Moderation Log February 22, 2023 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I’d like to open a discussion about the possibility of a public moderator log that would record all moderation activities on the site.

I love this site but one thing I do not care for is when I revisit a thread and notice that one or several comments have vanished into the ether. An example would be this thread. A mod posted a note attempting to stop an early derail and indicated that no comments were deleted. Sometime after that a number of comments were deleted with no additional mod notes. The original note was also not edited.

I propose some kind of publicly accessible moderator log so users could at least see if mods have deleted a post or stepped in and pruned a thread. It could be as simple as “1 comment deleted from THREAD on DATE (REASON).”

Entries on the log should be as automatic as possible with no easy way to bypass it. I’m envisioning some kind of dropdown list similar to the flag dropdown so the mod-on-duty could select a deletion reason. I believe that most (all?) posts are deleted with a mod note so that could just be duplicated on the log. It should go without saying that the log would not be able to be modified.

Discussion points in this thread should focus on if the idea of a moderator log is something the community is for or against and what that log should look like if people are generally for the idea.
posted by Diskeater to MetaFilter-Related at 11:28 AM (342 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

I am 90% against this, for reasons I cannot articulate. Or rather, I'm sure people who have given this more thought than I have will come along and articulate the AGAINST case far better than I would, so I'll leave it to them.

However, I do want to say that if it DOES come to pass, it should be visible only to logged in users. It should not be accessible to google or maybe not even searchable. It should not be included in anyway in the data dump. And maybe even individual entries should be visible only to users who joined before the deletion moderation even occurred (though on that last point, I can see problems if users who get new usernames want to see previous entries when they were already members but under a different name).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:42 AM on February 22, 2023 [8 favorites]


This would spawn an infinite set of angry metatalk threads questioning every decision made by the mods.
posted by dhruva at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2023 [82 favorites]


I'm not clear on what this solves. It wouldn't change the jarring sense one gets when multiple comments have been deleted, nor would it calm disagreements over the deletions. It would just...document that they happened? But generally mods are already doing that in-thread. It also wouldn't solve any issues around whether a deletion was valid (unless, presumably, the log included the deleted comment).
posted by mittens at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]


I feel like one part of moderation is to uphold the site's values and protect users from abuse. I think another part is to facilitate good discussions. I think to some degree, especially for the second part, it may be good that moderation is less visible. (e.g., stopping a derail that is interfering with a thread without the moderation itself becoming a derail)

That said, maybe a separate moderation log would be a good substitute for in-thread comments. Like it could make moderation even less visible to people who don't necessarily want to see it, while also providing documentation to those who want to know. I would imagine this would come with an agreement that digging up stuff from the moderation log and bringing it back into the original thread would be forbidden.
posted by snofoam at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]


I just don't believe that will do anything but to create additional headaches.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2023 [9 favorites]


[one comment deleted]
[one comment complaining about comment deletion deleted]
[one comment complaining about deleting the comment complaining about the deletion deleted]
...
posted by bondcliff at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2023 [18 favorites]


I believe that most (all?) posts are deleted with a mod note so that could just be duplicated on the log. It should go without saying that the log would not be able to be modified.

Historically it's been more the opposite: most individual deletions don't necessarily get a note, and notes have been used more to earmark those cases where there was something particularly disruptive or out of line or where the deletion itself would likely cause confusion by making the thread less coherent. For stuff gotten to quickly enough to avoid an initial mess, or where the deletion's a pretty routine issue or a user asking to have their own comment deleted shortly after the fact, there typically hasn't been a mod note.

Mod practice has shifted a little more over the last few years toward leaving notes more liberally for edge cases, but it's still less than even odds that any given non-clusterfucky deletion situation would get a note. Most of them aren't notable. And one of the difficulties I can foresee in creating an automated log of every deletion is that folks who look at deletions as inherently suspicious won't see from an abstracted log that a routine deletion is routine, they'll just see evidence that the mods are deleting stuff and what's going on THERE, exactly, etc.

