinating. I read those comments too. They were up for a while.

I don't have the grace to think they may have been well intentioned or even just passionate. They were targeted shots, meant to imply geoff had a subtextual motive for raising this perfectly fine and interesting and actually important topic. Now they're gone and geoff is too.

And they were just typical MeTa bullying, almost run of the mill. My first reaction on seeing them deleted was actually, wow, that's unusual. Some mod actually deleted a toxic bullying comment in MeTa for once!

But the larger point is the toxic, bullying culture of MeTa creates an ethos of prior restraint sitewide, not least by costing us a steady stream of formerly engaged and valued members.
posted by spitbull at 9:43 AM on April 11 [16 favorites]


logicpunk is making a very specific claim regarding my fellow mefites in this community. it's an insulting and shitty claim to make, in my opinion, and i'd like to see some evidence for it.

I read logicpunk's post as their observation of a pattern that they've observed. I'm not clear on where it was insulting and shitty (I get that you qualified it with an 'in my opinion') but can you help me understand your perspective?

In reading it I took "non-benign" as a statement of impact and not intent. But it sounds like you took it as a statement of intent?
posted by warriorqueen at 9:53 AM on April 11 [10 favorites]


On reflection: Isn't this just the "missing stair" thing in an online context? Presumably the whisper network could let interested people know who those users are (nobody has), but with no public accountability, they remain anonymous. For all I know they might be people I otherwise respect, which has me feeling sort of not great about Mefi as a whole.
posted by Alterscape at 9:54 AM on April 11 [14 favorites]


So here's the problem of us discussing deleted comments, right?

I saw them, both the ones before and after Geoff left.

To me, they seemed like they were an extension of a certain kind of attitude.

There's a difference between asking that people consider x or y in their posts, and stating that "discussing x or y is evidence that you are [insert horrible personality trait or prejudice here]

The deleted posts were saying unequivocally that, as Geoff was pushing back against people directing what should be discussed, this was proof of him being a whole list of horrible things.

It's not that easy to make a clear distinction about what is a personal attack and should just be deleted and forgotten, and what is part of the problems created by non moderators telling others what they should not discuss.
posted by Zumbador at 10:00 AM on April 11 [9 favorites]


I want to suggest that this may be a difficult time to arrive at a community consensus. There's obviously difference of opinion here among people who know the site well and have good intent, and we are in the midst of a leadership and ownership transition. Since it's unclear what is in store regarding user interaction and community norms, maybe this conversation about steering could be tabled for the moment? There may not be much to accomplish at the moment, other than hurting more people's feelings.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on April 11 [21 favorites]


This is a bit of a pendulum-style topic, I think.
"Threads get thread-shit-upon, between didn't-read snark & topic-particular '101-style' derails, and that derails threads in difficult-to-recover ways!" leads to

"Ok, let's preemptively lay out some ground work for threads, maybe this way we won't have someone diving in with 'but what about bone structure??' right off the bat and a thread can get its legs under it better" leads to

"These threads feel real stifling, can't we trust that the community will be good about things & the mods can clean up what needs cleaning up?" leads to

"Threads get thread-shit-upon..." ad eternum.

And each step of the cycle, people get driven off. But also, it's not like fixing in place wouldn't lead to people being driven off as it is. Where there isn't sufficient density/response-time of professional moderation, the community takes matters into its own hands. We don't have the finances to keep everything in the hands of the mods, so community guidance is necessary/inevitable.

And while it's not impossible that things could be taken too far, from what I've seen much of the topics which get steered aren't getting steered for no reason. There isn't a heavy steering presence for discoveries in particle physics, to take an example off the front. On the flip side, topics around gender still take a lot of steering not to degrade as heavily as they have historically, and I'm not sure that's going away any time soon.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:10 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


Sorry to lose PhineasGage, too. I hope they'll both be back some day before too long. I'll miss them both, but I understand their decisions.

I think it's probably more appropriate to discuss this further in a separate MeTa, but I think this is a good example of a case when comment deletion, while well-intentioned, may perversely amplify the harm. We don't know why geoff buttoned, nor is it really fair for us to engage in speculation about his decision, but at the same time it's hard not to wonder about the (hopefully temporary) departure of a member who's been here for over 20 years in the context of declining site activity and a general sense from many of us that there's an undercurrent of toxic behavior that's driving people away. There were a few really nasty personal comments, both prior to and following MollyRealized noting that geoff had left, which have been deleted, the earlier ones without any comment by the deleting mod. Without knowing that those comments were made and read by at least some of us, it would be hard to understand that this is part of the larger pattern. Knowing that those comments were made, but having them deleted and unavailable to read, means we have a strange tension where some of us have seen them and some of us haven't, and those of us who have seen them may remember what was said to varying degrees and through the filters of our own personal perspectives. It also may create a sort of unintentional gaslighting effect for some, responding emotionally to words that the text of the thread now "insists" aren't there.

At the very least, I think every significant comment deletion (i.e., more than just spam or noise) should be accompanied by a mod note to avoid the worst aspect of this problem. But personally I would prefer most of such comments not to be deleted at all, but instead highlighted as clearly inappropriate behavior so that the community can see both the harm done, the official response to it, and hopefully a redress (e.g., that the user has been given a timeout).
posted by biogeo at 10:12 AM on April 11 [37 favorites]


[Started this comment before the most recent thread developments.]

I appreciate people sharing their feelings about individual users making "please don't make [x category] comments" suggestions and requests in specific threads. I've done this a few times as the original poster (about literary categories, about ADHD and related self-help and executive function stuff, and about masculinity). In fact in the two ADHD-related posts I made, I made one where I asked to center the experiences of people with ADHD, and then another one which I tried to frame as a commenting space both for people with and without ADHD.

When I've done this, it's often been on topics where I'm predicting (based on previously witnessed patterns) that, if no one makes an explicit effort to frame the discussion productively, the thread will likely get some dismissive/contemptuous comments early on about some topic adjacent to the specific stuff in the links. Early comments set the tone of the thread, and affect the likelihood that future comments will actually engage with the specific stuff a poster has linked to versus immediately getting pulled into an evergreen argument or complaint magnet. Sometimes it's also been influenced by the disability-specific MetaTalk threads and similar MetaTalk threads, where we explicitly asked for MeFites who are directly affected by the issues at hand to be the ones making most of the comments.

Since the revisions of the guidelines I've also started explicitly linking to and reminding people of them in these initial framing comments.

I figure, like some other folks in this thread, that anyone doing this does need to be pretty careful about wording and try to not come off as a patronizing preemptive correcter. I have been trying to do that and I will try harder to do that.

I also would like for more people to make more posts, and if a person knows they can make a framing comment to head off discouraging comments, maybe that helps more people make front page posts?
posted by brainwane at 10:26 AM on April 11 [27 favorites]


I will just add my impression that when a normally civil, thoughtful, mellow member decides to button after *21 years* in the community, and after having written a MeTa post massaged to within an inch of perfection in its attempt not to preempt disagreement or call any particular user out, and then quickly gets absolutely slammed by an accusation of bad faith which got very little pushback from anyone else, let alone a mod deletion with a note saying "user x, that was shitty, don't do that again or you're on time out," that they didn't leave because suddenly that one episode triggered a reaction, but because it was (as is so often the case here with buttonings lately) the last damn straw.
posted by spitbull at 10:39 AM on April 11 [52 favorites]


They sucked his brains out!: When this thread was posted, I was absolutely positive that Ukraine threads were going to come up as examples, which aren't the only threads where this happens, but speaking to the larger phenomenon: it is usually the same few people dictating to everyone what may and may not be discussed, and it does appear to be threads about certain issues that are beset with hall monitors.

I guess this is me, and yeah, that’s not an unfair description. I want to explain myself a little.

The first pushback, which I think I instigated, was about discussing where Russia was going to invade next. I believe that Estonia was mentioned. As that is about 50 miles from where I live, and close friends of mine live in Estonia, that wasn’t a conversation I could take in the spirit it was intended.

I’ve also left “hall monitor” style comments at the tops of new threads, asking people to keep various things in mind. Now, I don’t feel comfortable making those comments, and I understand how they can be off-putting to people.

I’ll admit that that this is somewhat selfish. English-language media has been getting better at reporting from Ukraine, but in the first few weeks, there was a lot of dross. More than anywhere else I’ve found, MetaFilter could surface quality news reporting, essays, commentary and other content online that was valuable to me.

Yes, I realize that I could simply have done my own filtering, skipping past derails and comments which speculated about possible escalations. I think with most topics I do that, but in the early weeks of the war MetaFilter was a psychological lifeline for me during an extremely scary time, and so I read everything.

And I still do. I guess I’m not quite far enough out of the mental woods to let go just yet.

But yeah, I’ll try to rein in a little my inclination to push back in the Ukraine threads, I don’t want to push anyone out. I honestly think the Ukraine megathreads have been MetaFilter at its best, and I don’t think any other community online could sustain something like that, over such a long time.
posted by Kattullus at 10:41 AM on April 11 [15 favorites]


I don’t want to push anyone out

The choice made to self-assign moderator duties is clearly demonstrating negative consequences, as far as I can tell, when people leave/are effectively shoved out. So I respectfully appreciate that you are cognizant of the very problem this causes, because what this does exactly — in this very thread, no less — is push people out. And it shuts down conversation that would otherwise evolve organically, when thoughtful people are otherwise allowed space to talk about entirely relevant subjects that they are knowledgeable about, which is something that made Metafilter an interesting place in years past.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:52 AM on April 11 [10 favorites]


I want to note that I actually don't think there is a binary here. There could be threads specifically with direction in them, and threads that are more free-wheeling. Corb brought this up earlier, I'm just amplifying it.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:56 AM on April 11 [14 favorites]


The deleted posts were saying unequivocally that, as Geoff was pushing back against people directing what should be discussed, this was proof of him being a whole list of horrible things.

Without getting too into this, I'm not sure where this was? There have been four comments deleted in this thread. One was an early attack on a different user, and three were after geoff buttoned (I hope he comes back) one of which was taking a short lazy potshot at geoff leaving and the site's declining membership, and two responses to that which weren't about him. Was there activity in another thread that I am unaware of?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:57 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


I've been on the site for a dozen years. For the last three — or about a quarter of my time here — I’ve become increasingly aware of ... let's call it “controlling commentary,” because that is the point of bullying, pile-ons, ad hominem attacks, premature non-mod moderation, etc. I’ve also been repeatedly dismayed that mods don’t consistently “moderate” comments for these reasons.

Metafilter exists to foster good conversation. It is its only reason for being. That means our obvious goal is to promote more good conversation. Respect and reasoned arguments encourage that goal. Personal attacks, pile-ons, thread-jacking, etc. don’t. They just shut people down: Some people leave as a result, a lot of others end up resentful. I wish more mefites would call bullying out.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:01 AM on April 11 [18 favorites]


My memory is not perfect. I recall a personal attack prior to geoff's buttoning, which I may be misremembering as being directed at him, but which I interpreted as attacking the character of anyone questioning the validity of the specific examples that geoff cited. It is possible my memory is inaccurate, or is filtered inaccurately through my personal perspective on this.
posted by biogeo at 11:02 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


The one I remember was shortly before this comment, which I think was actually in response to it. If there was a deleted comment there then that's the one I'm remembering, and jessamyn, you can tell me if I'm totally off base in my memory. If there's no deleted comment there, then I'm confident that there was at one time something there which has somehow disappeared and we may be looking at some kind of unfortunately-timed technical glitch.
posted by biogeo at 11:09 AM on April 11 [3 favorites]



The one I remember was shortly before this comment,


I definitely remember there being a comment (rather nasty) that is no longer there. But (and here things get less definite) it could well have been NOT directed at Geoff, but rather NoThisIsPatrick's comment previous to it.

Full reveal: I'm sixty-two years old and still remember where I was when I heard JFK had been shot (kitchen floor playing with a red truck) but can't remember if I gave the dog her mid-morning treat.
posted by philip-random at 11:19 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah I'm sorry to prolong this but it was something directed towards another user and specifically quoting that user's comment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:21 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]

... where Russia was going to invade next. I believe that Estonia was mentioned. As that is about 50 miles from where I live, and close friends of mine live in Estonia
I'd say it's more than okay to share this in a Ukraine-oriented thread. You have a special perspective, which most of us don't have. You are also not alone in your fears: It's not for nothing that the PMs of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia marched into Kyiv while it was under attack. Similarly, I'm seeing reports that Finland may be about to say to hell with Finlandization, and join NATO.

For all these reasons, I thought the poster who took a nuclear-based discussion to another thread was very thoughtful.
I appreciate people sharing their feelings about individual users making "please don't make [x category] comments" suggestions and requests in specific threads. I've done this a few times as the original poster.
Other people should speak for themselves, but I don't think there is any problem whatsoever with original posters "framing" a thread however they want. It is simply among the choices they make when they choose an article, and so on. The issue is with non-original posters (reader/commenters) who suddenly start steering a thread, early into a discussion.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:24 AM on April 11 [7 favorites]


As someone who has been around for quite a while, but has come and gone, since I've been back recently, I've definitely noticed a lot more comments telling others what they can and can't discuss and relatedly, a lot more comments telling others which opinions are acceptable to hold or not. I'm glad to see that some of the more noxious and hateful ideas are no longer considered acceptable, but there's also a small number of folks who are always pushing to extend what isn't considered acceptable and to try to establish a kind of hegemony for ideas that maybe are still worth debating.

Of course, we need leaders and people on the edges who push the discussion forward and help us establish norms that are respectful of all and promote justice and equality. But those people also need to recognize that they might be wrong sometimes — and that sometimes the world isn't a just place and we might want to discuss the world as it is and not only how we want it to be.

I don't think this is a just a problem here, but something that's become more common in centrist or leftist discourse in general over the past decade.
posted by ssg at 11:24 AM on April 11 [40 favorites]


Thanks, jessamyn. I appreciate your willingness to act as a sort of semi-mod in this case, it's really helpful. I do think this underscores the downside of deleting without a mod note in that case. Clearly my memory or interpretation of events (and possibly others'?) is influenced by the overall tenor of the thread and perhaps retroactively by learning that geoff had buttoned. Psychologists tell us this is a pretty common failure mode for human memory.

All of us, myself included, tend to read as much from our own biases, perspectives, and even just mood, as we do from the text in front of us, particularly at a first reading. One of the things that I think is great about text-based communication, and the kind of communication that happens on Metafilter specifically, is that we have an opportunity to re-read the text, to challenge our own and each others' biases, and hopefully get a little closer to a read that represents the author's intent rather than just our own baggage. It's not an easy process and often doesn't happen in a way that I wish it would, but it's possible, and I think transformative. I understand and don't always disagree with deletion as a moderation strategy, but it does have a real cost in that it eliminates this ability to return to the text and reassess our understanding of what was said. I suspect that the mod team would probably prefer that we not talk about specific comments that were deleted in part because our memories of them are imperfect and may tend to create more heat than light as we circle around something that different people may remember differently, or never have seen at all. And I get that, and don't think it's entirely wrong. But at the same time, if my memory, fallible as it is, tells me that there was a comment that said something relevant, and now there's no evidence that such a comment was even ever there, if I just sit on that quietly it really does start to feel like either I'm crazy or the whole world is. I mean, reading to myself what I just wrote, I think I'm really overstating the case for a single comment, but as a pattern site-wide over time, I think this holds.

In some ways this is a pretty big derail onto a different issue, but I think it actually connects back to the topic of this MeTa in an important way. geoff, and some others, feel that users directing threads (like "hall monitors" as a few have put it) is inappropriate or harmful to site discussion. It's not entirely clear if geoff's position is that this is always bad, or just currently excessive. Myself and many others have expressed that while we don't necessarily agree with the specific examples that geoff (slightly reluctantly) provided when he was asked to cite some examples, we do agree that there are cases where we feel this has been excessive and should be reined in a bit, and not everyone may agree on which cases those are. It's not clear to me if there's anyone who's suggesting that this kind of "hall monitoring" is always fine, but maybe some people think that.

However, all of this is in contrast to thread direction by moderators, which geoff explicitly points to, and which I think pretty much everyone agrees is beneficial and welcome. Certainly the mod team does a fair amount of this through leaving notes in threads, which is good. I think my opinion is that I'd like to see the mod team reach for that tool more often than it does the pruning shears of comment deletion. Of course, it's difficult to say that when the elephant in the room is that mod resources are currently highly limited (as far as I've seen we're still not on 24/7 mod coverage and it doesn't seem there's any expectation to go back to that any time soon), and while I've never been a mod, I would expect that productive thread-directing mod notes are almost certainly more time- and energy-consuming to write than comment deletion. So it may or may not be feasible for mods to engage in as much non-deletion thread direction as I'd prefer. Given that, I think it's almost inevitable that users are stepping into the role, with varying results.

My opinion, then, is that we need to try to come to some sort of consensus as to what level of thread direction is desirable and/or necessary, how much is reasonable to expect to the mod team, and in what ways user-direction "hall monitoring" may be done to facilitate rather than restrict discussions in cases where mod-direction isn't feasible. And as Miko pointed out, all of this is in the context of some potentially large changes to site structure happening now or in the near future, which almost certainly will impact the answers to all of these questions in significant ways.
posted by biogeo at 12:02 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]


They sucked his brains out!: The choice made to self-assign moderator duties is clearly demonstrating negative consequences, as far as I can tell, when people leave/are effectively shoved out. So I respectfully appreciate that you are cognizant of the very problem this causes, because what this does exactly — in this very thread, no less — is push people out. And it shuts down conversation that would otherwise evolve organically, when thoughtful people are otherwise allowed space to talk about entirely relevant subjects that they are knowledgeable about, which is something that made Metafilter an interesting place in years past.

The problem I was trying to articulate is that there are opposing forces at work. There are people who feel pushed out when they’re asked not to speculate about the possible escalation of war into countries that border Russia and Ukraine. Then there are people who feel pushed out by being confronted by speculation about the possible deaths of friends and family.

The Ukraine megathreads are very valuable to me, but I wouldn’t have been able to read them or participate if they were full of escalation talk. I realize that for people who are on other continents, there isn’t the anxiety that comes with being nearer to events.

But there are trade-offs, and your position comes with different ones than mine. I appreciate your comments, and I feel it was a healthy reminder to me, personally, to get out of the rut I had fallen into, but I do still value the megathreads immensely as they are, and I’m still convinced that they are better for having erred on the side of constraint, rather than having been too free-wheeling.
posted by Kattullus at 12:19 PM on April 11 [16 favorites]


It's always sad when someone decides to permanently leave the community. But I don't think it's more sad for someone to leave after 20 years than 20 months. Metafilter could be a pretty nasty place 20 years ago, and it doesn't run by the same norms now as it did then, or 10 years ago, or even 5. Us older folks need to accept the discomfort of a space that's not always attuned to us if we want it to keep thriving.
posted by rikschell at 12:22 PM on April 11 [24 favorites]


Longevity here is not about age. It's about commitment. And this is so not about older vs. younger perspectives anyway. Anyone who's been here 20+ years has long adjusted to the many cultural shifts along the way.