Asking at the contact form about the substance of a deletion has always been fine, and the slight friction there means the mods will only need to put time into responses when someone really cares rather than because of idle "well it says here in the mod log" curiosity or reflexive distrust of moderation per se. In my not-my-problem-anymore opinion, this would just create new coding and maintenance work for frimble and busywork for the mod team without providing any substantial benefit to the community at large.
posted by cortex (retired) at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2023 [20 favorites]


And, to try and be constructive: I think the example thread Diskeater mentions in the post is a good case for adding a followup mod note after the first one to clarify that over time the mod or mods involved did decide to delete some stuff after all. That's a case where an additional mod note can be helpful for folks trying to suss out what happened in a complicated case, and I think it makes sense to encourage consistency from the mod team on that front, even if it ends up meaning looping back after the fact when the situation itself has basically cooled down and moved on.

But I don't think it's a case where an automated moderation log would provide much new info: it's implicit from context (people quoting stuff that doesn't appear in a preceding comment, etc) that some deleting happened after all, and the point of friction is more about what/why/when than on the notion that moderators deleted comments at all; anything short of just making the deleted comments visible in full would leave it still at just "some stuff got deleted", and I don't know that a log of that fact accomplishes anything meaningful, vs. pressing for more consistent non-automated public notation.
posted by cortex (retired) at 1:20 PM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


I think this is a bad idea. Will just lead to more back-and-forth drama. I do think Mods should post that comments were removed at the time that they are removed.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:33 PM on February 22, 2023 [7 favorites]


Metafilter is a site entirely made up of user-generated content. No users, no content, no Metafilter. A large chunk of that content are the comments. As someone that mainly reads instead of participates, I find it unsettling in a way I can’t properly articulate when I open a thread and don’t see comments that were there earlier. Or when there are obvious gaps in the flow of conversation. Does it happen often? Not really. But it does happen and when it does it makes the site just feel off to me. A log would allow people to at least see that those comments did exist.

I don’t believe that a log would lead to a long-term increase in drama or MeTa posts. An existence of a log won’t cause comments to be deleted. Comments will be deleted with or without a log. The log would simply show what’s going on. If that causes drama, well, why is that?

Plus, isn’t one of the goals of New Metafilter increased transparency? What could be more transparent than a moderation log? Or is that too transparent?
posted by Diskeater at 1:42 PM on February 22, 2023 [14 favorites]


I've seen the idea of a moderation log brought up several times before in MetaTalk comments, and the example that's often pointed to is the Lobsters moderation log.

(This post doesn't include it as an example, but I'm actually not aware of any other sites that include a public moderation log; Diskeater, if you have another successful example of a moderation log in mind, can you share it?)

Now, Lobsters is a nice little site, and does better than most "tech" discussion sites I frequent. But I don't think it's really a good example for Metafilter.

For one thing, Lobsters is small. The stats show 1,500-2,000 active monthly users, and only 4,000-5,000 comments per month. A really active comment thread on Lobsters gets 50 comments.

For another thing, it's a very intentionally single-topic site. If you post a link that isn't about computing, it will get deleted; if you post an off-topic comment in a thread, it will also get deleted. This is enforced to the point that links about computer companies will generally get deleted, with a note saying "Lobsters is not for business news". I imagine the Metafilter moderators would have an easier job with such tight constraints!

Lastly, while a lot of Lobsters members like the moderation log, it hasn't made too much of a difference in day-to-day moderation AFAICT. Lobsters has always had a small number of mods (1-3), who moderate fairly strictly but are well-trusted by the users. The mod log wasn't introduced into an environment where the community and mods were trying to build trust; it was included from the start because the original developer was annoyed at having been banned from Hacker News... for complaining about opaque moderation!

I like the idea of more transparency at MetaFilter, but I'm skeptical that a moderation log would scale to a site with this many active users, variety of topics, and meta discussion. At least, I'd love to see other examples of it working first. :)
posted by learning from frequent failure at 2:02 PM on February 22, 2023 [12 favorites]


I do not like the "direct and shape conversation" remit of mod deletions and would like to see much less of it. I think more detailed and clear cut (and constrained) moderation guidelines would better achieve my goal.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:10 PM on February 22, 2023 [15 favorites]


Users have been asking mods to direct and shape conversations for like a decade now, though - be it nukes, or I/P, or not having sealioning in threads, or not making every thread on a certain subject a knock-down-drag-out fight.

I don't think complaints about the moderation should be in this thread, honestly. It should be about whether we want a moderation log, given the current moderation model.
posted by sagc at 2:15 PM on February 22, 2023 [19 favorites]


There is already an unofficial log of post deletions, I believe run by zachlipton.

(Separate from the question of comment deletions.)
posted by brainwane at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2023 [5 favorites]


I can understand that the former business owner wants to maintain their connection to the site and have their fun as a user like anyone else. But, as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.
posted by hypnogogue at 2:37 PM on February 22, 2023 [11 favorites]


Diskeater, if you have another successful example of a moderation log in mind, can you share it?

Two examples that come to mind are SomethingAwful and Reddit. SA mods will add a note at the bottom of a comment if it results in a timeout or ban and I believe that note can be clicked on to see a history of timeouts / bans. Reddit will replace the content with [Deleted].

Might not be the best or most accurate examples (I haven’t posted to SA in well over 15 years) because Metafilter is pretty much the only place I ‘hang out’ online of its kind.

The root of this issue, to me, is content control. Users here cannot delete their own content. The only way for that content to be removed is via mod action. Right now it is possible for comments to be disappeared without any trace they existed in the first place. A log would at least show “this comment did exist and was removed because derail / double post / user request / mod on duty was bored / it's Friday / whatever”.
posted by Diskeater at 2:42 PM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]


Speaking just as a member, most of the times that I know I’ve been deleted have been at my request, and I would really dislike having the deleted comments preserved, as I decided they had no value. In the cases where I derailed a thread or whatever, I still wouldn’t want them preserved or to think other people were rubbernecking at my accident.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


I'd love to see a drop-down tool for mods to use when deleting a comment - similar to what users have when flagging one - to easily record the straightforward reason a comment was deleted, and then that comment would be deleted in-thread and replaced with a pre-coded:

[one comment deleted because of (reason a, b, c)]

This would
1) help address the issues raised in 'mod deletion policy' thread and related discussions here. If none of the drop-down choices explain a mod deletion decision, that gives them a prompt to think more deeply - and be able to articulate - why they are doing so.

2) make it easier/quicker for mods to do 'routine/obvious' deletions

3) leave a record in-thread that something was deleted, to reduce later confusion.
posted by twsf at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, I have absolutely no interest in a moderation log, not do I think we need one. Maybe I'm not representative of much of the user base, but I generally subscribe to the "flag it and move on" school of thought around here, emphasis on the "move on" part of that motto. I have maybe been mildly "confused" by a comment deletion perhaps once, and it was after showing up late to a dumpster fire of a political thread which I probably would have been better off just bypassing anyway. I think that encouraging forensic auditing of mod decisions is just giving fodder to users that have axes to grind and would contribute little else.
posted by niicholas at 3:22 PM on February 22, 2023 [32 favorites]


A log sounded reasonable to me initially, but ehh... most of the "invisible" moderating is helpful, in terms of either gently sweeping away what could have been a distraction/derail or just allowing the user's overstep to fade away.

As I have said before, I find it helpful to think of being deleted less as being struck down by authority and more like having a friend say, "Dude... be cool." Keeping it off the books is an extension of that kindness.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2023 [26 favorites]


Transparency would be nice, but I suspect the ensuing fights would destroy the site.

I wish I had a thousand sockpuppets to favorite Meatbomb’s “I do not like the ‘direct and shape conversation’” comment. Conflating that sentiment with simple, well-established topic bans borders on bad faith argumentation. There’s a world of difference between “it is impossible for a left-leaning site to have a civil discussion about Israel/Palestine, so we’re just not gonna do that” and the sporadic “no this thread must go the way I think it should” mid-thread mass deletion events.