If Mefi was a vital space full of young people remaking it for their generation, and a few elders shaking their fists at kids these days, we wouldn't have a declining user base.
posted by spitbull at 12:47 PM on April 11 [14 favorites]


I will just add my impression that when a normally civil, thoughtful, mellow member decides to button after *21 years* in the community, and after having written a MeTa post massaged to within an inch of perfection in its attempt not to preempt disagreement or call any particular user out, and then quickly gets absolutely slammed by an accusation of bad faith which got very little pushback from anyone else, let alone a mod deletion with a note saying "user x, that was shitty, don't do that again or you're on time out," that they didn't leave because suddenly that one episode triggered a reaction, but because it was (as is so often the case here with buttonings lately) the last damn straw.

i've been away for a few years, only came back so i get the option to read my own posts if i want to, and have had less than zero desire to post again for exactly this reason.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:20 PM on April 11 [4 favorites]


Thank you Kattullus, you worded this so much better than i can.
Especially this part is to me a succinct summary of the issue:
The problem I was trying to articulate is that there are opposing forces at work. There are people who feel pushed out when they’re asked not to speculate about the possible escalation of war into countries that border Russia and Ukraine. Then there are people who feel pushed out by being confronted by speculation about the possible deaths of friends and family.

The Ukraine megathreads are very valuable to me, but I wouldn’t have been able to read them or participate if they were full of escalation talk. I realize that for people who are on other continents, there isn’t the anxiety that comes with being nearer to events.
posted by Kattullus at 12:19 PM on April 11

Thank you Kattullus.

I am sad geoff left.

posted by 15L06 at 2:32 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]


It's been clumsy in the Ukraine-related threads; but people's feelings about proximity to potential nuclear war or just generally about an international crisis like this is an atypical situation.

Some of the friction involves people talking past each other -- 'don't post this here' being taken for 'don't post this' (i.e., post it over there, or make a new thread so people not following this one see it, etc).

I do think it's worth considering whether the impulse to ask people to qualify their participation in the main Ukraine war threads based on proximity to the conflict was healthy. On principle, or in practice. MeFi is an Anglophone website where (mostly North American) people come to discuss things. It's not an NGO or news network. It is not an academic journal or society, or a political party.

And it's asynchronous and textual, so it is literally impossible to interrupt or "talk over" someone else here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:55 PM on April 11 [8 favorites]


Would you mind posting an example of this?

Do the mods and the people volunteering to run MeFi need "space held" for them by users telling other users not to ask site questions in the site questions meta? In response to a question directed to a mod who is perfectly capable of responding, and indeed did (but still tossed the intervention a favorite)?

If you want an example of deploying the language of activism to auto-mod, leaving the thread to cookies and crickets.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:09 PM on April 11 [3 favorites]


I think it's kind of odd that a request of "please don't talk about this; it is harmful to me" is being cast as an aggression against people who just to "discuss stuff." That maybe there are threads where US members maybe aren't the center of the discussion is a problem, or that people who are literally in the path of Putin's ambitions might have more skin in the game than people half a world away is a controversial stance. Leveraging the buttoning of a member for one's own political ax-grinding is gross as hell.

Every time I come to MeTa these days, I end of feeling like walking away from the site.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:14 PM on April 11 [20 favorites]


Every time I come to MeTa these days, I end of feeling like walking away from the site.

Likewise, everytime a modding policy makes it clear that I need to shut up to expiate the sins of the world at large. On a purported discussion site.

(Which is dying from a lack of discussion, except in the most contentious -- or merely significant -- threads where it's restricted).

so this is all working out great.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:17 PM on April 11 [14 favorites]


Moderating is best conceived of as objective and not part of the discussion, but that is at odds with the self-conception of "community" and belonging, while disagreeing with someone's posting style (who therefore must not have gotten the memos). The other problem with the community label as a goal is that is becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from people leaving. Opt-in communities have shared illusions or obsessions that require belief maintenance for adherence, as opposed to accidental communities that naturally select (those we can't leave and learn to tolerate). There are movements out there currently denying whole swathes of objective reality, for example. That's only possible in a community. It's not a useless word, just a useless ideal.
posted by Brian B. at 4:25 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]


One thing deleting comments does is make it harder to remember which user was an uncalled-for dick. Sadly, I remember anyway.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:27 PM on April 11 [9 favorites]

I think it's kind of odd that a request of "please don't talk about this; it is harmful to me" is being cast as an aggression against people who just to "discuss stuff."
As a general point, I don't think "harm" and "aggression" is always the right construct for this topic. Civil rights issues go in a special category, which is why there is a board to ensure concerns are dealt with on those matters side-wide. But this wasn't a civil rights issue. It was just responding to someone with a lot at stake who possibly also had a lot of need to talk about Ukraine anyway, and a rare perspective to share.

Putting that example aside, what some folks, myself among them, are saying is that in many cases, the boundaries are presumptuous and the request is selfish. Not all threads are right for everybody. In fact, I wonder if we all wouldn't be better served by creating our own Metafilter threads with our own parameters on topics we feel especially strongly about. It seems like it might be more constructive than stage managing other people's commentary.
That maybe there are threads where US members maybe aren't the center of the discussion is a problem.
I don't get the snark on this issue. Metafilter was founded by an American, and it's currently run by someone in Portland, Oregon. To all appearances, the majority of its users are American. That said, I highly doubt anyone has any objection to one or many threads on topics related to other countries — and many people, including me, would actively welcome it: Americans generally don't get enough news from other countries, which is why folks writing on other countries need to provide folks with a way in, which I suppose means be a little educational about it.

Increasingly, in fact, I've tried to post what I'd like to read, which is why I created a post on Commonwealth feelings about the Royals Forget the Jubilee, Belize Protests and Jamaica Wants Reparations and the convoy up north in Canada's Protest on Wheels. I tried to ask a lot of questions in the framing, and a lot of my sources were from outside the U.S.

But understand it is natural for people to talk about what they know, so if non-American posts don't provide a framework for discussing non-American issues, it's seems pretty unremarkable that they will try to participate by drawing on American analogies.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:19 PM on April 11 [9 favorites]


Um . . . with great power comes great responsibility.

Yep. I'm quoting a comic book.

Let's assume for the moment that we all want the best for MetaFilter as a website and a community. That being the case, then insofar as we participate here we should do so while considering the greater good. More participation is more influence. More community approval is more influence. Guiding discussion is more influence. Being a mod is more influence. Being the owner is more influence.

We have a responsibility to use that influence for the greater good of the site. If we're operating toward the higher end of the influence scale, then we have an unusually weighty responsibility to modulate what we do and say with regard to what's best for MetaFilter itself.

This comment, merely by virtue of being in MetaTalk, carries with it more esponsibility to the community as a whole than it otherwise would were it on another part of the site. Likewise, that I'm attempting explicitly to influence other people's behavior, I have the same elevated responsibility.

A long time ago, not deliberately and to my great surprise, I discovered that I had a talent for improving group discussion. I stumbled into this because I was intensely invested and the group had similar discursive values (which makes it so much easier), and so I was more strongly motivated than ever before in my life to carefully structure my words while a) keeping in mind the shared goal, b) being acutely aware of the verbal and nonverbal cues of the other people involved, c) suppressing my own disruptive impulses, and, d) being completely willing to be determinedly manipulative of other people in a benign fashion. This ended up meaning that only about half the time was my participation about my own particular interests and thoughts — the other half the time (and to my surprise) was facilitatation. And it worked very well! The funny part was that it greatly improved my more selfish participation: both because I ended up being a more compelling interlocutor and because the group as a whole became more productive.

But it was a lot of effort. Like, in some respects, I became almost a different person. Sometimes I found it exhausting, but always in a good way because it was so rewarding.

I guess I'm trying to say, specifically, that guiding comments from within the community are good things, assuming that they're well-executed. And doing them correctly isn't easy. It takes effort. The more effort, the more likely they'll be effective, and the more effective they are, the more invisible they'll seem. It takes effort to be subtle.

But it's worth it. More to the point, whenever one of us takes this upon ourselves, we have a responsibility to make that effort, to do it right. Otherwise, it will often backfire.

Doing it wrong can be a type of bullying. The bully's influence isn't benign, it's malign. It's not for the benefit of others, it's for the benefit of themselves. It doesn't reinforce community, it disrupts it.

Of course this isn't just true about the specific kind of guiding comments discussed by this post. It's true more generally — it's true about every comment in a MetaTalk thread about standards and behavior. Right?

I think it's most likely that geoff buttoned because of bullying. Here, elsewhere, and in the past. Agressive hall-monitoring can easily become bullying, but just participating in MeTa threads so easily becomes bullying. It's like: what are we trying to do here?? If it's to improve things, then bullying behavior does exactly the opposite.

Working with other people to make things better takes effort. If we're sincere in this, we should make that effort. I think I decided while writing this comment that I'm going to try to keep this in mind when participating on MetaFilter — as my guiding principle — going forward. One big reason is because of what's been pointed out repeatedly in this thread: the mods can't do this for us. Not anymore, assuming they ever could.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:36 PM on April 11 [16 favorites]


About directing commentary and framing discussions (leaving aside the Ukraine megathreads) -- maybe a good general compromise would be that such framing would be the purview of the original poster in a thread.

Otherwise, who is to say whether one direction is better than another.
posted by NotLost at 6:17 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


As a general point, I don't think "harm" and "aggression" is always the right construct for this topic.

I think this proceeds from the overdetermined way in which we transpose theory grounded in IRL interaction to computer mediated communication (at the risk of sounding like a dusty CTHEORY/Nettime post).

It's legitimate -- important -- to recognize that silencing is a form of aggression in the real world. But we are not in the real world here. Yes, that can be a cop out in some contexts. But why the insistence on abandoning it completely? Can we keep the good parts?

TLDR; I would like to be more than an american yt phallus here please & who does it help to reduce me to that
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:38 PM on April 11


an american yt phallus

I'm sorry I'm not following. What is this?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:57 PM on April 11 [4 favorites]


/yt/ ("whitey" or just "white," I've heard both glosses)

via twitter. and various Discords, where it's used mostly uncontroversially (by younger people of all ethnicities).

I read it as ironic but not necessarily loaded.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 PM on April 11


Reading along fairly closely, I think you are the only one who has reduced you to that?
posted by Bottlecap at 8:16 PM on April 11 [3 favorites]


fine, 'a collection of statuses' if you prefer. I was attempting to be a little flippant about it.

I need to stop participating here before I button too, so bye.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:04 PM on April 11


All of us, myself included, tend to read as much from our own biases, perspectives, and even just mood, as we do from the text in front of us, particularly at a first reading.

Thank you for your articulate and insightful comment, biogeo. I regret my earlier comment, but I guess it's a good example of how my biased memory framed things.

I've been a moderator on a large online community so I have some idea how frustrating it can be.

I'm struggling to ask this, but it's hard for me to read a discussion where some people's pain is framed as fragility, and other people's as valid. We don't know one another so we don't know who is punching up and who is doubling down.
posted by Zumbador at 9:44 PM on April 11 [11 favorites]


New problem: fractal hall-monitoring.

Talking about nuclear war was becoming unwelcome on the Ukraine megathreads for a variety of reasons, so I set up a nuclear war thread for people who wanted to talk about it. I think that went well. What I didn't expect was voices calling for the nuclear thread to itself splinter into side threads. People have said things like "Can We Not relitigate Hiroshima/Nagasaki in this thread?" and "I'm neutral on this particular disagreement about whether we ought to be able to discuss a conventional WWIII."

This would be hilarious except that we're losing people over it. Rapidly. I didn't know geoff well, but should he be reading this I'd like to say that I was enjoying his recent posts and I pour out a Pepsi in hope of his return.

"Go make your own post to talk about that" is a very unpleasant thing to hear. It means (1) you are not allowed to talk here because I say so and (2) you're also not allowed to talk anywhere else unless you have an hour's worth of spare time to make your own post. We should not be surprised that people go away when they are told to go away.

I want to plant a flag here. Tangents are good. It's good when the Ukraine threads pause to talk about the internal politics of the Orthodox Church for a few comments before getting back on to the main focus of the thread. It illuminates an odd angle of what's going on in Ukraine that I might have overlooked if it had been in its own thread. It's fun. Metafilter's single-threaded structure is purpose-built to generate tangents. Tangents are what Metafilter is for.

All of us are hurting people here, some more than others. Try to be kind.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:17 AM on April 12 [31 favorites]


I read logicpunk's post as their observation of a pattern that they've observed. I'm not clear on where it was insulting and shitty (I get that you qualified it with an 'in my opinion') but can you help me understand your perspective?

In reading it I took "non-benign" as a statement of impact and not intent. But it sounds like you took it as a statement of intent?


Yes, I read it as a statement of intent.

Even reading it as a statement of impact, however, I still very much think that the claim logicpunk is making is insulting and shitty to my fellow mefites. I interpret the pattern as described by logicpunk basically the way that thoroughborough described:

"...a narrow group of users stifling discourse"

and that insinuation is insulting imo. That's why I'd like to see evidence for it. Otherwise it reads (to me) as yet another silenced-all-my-life strawman argument about free speech and some group of busybodies stifling and silencing people here.

Individuals on this site have historically taken so much umbrage at the gentle nudgings of fellow community members to be kinder to each other, and converted that umbrage into conspiracy thinking about groups of their fellow members, and I'm really tired of it. Show some proof of the hall monitor cabal, or let it rest already.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:14 AM on April 12 [8 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, firstly I just wanted to thank you for making the nuclear war thread. I realize it must have taken a lot of work to put that together, and it really fostered good discussion.

It's good when the Ukraine threads pause to talk about the internal politics of the Orthodox Church for a few comments before getting back on to the main focus of the thread.

I also loved those tangents! I thought they were very interesting, and contributed a lot to the discussion. And also some of the people commenting in the Ukraine threads clearly know a lot about military strategy, and their insights are also interesting to read. So it's a really fine line!

I don't think it's black and white though. I think most of the "hall-monitoring" comments were of the form, "hey everyone, we'd really like to keep participating and some of these discussions are driving us away", rather than, "hey, people are are talking about subject x are bad and should know better." There is a difference between asking someone to be sensitive and asking someone not to speak (and I don't think it's really fair to call the former hall-monitors).

I think, rather than more rules and regulations, what Metafilter needs more than anything is for its members to assume we're all participating in good faith... that's kind of what makes it a community, right? I never intended to admonish anyone for talking about what matters to them in the context of the Ukraine threads... just maybe to reign it in out of respect for other members. But seeing how some people respond negatively to that (and I can see that there probably got to be a bit too much of it), I'll certainly be more careful in the future. Conversely, if you're reading comments from people who are trying to direct threads in this way, maybe just try and recognize where we're coming from... if you engage with it sincerely, you'll probably find that you can mostly talk about whatever you want, and then hopefully we can all find a way to keep talking.

I mean, we're all basically a bunch of insufferable chatterboxes, right? Isn't that what really makes us a community?
posted by Alex404 at 1:19 AM on April 12 [10 favorites]


Violet Blue: Metafilter was founded by an American, and it's currently run by someone in Portland, Oregon. To all appearances, the majority of its users are American. That said, I highly doubt anyone has any objection to one or many threads on topics related to other countries — and many people, including me, would actively welcome it: Americans generally don't get enough news from other countries, which is why folks writing on other countries need to provide folks with a way in, which I suppose means be a little educational about it.

MetaFilter has been an international community from the very beginning. It’s not now, and has never been, an exclusively American community. I forget the exact numbers, but from what I recall about a quarter of active users are not from one of the English-speaking countries.

We’re not here because we want to educate Americans about other parts of the world. We’re here because we like being member of this community, posting and commenting, sharing and learning, having conversations with our fellow MeFites. Like everyone else, we have our own concerns, and when we feel that those concerns are being ignored or slighted, we will speak up.
posted by Kattullus at 2:41 AM on April 12 [43 favorites]


Mefi was founded by a man. It's obvious that men would want to discuss all sorts of issues, including women's issues. It's not really a problem then if they dominate all threads, regardless of topic.

Yeah no. I'm glad we're not boyzone any more. Yankzone isn't any better.
posted by Dysk at 2:48 AM on April 12 [13 favorites]

"MetaFilter has been an international community from the very beginning. It’s not now, and has never been, an exclusively American community. I forget the exact numbers, but from what I recall about a quarter of active users are not from one of the English-speaking countries."
It didn't even occur to me to suggest it was. :)
"We’re not here because we want to educate Americans about other parts of the world."
I was specifically addressing multiple complaints I've heard about Americans constantly "centering" themselves, actually.
posted by Violet Blue at 3:39 AM on April 12 [15 favorites]



"...a narrow group of users stifling discourse"

and that insinuation is insulting imo.


Otherwise it reads (to me) as yet another silenced-all-my-life strawman argument about free speech and some group of busybodies stifling and silencing people here.

I've already said I agree with requests for threads to avoid certain tangents, so I'll just lay that out here before I use this interaction as a mild example.

I think this interaction shows for me how, cumulatively, the discussion gets toxic.

It may well be that logicpunk is just a - what is it - "silenced-all-my-life" type, whatever that is. I don't know logicpunk. I do know that was their first comment in the thread, and that logicpunk wasn't the person who used "hall monitor" or anything else. So for me, it is jarring that their input is taken as bad faith based on what seems to me to be a relatively small turn of phrase.

Because for me, honestly, it doesn't read that way. It reads as someone that thinks they've observed a pattern that is causing people to leave the site. Patterns are tricky things, they may or may not be actual. And even if they are, they might be good overall - more people might continue to discuss than stop discussing, etc. etc. It's hard to measure the people who walk away.

So, I have no idea what the truth is.

But if I shared my thoughts on a pattern, and I was assumed to be deliberately insulting people and insinuating conspiracies when I wasn't, I'd definitely go find another place to spend my time. And if I were a mild mannered person who also was finding the in-thread snappy "can we not" comments was keeping me from participating, seeing that when someone expressed my similar-but-not-exact feelings resulted in the assumption of essentially small-mindedness, I would also walk away.

I personally would like it if we worked together to assume good intent when we're talking about our experiences of community here. Same with tangents, really.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:30 AM on April 12 [23 favorites]


Is there some right to know whether another MeFite is of a particular ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or nationality? And if not, how did IRL social identity become the lodestar for site participation?
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:33 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


It may well be that logicpunk is just a - what is it - "silenced-all-my-life" type, whatever that is. I don't know logicpunk. I do know that was their first comment in the thread, and that logicpunk wasn't the person who used "hall monitor" or anything else. So for me, it is jarring that their input is taken as bad faith based on what seems to me to be a relatively small turn of phrase.


I didn't take anything in "bad faith", I don't think.

---


Honestly, it's been this same claim that "a small group of users are stifling discourse" for literal years now. You only have to back a couple weeks to read the OP of this post literally saying that a small group of users are power hungry self-mods clawing for control of the site. I'm so tired of that crap.

Whatever. Folks can keep claiming that a small group of non-mods are power hungry hall monitors, without evidence, that's fine. I'm out of spoons for this whole mess.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:36 AM on April 12 [9 favorites]


I think OP's explicit aim was to avoid making it about any particular users and rather address it as a site norm, versus compelling identification of all parties in Comment Cabal v. Same Old Crew. One of the functions of norms (and etiquette) is to avoid confrontation.

It's not hard to crawl through the archives and see who favorites who and about what if you really want to, I think that instinct to compile that information should be avoided. And if not, it's a demand for someone else's labor couched as a request for proof of their 'lived experience.' Sealions can come in all stripes.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:46 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


Honestly, it's been this same claim that "a small group of users are stifling discourse" for literal years now.

Yeah, I hear you. I believe you in that it probably has been a commonly-voiced complaint - it's not one I'm sensitive to particularly even though I know I've asked for specific things to be avoided from time to time.

I'm just saying I would like it if we don't hold individual posters responsible for All The Posts That Came Before. Or if we do, it could be without assuming they personally have the worst motivations for posting. This goes for any end of a discussion including remarks about a cabal.

There's no reason to assume there's some kind of concerted effort to stop certain discussion (except something obvious and necessary like -phobias etc.) In fact, I think the problem is that the cumulative effect may be creating other impacts that aren't in fact intended. And part of that is the (in some cases) trauma and tiredness and experiences we all bring to the site.

I quickly counted the number of threads on the front page of the blue that I might have liked to comment in recently and I avoided 3 of them because I didn't feel I had the bandwidth to defend myself against the assumptions I now assume people will make about me.

I'm saying this really mildly - those were good decisions about my time and I don't consider myself stifled or that this is an emergency. I still absolutely support the idea of requests not to go down x tangent and to be aware of y marginalized group or x impact on people with lived experience. 100%. But I also think it's important to listen to lived experience and so that's why this particular interaction really stuck out to me, because for me I just didn't see the intended insult in the phrasing. Thank you for talking about it further.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:09 AM on April 12 [14 favorites]


Violet Blue: I was specifically addressing multiple complaints I've heard about Americans constantly "centering" themselves, actually.

Exactly, yes. The problem when a majority, or a plurality, of community members implicitly or explicitly assume that discussions should be primarily guided by their lived experience, other people, who don’t share that lived experience, will either be sidelined, or will have to explain themselves at great length.
posted by Kattullus at 5:22 AM on April 12 [12 favorites]


It's also apparently utterly enjoyable to make fun of non-US-Americans' languages, food and cultural habits, or call them weird. Or jokingly suggest that they're not real.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:27 AM on April 12 [10 favorites]


I'm still working my way through the thread, but I want to second Alterscape's comment:

On reflection: Isn't this just the "missing stair" thing in an online context? Presumably the whisper network could let interested people know who those users are (nobody has), but with no public accountability, they remain anonymous. For all I know they might be people I otherwise respect, which has me feeling sort of not great about Mefi as a whole.

There used to be some kind of note naming the user who was being mean. Considering the last contentious Metas, and the concern with a user's posting history, it would be really really good to note when users leave nasty comments so that it doesnt come as a surprise to the rest of us when someone says "no, actually they were very mean", mods won't have to get in a prolonged debate where people ask for the reciepts. Mods can and should call out the bad actors, both to establish a pattern, but also if your name is going to be attached to it, maybe they will be a little nicer.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:30 AM on April 12 [16 favorites]


You know, one thing that seems to me to characterize the dotage of metafilter is that some users here are motivated and apparently rewarded for phrasing things in the most over the top, hair triggered, outrageous "does this dial go to 12?" tone. The word "shitty" is often sufficient to signal this trope. So is a lot of discussion of "silencing."

This is not an activist space. Winning a big battle here over language or topic restrictions is not a victory over the forces of evil and oppression in the world. Little that happens here is of any consequence for larger political struggles.

Most of our fellow Mefites are good souls who want to be thoughtful members of an intentional community committed to being better and more inclusive of different perspectives (as long as they're the correct ones anyway, another problem here being that some kinds of diversity either don't count or are actively discriminated against, eg when was the last time we had a serious religious believer as a regular contributor willing to articulate those beliefs in debates?) and more careful about hidden and structural biases. Literally no one is left here who wants to rail against "wokeness" or minimize the harms of white supremacy or insist on US-centric discussion. Or if they are they don't post much. We lost those folks a long time ago and good riddance. If any of us remaining feel "silenced by a small group of woke SJW activists" I don't see those comments or posts, and I haven't in a long time. Indeed I see a lot more of the opposite, the implication that a small group of revanchist racist/sexist/classist/nationalist members continues to poison metafilter with their mere presence here... which lol what?

I mean the fucking Easter Bunny couldn't do a better job of walking on eggshells than most people who contribute regularly to discussions on this site. Again, it's a parodied trope of MeFi out there amongst our detractors -- that one wrong turn of phrase and you get slammed for not remembering this or that marginalized perspective. Which we know is not really true, and there's plenty of room for making discourse here more careful and inclusive and working on more hidden biases (one of which is that every member of this site appears to enjoy some level of existential security enough to have time and internet access to participate -- not a lot of refugees or homeless folks here, that I can tell).

Immediately binarizing every debate so that any opinion expressed must be categorized as good or evil is the problem. And it's been rewarded in the site culture -- as in the politics of the US, at least -- because this is the internet, and we can hide behind our usernames and spew out emotional responses we would never make to each other if we were bodies in a room together.

And then get dozens of favorites from the red team or the blue team for blowing our top.

This overheated, incivil, high stakes at every turn, amps turned up to 11 way of speaking to each other is fundamentally toxic. It spills out of MeTa into many users' experience of the rest of the site, including (as geoff tried to raise here) when someone who isn't a mod preempts a new thread to tell everyone else what we can and cannot discuss before we even start discussing the OP. That was supposed to be what we had MeTa for. And a 100+ page FAQ that no one ever reads because it is so absurdly detailed and proscriptive -- literally it gets mocked on other social media as an example of excessive policing and monitoring of discourse, and sending any prospective new member to read it is a great way to help this site decline. Because who's gonna read that before they dare make a comment?

Look at the number of comments most blue threads get. It's become pathetic. Directing the discussion with rules and principles and admonitions is all fine until no one feels like saying anything is worth the risk or effort.

Why is it so hard to just leave it at: Be thoughtful. Be kind. Read the room. Back off when you feel like taking on all comers. Listen to other perspectives. Put yourself in others' shoes. Do unto others. That's the FAQ we need.

I don't care if we decide ok site policy is we can't discuss X in threads about Y because it goes badly or hurts some members' feelings. We've been doing that for years. But the OP justifiably asks what is site policy on non-mod interventions that read like mod interventions and preempt various kinds of participation that are not explicitly disallowed by site rules, and then who gets to declare and enforce such preemptions other than official mods.

That's the original subject of this OP. If someone wants to post a link or a quote from the FAQ at the start of a thread that presents a historically difficult topic, totally cool with me. If someone wants to speak their own truth and say "this kind of discussion can often go in painful directions for me or people I claim to represent, please be aware we are here" that is totally cool with me too and I think the vast majority of current members who have been through the mefi Culture War over the last decade would bend over backwards to be sensitive to such a perspective if announced.

"Can we not?" expressions that claim to speak for a broad constituency of users (rarely in evidence except in favorites) but cannot point to a specific site policy we have democratically debated and decided upon in MeTa (or mods have decided upon and declared a rule) are of course going to be perceived as bossy and hegemonic. Who's "we?" Am I included only in the "we" who "cannot?" Or am I a "we" who wishes we could? Who made you (any value of you) the moderator for this discussion? Why do your individual feelings constitute a law or discourse norm we have to all observe? Who made you the boss?

I suggest it would happen exactly the same way if the politics of the site were inverted. It's about how we speak to one another and the creeping reality that some people can say almost anything to anyone here and if the basis for their incivility is passionate enough or personal enough we all need to shut up and take it.

That dynamic has cost MeFi dearly.

Sorry this was so long. I'm done now.
posted by spitbull at 5:49 AM on April 12 [83 favorites]


> preempts a new thread to tell everyone else what we can and cannot discuss before we even start discussing the OP

At this point, it feels almost insulting to ask since the answer has previously been “no, and it’s wrong of you to ask”, but: can you find any examples of this apparently increasingly common behavior?

In my experience, the phenomenon being discussed is actually closer to people requesting sensitivity, and the few examples given are of these. I’m willing to consider that there are too many of these, or that their impact is less benign than they would appear, but that does not seem to be the claim, right?

Are the examples given a fair representation of the complaint, and the issue is frequency of gentle requests more so than actual attempts to “tell everyone else what we can and can’t discuss”? That is my best guess at the crossed wires in here.
posted by thoroughburro at 6:00 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Geoff made the OP, not me. Whether what he raised is actually a problem or not is a totally fair discussion.

But he's done now, and I am not actually restating his question. I think the well is too poisoned at this point to discuss examples. And as noted above, that's a trap.

I just wish we could be kinder to each other when we disagree. That's what I wish.
posted by spitbull at 6:08 AM on April 12 [18 favorites]


If it’s a trap, it’s one I didn’t set, to be clear. I just wanted to know what was under discussion. Genuinely.

I think I’m just confused by this thread, so I’ll bow out. I’ve made a deal with myself: one main page post for each MetaTalk thread that gets my goat. See you there!
posted by thoroughburro at 6:12 AM on April 12


And a 100+ page FAQ that no one ever reads because it is so absurdly detailed and proscriptive -- literally it gets mocked on other social media as an example of excessive policing and monitoring of discourse,

Honestly, you guys are like amping yourselves up over there on reddit to fight a bunch of strawmen and it's pretty much exactly the unnecessary us-versus-them stuff you're railing about. And it's kinda brigade-y, to boot. It makes the convo here really hard to follow. Woke SJWs? Having an issue because you're a white guy and that's the only thing people care about? Really, this stuff is, frankly, kind of bizarre in the context of this thread.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:48 AM on April 12 [9 favorites]


Yeah me too. I've said more here than I've said on MeTa in a very long time, and only because geoff buttoning was close to home for me -- been here since 2004 under a prior username, have detached from the site several times over the years but always come back, feel fundamental affection for this community but also estranged from it for a lot longer than any prior episode.

I realize a lot of that is me, and on me. I don't want or expect the community to focus on my issues with the place. It's just that the place is not thriving and I'm not unique in having contributed to that by just moving on. I have learned so much here. I have met so many amazing human beings on this site. I have been enlightened about many things my own privilege had obscured for me despite my best intentions (and that I'm a college professor and a dad means I get regular software updates to my self-awareness as a certain kind of person of a certain age, but I still consider meFi another leg of that stool I'm trying to stand on to
be a better human).

I've also been angry and enraged at this place for reasons that forced me to examine what I was deflecting or projecting.

I'm a text-based being by nature. This site has been so meaningful to my life. And watching it struggle to survive is very painful. I don't think it can afford to continue to bleed out members like geoff.

I am not the buttoning type. I've said my piece and then some here and apologize for so many words just to say we can't afford to fight so hard if this site is to survive and goodwill and kindness need to be centered as values while we work through sensitive issues and hurt feelings. I thought Geoff's OP was totally inbounds and carefully worded and yet he's another one gone in a long string of names of people I've known to be members of goodwill.

Peace out.
posted by spitbull at 6:49 AM on April 12 [23 favorites]


Rock 'em sock 'em please re-read: I precisely framed those phrases as strawmen I thought. Apologies if that wasn't clear.
posted by spitbull at 6:52 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Fair enough, apologies for the misread.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:57 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Having an issue because you're a white guy and that's the only thing people care about? Really, this stuff is, frankly, kind of bizarre in the context of this thread.

Thanks for the drive-by and the sleight of hand by which race is isolated to make me look like an oversensitive dick in exactly the manner complained of.

It's not at all out of context; the behavior we're talking about is users taking it upon themselves to prescribe (and proscribe) the behavior of other users based on the configuration of IRL identity along ALL the dimensions cited. And which we are not in fact compelled to disclose here at all.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:07 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the drive-by and the sleight of hand by which race is isolated to make me look like an oversensitive dick in exactly the manner complained of.

I also said you were a guy, primarily in response to the comment where you asked to be more than a yt phallus. Sorry if you feel that I've misrepresented your comments.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:18 AM on April 12


So many comments here saying how carefully worded geoff's OP was. But I don't see it. It's couched in soft language, sure. But it's a demand (and as it turned out, an ultimatum). What if it had been posed instead as "SHOULD we stop directing threads?" It would have left more room for open discussion rather than immediately taking sides. It would have left more room for nuance and admitting that maybe in some cases direction is good and in some cases not so much, or good for different types of people and how can we parse that together.

But "Can we stop..." presumes that stopping is an unalloyed good, and that poisoned the well from the start. I thought the point of having a queue for MeTa posts was to allow mods to help users shape a post such that a useful discussion could happen rather than a rant that will Obviously End Badly. The MeTa minefield is real, but posts that go in looking for a fight are always going to find one.
posted by rikschell at 7:48 AM on April 12 [12 favorites]


rikschell, pretty sure that was at least partially tongue in cheek. But your comment also feels like the sort of nitpicking that people are saying they find a problem here in some of the above comments.
posted by sagc at 7:54 AM on April 12 [16 favorites]


Maybe it's that the gray is trying to be too many things. It's hard to talk about serious issues when people are being tongue-in-cheek. But then we have cocktail hour and things like the spousening where that's the whole point. Emotional nuance is always hard in text-only, and when there are life-and-death issues on the table (or people buttoning right and left), joshing around is not a great look. Maybe fun social stuff could all go to the orange (since it's been more virtual meetups than actual IRL in some time), and MeTa could just be about site issues and management?
posted by rikschell at 8:01 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: I think I’m just confused by this thread, so I’ll bow out.
posted by philip-random at 8:11 AM on April 12 [8 favorites]


"Can we not" is well understand internet argot for "I would prefer we didn't." It was phrased as a question; one potential answer is "no, we can't not." The rest of the post was the OP putting in their two cents; maybe that would have been better as a first comment but it was plain enough.


If that's the entire objection to the post, hopefully it's now been disposed of.

Less snark would be good, but that will draw objections as tone policing. Still, it's worth considering that snark injects the question of which direction the punching is going (up or down), when it would be best not to punch at all. (And I realize I can be very snarky myself.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:38 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


So, my perspective might be a little idiosyncratic because I'm autistic and only rarely comment on threads, but it seems like the tension has been ratcheting up slowly over the years? I've been a daily MeFi reader for about 20 years and I feel like people here used to have big arguments and say nasty things to each other. It was very unpleasant. But then things would cool off. Now it feels like we have fewer open arguments and more of a constant state of tension. Is that something you all have noticed too?

I feel like the world in general has been getting meaner, faster, and more individualized recently, especially the internet. So it's natural, if disappointing, that those trends would be reflected on metafilter too. I don't have a solution. But I do think we should try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. People here are not fascists or terfs or propaganda bots. When someone is here with bad intent it's very obvious, like with the pepsi blue post. We should try to be kind to the nice little internet people we get to talk to here.
posted by Space Kat at 8:39 AM on April 12 [52 favorites]


"Go make your own post to talk about that" is a very unpleasant thing to hear. It means (1) you are not allowed to talk here because I say so and (2) you're also not allowed to talk anywhere else unless you have an hour's worth of spare time to make your own post. We should not be surprised that people go away when they are told to go away.

I couldn't say it better, but it bears repeating.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:38 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


People here are not fascists or terfs or propaganda bots.

I generally agree with you, but I have to note that there's nothing about metafilter that makes this inherently true. It's difficult to untangle the fact that we have a community that is strongly committed to specific values, and vocal about those values, from the fact that we have a community that is quite free of certain kinds of evil shit.

Saying that we can just assume there aren't fascists and TERFs here is kind of like looking at the fact that we have low rates of, say, measles, and then saying that we don't need the MMR vaccine. As just one example, people here really did have to actually actively discourage people who wanted to have the term "TERF" banned as a gendered, hate-speech slur against TERFs.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:45 AM on April 12 [17 favorites]


I feel like the world in general has been getting meaner, faster, and more individualized recently, especially the internet.

I used to maintain that things were much meaner in Ye Olde Days, both here and online in general. And it is still largely true. But two years of the pandemic has isolated us all and made us more unsocialized. A lot of it, I think, has to do with us all wearing masks. We can't easily read faces anymore. It takes a lot of attention to see another is smiling.

I see this in both humans and dogs -- when I walk to QFC to buy groceries, I often see dogs barking at other dogs. That used to be a lot more uncommon. Our isolation has led to their isolation. Oh, let this cup pass from our hands soon...
posted by y2karl at 11:01 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Which I'd wager a massive hemispheric collective case of cabin fever is exacerbating.
8 years later: If only you knew...

(more substantially, I remember that thread, and wow it's striking how many names are gone from there, & what things haven't gone away, & also to an extent a reminder that some things *have* improved a bit, though not as much as hoped)
posted by CrystalDave at 11:05 AM on April 12


I thought the point of having a queue for MeTa posts was to allow mods to help users shape a post such that a useful discussion could happen rather than a rant that will Obviously End Badly.

Maybe 1%. But having the queue is 90% allowing mods to gatekeep Metas for when there is staff around to babysit them and 9% heading off posts that should have been contact form inquires.
posted by Mitheral at 11:24 AM on April 12


That's definitely true. I certainly didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't be vigilant and push back against things that are hurtful. But in general, I think people here have their hearts in the right place.

I chose terfs as an example because my personal bias as a trans woman is to read every piece of insensitivity as transphobia and everything transphobic as an organized attack. I have to take a breath and remind myself that any particular mefite is probably not voting for anti-trans legislation or contributing to organizations that do material harm to me and the people I love. Probably they just didn't think about how a phrase would come across. At worst they might be echoing misinformation because even the most well-meaning people often have a very inaccurate picture of us if they don't have that lived experience. It doesn't do anyone any good for me to get fighty unless it's something egregious and obvious.

I do remember the terf thread Rock 'em Sock 'em linked to, and I think it's a good example? My read on it is that there was one person who had a very toxic viewpoint. There was a big argument and they got a lot of pushback from a lot of people. But because that argument happened and they didn't get support from anyone in the thread, I feel confident giving everyone else the benefit of the doubt. At least within reason.
posted by Space Kat at 12:28 PM on April 12 [17 favorites]


Fair enough, and thanks for explaining further -- I don't think there is much, if any, difference between our positions on this particular point.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:45 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


What I didn't expect was voices calling for the nuclear thread to itself splinter into side threads.

A few people defending the "hey you, go somewhere else" mindset here are saying they are starved for examples. Okay, there are a lot in several threads, even if they don't want to acknowledge them. Surprisingly, though, there is one even in the nuclear war thread where someone had to defend their feelings about nuclear war. In a thread about feelings about nuclear war, ffs.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:51 PM on April 12 [7 favorites]


So, this then is the instigating comment in that case? (CW: graphic description of rape and murder.)

I do agree that requesting the thread’s actual topic not be discussed seems beyond the pale, but I haven’t been following those megathreads and am not sure I understand that exchange well. For one thing, it’s confusing that it’s snuffleupagus shutting down hippybear, there. I thought snuffleupagus’ position was that less thread guidance is needed.
posted by thoroughburro at 3:06 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]


"Never go full Kinski"
posted by Meatbomb at 7:04 PM on April 8

yup.
posted by clavdivs at 3:15 PM on April 12


users taking it upon themselves to prescribe (and proscribe) the behavior of other users based on the configuration of IRL identity along ALL the dimensions cited. And which we are not in fact compelled to disclose here at all.

This idea - that there is a requirement being imposed or requested for people to change their behavior based on the identities of the people they are interacting with - has come up a couple of times. I'm going to suggest a reframing.