Which I’ve witnessed a few of, but can’t point to because… there’s no log. Which I still generally think would be a bad idea not because it would lead to less just outcomes but because there would be no site left to argue about soon after.

Counterpoint: personally I welcome and encourage cortex’s perspective here and everywhere else. I don’t think any of us think things went as well as they could have, but he has a wealth of experience and insight into the dynamics of moderation while no longer being on the spot for speaking as a moderator. Nobody is going to agree with every decision a site owner makes over that long a period, but he’s always been 100% trying to do the best thing for the site regardless of the personal toll, knows things the rest of us don’t, and I want to hear what he has to say.
posted by Ryvar at 3:55 PM on February 22, 2023 [19 favorites]


as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.

Wow. What. No. I suspect no matter how many people agree with you it is less than the amount of people who think that is nonsense.

I apologize if I am doing that thing defending people who do not need that.
posted by Glinn at 3:56 PM on February 22, 2023 [82 favorites]


I can understand that the former business owner wants to maintain their connection to the site and have their fun as a user like anyone else. But, as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.

This is such a wildly shitty thing to say.
posted by curious nu at 4:16 PM on February 22, 2023 [107 favorites]


I think this is a well-crafted post and a good discussion to have. Thanks, Diskeater, for raising it.

I'm generally in favor of mod notes in-thread for almost all comment deletions, for reasons of both transparency and because it is confusing and I think can inadvertently raise the temperature when people are unsure of whether deletions have occurred. I'm skeptical of the idea of a central moderation log collecting all deletions, for the reasons others have elaborated. I'd be opposed to more detailed logs of moderation actions, such as including information about whose comments are being deleted, but that doesn't seem to be proposed here.

Would a policy of always leaving mod notes in-thread, except possibly in specific pre-defined or unusual circumstances, meet the same need as a moderation log?
posted by biogeo at 4:28 PM on February 22, 2023 [10 favorites]


Yes, a moderation log, featuring usernames, mod reasoning, and a link to all past deletions of content by that user… but its contents can only be discussed in a new MetaMetaTalk subsite, in either Esperanto or Croutonese.

More seriously, I like either the current model (so, no change), or a very simple log of Ye Olde Weblogge Schoole — a single line for each post, with a number to note comments deleted. I don’t need or want to see explanations of why comments or posts got yanked. I could theoretically see a Reddit-esque [Deleted] notation, but I think that would be both jarring and diminish readability, so long as we are not threading discussions (a thing I do not want here and am not suggesting).

Good crafting, Diskeater.
posted by cupcakeninja at 4:38 PM on February 22, 2023 [1 favorite]


"Shaping threads" (or "keeping threads from going off the rails", if you prefer) seemed like the preferable alternative to the other option, more willingness to close threads entirely.

We've seen a lot of threads about just how quickly one thread-shitty comment early on can make someone not want to post anymore. Is it better to prune bad comments & let the thread hopefully recover, or to let it go off the cliff and close it up once there's wreckage?

Ultimately, I don't think a moderation log is going to be helpful, and it would be likely to accelerate the destruction of the community/site.
posted by CrystalDave at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


Discussion of shaping threads is a derail.

As far as a moderation log, I lean toward preferring that any relevant notes in the the thread. But if notes were required, how much mod time would that eat?
posted by NotLost at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


Cheers, Biogeo. It was your recent MeTa post that inspired me to finally jump in the deep end with this post so thank you.

I would be fine with an in-thread mod note when a comment is removed. Personally I think it might make threads look a little cluttered but the important thing is that there is a log, whatever form that may take.

I still don't quite get the argument that a log (or in-thread note, whatever) would cause an unreasonable amount of grar in the community. At the risk of repeating myself, a log would just indicate that a comment or post was deleted for whatever reason. Why would a public moderation record raise the temperature of the room? Wouldn't the issue be that the comment / post was deleted in the first place?
posted by Diskeater at 5:03 PM on February 22, 2023 [6 favorites]


I'm not a fan of the moderation log idea, although I understand the desire for transparency. I don't believe this would solve the issues people think they would and may even make things worse.