What those who are speaking up are asking for from MetaFilter is not disclosure of identities, or the elevation or dismissal of some viewpoints above others purely because of the IRL identity of the speaker. What they are speaking up for is a MetaFilter where we are interacting in such a way that makes it possible for all the people reading, regardless of identities, not to feel excluded, harassed, or exposed to the burden of repeated harmful tropes by the content. In other words: all of us are always in the room. You don't need to know anything about the others in the room in order to speak in such a way that respects everyone in the room.

You don't have to know anyone's identity to interact in that way. But to make that possible, it might mean that we all need to modify our language or restrain ourselves from impulses from time to time. We're always in the room.

This does not mean it's OK to dump on people if they self-identify here as a white guy, or an American, or some other identity that has dominant or majority status. But it also might not mean that people won't push against views associated with that form of status, regardless of who's espousing them.

This is not an activist space. Winning a big battle here over language or topic restrictions is not a victory over the forces of evil and oppression in the world. Little that happens here is of any consequence for larger political struggles.

I agree that nothing that happens on MeFi is of global-scale consequence in the world. However, not all struggles are "larger." Culture changes incrementally, as a result of millions of infinitesimal actions. Our culture hasn't grown to be a more inclusive, more egalitarian one because everyone shut up. Conversations about meaningful things get passionate at times, and they do generate change at times. It's not hard to throw a dart around here and hit someone who will credit MeFi with helping them to change their views on political questions, economics questions, gender, sexism, race, racism, national identity, and so on and so on. I think I see you arguing to take the heat down a notch, because we are not on the cultural front lines, but at the same time these conversations are very much worth taking care with because this is actually how the culture changes - person by person, conversation by conversation. And when you're talking about things that are very meaningful to people, things that are core to their self-concept or that they've had to battle for their entire lives or that they've been belittled or ignored or abused over - well, that's why it's worth doing it with some sensitivity, assuming you want them to stay in the conversation.

I guess that's the question under this all: who and what are we trying to keep in the conversation?
posted by Miko at 4:04 PM on April 12 [40 favorites]


"Never go full Kinski"
posted by Meatbomb at 7:04 PM on April 8

yup.
posted by clavdivs at 3:15 PM on April 12


I beg your pardon?
posted by y2karl at 4:54 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


You don't need to know anything about the others in the room in order to speak in such a way that respects everyone in the room.

It's not always possible to respect one group without disrespecting another. Even silence can be taken as disrespect. How to deal with this seeming contradiction?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:40 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]


It's not always possible to respect one group without disrespecting another.

This is probably true in the abstract or in the wider world. Can you give an example of how that shows up here?
posted by Miko at 6:48 PM on April 12


I beg your pardon?

I like Geoff and his Pepsi posts and going way back to perhaps the oddest MetaTalk ever.

Dunno, when you post Wraith of God qoate, dunno. Like we saw it coming.. But I'll agree with Spitbull on loss of valued members is hard on the site.
posted by clavdivs at 7:09 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]


We’ve been losing valued members for years, for a lot of reasons, some of those reasons including that they could not participate without being on the receiving end of hurtful comments and decisions. It’s a complex phenomenon, but it didn’t start with this thread.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


But because that argument happened and they didn't get support from anyone in the thread...

That's not how I remember that thread. Nor is it how it reads to me looking back at it now. There were several people going for sympathy with being scared of the awful trans people. Defending her arguments. Making and linking further supporting arguments that actually, TERF is a slur, and it's the evil trans women who are trying to redefine womanhood. They were the minority, certainly, but they were there. They're still here.
posted by Dysk at 7:32 PM on April 12 [19 favorites]


yup.
It’s a complex phenomenon, but it didn’t start with this thread.
Quite. Didn't read every comment but I don't think anyone was implying that.
posted by clavdivs at 7:36 PM on April 12


I like Geoff and his Pepsi posts and going way back to perhaps the oddest MetaTalk ever.

No fucking kidding that's the weirdest MetaTalk ever:

I think I speak for many when I say:

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Really, you know I hear Bin Laden sends secret, covert messages over boards like this...
posted by geoff. at 6:30 PM on September 10, 2001 [+] [!]

How is it that geoff. was talking about Bin Laden posting secret messages on boards like Metafilter slightly more than 11 hours before the first plane hit the World Trade Center?
posted by jamjam at 9:07 PM on April 12 [8 favorites]


>>It's not always possible to respect one group without disrespecting another.
>
>This is probably true in the abstract or in the wider world. Can you give an example of how that shows up here?


Sure. The tug of war over the Ukraine Nuclear thread features people who would like to freely speculate about large scale nuclear war as well as people who would like to discuss limited use of nuclear weapons but would really really not like to discuss anything larger.

Theoretically they can respect each other's position, but if they continue to exist in the same space the latter people are going to have their wishes trampled on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:10 PM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Theoretically they can respect each other's position, but if they continue to exist in the same space the latter people are going to have their wishes trampled on.

Competing access needs can absolutely exist, even on a discussion website, and a failure to recognize that has crippled more than one analysis.
posted by praemunire at 10:25 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]


I've been thinking about the idea of how referring to "we" when commenting on a discussion can be confusing in different ways.

I wonder if there might be something to there being a difference between a Twitter type we, and a metafilter we, and people who are comfortable with one kind of usage might not be seeing how else it can come across?

I'm no longer active on Twitter, but from what I've seen, saying "can we not" there, that "we" is a lot more abstract and fluid, and refers to a much bigger conversation and context.
There's often an implied "if you don't understand what I'm on about, or disagree, then you're out-group and invalid, educate yourself"

In a relatively small community like metafilter, where conversations are much more siloed into separate posts, a twitter style we can be really confusing.

On Twitter, there seems to be a kind of acceptance that it's all one big mess of a conversation. It's impossible to narrow or focus the context so people just don't even try. Saying "can we not" has a kind of sad defiance to it because the person saying it knows that the we they are addressing only exists in the most nebulous sense.

Maybe that's why there is such a lot of anger and passion in that request. They are trying to make up for the futility of the request that they know won't be heard.

Using a Twitter we in Metafilter is like using your shouting in a crowd voice in a small room with a handful of people.

When that happens, everyone feels agrieved. "Why are you shouting?"
"But what I'm saying is important! And no one is hearing me! "
"I'm right here. This is me. I hear you. Why are you shouting at me?"
posted by Zumbador at 11:08 PM on April 12 [19 favorites]


Zumbador, that is an interesting perspective. I have never used Twitter and had never considered that conversation styles here might be influenced by what happens on social media, except for the occasional '@' (which I have used here, and was quickly told not to use, although no one could tell me why).
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:01 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Theoretically they can respect each other's position, but if they continue to exist in the same space the latter people are going to have their wishes trampled on.

Or we can do what we're doing, and have two threads so that both groups can be accommodated?
posted by Dysk at 3:31 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


I do agree that requesting the thread’s actual topic not be discussed seems beyond the pale, but I haven’t been following those megathreads and am not sure I understand that exchange well. For one thing, it’s confusing that it’s snuffleupagus shutting down hippybear, there. I thought snuffleupagus’ position was that less thread guidance is needed.

this is so obviously what was going to happen from the moment thoroughburro asked for examples; instead of discussing the original question about where to set the limits of unofficial moderation, now the discussion is whether this particular example really counts as overzealous unofficial moderation.

never a perfect example, therefore never a problem. if there ever were a perfect example, well it's only one example, so clearly not a pattern.
posted by logicpunk at 6:12 AM on April 13 [23 favorites]


Sure. The tug of war over the Ukraine Nuclear thread features people who would like to freely speculate about large scale nuclear war as well as people who would like to discuss limited use of nuclear weapons but would really really not like to discuss anything larger.

Okay. And how is the solution to branch off a separate thread for that discussion not adequate?

never a perfect example, therefore never a problem.

Resisting the request for data isn't working well. It's just not possible to make meaningful decisions in the absence of specific case data. We can analyze things that go wrong when we look at them and come up with solutions for those cases and others that fit their pattern. But saying something is a problem without pointing to any examples leaves it up to everyone's individual interpretation, and that's where it breaks up. Evidence is what allows us to reason. We can't solve a problem if we can't see and analyze the problem in action.

Imagine going into therapy and saying "I've noticed something that's a problem, my partner never listens to me." What's the therapist's next question? Imagine going into a computer repair shop and saying "my laptop doesn't work." What's the tech's next question?
posted by Miko at 6:26 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


For people who do want to discuss original question about where to set the limits of unofficial moderation, another option would be to heed Zumbador about the "we" and Phineas Gage about nonviolent communication (also about "we" vs. "I").

That is, maybe those who want to direct any given thread should generally make such a request on behalf of themselves, using "I" statements, and not assume group authority. If the issue of that thread's direction starts to look like a derail, then maybe it's time for a MeTa on that thread's direction.
posted by NotLost at 6:28 AM on April 13 [16 favorites]


I want very much to comment in this thread, because I read through those archives and they meant a lot to me, because that was my town and my newspaper growing up, and there was one ad for a show, and I realized, hey I WAS THERE, I was 19 and it was a great great night, and I was weepy I was so nostalgic, but I know if I comment about that, someone will immediately tell me how awful and horrible that band was (with a possible cheap shot on the side involving the word Boomer) and if I ask people not to do that someone else will get mad at me for directing the thread and either way (or some 3rd or 4th or 5th way I haven't predicted) I will wind up hurt and miserable. Which is why I am never posting anything on here ever again, and this will almost certainly be my final comment.
posted by JanetLand at 6:37 AM on April 13 [26 favorites]


MetaFilter has a reputation for being shitty at certain topics, and I see post direction as a way of guiding us to be better.
Metafilter reflects the culture, and weight is a topic on which people have fierce beliefs, there are lots of conflicting reports to cite, and shame, bullying, and cruelty are frequently employed.

If members want to make suggestions, they may. Not everyone will pay attention, or they may scroll over the suggestion. Comments and responses work better when they are civil and thoughtful, so there's that.
posted by theora55 at 7:03 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


JanetLand, I feel you on the Your favorite band and Boomer BS. Please don't stay away.
Also
Mefatfilter, when you're so mean that a smart, thoughtful member like JanetLand wants to go silent, you need a time out.
posted by theora55 at 7:06 AM on April 13 [10 favorites]


In the Ukraine threads, the *mods* repeatedly asked people to refrain from speculation and stick to news relating to current events. Fairly early on they suggested moving nuclear war talk to its own thread, and I think they repeatedly said something about being considerate of people living adjacent to the conflict. When people in the thread were like "I live near there, can we not..." I felt that those comments were a helpful addition to the official moderation. I also felt like that was specific to those threads, and not a symptom of a site wide shutdown on free ranging discussion.

I think most of the examples in this thread are similar. There's a history of actual mod moderation in similar threads, and when non-mods try to guide the conversation, I usually feel like it's in line with the official moderation.

Here's an example that doesn't have moderation history: Whenever I see a thread about Marc Rothko, I like to talk about how awful his paintings were, and my reasons for doing that are partly to make a point about treating art as sacred, partly shitposting, and partly me trying to honestly engage with the work. Anyway, the last time I did it, I got a "can we not..." and I figured maybe I was being an exhausting jerk in a space where people just wanted to express their delight about things they find delightful, and maybe it was fair to call me out on it.

I've refrained from posting in Rothko threads since, which is maybe a good thing. On the other hand, hating on Rothko is a traditional route to Rothko being a favorite artist, so maybe "I don't like Rothko paintings" belongs in any discussion of his work. In conclusion, metafilter is a land of contrasts...
posted by surlyben at 7:53 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


JanetLand, I feel you. There are certain topics I've decided not to talk about on Metafilter, at least for the time being. I remember in the covid threads I was talking about life in isolation as a transplant patient, and this one commenter kept insisting I was overcautious and demanded to know my T-cell count, etc? A mod swooped in after a few minutes and told the commenter to pound sand, but the damage was done -- any time I wrote candidly about that, I got jittery that someone was going to demand I exhibit a graduate-level understanding of the immune system and a firm grasp of something that even highly educated research teams were still figuring out. So I stopped altogether. Life has largely moved on for so many. I feel like such an outlier now that it's not important to contribute on that.

And I'm not sure whether that's the right thing to do, not commenting. Like, I don't think the lack of my particular perspective is any great loss to metafilter/humanity in general, but there's a cumulative, detrimental effect when these voices leave or mute themselves. We lose the stories and perspectives, all the things that make us feel connected to each other here.

So I do get the impulse, and I get that you may want to take a break from certain topics, but I hope you'll stick around.
posted by mochapickle at 7:57 AM on April 13 [27 favorites]


Here's an example that doesn't have moderation history: Whenever I see a thread about Marc Rothko, I like to talk about how awful his paintings were, and my reasons for doing that are partly to make a point about treating art as sacred, partly shitposting, and partly me trying to honestly engage with the work.

If you phrase it as (paraphrase for example): I personally don't like his work, I honestly think his paintings are awful...etc. then that's engaging with the post and the content.

But if you literally said, as if it's an objective truth, that "his paintings are awful," that, in my opinion, is a bad way to go about sharing your opinion, because your interpretation is not the One True Truth, and I think that's where comments fall down sometimes. Also if you come into a post where people are celebrating something soley to shit on it...don't do that. It adds nothing but bad vibes.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:21 AM on April 13 [14 favorites]


> whether this particular example really counts as overzealous unofficial moderation

No. My point was that it’s a good example of steering a thread in a way which is plausibly harmful. Then, I was wondering how to resolve that the attempted guidance in that thread was offered by someone who is arguing in this thread that such guidance should not be offered.

Thread guidance for me but not for thee, is the implication. But I admitted ignorance of the thread dynamics, so didn’t want to assume my reading was correct.

Nobody offered clarification, but apparently my post was interpreted differently than I intended.
posted by thoroughburro at 9:04 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Since I'm writing and not speaking I was taught in college to avoid phrases like, "I think..." or "I believe..." I know we're not usually writing essays in here but it's always felt similar enough to me that some of those essay guidelines apply. And sometimes we do write a full on essay as a comment even if the language is way more informal but it's usually coming from someone who's area of expertise is especially suited to the topic and it's full of amazing info. I'm thinking of Eyebrow's recent essays on how the history of Christianity applies to the war in Ukraine in particular.

So I tend to state my assertion and why I think it's correct. In my experience, when someone disagrees they do so respectfully, in good faith, and assuming the same from me so we have a nice little discussion about it. And if someone reacts negatively to it and they say so I apologize and clarify what I meant. Regular old conflict resolution adulting.

I don't have a problem with anyone else asserting a position like that as long as they're participating in good faith and I always assume good faith participation until proven otherwise. I'm almost always right.
posted by VTX at 9:41 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Well, I would agree for the most part with your comment but there is the whole thing about how easily we can misinterpet what is written based upon our personal opinions of the original brain in the vat that wrote it, whether from our own wilfullness or cluelessness.

It really is amazing and depressing both about how easy it is to dislike and despise someone we have never met based solely on reading their words on our screen. Not to mention how unkind we can be without even noticing how mean we are being in doing it.
posted by y2karl at 10:30 AM on April 13


I always feel we ARE speaking to each other here. I don't feel like I'm writing an essay but rather speaking my opinion at a dinner party.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:32 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Resisting the request for data isn't working well

The search term "can we not" may be useful.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:33 AM on April 13


I don't feel like I'm writing an essay but rather speaking my opinion at a dinner party.

I was wondering why the plates, cups and saucers were from so many different sets of china. Not to mention all the rips and tears there are on the dining room wallpaper.
posted by y2karl at 10:37 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


For those like me trying genuinely, Metafilter won’t let you actually search those terms. This search is as good as I can find.

The results presented, at least in my search bubble, seem like reasonable requests to me.
posted by thoroughburro at 10:39 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


on the "I think" / "I believe" tip -- I find that over time, I've come to use way more of these than I once did. For some, it may land as redundant, but I've come to think/believe/feel that the use of such qualifiers serves to soften things somewhat, take some edge off something that could be perceived as provocative -- particularly in threads that are maybe a little on the tense side.
posted by philip-random at 10:55 AM on April 13 [14 favorites]


There seems to be a conversation here, happening in good faith, about in-thread moderation, which I respect and am happy to participate in.

But there also seems to be a (not very subtle) kind of parallel discussion happening about some kind of perceived identity-politics-gone-mad thing that a small (but vocal) group of people seem to think is ruining the site.

I'm sure I will be called paranoid (or histrionic, as a lovely not-at-all-bigoted thread watcher has delightfully deemed me) for saying this, but I find it unsettling and kind of bizarre to be having to try to pick through people's arguments and figure out who is actually trying to talk about the subject of the metatalk, and who wants to push a separate agenda.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:01 AM on April 13 [10 favorites]


I wonder if there might be something to there being a difference between a Twitter type we, and a metafilter we

One big thing I notice, especially when threads like this come up, is that more and more people who are on MetaFilter are also active in other online spaces, social media and others and there is a tendency to look at communication here and communication in other spaces and compare and contrast.

So we get pointed barbs about the FAQ (find me another two-decade-old online discussion space with a shorter FAQ, all the social spaces have exhausting FAQs, they're just better designed, find me one where someone will answer your email), and slang from other spaces that doesn't translate (american yt phallus, I googled it first and got sketchy YouTube!) and discussions about reddit and brigading from other social spaces.

I sometimes appreciate how MeFi is an old timey oasis in the faster-moving internet but that does come at a cost, especially when we think/talk about current models of what's okay and not-okay to talk about, who is known or not-known to be a terrible person (and by whom) and that sort of thing. I feel like MeTa is where we can discuss some of that context collapse and how it impacts us here, now.

JanetLand, I feel you, I hope I'll see you again. Am also a big fan of the "I think" or "I believe" framing here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:01 AM on April 13 [23 favorites]


y2karl, I had just about been ready to write you off as a probable troll based on our recent interactions and my read of your behavior there, but I believe you're engaging in good faith here. You recently called me a sycophant in a contentious thread for trying to present my perspective which was different than yours, and doubled down on the insult when I pointed out you were personally attacking me. You've articulated here a more generous approach towards engaging with people who disagree with you, which I agree with and think is a good positive model for us all to strive towards even if we sometimes fail. It would be much easier for me to trust that you're engaging in good faith in the future if you'd acknowledge that the way you treated me then didn't live up to your own ideal way of treating other Mefites that you've stated here.
posted by biogeo at 11:12 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


y2karl has been here for like a million years, I'm pretty sure it isn't a long-con troll of the site.

"Bad faith" is not a fancy way of saying "rude," it means you think people are actually lying about something about their participation.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:24 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


To Jessamyn's point there is a similar example of the loosely MeFi affiliated MeFight Club. I've been around gaming a long time (like, all it plays is Pong, long) and have been part of many different gaming communities. I'm also on a lot of other discord servers and both are almost entirely immature, shouty, confrontational, fighty, toxic places.

The MeFight Club discord is very very much not that. Much like Metafilter, all the members are great people that care for others just because they exist and that's enough. Sometimes things get heated because we all care kind of a lot. We always work it out like adults. It's an oasis for gaming in the same way Metafilter is for other discussion sites. There are a lot more members so folks aren't as close generally but you can pretty much always assume good faith and good intentions from every other member of this community. If someone proves that they can't participate in good faith they don't tend to last long.