The main reason I'm not a fan is that it would provide fodder for the few that are opposed to moderation decisions they disagree with and increase rather than decrease arguments about whether a decision was wrong or not. Just because a moderation decision is noted in a log in no way changes someone's view that the decision itself was wrong. Even if a reason for the decision was included, it's not likely to change someone's view that the decision itself was wrong, but would just provide another vector for attack because of a view that the decision AND the reason were wrong.

The other reason is that a log would be something that has to be created and maintained and the scarce coding resources available would be better allocated to making the site function better.

If greater transparency of comment deletion is actually a desirable thing, here is a change that could be implemented that would not require any coding or development work and likely wouldn't increase moderator workload - instead of a comment being deleted, it could be edited to read 'deleted'. This would leave a placeholder showing that something has happened, removing the confusion that having them disappear inexplicably creates. At the cost of additional moderator work, the reason could be added, but I'm of the view that this would make things worse, although it would effectively create a log.

If anything like this is implemented, it's important to remember that transparency has to work both ways - you can't expect transparency from moderators but insist on your own privacy in terms of deleted comments.

I can understand that the former business owner wants to maintain their connection to the site and have their fun as a user like anyone else. But, as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.
cortex is a member of this community with no greater or lesser standing than anyone else.
posted by dg at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2023 [11 favorites]


I can understand that the former business owner wants to maintain their connection to the site and have their fun as a user like anyone else. But, as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.

I agree that somebody should stay out of the gray, but it isn't Cortex.
posted by COD at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2023 [21 favorites]


My basic take on the moderation log idea has been well elucidated by others already. Not in favour. Wouldn't be at all surprised if it caused even more stress and turmoil for reasons. But I wouldn't mind if there were more Mod notes in thread when stuff happens. Not always. Not as a rule. Just enough to (hopefully) increase clarity
posted by philip-random at 6:06 PM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


I'm inclined to prefer minimalist in-thread "deleted" notes.
posted by tangerine at 6:07 PM on February 22, 2023 [6 favorites]


I can understand that the former business owner wants to maintain their connection to the site and have their fun as a user like anyone else. But, as helpful as I see them trying to be, perhaps they should stick to the blue and no longer involve themselves in the gray. I suspect many more than just me want to move on from those days.

I understand the thought behind this (although I don't agree) but it could have been stated more diplomatically, or perhaps even privately to the Steering Committee. It's hard not to read the statement as anything other than mean-spirited.

With regards to a log, while I see how this can be attractive I'm not sure that it would solve any problems. I'm quite happy with the occasional mod deletion notes.
posted by ashbury at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by ashbury at 6:13 PM on February 22, 2023 [5 favorites]


I'm just musing about contexts to think about, here, rather than suggesting policy. Note in particular I am not referencing or even particularly up on any specific moderation dramas.

A low-transparency model worked much better way back when moderation was done with high trust. Not perfectly, of course, there's always some disagreement. Still pretty great! Your happy beloved moderator friends are doing their happy beloved moderator job. In the olden days, this was, what, one or two people?

The old low-transparency model works less well when the user constituency has grown more contentious about those decisions. More people are making moderation decisions, there are more of them to make, and -- from the perspective of the user base -- it's all more opaque. Low transparency works against maintaining that formerly higher trust level.