PS: Also if you play any kind of video game at all, please consider joining the mefightclub. I'm just okay but the rest of us are pretty awesome. :p
posted by VTX at 11:30 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I am aware of the meaning of the words, thank you.
posted by biogeo at 11:33 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


To claim to care a great deal about civility while displaying a repeated, gleeful lack of civility oneself to the point of it being a noted characteristic, might be considered in questionable faith at least rather than simply rude.
posted by thoroughburro at 11:55 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


Right? It just seems like dunking on biogeo for no real reason.
posted by sagc at 11:57 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


say what you will or won't of y2karl -- he just yesterday made his #666 Front Page Post carrying with it the tags Alexander The Great, bowl, Bris, foreskin, frankincense, macabees, Macedonian, Opobalsamum, Talmud, Weenie.

I for one bow in his particular direction.
posted by philip-random at 12:14 PM on April 13 [10 favorites]


Is MetaFilter a site where we can post some links and then have a conversation about the content of those links, or is it a site where we can have a longboat/megapost conversation about a topic?

Members seem to want both which can be and is done, but the challenge is trying to figure out which FPPs are meant to be the old-school only talk about the linked content posts, and which ones we're "allowed" to go off on conversational tangents in.

So how about a checkbox where the OP can select whether their FPP is meant to encourage strict or loose (use whatever words work) conversation?

I know that our (well-meaning) site suggestions haven't exactly been welcomed but maybe throwing the members some guidance would be nice? I've been here 10 years with this name, a few years with a previous name, plus lurked for years before that and there are still are days when I have no idea what this site is supposed to be or do.
posted by kimberussell at 12:34 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]

So how about a checkbox where the OP can select whether their FPP is meant to encourage strict or loose (use whatever words work) conversation?

I know that our (well-meaning) site suggestions haven't exactly been welcomed but maybe throwing the members some guidance would be nice? I've been here 10 years with this name, a few years with a previous name, plus lurked for years before that and there are still are days when I have no idea what this site is supposed to be or do.
I think that's an excellent idea! I think encouraging OP control of posts, generally, is a good idea. Although someone above balked at the suggestion that folks who feel strongly about the framing of a topic should make their own posts, it's hard to disagree that it is possibly the easiest, most economical (a single checkbox!), and most democratic way for the two sides of the "hall monitor" debate to co-exist in peace.

Are there any mods in here who could possibly weigh in?
posted by Violet Blue at 1:16 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


To claim to care a great deal about civility while displaying a repeated, gleeful lack of civility oneself to the point of it being a noted characteristic, might be considered in questionable faith at least rather than simply rude.

TBH I usually assume people either lack self-awareness, are repentant, or just kinda lack impulse control moreso than them just straight-up lying about things. Also "you're being a hypocrite" is at least an answerable accusation. "You're lying" "no I'm not" is like...what is even the point if you think that about someone. JMO
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:20 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


also, FWIW, I don't necessarily blame people who use "bad faith" when they really mean "incredible asshole," this site tends to really favor people talking in a roundabout way and being fairly passive-aggressive rather than telling each other to fuck off. But it's a barely polite way of calling someone a liar, which is a pretty extreme position to take.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:28 PM on April 13


"Bad faith" is not synonymous with "lying," and I think it's pretty important not to elide those ideas. Outright lying is one form of bad faith, but self-deception and hypocrisy are far more common. Wikipedia is not authoritative, but gives a good sense of the range of standard usage of the term.
posted by biogeo at 1:55 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


I've been here 10 years with this name, a few years with a previous name, plus lurked for years before that and there are still are days when I have no idea what this site is supposed to be or do.

This gave me a chuckle, but also has the ring of reality. The site does a couple different kinds of things well, and perhaps some of this variability is part of the longevity that many uses have. At the same time, the desired outcomes aren't always clear, and it's hard to optimize for unclear outcomes.
posted by Miko at 2:10 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there's a disconnection in this discussion about examples, specifically in that experiencing a thread live is a much more emotionally turbulent experience than reading it after it's done, and especially to analyze in a thread like this. Posting puts the poster in sort of a vulnerable place, doesn't it? It makes sense that people don't want to participate if they feel that vulnerability is something that may be taken advantage of - posting a comment or a FPP. Maybe that's why people button after discussions like this. In that case, I agree with logicpunk, there will never be a perfect example for getting at what people are actually frustrated about.

I think something else worth considering in this discussion is - negative versus positive guidance / influence. There's "can we not," or "don't do that," or "stop that," but the other side of the coin is of course noticing when people do things well and calling that out. Like, the Miko - NoThisIsPatrick discussion in this thread is a really great example of people having a discussion and coming to a resolution on a point with dignity; it's no small thing to come to an environment like this thread and then have your mind changed, even on one single point!

VioletBlue: (a single checkbox!)

I love a good binary value like anyone else, but honestly, I think of these things like cooking versus baking. Cooking being the free-for-all, come-what-may, freestyle; baking being subject to slightly more guidance/rules/chemistry if you want a specific result. (You can improvise in baking of course, but there are elements like leavening that you just can't take too far without ending up with a completely different baked good!) A cooking thread is like, you've got a zucchini? Let's add some zucchini. A baking thread is more, this part of the recipe calls for baking soda, so please bring baking soda.

If we come up with a name/tag for this, we don't have to implement a new technical feature to pilot it. Which is preferable for a few reasons. I seem to recall on The Good Place Podcast that Mike Schur had a tradition of not using the phrase "scrap heap" to describe bits of writing that had to be cut but could be used elsewhere. Instead, he used the term "candy jar," a completely delightful alternative that lent a different feeling to its use entirely. I'd suggest #blueplatespecial - a little bit of everything, you know; a fully rounded meal without being specific. A blue plate for the blue.

I think it's also worth specifying that anything not tagged with #cookingtag/whatever isn't automatically a baking thread, right? This seems more like a tool to clarify the intentions of the OP, and sometimes the OP doesn't have much of an intention (I'm that OP), and that's okay. There may also be an instance where a nontagged thread leans in a blue plate direction with plenty of a discussion, and the OP can clarify what they envisioned.
posted by snerson at 2:22 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


It could also be that it's hard to predict what kind of post will be a blue plate special and that's part of the metafilter magic too. Could we try seeing a thread gaining a lot of comments and then "officially" opening/tagging it as a blue plate thread?
posted by snerson at 2:38 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


For a second there, I read blue plate special as blue light special and thought...

A) Wait a minute, there are only 3 Kmarts left in the world -- this is highly inauspicious!

and

B) So, that's where they got blue light special... Well, Duh!

So, TIL something or other...
posted by y2karl at 2:46 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]



My sense is the site evolved in a loosely democratic way, with mods weighing in for civility because both site owners enjoyed engaging in good conversation, and wanted to invest time and money in a place that made that possible on a larger than average scale.

But the user base inevitably reflects the era(s) in which they're living, and as times have changed there has been discussion about a shrinking user base and uneven modding practices. That makes sense if my understanding of the site's evolution is correct because it means there has never been a grand theory, just a sincere desire.

The site's mission — or vision — as I understand it is to foster good conversation. If that's true, then that should be the guiding principle for every other decision that's made — and any leadership committee helping to plan a path forward should start there.
  • Does X foster good conversation?
  • Does Y inhibit it?
  • Does Z pay for it?
  • Do we need minimum standards of behavior to achieve it? Should we foster conversation organically, or should it always/sometimes meet certain criteria? (This, of course, is the current issue we're debating.)
  • Do we need mods?
  • What is the role of mods?
  • What are their powers?
All of these questions become easier to answer if we keep our eye on the goal, and if the goal is fostering good conversation then a means for “optimizing for outcomes” becomes markedly clearer.

Thus if a reasonably large number of people think that “hall monitoring” is a problem, it seems to me some accommodation for them addresses the goal of “fostering conversation.” It’s true that not everyone knows what kind of conversation they want at the start. But some people do feel strongly about certain subjects, and I think it’s important to allow them to control those conversations — even while we ask them to please not try to control others.
posted by Violet Blue at 3:01 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd agree that fostering good conversation is the main goal (though it's a good goal!) and you'd need to define "good conversation" to some extent (is it good when it's entertaining? Good when everyone feels included and has a voice? Good when it's mostly experts and we can all learn from them? Good when everyone is working out their ideas and there's a lot of debate? etc.). I thoroughly agree that having a sense of mission or vision would really help guide a lot of these decisions, both for the moderators and the users.
posted by lapis at 5:34 PM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Point taken, and well analyzed! I think it's good to think about because it provides an instant reminder of diversity of interpretation. But I'm not sure I'd want to parse the hell out of it for an extended period of time. I think missions, visions and the like are most effective if they're short and sweet — and the more you parse, the more you risk prescription. That said, I think there are valuable contrasts to be made with our social media peers (competitors?) who focus on largely short-form communication, which, by contrast, mostly we don't ... but I"m thinking about this off the top of my head, and someone more knowledgeable than me should weigh in on social media, which is to say mostly what we are not, no?
posted by Violet Blue at 5:44 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


We've had a lot of those conversations, and visited the importance of vision, strategy, and planning a lot of times, and I'm encouraged that the future structure might enable more of them. I particularly liked the way livix framed it in the big 2019 thread:

I truly believe that community-powered heterogeneous content discovery is a great and profitable model that can indeed thrive for another twenty years, but only with some deep thinking now. We're seeing the tail end of the social media era, the end of hegemonic platforms like Facebook, and whatever comes next is likely to be a return to a million different spaces across the web. MF can easily play a key part in this new world, but it won't do so by either resisting all change or pivoting wildly to whatever is trending. Cortex, you must take the time now to really plan – mission, values, USP, five year milestones, ten year vision.

One of the strengths of MeFi is long-form, single-thread discussion, which is now a rare beast but which does have a lot of value to a particular audience. I wouldn't throttle back the "content discovery engine" component, though. That is another strength. There are plenty of places online for aimless discussion amongst insular groups. A core strength here is topical discussion with a subject of focus, that then is allowed to expand and sometimes branch. Finding the richest balance between these two strengths, rather than optimizing only for conversation or only for discovery (as the earliest site philosophy leaned toward) could inform the vision and goals.
posted by Miko at 6:01 PM on April 13 [13 favorites]


Warriorqueen's proposals in that thread were also excellent.
posted by Miko at 6:05 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd agree that fostering good conversation is the main goal...
What do you think the main goal is, then?
One of the strengths of MeFi is long-form, single-thread discussion, which is now a rare beast but which does have a lot of value to a particular audience.
Yes, I think that's exactly right, and I’ve thought more than once that the user base would probably jump by quite a few percentage points if Metafilter were more findable for the thinky minority out there.

I also agree with both of the comments you linked. I think part of the trick is finding leadership that’s bilingual in the sense they see the value in Metafilter (and don’t sell us out), but also have enough of a business sensibility to help transition the site toward long-term sustainability.

My own businessy hobbyhorse is making more of the absolutely remarkable press Metafilter has gotten over the years. I somehow stumbled onto Metafilter’s Wikipedia page a while back, which spurred me to search Google News for “Metafilter" to see how many media outlets have written about it. I got a whopping 203 results spread over 29 pages with stories about the original founder, specific threads, and notable users in some of the most high-profile and highly respected media in the U.S. — often multiple times: The New York Times, Wired, Slate, Vice, the New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, The New Republic, The Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, The Hollywood Reporter, MTV and the list goes on and on and on.

That’s promotional gold. The logos from those publications should go at the bottom of the front page. Extracts could be used on social media, the newsletter, and the About page… It’s insta-credibility for new users, and helpful marketability for pitching updated stories about the site, finding advertising, or patrons…
posted by Violet Blue at 8:31 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


My sense is the site evolved in a loosely democratic way, with mods weighing in for civility

It should be noted that around 2010 there was very conscious shift from "try not to be *too* much of an asshole" to "this should be a welcoming space for everyone(*)." There is of course some bleedover either direction, but in metatalk you can see the eras pretty clearly.

So the mods have been weighing in for civility, but different expectations of civility have been in play.


(*) Within reason. Homo/Trans/Fatphobes can piss right off.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:01 PM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Mike wrote…
Okay. And how is the solution to branch off a separate thread for that discussion not adequate?

I think that would be/is workable on a site with different mechanisms than Metafilter. Here it requires one of the two parties to create an entire new FPP — something that most people do not do lightly.

And even so, note that the Ukraine Nuclear thread *is* actually a branch of a larger discussion. There’s no telling if your new thread is going to split again and require you to make yet another FPP.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:10 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


That’s promotional gold. The logos from those publications should go at the bottom of the front page. Extracts could be used on social media, the newsletter, and the About page…

Personally I would find this very off-putting, and it would not have served to entice me to sign up, quite the opposite. It risks coming across as rather smug and very conspicuously American, the comparative absence of which is one of mefi's greatest strengths.
posted by Dysk at 12:03 AM on April 14 [16 favorites]


Maybe some of the content creators out there who enjoy MeFi (or use it to find content/do research) could throw us a bone if MeFi produced a canned spot. The right segments of "podcast listeners" is about as good as a marketing demo as you could hope for here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:05 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


around 2010 there was very conscious shift from "try not to be *too* much of an asshole" to "this should be a welcoming space for everyone(*)."

That has been a lean, but not a strong commitment. This is part of future thinking, for sure. A space like this that isn't inclusive has no real future. This issue relates to growth and marketing, as well. I don't think we can depend much on referral to grow the userbase. I don't refer people here any more, because when I have - I've even bought people accounts - they may or may not take to it, and I no longer feel good about inviting people to or even recommending a space where they might be exposed to ideas and language that are hostile to them and no clear guarantee of respectful and timely handling of issues. MeFi seems to work best when people find it on their own - I agree that podcast listeners and "thinky" media consumers are a significant overlap - and their curiosity powers them into participating to some degree or other. You have to want to be here despite the negatives rather than just because of the discussion and content - at least right now. If we want to grow we've got to get better at not posturing as a site in ways that are hostile to people who see and experience things that escape members of the majority.

Here it requires one of the two parties to create an entire new FPP — something that most people do not do lightly.

That, I feel, keys to a separate problem, lowering the perceived bar for FPPing. There have been lots of good efforts toward that. I liked suggestions like the "new" flag, incentive systems or badges for making X number of posts, developing a norm of taking more care with early comments, and the norm of passing by if you aren't interested. The perceived FPP bar is a pretty easy area to optimize solutions for. The site doesn't scroll nearly as quickly as it used to, so standards should be evolving to communicate more openness to posting. Doing your first one early in your membership may help remove some of the mystery and fear, too.
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


Some kind of templating beyond what exists couldn't hurt either. Maybe an option to use a form to fill out the "more inside" field. It could be as simple as building a bulleted list of sub-links and descriptions. I know we're all used to it, but even simple HTML can be off-putting and an additional barrier to being comfortable making FPPs.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:10 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


I dunno, man, I think the barrier to making FPPs is that it's intensely unrewarding to make them and then have the bulk of the conversation that comes out of them be about people scanning the content for potential threats or things to criticize. It's not that hard to make a single link to an article that maybe isn't entirely right or entirely wrong so we can talk about how it comes off and how we respond to the prompt in a way that doesn't necessarily judge other people for responding differently. It's way harder to try and construct a link to an interesting thing and head off every potential venue for kneejerk "this is bad actually" commentary to try and hold ground for a conversation in which everyone feels comfortable being a little messy and a little imperfect and a little weird.

Fuck knows I'm as prone to reacting that way as anyone else, but I think it's the biggest factor killing FPP participation--especially as we lose 24/7 moderator time, such that relying on mods to quickly see and prune that shit is no longer a possible response even with rapid flagging. I don't think HTML and emphasis on multilink FPP construction tips is really the biggest barrier. But while we've done a lot of initiatives to increase the odds that someone might choose to post for the first time, if the actual experience of posting is going to be aversive and not result in an interesting conversation, we're just creating a real leaky pipeline.

I really think this is a community norms problem and not a technical ineptitude problem. Which is a huge pity, because technical ineptitude is so much fucking easier to solve.
posted by sciatrix at 8:26 AM on April 14 [38 favorites]


And I like the idea of feel-good Fridays or whatever as much as any other, but that hasn't been effective either--in part I think because a lot of us have got into the habit of interacting with things using only a framework of scanning for threats to chew over. Me included. It's also not rewarding to post a link that is largely un-engaged with! But it's also hard to iron out what positive engagement with a topic and with ideas looks like, especially if you are also scanning for threat as a habit because your world is actually full of potential threats.

I'm just really tired of seeing people try to de-escalate from an all or nothing framework and have invitations to find perspectives we can agree on and places for increased understanding totally ignored. It's work to do that, and that work is intensely unrewarded here.
posted by sciatrix at 8:34 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


I think that sometimes threads like these are themselves toxic in that they encourage people to take conflict or even baseline disagreement really seriously and really personally. If I'm posting something and I didn't myself write it then I think it's fine for people to critique it. I get it that some people put more time and effort into posts, but it seems unhealthy to have (or encourage) people to see posting as something that entitles them to only positive comments or only the comments they want to see.

Like, people might argue. People might not like what you post. It's mostly fine. No one needs to be to blame, because it's a normal function of a community where people have reasonably differing viewpoints and perspectives.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:42 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


(Also, in case anyone looks at my profile and reasonably is like "you don't even post here," I have made over 90 FPPs total in my tenure here, just not under this particular name.)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:49 AM on April 14


So... People are too thin-skinned? There have been so many threads about the pressure or making a FPP, and how they often devolve into "you're a bad person for liking this", that it's kind of hard to say "just care less".
posted by sagc at 8:59 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Lowering technical barriers won't cure these problems -- but it literally can't hurt. People may want to make more than one-link posts about the things they're into! It might be good to encourage and enable that with more than a freeform text entry field. Low hanging fruit should be picked.

I know there's a lampoonable tech-bro urge to code around social problems, and fair enough, but I'm not suggesting it's a fix. Just that lowering technical barriers can only increase viewpoint diversity vs. what we have now.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:09 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


So... People are too thin-skinned? There have been so many threads about the pressure or making a FPP, and how they often devolve into "you're a bad person for liking this", that it's kind of hard to say "just care less".

I think the phenomenon of people saying "you're a bad person for liking this" is way way overblown and is talked about more on metatalk than it actually happens on metafilter, by a factor of at least 10.

I also think that it doesn't help or encourage people to post and participate by hyping up the idea that there's always a boogeyman mean commenter around the corner waiting to call you names and demean your character.

I also think it doesn't help to conflate people having a range of reactions to posts to people being cruel or name-calling or whatever.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:12 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


I think that's exactly what sciatrix is talking about, though, and dismissing it by saying "posters are too invested" seems unproductive. I just wanted to emphasise here that there are, indeed, people who feel like it's a problem. If you disagree, and think that it's a problem of vocal metatalk users, that's fair.
posted by sagc at 9:16 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


sciatrix: I just made an FPP for the first time in a little while and I felt like I was raked over the coals for it. It’s not that the criticisms were wrong, it’s more a feeling I need to make sure my posts are politically bulletproof (or completely anodyne).

Anyway, I’ve long said that I think Mefi needs a major change, both structurally and technologically, and that the solution cannot be forever cutting costs but instead increasing revenues. I have a little text file called “Metafilter Next” that collates a bunch of ideas that I hope would help address some of the issues here and make the site a more thriving and sustainable community.
posted by adrianhon at 9:29 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I think that's exactly what sciatrix is talking about, though, and dismissing it by saying "posters are too invested" seems unproductive.