MetaFilter's trust/transparency dials clearly need some tuning to make people happier. The tools we use to twist those dials are worth at least bringing up and talking about.
posted by majick at 6:14 PM on February 22, 2023 [3 favorites]


For one thing, Lobsters is small. The stats show 1,500-2,000 active monthly users, and only 4,000-5,000 comments per month. A really active comment thread on Lobsters gets 50 comments

We’re bigger, but last I heard not that much bigger, now. I kind of like the idea, personally, the transparency is appealing, and while there might be drama, it might also help clarify the modding policies.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:07 PM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]


I absolutely agree there should be a public indication of deleted comments. I'd much prefer it happen in-thread, rather than having to check in a different place, but I do agree it should happen. It feeds into a lack of community accountability for both users and moderators to just disappear things.
posted by lapis at 7:45 PM on February 22, 2023 [8 favorites]


Another vote for minimalist in-thread "deleted" notes rather than a moderation log. I also would prefer that these usually live at the very end of any thread, rather than at the exact location where deletions have happened, and that the notes have very very minimal information - i.e., "one comment deleted", or "some comments deleted". It would be nice if these also include a time stamp along the lines of "10:46 PM one comment deleted". If the thread is modified later that would change to "2:05 AM some comments deleted". I really don't want a long string or log of deletions, just a brief tally at the end of a thread that has had deletions.

The only time I might want to see a note within a thread, or something with more detail, is if a really serious issue/derail/guidelines violation has happened, or particularly if a user has been asked to leave the thread, but for me that is the exception, rather than the rule.
posted by gudrun at 8:26 PM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


Why would a public moderation record raise the temperature of the room?

I think the fear is that it would create tangible evidence of a deletion where none had been. Sometimes careful reading of a thread will reveal a spot where a deletion (or deletions) occurred, but if there's actual tea leaves to be read then it invites any shit-stirrer who comes along later to notice and start a fight about it, whereas without affirmative indication of a deletion they have to do the work of figuring it out themselves.
posted by axiom at 10:31 PM on February 22, 2023 [2 favorites]


I see multiple people commenting that we would just like an indication "comment deleted." Does the conversation in this thread suffice, or is there another way for those of us who support this idea to make a formal suggestion - and to whom? - to consider making this the standard moderation policy/format?
posted by twsf at 10:47 PM on February 22, 2023 [4 favorites]


I'm just a lurker, but just wanted to say that I'd really like to see a super snappy "comment deleted- [reason e.g. off topic]" or "some comments deleted- off topic" (when it's happened in fairly quick succession) when, well, a comment gets deleted. No need for a lengthy pronouncement (in fact probably best avoided most of the time), but I think that an indication that a comment has disappeared, and a very basic reason as to why would be good to know when I'm reading a discussion. I'd be fine with a log as well.
posted by hotcoroner at 11:35 PM on February 22, 2023 [18 favorites]


Absolutely agree that they're should be some kind of indicator of deleted comments somewhere. I like the way Reddit does it with just a little [deleted] in thread but a separate log would be OK too.

There seems to be a weird pessimism to some of the objections that it would raise too many complaints. People seem to think Metafilter only holds together because the users don't realise what the mods are doing, that transparency must be a bad thing because everyone would explode with rage if they really knew what was going on.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:28 AM on February 23, 2023 [17 favorites]


I will never forget how I truly groked metafilter deletions! I sent a cheery email saying "hey guys just wanted to let you know about a glitch, my comment is missing from this thread" and jessamyn replied saying something like 'no, no glitch, we deleted your comment because it was XYZphobic'.

Massive massive eye opener to me, and it helped reshape my thinking. Definitely a moment that I can point to as a, well, life-changing moment!

As to a deletion log, I think "comment deleted" notes in thread can be helpful, and I like the idea of an in-thread counter of deletions.

I feel like the contentious thread and aftermath would have been a bit better if there had been a note about the second comment deleted- "comment deleted, please use contact form".
posted by freethefeet at 2:44 AM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


I do find the “comments deleted” note helpful if I’m coming back to a thread and part of the conversation is missing, or comments are still left responding to something that’s clearly no longer there. I wouldn’t mind seeing that used a bit more liberally. But building a new formal infrastructure to log all deletions isn’t where I’d personally spend the site’s limited developer time. The benefit sounds minimal to me.
posted by Stacey at 2:56 AM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


I feel like adding [deleted] rather than invisibly deleting (most) comments makes discussion harder to follow, most of the time. On Reddit, I'm continually wondering what was deleted and why and whether it was a comment with good information that was phrased in artfully or an offensive drive-by or what. [deleted] leaves a lot of open loops in my brain.