I mean, sciatrix is talking about a lot of things. "a lot of us have got into the habit of interacting with things using only a framework of scanning for threats to chew over" is kind of a big thing to say about a lot of people on the site.

If everyone needs to chill the fuck out, fine, and over the last few metatalks that seems to be how people want the site to go. I got massively piled on about being too much of a downer and TBH I can accept that if it's what the people want. Genuinely, it is fine with me if people want to dial the intensity down a notch. But that's an everyone thing, including posters.

We have long had a tradition on this site of people's posts belonging to the community, not to the poster. And along with that, we used to have (and I'd encourage us to encourage people to have) a mindset that people are not necessarily posting things as a deep personal reflection of them, but instead, from a perspective of "this is interesting, let's discuss."

The attitude that there's a threat around every corner and we need to defend against all comers, to the extent that it exists, is just as unhealthy to the community when it comes to treating comments on posts that don't go the way you want them to go as "threats" or as character assassinations or whatever. It doesn't need to be that personal and 95% of the time it shouldn't be that personal.

I agree that you can post about shit that people don't like or have serious political issues with and not be a bad person! I agree that it shouldn't be that personal! In large part because it benefits me as a commenter. I don't want to be commenting in a thread about not liking something and have someone treat that as a personal attack. I want to be able to talk about the actual content of the post, not about whether or not the poster is a good person or whatever. Making it about the poster is stifling. It's not interesting. And I don't think we should encourage it.

It takes both posters and commenters to make discussion and community happen. It takes openness to viewpoints that differ from one's own, or even kind of sting a little bit. And it takes that openness from both sides.

If people want to post things and not feel personally criticized, that's reasonable. 1000% reasonable. I think it should be the default, absolutely.

But for that to happen and also for there to be real discussion, then people need to separate their personal shit from the post to some extent so that people can discuss the topic/content and not the poster. The other solution is that every post's comments are about the poster and unless you're willing to shit on the poster, you can't say anything critical. That's not a discussion. That's a little post fiefdom that is all about what the poster wants to hear. That's not a community. That's GYOB, put it on your twitter, talk to your friends land.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:38 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


Rock em: I totally hear you and those are great points. But I’ve been posting here for twenty years and I can’t help but take criticisms of my posts personally. I applaud anyone who can detach themselves so well but I suspect those people are rare. This isn’t me saying posts shouldn’t be criticised - clearly they should - but more that there is a problem here. Perhaps one way would be, as others have suggested, to make the “cost” of posting lower - encouraging single-link posts - and depersonalising them.
posted by adrianhon at 9:44 AM on April 14 [8 favorites]


Thinking back to when I made a Becky Chambers FPP, I framed it around discovering this cool new author who wrote space opera like I used to read as a kid but feminist and queer. Somebody got real het up about how there were lots of great women space opera authors back in the day an how dare I not have been reading them. We had a back and forth now deleted. I didn't try another FPP for a good long while.

Now, I'll admit I'm not the best person to make a Becky Chambers FPP. But I was the one who did and it's too bad it got derailed, AND I definitely could have framed it better if I had leaned into what it was rather than my experience of it. As an experience it kind of sucked, but I learned something from it.

You have to grow a thickish skin to post anything online anywhere. I keep coming back here and posting under my real name, despite all the dumb stuff I've said over the years. I keep trying to do better.
posted by rikschell at 9:48 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


I also think that this kind of conversation about how we do things here does make the site better, at least it helps be think about and learn about how to do things better here myself.
posted by rikschell at 9:50 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


adrianhon, I can see why that stung. I have to admit that after reading your post and the comments I think people really enjoyed the post, in the sense that people genuinely love whinging and criticizing the fuck out of things (we did invent "beanplating," after all). But I take your point.

I think people should definitely be encouraged to post more single links to stuff they're not super attached to. And maybe it is a good idea to have some kind of system for people to share stuff that's more personal to them as well, that is specifically denoted as such, so that people know to be more chill about those things. A lot of the friction seems to come not from people trying to be jerks as much as people having differing expectations for how certain comments will land.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:50 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


rikschell: I feel that. I think the feedback loop here is longer and more punishing than in other forums, and some of that is unavoidable, and some of that could maybe be addressed through tweaking site policies - not just through community norms, which clearly hasn’t worked despite a million MeTa threads.

The end result of all of this for me, at least, is spending more time on Discords and Reddit, where I have also said some really dumb things which people criticised, but it just didn’t hurt quite as much - perhaps because there was so much activity people knew me in other ways through other discussions.
posted by adrianhon at 9:52 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


On preview I’m just echoing the above.

I have been reading for 20 years that people should let their posts go when they make them and not take anything about how the thread goes personally. I have also been reading for 20 years about how off putting and disheartening it is to make posts because of how they go.

At a certain point I think we HAVE to stop blaming individuals for feelings of attachment to something they put work and care into and start asking ourselves as a community how we can stop making people feel so bad when they make a post. Blaming individuals for not bearing up under community dynamics isn’t something that promotes healthy and growing communities. Asking people to detach from something they put work into - going so far as to tell people not to read comments on their own posts (not here but that suggestion is perennial when this comes up) just isn’t realistic. When you put work into a thing it is because you hope for something good to come of it, and it sucks that so many people feel BAD instead of good after doing work and labor for the community.

I have even gotten to the point where I will only post things that I think will garner fewer than a dozen comments. I see many cool and interesting things, but have been told my skin is too thin that it effects me when I share them and people say Ewwwwwww. Well, it does. It makes me keep those cool and interesting things to myself.

And circling back to the main topic of the thread: I would be far more likely to post cool and interesting things if I could ask the thread to engage with them from a place of curiosity instead of Ewwwww. Because it only takes a handful of people being that way to sour the whole conversation.
posted by Bottlecap at 9:55 AM on April 14 [15 favorites]


I'm reflecting that, in the circles I work and run in, it has become common to use tools for productive dialogue that help set expectations and create boundaries. Typically this is offered in the form of "group agreements" that a facilitator can propose and/or participants can suggest. They are also usually a short and simple list, not a lengthy document. It strikes me that we have never had up-front group agreements for participating on MeFi, and instead we do it reactively, on the back end, in the form of being critical, punishing, or just sad when things don't go according to our personal expectations. We also hash out our personal perspectives and yet that rarely results in a consensus or broad acceptance that is clear to all.

Imagine if, when you signed up, or when you posted, you saw the four or five agreements. That would help set a baseline for accepting the premises of participation - or not - but you could say you'd been informed.
posted by Miko at 10:08 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


(Adrianhon, sorry to use your post as an example if it bothers you, but since it's already being discussed here, I hope it's ok.)

I think it's very normal and human to want people to like what you like and to appreciate the work you put into the community. There's no blame for posters there. I get it. I don't want people to feel shitty when they post.

The thing is that making a post is not the only way people contribute to the site. People commenting about e.g. their negative experience of direct democracy are contributing to the site! They're not just noise or just criticism. That's a real, genuine, perspective. They are putting themselves out there as well, to discuss a topic that may also be important to them. Lots of things are important to different people in different ways. Commenters aren't being assholes for expressing opinions about things, any more than posters are assholes for expressing their opinions about things by posting.

At a certain point I think we HAVE to stop blaming individuals for feelings of attachment to something they put work and care into and start asking ourselves as a community how we can stop making people feel so bad when they make a post

From my perspective, we actually already do this, and we do it a lot, to the point that it's the predominant perspective on metatalk. I think it's become very common to treat people commenting as though, if those comments aren't what the poster hoped for, they are valueless, shitty, overly negative, joykilling, and on and on and on. Or if the poster doesn't enjoy the post, then it's the fault of the commenters. I think that's an attitude that puts way way too much on the commenters and is really heavily critical of them for (mostly) using the site as designed.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:14 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I certainly see comments as contributing to the site – it's really the lifeblood of Mefi! And I've made more comments than posts – probably the vast majority of people here have. So I don't see myself as an asshole, or other commenters. But just specifically about posts, I do think there is an issue with fewer posts than in the past, and by fewer people, and that's harmful for everyone in the long run.
posted by adrianhon at 10:31 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]


For the record, not everyone thinks being "very conspicuously American" is a terrible thing. :)
posted by Violet Blue at 10:34 AM on April 14 [5 favorites]


For the record, not everyone thinks being "very conspicuously American" is a terrible thing. :)

For individuals perhaps, but I don’t know that it’s a good overall characteristic for the site.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:43 AM on April 14 [15 favorites]


I'm a person who is unlikely to start contributing FPPs. I'm just too sensitive to criticism, and there are enough people who have to prove how smart or cynical they are that I'm just not going to expose myself to that. I've contributed exactly two. One was about the nun who had a hit with the "Our Father" dying, and even with something that innocuous, one person had to jump in and say that the "real" one-hit nunder was the nun who sang "Dominique" - apparently that person did not bother reading my rather short post, which included info about that nun as well as a link to "Dominique."

That is a small example and really not a big deal (and almost all of the comments were lovely), but to me, it speaks to the fact that there are always going to be people who post in order to prove something and don't even bother reading what they respond to, and I just don't have the energy for that shit. It's one reason I keep swearing off participating on the blue at all (though so far I always go back). It's exhausting to have to repeatedly say "no, that's not what I said." I don't mind people disagreeing with what I say. I mind very much people creating straw man arguments and claiming I said things I didn't say. And MetaFilter pile-ons occur and take up energy I don't have. MetaFilter cannot fix the internet or change human nature with new policies, no matter how great they are. I wish I had a solution, but I don't - just gratitude for the people who are brave enough to post. I have decided to make more of an effort to express appreciation to those people.

Also, I still love Ask - it was a Slate article about Ask that drew me here in the first place.
posted by FencingGal at 11:03 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


I made myself write a FPP before making any more comments in this thread. I actually think that's a new discussion, but I will share that the following were things I had to work through:

Site stuff:

- because I'm a generalist at heart, I felt it was likely any topic I posted on would have more knowledgeable people commenting than I was in posting. This is actually a key selling point of this place! I live for the chatty knowlegeable comments!

But it is probably for me the #1 reason I tend to respond rather than post.

- I don't think the interface is bad per se but although I'm an old hand at HTML, as soon as I got my links in I had trouble moving text around without issue. I don't think this is something that needs addressing in the short term but it's definitely a factor.

- the community norms around "thinness" are still somewhat opaque to me. My personal preference is single-link or a few tightly connected links in a post (unless it's like, a list of short stories in which case I'm more likely to favourite the post and use it to read things but not actually respond a lot). But I know that's opposite of a lot of people. It means I feel like I don't have a sense of what should be in a post enough to create one.

Not solveable by the site stuff:

- I mostly read things on mobile in line at the store, waiting for things, while supervising homework, etc. Sharing them here in a mobile interface won't happen.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:07 AM on April 14 [7 favorites]

my personal bias as a trans woman is to read every piece of insensitivity as transphobia and everything transphobic as an organized attack. I have to take a breath and remind myself that any particular mefite is probably not voting for anti-trans legislation or contributing to organizations that do material harm to me and the people I love
I was taken aback by this comment, which Rock 'em Sock 'em skillfully expanded upon in his excellent commentary about threats. The identitarian movement, which I'm sure has deeper roots, but which appeared to rise to the fore as one of the most hopeful and unexpected counterpoints to Trump's time in office — from #metoo, to BLM, to trans rights — are all under threat now, especially in our most conservative states. And just as media coverage during key precipitating events in those movements cracked open surprising public nuance to long-standing discussions of rights and feelings in ways that were logical, but which if not directly affected, you wouldn't necessarily imagine on your own, well, I feel the same about the discussion of "threats" here. Yes, for sure, there are threats now to all of those groups and more, and absolutely the most human reaction to this state of affairs is, well, a certain degree of defensiveness, which I mean in a very literal non-pejorative way.

This explains to me changes that I have seen and sensed in the site over the last few years. There are many ways to characterize it but, above all, I think it could be described as a lack of good faith among mefites, which now that it's spelled out for me may well mostly be an outgrowth of this same kind of self-protective sensibility.

There is no single good way to address this, of course. There are absolutely barriers to posting for those unaccustomed to it. There are also barriers to 24-7 modding. Miko's notion about user agreements strikes me as too elaborate for a site that seeks growth. Admonishments to "be kind" are only going to take us so far. Similarly, reminder text on websites about being nice or whatever is the sort of thing that becomes invisible over time. I wonder — and shoot this down if you think this has flaws too — if we could find a mefite shorthand to tell one another to cool it a little in discussions, e.g. "it's about the piece, not the person," etc. Not that this alone would solve anything either, but every little bit helps.

What we're doing now is not entirely working. For sure, no one who feels politically under attack is going to calm down or just trust folks on anyone's say so. But I would hope folks could try a little, while also taking full advantage of the BIPOC Board to proxy site-wide issues.

As noted elsewhere we are nearly all on the Left here — and this absolutely shouldn't be a place where the Left eats its own....

Comment as you will. Try not to attack me.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:46 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


...I think the barrier to making FPPs is that it's intensely unrewarding to make them and then have the bulk of the conversation that comes out of them be about people scanning the content for potential threats or things to criticize.

In the Can we stop directing threads? category, the thing that I find most annoying is when I see someone make a threadshitting complaint as a first comment. My last post to which philip-random linked on admiration of my tags?

I made that in part to maybe create a fun thread where the endless circular-firing-squad morphed into the circling-the-drain-whirlpool to metafilter's demise could be put on hold. Only to have it threadshittingly derailed in the first comment by a petty complaint about the link I used.

I made the mistake of explaining why I chose the link I did (I had used an archive.org link because Haaretz, the link source, throws up a paywall if a non-subscriber clicks on the same story twice: I actually subscribed Haaretz to personally avoid this because they are a good source with witty well written stories.) I then made a See Also link to this very post about directing threads. All on the spur of the moment without thinking.

Upon a moment's reflection, I thought oh shit, I could have just flagged it! and did so. And then used the Contact Form to ask that my comments be deleted. The See Also was deleted. But not my explanation. I had to ask twice to get my explanation deleted, too.

The flagged threadshitting first comment was left. And a potentially pleasant for-a-change thread conversation is historical toast.

Because I have to think, nay, know, I am on the mod shitlist as Meatbomb above noted when he wrote I have been minimally active onsite for a few years now after an email exchange with cortex that included a wall of text reply to my request for less heavy-handed moderation, with an analysis of what sort of user I was and how if I did not like things this was maybe not the place for me. This after many many years of much reduced activity on my part, but it felt like there was a thick dossier somewhere that had me branded as a net liability to the site, and on thin ice.

I try very hard to compose my posts as precisely as possible because if I make a mistake and have to use the Contact Form, this is what happens now. Not from conscious malice but rather unconscious bias: We all look at this universe from the wrong ends of our personal telescopes. The large view is barely discerned and the complaints and concerns of others are microscopic.

Which is why I really wish I had never demanded Cortex and Eyebrows McGee apologize to Miko. I should have known better. That is never going to happen.

For one thing, no one apologizes on another's demand. Apologies come upon reflection when one realizes one has wronged someone and truly feels bad. Never on demand.

And not when the wagons have been circled and those within are firing at those without. All the carefully handpicked advisors chosen by those inside the circle amount to nothing to those without. When there is no one from a loyal opposition mutually acceptable to both sides, it is just more window dressing and table arranging on the Titanic. We are all product now and some products are more equal than others. I am afraid that part is baked in until we all hit the drain screen.

To some of us the amount of people buttoning on their own or just going silent is a big deal. Inside the circled wagons these are pesky details to be deleted by the unseen hand by those in power and mocked, minimized and ignored by their sympathizers.

We are all drowning well diggers in a cave in now, trying to climb out to the light over one another's shoulders. I wish I felt otherwise but for the moment I don't.
posted by y2karl at 11:49 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Oh, and on personal apologies upon reflection, I owe one about my comment to Violet Blue about knowing which side she's on. Sides aside, she has, logo ads aside, tried to make some constructive proposals about site improvement that deserve examination. I truly appreciate her effort. My apologies, Violet Blue.

Oh, and Violet? Rock 'em Sock em's a girl. As I found out by making the same mistske as you.
posted by y2karl at 11:56 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure you're referring to an entirely different domain, 7segment. Archive.org is the internet archive, one of the most venerable organizations on the web; archive.is is the one you're thinking of.
posted by sagc at 12:01 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: Not a petty complaint…WHOOPS
posted by neroli at 12:10 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


archive.org is "skeevy"?
posted by Ahmad Khani at 12:12 PM on April 14


I was taken aback by this comment, which Rock 'em Sock 'em skillfully expanded upon in his excellent commentary about threats.

I just want to clarify for the audience that I do not at all endorse or support the position that "identitarian" politics* or anything related to that is the main cause, or even one of the causes, for anything I've discussed or described here as an issue on the site.

*TBH I'm not sure what this means but I think I can guess that it's some variant on identity politics
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:14 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Fair enough, and apologies for the misgender. Also, a great many thanks to y2karl.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:24 PM on April 14


At the risk of creating a derail and appearing pedantic, or otherwise a know it all, i think it is important to note that in European usage identitarian movement is the name of a far right organisation:
From the Wikipedia entry: "The movement is most notable in Europe, and although rooted in Western Europe, it has spread more rapidly to the eastern part of the continent through conscious efforts of the likes of Faye. It also has adherents among white nationalists in North America, Australia,[land New Zealand. The United States–based Southern Poverty Law Center considers many of these organisations to be hate groups."

Identity politics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Please, please do believe me i only want to point out the discrepancy in use of terminology, because the meaning is so exactly opposite so that i think it is important to note. I do not wish start a fight or otherwise insult anyone.
Should my comment offend you, please flag it for deletion.

Freundschaft,
posted by 15L06 at 2:54 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


@15L06 — Ha! I had feared I was putting my foot in my mouth, and inadvertently offending someone without meaning to, but it had never occurred to me there might be horrifying terminology overlaps! Yes, I do know the Southern Poverty Law Center. I also very much appreciate the correction in this context — and your exceptionally kind manner of mentioning it.

I have heard the US-based term "identitarian" or "identitarianism" used when differentiating between the two main “factions” in contemporary American progressive politics and, in particular, when contrasting the America social democratic movement's traditional stress on “classism” (the shared struggle for economic and social justice as a unifying imperative) to “identitarianism”(the shared struggle for equal rights and opportunity as a unifying imperative).

The groups might agree on all or many other issues, but the route from which they derive strength and demand change is different for each.

As I understand it, there are historic reasons for the split. The example I am most familiar with is the U.S. Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s, which, yes, stressed equal opportunity for all women, but failed to address how Black, Latina, women of Asian descent, lesbians and too many others to list may have also been suffering not just from one form of discrimination (sexism), but several. I believe this has been widely considered a major failure of the Women’s Right’s Movement for decades, but I’ve heard parallel criticism of the U.S. Democratic Socialists — and many other U.S.-based political groups.

On the matter of the pan-European/global usage, it appears to be a classic case of I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I read about academic researchers finding a marked rise in hate speech after Trump’s ascension in the U.S., Germany, Sweden, and South Africa. Since then, I’ve seen snippets about unfortunate U.S.-German commonalities: Scary types hidden among the police, unreasonable anti-covid protesters, the storming of the Reichstag, would some of those folks be classified as subscribing to the pan-European form of identitarianism?
posted by Violet Blue at 6:54 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I mean, "identity politics" has been a dogwhistle for thirty years. To me, it and its variations are a shibboleth for disingenuous arguments. If you want to avoid giving that impression, be more clear and careful with your words.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:12 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


"I mean, "identity politics" has been a dogwhistle for thirty years. To me, it and its variations are a shibboleth for disingenuous arguments. If you want to avoid giving that impression, be more clear and careful with your words."

Actually, I think I've been clearer than you have. I gave context the first time, and explanations as I understood them the second. I don't know what dogwhistles you're talking about.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:16 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


As for party names, generally, my association is right-wing groups world-wide often signal their interests by including the word "national" in their names.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:48 PM on April 14


It's best to avoid the use of the word "identarian".

If you're hearing it from American social democrats, then, yes, it's a reductive Marxist critique of "identity politics". In Europe, it's a right-wing response to and quasi-appropriation of "identity politics". In both cases, the use itself accepts a framing of conventional progressive politics as one that is divisive and toxic. Implicit in this is a wide-ranging and quite vitriolic denunciation of a wide swath of progressive values — which also happen to be the dominant values here on MeFi.

The upshot of this is that it's hard for me to read your comment as anything other than an obfuscated critique of MetaFilter's attempts to be more inclusive by being sensitive to things like transphobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the like. While this critique is infrequent and mostly irrelevant from the left, it's by far the dominant attack from the right

Either way, advocating this position will be a difficult row to hoe here on MetaFilter and will likely be even more troublesome when presented in such a circumlocutory fashion.

Apparently my vocabulary tonight is especially agricultural.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:49 PM on April 14 [15 favorites]


I wasn't actually advocating for anything beyond kindness and a way forward that was sensitive to the needs of different people.

I live in the most socialist city in America, and although folks here are very smart, I find it laughable that you think that any but the most itty-bitty minority would be aware of the "reductive Marxist resonance" of what also happens to be a semantically seamless analogue in political labeling. By all standards, American-style democratic socialism isn't even very socialist — it's more like the U.S. democrats with just a tad more conscience, all of which makes it a miss-it-if-you-blink version of the left in other countries.

So while I appreciate the educational context you provide — I have no doubt there is political resonance that I have missed with the term — you seem to have missed the reason my critique was obfuscated was because it wasn't there.
posted by Violet Blue at 10:38 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I believe you — and your other comments support it — but I'm just saying that identarian(ism) is a poor word choice because it and its variants act as a shibboleth for political values opposed to those you want to further. It's an overloaded term.

It's unfortunately common, even here on MetaFilter, for people to disingenuously attempt to further positions dinstinct from what they claim — and their word choices are often a big clue. The language we use is the language we are seeped in.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:19 AM on April 15 [8 favorites]


wasn't actually advocating for anything beyond kindness and a way forward that was sensitive to the needs of different people.

Violet Blue, to me your intention it was clear and i am so glad i did not offend you.

Re the question
Scary types hidden among the police, unreasonable anti-covid protesters, the storming of the Reichstag, would some of those folks be classified as subscribing to the pan-European form of identitarianism?
Here (in Austria) definitely, using the German name "Die Identitären". German Identitäre even travel to Austria to support the local group.
The problem in Austria however are less some unhinged public activists, but a very close tie between Identitäre and the FPÖ, a far right political party represented in parliament, and in previous governments.
posted by 15L06 at 12:36 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I've also not seen any hidden intentions in Violet BLue's (IMHO very reasonable) proposals and it sits uncomfortably with me that she was taken to task so brusquely, particularly by you, Ivan, who can usually be relied upon to be the voice of kindness and thoughtfulness.

I think this interaction also serves as a good pretext to exemplify one particular way in which this site can be US-centric* and sometimes western-centric. There are so many concepts and discourses that have emerged from decades of academic thinking (mostly) on identity- and social justice-related topics which have trickled into the (semi-)mainstream in the West (and very rarely beyond) to the point that they are now commonplace for people interested in these issues. However, outside of this world they remain obscure or different ways of talking about similar issues have developed (and I will assume that this is true even in the US/ other western countries, not just in the non-western world).

Add to that some language barriers and even minor differing cultural practices, and you have pretty much no hope of never saying something that might be offensive. You just NEED people to extend you the benefit of the doubt as a matter of course if you are to participate here. But that is not a thing that typically happens anymore, like, at all.

Tying this in with the topic of this post, I will say that I feel that the barrier of entry for commenting, never mind posting, is so far above my head that it takes me being moved beyond reason to say anything at all. This is mostly becuse: a. the potential for pile-ons (I don;t know the US landscape well enough to know what would be offensive, just as people from the US don;t know out of hand what is offensive where I come from), b. I don't particularly have in-depth expertise on anything I wish to discuss on this site, and c. outright being told in many places and in many ways that my contribution is not desired, aka thread directing). The latter is not because some people SKILLFULLY steer the discussion - when it's done well, most people don't even notice it, plus it happens all the time in real life. But explicitly demanding it really stops me in my tracks when it's not done by a mod (completely different story with mods - I generally trust them, plus that is literally their job).

Ironically, given past discussions on the site, it is mostly the tone in which these requests are made that gets me - I have much less of a problem with straightforward requests (whether or not I might be personally annoyed by any one of them); it's a very specific type of tone that both stops me from even considering contributing and also IMHO it's the same tone that leads to a stifling thread that's not as great to read. Weirdly, I think it's when the poster writing the request tries to be either witty or actually kind (with things like 'Please stop!', or 'Can we not', or, my personal bug-bear, using the word gentle/ gently anywhere in the request). For me, it comes across as self-righteous, schoolmarmish and patronising, like the requester both has contempt for their interlocutors (or some of them) and feels entitled to tell others what to do just because they are better than them. When it is done in the name of avoiding offense to other, third-party posters, it feels like it does not center those other posters, but rather the rightness of the requester and positions anyone who might even think of infringing as part of the criminal hordes.

For me, this holds even though it doesn't seem to happen as often as I thought (I took the advice of a poster upthread and Googled the various instances - I got much fewer results than I thought I would). This makes me think that this particular thread-directing behaviour is just one strand that feeds into making the site quite forbidding for people outside of a particular constellation of discourses that have rather high barriers to entry (very US/ western-centric, and within those worlds, particular groups of people).


*Though ironically this seems to go the other way round, with someone from the US not understanding a European situation. Thank you Ivan & 15L06 for explaining - this is new knowledge for me as well, and I'm European!
posted by doggod at 6:24 AM on April 15 [14 favorites]


> a very specific type of tone

That seems like the sort of thing which could have similarly specific examples.

> even though it doesn't seem to happen as often as I thought

Aren’t you worried that your difficulty in finding this truly annoying-sounding behavior could be that the annoyance is in your interpretation of the behavior rather than in the behavior itself?
posted by thoroughburro at 6:38 AM on April 15


Not really - what I am talking about is my FEELINGS about a certain type of behaviour. That behaviour is sometimes in particular expressions (the 'can we not', the 'Please stop. Thanks', the 'gentle reminder' etc) and I found fewer instances of those specific expressions on Google than I thought, but it is not limited to using those exact word sequences.

But I take your point, and that's why I'm saying that thread directing is just one (possibly smaller than I thought) element in creating an atmosphere that for me personally feels paradoxically unsafe.

Very anecdotally this has been the feedback from all people I tried to link the site to - with one exception, everybody has said they would be afraid to contribute because they don't know HOW to talk about things (admittedly, for some of them it is lacking confidence in their English abilities) and many don't return even to read because it is too mean. I'll have to say that I am probably the one in this group who is most plugged into social media, and I am not very, so there is that.

I'll also say that this puts me in mind of something that is periodically mentioned in CPTSD boards - how can you my triggers without discounting yours, when they are anithetical? Like, if I have, in truth, been muzzled all my life, how can I interact with you who have been insulted all YOUR life and vice versa?
posted by doggod at 6:49 AM on April 15 [9 favorites]


I've also not seen any hidden intentions in Violet BLue's (IMHO very reasonable) proposals and it sits uncomfortably with me that she was taken to task so brusquely, particularly by you, Ivan, who can usually be relied upon to be the voice of kindness and thoughtfulness.

This may be because you're European. She is American, so is Ivan (so am I). Her comments in a few different places have rung klaxons rather than dogwhistles.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:55 AM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Also, apologies if that was harsh. Most of my best friends are European, rather than American. I don't expect them (or you) to be completely on top of various American social, cultural or political issues.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 6:59 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I finished this comment without finishing it (it's early in America, okay?*) I meant to say:

Also, apologies if that was harsh. Most of my best friends are European, rather than American. I don't expect them (or you) to be completely on top of various American social, cultural or political issues. But generally, in the context of American politics, if someone who is usually nice is suddenly acting not-nice, I think it's probably wise to assume they're getting something that you (understandably!) don't.



*it's not that early in my part of America
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:08 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


This is very much deeply intended in the spirit of kind feedback: when I saw "identitarian," I too was taken aback and it confused me. That's because I do a lot of work that has to do with White supremacy and racism, and the term is definitely in circulation amongst White nationalists and other hard-right ethnocentric groups. The Wikipedia entry on the term makes this clear under the United States section.

Whether or not folks were being too harsh in their notes about this term, the underlying message was "this word may be sending signals it's not your intention to send." I agree that even when it turns up on the left, it's usually a framing that is used to delegitimize calls for racial, gender, ability, and language equity. I don't think it's really at all rare among the progressive left to see that strain of thinking; it's a well-known subject of debate that has had serious consequences on the far left. The use of the word, or "identity politics," implies the perspective that class politics are more important or superior to the politics of anti-racism, anti-oppression, and equity.

Again, not critique, just context. Thought there might have been some irritation in the responses to you, Violet Blue, I think they were well intended in that they're an alert that it's too easy to misunderstand that word if these weren't the associations being called up. The use of the word, and the way it calls up an entire political frame that delegitimizes equity, are very familiar in the egalitarian struggle . It may be really helpful to know so that it's not a stumbling block to expressing points of view here or elsewhere.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on April 15 [14 favorites]


based on past humiliations, I would far rather be corrected/confronted on my misuse of a word (or phrasing) than allowed to continue on obliviously getting it publicly wrong.
posted by philip-random at 8:16 AM on April 15 [8 favorites]


It's worth saying before anyone else pipes up that I feel well primed for any additional education on political terminology on my own, thanks. I will not bother to address "klaxons," which I had to look up, or the reflexive suspicion or cynicism of some of my compatriots: It's at the heart of several complaints about metafilter culture, generally, and I have no reason to think I will make any more of a dent in it than anyone else has.

That aside, if 15L06 — but no pressure if you don't — or any of the other recent European (or not U.S.-based) commentators had any interest and could source any language-accessible/google-translatable articles they might like to discuss on non-American topics I would be happy to read whatever you picked out, and I would try to discuss it in as non-American-centric way as possible. :)
posted by Violet Blue at 8:26 AM on April 15 [7 favorites]


doggod, thank you for your thoughtful response. I understand your viewpoint better, now, and we are more in accord than it seemed.
posted by thoroughburro at 8:29 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Well, "reflexive" isn't very fair, either. It means "unthinking, habit-based." When in fact I think that grappling to get some perspective on what was meant is the opposite of unthinking. Let's credit folks with their sincere efforts in trying hard to understand what was said.
posted by Miko at 8:48 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


"the reflexive suspicion or cynicism of some"
For some it is, actually.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:01 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]


My suspicion and cynicism is not reflexive, it's based on your history here and your participation. One of the things that makes mefi mefi has long been that people have a history on the site under their username. (I appreciate the irony coming from someone with a sock puppet name!) I am generally not the kind of person to let one iffy comment make me think less of people, but when there's a pattern, people will read your words differently and come to conclusions that they might not otherwise.

If you want a blank slate, mefi is not the site. For better and for worse.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:28 AM on April 15 [4 favorites]


What sock puppet name do you attribute to me!?!
posted by Violet Blue at 9:30 AM on April 15


Or, rather, since I don't want this thread to get any more ... complicated than it already is, if your implication is that I've been spewing "nefarious thought" under a sock puppet name, you are mistaken.

Like, I expect, most people I've used my sock puppet name for personal questions I'd rather keep private — not politics. If you like, you have my permission to contact the mods, link to this thread, and tell them you think I am X — and they have my permission to look me up and tell you you are wrong.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:40 AM on April 15


I think Sock ‘Em was referring to the fact that they themselves are a sockpuppet, not you.
posted by thoroughburro at 9:46 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Yup, I started this name in large part because my older name got connected with my IRL name via media etc., hence the reference to "sock" in the username. I switch back and forth between this as my main and the other name, though, depending on various things, rather than actually using it as a sock. But the fact that it is nominally a sock does make it ironic that I'm touting the old mefi standard "one user one name" rule.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:52 AM on April 15


Also, no, I don't know or care whether you have a sock. That's your business. I'm just referring to the pattern of commenting under your current main name.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:54 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Nominally a Sock is not bad for a username. Just sayin'...

Or concept, for that matter.
posted by y2karl at 10:08 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Well, comment away then.

If you're talking about our exchanges in a recent thread, well, they are here for anyone who has the stomach to read them all. My follow-up was here. The change I thought folks were seeking, via tactics I disagreed with, occurred very soon thereafter, and was first announced here.
posted by Violet Blue at 10:15 AM on April 15


I suspect folks had another name in mind for that particular outcome.
posted by y2karl at 10:41 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


That aside, if 15L06 — but no pressure if you don't — or any of the other recent European (or not U.S.-based) commentators had any interest and could source any language-accessible/google-translatable articles they might like to discuss on non-American topics I would be happy to read whatever you picked out, and I would try to discuss it in as non-American-centric way as possible. :)

Hi Violet Blue, sounds interesting, do you have a specific area of interest in mind?
posted by 15L06 at 2:23 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Hello 15L06!

I'm game for anything, really. (Except sports. I draw the line at sports.) Politics, culture, art. An all-Austria thread? Or if you, and Kattullus and/or others wanted to do an all-Europe thread? (I’m not sure who knows whom among the non-American crew if, indeed, anyone knows anyone at all.) One (or several) [Eurocentric threads] is undoubtedly overdue.

In terms of specifics if you happen to be drawing a blank, and want an idea to give you an idea: Beware a big long list!

I was interested to hear just the other day that NATO has its own reservists (correct term here?), presumably pulled from those countries that still require X amount of time in the military? How do you feel about that? I was intrigued when I read that Kurz was one of the youngest leaders in the world. I also gather he has since been ousted. I wonder what kind of mark he left on things, both in terms of his youth and his politics. I also wonder what Austria’s relationship is like with Hungary, or whether attacks on the Reichstag in Germany resonate in Vienna. I know the issue of military budgets has long been fraught in Germany, is that the case in Austria? I realize, upon reflection, I know little about the economy of Austria, that interests me too. My long-standing impression is that Austria excels at the classical arts. I wonder if that is accurate and/or if there is also a modern scene. Does Freud or psychology, generally, have much presence in modern Austrian culture? Is there much discussion about those who identify as European and those who do not? Or does everybody? And where does allegiance start with [insert country name here] or with Europe as led by Brussels? I’ve been reading a bit recently about the historic empires adjacent to Austria/Hungary: I forget all the proper names but Greater Lithuania, the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, Prussia, Greater Romania, etc. and I wonder how well you’re taught about them in school, and whether they have any reality for you, or modern-day resonance?

All of these, none of these. What do you feel like talking about?

I'm voracious to hear about things in other parts of the world, and I will try to keep up regardless of subject, though you should be warned my knowledge of Marxist theory and European hate groups is commonly considered to rank low. :)
posted by Violet Blue at 6:26 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I always wanted mefi to expand non-english posts. I think this should be revisited sometime.
posted by clavdivs at 6:52 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


That all seems really broad and wide-ranging and maybe good fodder for some curious googling. There a lot of good sources for that content well beyond MeFi - and if you find anything particularly interesting, maybe make an FPP.
posted by Miko at 7:10 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Without getting into whatever was deleted, is there some kind of objection to using the 'other' archive.* mirrors? And if so, was it just to the circumvention of paywalls as 'skeevy'...or to particular TLDs? (Which would be....silly, given that archive.today handles pointing at the others.)

I try to link to the walled source and provide the mirror when I use it. Is there some norm I'm missing? People seem to appreciate it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:37 PM on April 15


The deleted comment was someone who was confusing archive.org with archive.is I think? And saying the former was problematic when I guess the latter is, something to do with DNS which wasn't specified? And honestly I don't know more than that, I think people are okay with providing an archive.org link as a backup, less so as the primary link, so I think the way you are doing it is more or less the norm here as I understand it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:58 PM on April 15


So, archive.org is the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive; the other system has a bunch of other .TLDs -- one of which is Archive.is, but the usual way to use it is Archive.today (and it manages redirects to a few other TLDs from there).

Wayback doesn't circumvent paywalls as reliably. I typically use Archive.today. And I am trying to figure out whether people are raising issues with its more aggressive circumvention of paywalls (where Wayback fails), or saying it's "skeevy" because of the .IS TLD ( :| ) ; and from there whether there's any norm on that.

I can switch to Wayback, but people will often see the same paywalls as the live site unless they do additional in-browser blocking.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:19 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


This one is pretty easily googleable: https://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/135222/why-does-1-1-1-1-not-resolve-archive-is
posted by sagc at 8:41 PM on April 15


That all seems

I'll assume your addressing Violet Blue, if not, not sure what you mean but as too an FFP, I already, (technically) have.
I'll clairfy, a space were people can converse in a language that does not include English.
posted by clavdivs at 8:48 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


This one is pretty easily googleable: https://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/135222/why-does-1-1-1-1-not-resolve-archive-is

It's been a long day. What am I supposed to glean from that re: the archive.today system being 'skeevy?' And is it not supposed to be used here, or what?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:53 PM on April 15


Not sure about the "skeeviness," but my takeaway from that is that anyone using 1.1.1.1 as their DNS wouldn't be able to properly resolve archive.is or archive.today. I don't know how many people that is, but Cloudflare is pretty big so it could be significant.
posted by biogeo at 9:03 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Ah. Thanks. (I'm still a GTEI kinda guy.) That's definitely something to think about. Wayback won't help a lot of people who struggle with more aggressive paywalls, though. Including the pesky 'Admiral' one a lot of periodicals favor.

I'll clairfy, a space were people can converse in a language that does not include English.

I'm curious what you envision -- a polyglot (but not english) subsite? like, a clone of the blue? it seems like that could be done easily. I have no idea if it would attract users, but it would be cool if if it did.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:08 PM on April 15

That all seems really broad and wide-ranging and maybe good fodder for some curious googling.
Right. I was overtired when I wrote it, so perhaps it's not that helpfully written. Given all the discussion of folks being too intimidated to post on Metafilter, and all the discussion about Americans dominating non-American posts, I was just trying to list a pretty big range of things of potential cross-cultural interest relating to Austria specifically, or to a lesser degree Europe, that might trigger 15L06, or other non-Americans, to think, Ah, I read a great article on X recently, and post that.

I'm not entirely sure how much/whether any comfortable posting can be done multi-lingually, perhaps some of the non-Americans are better versed in it than I am, and can weigh in, but I've been experimenting recently with an automatic translator on Firefox — and google searches in Russian (for genealogical purposes) with some success.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:09 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Hi Violet Blue, i like your list.
I have been thinking for a while of making an FPP, on "Europe", however, in addition to my general fears of posting an FPP, even the basic question of which countries belong to Europe is not at all easy to answer! Within Europe it is a very delicate issue.

That said i will think about it some more.

I also have been wanting to do an FPP on Kurz, and Austrian politics in general. Might do that. But my starting point, that i loathe the man, is perhaps not ideal :-)
posted by 15L06 at 6:40 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


@clavdivs

Okay, it took me a little while to catch up to you! I either didn't notice the title or didn't scan Metafilter the day you posted that, but if you'd marked it "Czechoslovak" or "Europe," I would have clicked open that thread as, yes, I've seen "The Shop on Main Street" and remember it well!

On matters multi-lingual, others should comment, but my only thought is the things people are thinking and talking about, or might want to muse about, rooted in other countries are perhaps not always coming from English-language sources, or like "The Shop on Main Street," (not to be confused with "The Shop Around the Corner," with Jimmy Stewart) are effectively global, though often marked "foreign" in film selections in the US. This issue that could possibly be bridged, possibly relatively easily, with various translation apps and more overt posting titles.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:45 AM on April 16


@ 15L06
i like your list.
Oh, good. I was afraid I might have overwhelmed you!
I have been thinking for a while of making an FPP, on "Europe"... even the basic question of which countries belong to Europe is not at all easy to answer! Within Europe it is a very delicate issue.
That's really fascinating. For sure, the European Union is not just another United States, given the differences in history, language, culture and economy of its membership. By the same token, Germany's increasing role as Europe's banker gives it a power within the union, which as I understand it, it was created, in part, to control. The increase in membership over the years has also added trading block to its aggregated identity, but that doesn't fully characterize what it is, the role it plays or who it encompasses either. Anyway, this is just my limited understanding of it, but seeing how it fits into individual and group identity strikes me as a very nuanced question I'd certainly be interested in reading more about. When I watched Borgen, I was really amused that all the Danish politicians were sending the political opposition to Brussels to get rid of them.
I also have been wanting to do an FPP on Kurz, and Austrian politics in general. Might do that. But my starting point, that i loathe the man, is perhaps not ideal :-)
I figured you were probably not a fan. I don't think it matters. Give a brief summary of what his supporters say, and then a brief summary of what his detractors say. This short article, for example, hints at his complexity. Then spend the most time summarizing the elements you think are most worth exploring. If you want to keep the post reasonably broad, but also want to share your opinion, maybe post your opinion like an ordinary user, rather than in the original post?

The one thing I would encourage any non-American poster to do is put the name of the country/region the post is talking about — even if you think it's a global issue, rather than an issue related to X country — because this will attract a reader/commenter base possibly also interested and/or knowledgeable about your topic.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:18 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


@ 15L06 p.s.

Kurz's corruption aside, his left and right gamesmanship strikes me as very ... slick, and probably not very savory. If you want a "way in" to the subject for a two-thirds American audience — I don't mean a dissertation-style post, just an entry point for those not familiar with him — his association with Peter Thiel will be of interest to many.

That said, many young politicians in power these days are notable for their new approaches: From Jacinda Arden whose insight that the best way to punish a terrorist is not to publicize them went global, to Zelensky and crew's understanding that perception is power too, and whose mastery of media has, no doubt, taught lessons to the underdog everywhere. I would expect, but don't know, Kurz's bi-lateral positioning and slick camera-ready look also mark a new breed of politician. All are worth talking about.

To use one last example, in a simpler vein, someone posted on the Blue recently about the Finnish PM who was at a nightclub without her phone when Russia invade Ukraine. That thread did very well, too, and I don't think a lot of context was given beyond those facts. Don't worry about any of this too much.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:11 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


15L06, I'd suggest you post about whatever is exciting or meaningful to YOU, and that you want to share with others who are unlikely to know about it. That's what makes for the best FPPs, without getting into researched deep dives (which are in no way obligatory). You don't need to take on packaging up history or politics for an American audience, as interesting as that would be right now. Or worry about appealing to American sensibilities generally.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:19 AM on April 16 [5 favorites]


What Snuffle said, too! :>
posted by Violet Blue at 9:49 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I'm voracious to hear about things in other parts of the world

Easy to get lost in the shuffle, but myself and numerous others have posted a fair amount of 'non-US' content over the years.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 10:50 AM on April 16 [11 favorites]


Anyone reading here please tell me that the current Ukraine thread is Not going to Go Back to once again rehash why nuclear plants cannot simply be switched back on...
(From today
Doesn't Germany also have a lot of nuclear power plants, sitting idle because after Fukushima nuclear power is bad, whose ecological costs have all been paid down other than the two truckloads of nuclear fuel/waste a year they would use? It sounds like unmothballing those would be a no-brainer.)
I cannot understand why this is being discussed again. Wtf

But If i post there for example: please let's not rehash this topic someone will for sure feel shut down.
I get so resentful, because US Americans discussing nuclear Power in Europe is such a futile exercise. It can be discussed but without a Basic grasp WHY they were shut down, and no it was not Fukushima.
The Problem is no one EU or wider Europe wants the radioactive waste permanently on their territory. There are so calmed Zwischenlager (Interim storage), but no Endlager (final storage for the next million years literally).

Just venting i guess to keep from exploding.
posted by 15L06 at 1:41 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

The Problem is no one EU or wider Europe wants the radioactive waste permanently on their territory.
This is not an unknown argument in the U.S. I grew up a few towns over from a nuclear power plant that was debated, protested, shut down, and reopened year after year. The argument against was always: What do you do with the nuclear waste? The other argument was: What do you do in the event of a nuclear meltdown? The answer there came in a little booklet the city published one year: You were supposed to wait outside for a bus!

Arguments against seemed to have gotten lost among the younger crowd. I'm not clear why. Nuclear power is so infrequently talked about in the U.S. these days, I'm not even sure how much of the power grid runs on it.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:55 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


@Ahmad Khani
Oh, nice to meet you! You post profile makes you look like a major culture vulture, who is also very interested in the Arab world, and I will be interested to peruse your back list! I didn't mean to ignore you, or anyone else writing about other places and cultures. I somehow just mostly haven't seen them. I scroll through Metafilter most days; but it depends on how much time I have free. Thank you for reaching out!
posted by Violet Blue at 2:03 PM on April 16


The one thing I would encourage any non-American poster to do is put the name of the country/region the post is talking about — even if you think it's a global issue, rather than an issue related to X country — because this will attract a reader/commenter base possibly also interested and/or knowledgeable about your topic.

Context: I am ENGLISH and English people sometimes use SARDONIC UNDERSTATEMENT
This sounds a little patronising.
Ah, I see, that might work.
posted by ambrosen at 3:09 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


The Problem is no one EU or wider Europe wants the radioactive waste permanently on their territory.

This is not an unknown argument in the U.S.


No, it definitely isn't.

THIS IS NOT A PLACE OF HONOR (MeFi, Sept. 2013)

"Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture." (2002)
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:17 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I love your name @snuffleupagus, but you and 15L06 made we wonder: What is the US doing with its nuclear waste in 2022? Answer: We are have decided to live forever, as reported in an April 11, 2022 Washington Post article: What Should America Do With Its Nuclear Waste? Currently there are about 80 locations in 35 states where spent fuel is being stored, with no long-term plans for disposal
posted by Violet Blue at 3:45 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah. And storage pools are often (usually?) now over originally designed capacity; they are no longer inherently safe without power to pumps and coolers and the boron or whatever used to impede reaction and "ensure subcriticality."

Boron Credit

posted by snuffleupagus at 3:56 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


(I know it must not be possible or it's too risky or it would be happening, but it would be neat if we could just yeet it all into the sun and have fully automated luxury communism with air conditioning)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:11 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Storage of radioactive waste also in my mind is linked to communication spanning centuries and beyond. Ihave a vague memory of reading about a Roman warning stone, in Naples warning of Etna, but cannot find it now, but found pictures of Japanese ones instead:
These Century-Old Stone “Tsunami Stones” Dot Japan’s Coastline
“Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

Or perhaps something along the lines of the Voyager Golden record
posted by 15L06 at 4:39 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


We have been here before.
PostMoarGlobal
posted by adamvasco at 4:44 PM on April 16




Ah, is this another round of "you haven't been doing thing right"? Therefore "you must feel guilt and shame and educate yourself to atone for your sins." No thanks. I haven't asked for your reading lists, and they are not being handed to me in good faith.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:23 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


You've got some kind of a read on things that's different from my intent. I find you really hard to communicate with. If you're bent on interpreting attempts to communicate through the most hostile possible lens, I'm going to have to leave you to that.
posted by Miko at 5:35 PM on April 16 [19 favorites]


That's probably best. Thank you.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:38 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if a link dump came with more context than snark with zero interpretable substance. Whose posts are being objected to, now? Or is the point just the circularity of the discussions?
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:52 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


Just for clarification, it wasn't an objection at all. It was an endorsement of the idea that one of MetaFilter's characteristics is a longstanding imbalance between US posts/perspectives and those from other parts of the globe, and it's very consistently shown up here as something people want to see more of.
posted by Miko at 5:55 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]


Got it, thanks.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:56 PM on April 16


Maybe we need to have another theme week/month, encouraging non-US posts. I seem to remember the last one of those we had was fun for me to go through.

We could do with more theme weeks, really. They always encourage great things to appear.
posted by hippybear at 8:35 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]


In one of the free threads, someone said that most people exist in the culture of binary gender like fish in water, and are surprised when others point out it's wet.

That's what being online is like for people outside the US. I'm not so much referring to the usual cultural things (how is solder pronounced?) but the fact that in the US, people have become so used to the extreme polarisation of opinions, and seem to accept as normal the idea that people can be divided into us and them, friend and enemy, based on a few easily identified markers.

Republican, MRA, anti vaxxer, whatever group that holds reprehensible beliefs.

To be clear, I also believe that those groups are reprehensible, are destroying our world, and I'm definitely not promoting a "both sider" approach or a "not all" approach.

The problem is when we're communicating online with strangers, we look for all kinds of markers to judge where people fit in the spectrum of political and social beliefs, beyond what they are actually saying .

If they use certain terms, then we slot them comfortably in with others who use the same terms.

That's understandable, and probably a fairly accurate way of going about it a lot of the time, but it's become such an unconscious habit that we're willing to judge someone unequivocally as dishonest, prejudiced and harmful without giving the benefit of the doubt even in a place like metafilter where people are from culturally quite different backgrounds.

And I'm not arguing that microaggressions don't exist, or that we shouldn't push back on harmful language.

I'm suggesting that we should become a bit more self aware about that urge to classify online strangers as "oh, you're THAT kind of person" and discount anything else they say as being in bad faith.

I am a bit self conscious about the fact that I tend to note that I'm South African in almost every comment here, or if I don't explicitly say that, I drop a clue that I'm not in the US by referring to the season. That's because I hope it will prompt others to at least give me the benefit of the doubt if I inadvertently say something that gets interpretted as a dog whistle.
posted by Zumbador at 11:03 PM on April 16 [21 favorites]


(Disclaimer: I haven't read any of the preceding 360+ comments. I got things to do.)

I agree with the original post.

Full disclosure: I have, on occasion, been one of those people who tells other people what guidelines to follow in a thread.

But I've always been careful to cite guidelines that originally came from the moderators.

I've done this mainly when newcomers to a discussion may be unaware of those original moderator edicts (e.g., in the Ukraine threads – where the discussion has been ongoing, for weeks, across multiple threads, with thousands of cumulative comments). Or when users are repeatedly ignoring those rules.

Honestly – when the moderators decide that special rules apply to a particular thread, maybe those rules should be displayed above the comment box. Currently, we just assume that people have been keeping up with the entire discussion, and are keeping a running mental checklist of the current thread rules. Unfortunately, that system doesn't seem to work for high-volume, long-running threads.

That said:

I've definitely noticed a recent trend of non-moderators declaring how they, personally think a given thread should work.

At times, the resulting meta-arguments over the acceptable parameters of discussion have pushed aside the actual discussion. In the past, the mods would've nudged users to "take it to MetaTalk". But apparently that's not how it works any more.

The Ukraine threads are a perfect example. Before the mods even weighed in, people were vehemently arguing that:

– the threads must center Ukraine and the immediate geographical area
– users are forbidden from addressing the issue of nuclear weapons
– speculation about military tactics and strategy are off-limits

etc. The "rules" seemed to multiply until there was only one, rather narrow, "correct" way of participating in the discussion.

At some point, the moderators started co-signing onto these user-generated opinions, and made them into official moderator positions.

This strikes me as a new dynamic on MetaFilter, and probably not a good one.

For one thing, it's confusing. It makes it that much harder to keep track of which thread rules are merely the opinion of a particular faction of users, and which are actual binding policies.

For another: it creates an incentive for users to stake out really strenuously held positions, in the hopes that the mods will "promote" those positions to an official thread rule.

I know that the mods have been taking a beating lately, so I hate to pile on, but:

I've always appreciated the moderation on MetaFilter.

But lately (meaning, in the last six months or so), I feel like the culture here has jumped the shark.

Soliciting input from users is admirable and good.

But moderation has gradually drifted toward a de facto policy of "obey whoever complains the loudest". And that just isn't a recipe for a healthy community.

Lastly, on a related topic – I've seen a lot of recent comments that follow this format:

"Look, you're pursuing a line of discussion that goes against the thread rules, but:

[continues pursuing the same line of discussion]

Now, let's end this derail"

In other words: "I'm allowed to squeeze in the last word about this topic, but you must shut up about it because you're breaking the thread rules".

Again, the people who posts these comments just come across as self-appointed junior moderators. I would hope that these comments would simply be deleted.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:38 AM on April 17 [10 favorites]


escape from the potato planet: The Ukraine threads are a perfect example. Before the mods even weighed in, people were vehemently arguing that:

– the threads must center Ukraine and the immediate geographical area
– users are forbidden from addressing the issue of nuclear weapons
– speculation about military tactics and strategy are off-limits

etc. The "rules" seemed to multiply until there was only one, rather narrow, "correct" way of participating in the discussion.


I’m not going to repeat what I, and others, have said in this thread, beyond noting that:

1) These are the Ukraine threads, of course Ukraine is centered.
2) A whole entire nuclear escalation thread was spun off for the nuclear weapons discussion.
3) Speculating about invasions and bombings of places where MeFites live or live near, has a very different emotional heft for those of us who do live close by, as opposed to MeFites who live thousands and thousands of miles away.
posted by Kattullus at 5:52 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Comments like this make Meta toxic.
posted by adamvasco at 6:22 AM on April 17 [14 favorites]


Comments like this make Meta toxic.

Comments like that being called toxic makes Meta toxic.
posted by FencingGal at 6:33 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Comments like that being called toxic makes Meta toxic.

Comments like that being called toxic being called toxic makes...

Look, whatever. The paranoid and hostile brigading from reddit is getting really really old.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:05 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


... except that reddit stuff is fresh to me. The first time I was even aware of it was a few weeks ago when a Meta had gotten pretty bloody bloody. Somebody linked to it. I checked it out and couldn't help laughing. We did sorta look like fools -- some of us anyway, definitely enough of us that, viewed from a sufficient distance, it felt more like satire edging into slapstick than it did proper drama. It certainly cooled me off some.

I don't think it's entirely bad to be reminded that what we are doing here is public. People who want no part of the discussion (for reasons) may be watching and laughing at us.
posted by philip-random at 7:29 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


I don't mind the pointing and laughing, TBH. Life is short. My problem is the stuff that, from what I can tell, is closely associated with hostile comments from a few specific people (favorited by a very similar set of people, some of whom have said, on reddit, that they were going to comment here). Then random outbursts (like the one directly above directed at miko and adamvasco) where people here get jumped on by multiple people in a superhostile way for benign comments. Hence, brigading.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:47 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


RE: Comments like this make Meta toxic.

Nah.

Not that far above that exchange, someone else pointed me to their own thread history on international subject matter in a polite and lovely way. The link dump, however, was not that.

There were no posts on Algeria or Uganda, say, or any other country. Instead, what I got handed was a long list of rules and complaints in post form about how other people talk about international articles, what they do wrong, and what they should be doing instead. There were no polite questions about whether I'd be interested in these posts or, indeed, whether I had already read them.

This was "hall monitoring" writ large.
posted by Violet Blue at 8:11 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


For the avoidance of doubt, this MeTa is not solely aimed at pandering to your needs, Violet Blue.
posted by ambrosen at 8:19 AM on April 17 [27 favorites]


Violet Blue: what I got handed was a long list of rules and complaints in post form about how other people talk about international articles

What makes you so sure that list was meant for you? I saw it as a response to adamvasco's We have been here before. In my view, it was handed to the whole group of people reading the thread, as a way to say 'This is indeed not a new problem that we are discussing here'. Which is true.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:21 AM on April 17 [27 favorites]


The paranoid and hostile brigading from reddit is getting really really old.

You do understand that you are the one actually doing this, right? In both directions.

See a doctor for your main character syndrome, your post history in these threads is nothing but bomb tossing (unlike plenty of others who share your views).
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:21 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


You do understand that you are the one actually doing this, right? In both directions.

Okay, well, I'll just say that I'm not brigading metafilter from reddit, and that accusation is a little too bizarre for me to feel comfortable dunking on you for it. Good luck with everything.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:26 AM on April 17


Bye felicia. For the three hundreth time.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:26 AM on April 17

For the avoidance of doubt, this MeTa is not solely aimed at pandering to your needs, Violet Blue.
I certainly did not think it was, and if I mistook the intent behind the thread dump, I apologize. But I am not so sure I am mistaken. I got taken to task earlier up thread for my use of terminology, first very politely, then a bit less so. I conceded on both counts, and politely, only then to get a third post taking me to task as well, and offering educational links, this time by the thread-dumper. I would call that pretty close to a pile-on. So the appearance of a whole bunch of "how-to" threads piled right at my virtual feet on a subject I'm pretty sure I was the first to raise certainly seemed intended for me.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:22 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


and ummm, because I don't think this info has made it here yet. From the reddit thread about this thread, we get this from Geoff (apparently) posted six days ago:

I am the op, [...] I really had no intention to create drama over this stupid post. My leaving has nothing to do with it. If I knew it would create issues I wouldn't have cancelled my account.

and then a little later:

Absolutely nothing to do with the thread. I just got an email about doxxing and was like well I don't want to cause trouble so let me just cancel that and let things cool off. If I knew it'd be a big deal I'd not have cancelled it and just logged off.

So good news there.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


> So the appearance of a whole bunch of "how-to" threads piled right at my virtual feet on a subject I'm pretty sure I was the first to raise certainly seemed intended for me.

I agree with Too-Ticky's comment, that it makes sense as a response to "we have been here before" and if it was a response to Violet Blue it would be a non sequitur.

I think it's probably not a good idea to see the bottom of a community thread as "right at my virtual feet"
posted by secretseasons at 9:54 AM on April 17 [10 favorites]


Mod note: I think we've covered all the useful territory we're going to cover, so I'm going to close this up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:06 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


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