The linked thread at the top of this post is a good counter-example of a time when there are weird, jarring gaps in the discussion because of deletions, but I feel like those are more the exception than the rule.

I guess what I'm saying is that, under the current regime, sometimes deletions make a discussion harder to follow, and under a regime in which every deletion is noted in-thread, deletions would always make discussion harder to follow.

I also agree that a moderation log would at best create more busy-work for the mods and more likely foster more occasions for people to re-litigate their deletions.

I don't think people participate on this website because it has great transparency in all of its operations and every single mod decision. I think people participate on this website because the discussions that take place here, and the community that those discussions foster, are important to them. That, to me, says that a balance has to be struck between people understanding and/or trusting moderation decisions, and fostering prosocial discussion. I don't think that transparency -- although a good and important value -- must always trump discussion or other values that hold this community together.
posted by gauche at 3:42 AM on February 23, 2023 [10 favorites]


I think it is pretty simple. We want to add a note each time a comment is deleted (for transparency), but also want to avoid details caused by people wondering/commenting about what was deleted (so discussion can progress without distraction). Clearly the best way to do this is to add a short note each time a comment is deleted (e.g., Deleted - off topic), but also for every actual deletion, add 5-10 additional mod notes of the same nature. Technically, there will be complete transparency because all deletions will be noted, but it will also be basically impossible to tell where actual moderation occurred. Plus, we will quickly see so many of these notes we will start subconsciously ignoring them, especially because we know the vast majority are bogus. I am pretty sure this solution would make everyone happy, so if we’re all in agreement, I guess we can wrap up this thread.
posted by snofoam at 3:55 AM on February 23, 2023 [6 favorites]


As a counterpoint, rather than being unsettled when I return to a post that’s had some light tidying up done, I appreciate that a mess has been quietly cleaned up without fanfare. I don’t want to know when folks have been acting up- that’s between them and the mods, and if you can’t remember whether your comment was deleted, did it make a sound?

That said, if it’s something we’re interested in pursuing, it should be tidy and out of the way, not Reddit style [comment deleted] [comment deleted] cluttering up the place. While a link to a log is one option, let’s consider subtler methods, like having every post start with a gold star that vanishes once something is deleted, or a “It has been X comments since a workplace incident” sign somewhere.
posted by zamboni at 4:47 AM on February 23, 2023 [12 favorites]


I'm not personally interested in a log as a separate thing, but I would like deletions to be more consistently and frequently noted in-thread. Not necessarily with every removed comment marked separately as "deleted" - cases of mass deletion could be quite disruptive to the thread's flow - but at very least a mod note to say that comment(s) have been deleted.

I've often come across pages where comments are referring to something said earlier that no longer exists, and there's no mod note about anything being deleted, and it's quite jarring. Was there a single bad comment? A whole massive argument? Was it a specific topic that prompted the deletion, and if so how do I know what to avoid saying now? Is it just a bug?

I also often leave a page open, linking to a specific comment, so I can come back to read more later. Occasionally I come back, reload the page, and find my position on the page has reverted to the top. I reload a few more times, before realising the comment I linked to has apparently gone, but there's no note to explain why I thought I was going mad.
posted by fabius at 5:38 AM on February 23, 2023 [5 favorites]


Was there a single bad comment? A whole massive argument?

What would you do differently in these two instances?
posted by zamboni at 5:58 AM on February 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


Hey cortex! Thanks for taking the time to offer a few opinions based on your years of moderation, it is appreciated! I'm glad to see that you recognize all of this as 'not your problem anymore' but am grateful that you took the time to offer some advice!

As noted by other commentators, you're always welcome here on the site and in MeTa, to share what you're learned over the years!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:03 AM on February 23, 2023 [50 favorites]


I think it's a great idea to have a separate log with one-line when|who|what|where|why information. A repository of mod activity would convey a "sense of place", and help new users in particular to find their bearings, while it would preserve the benefits of surreptitious mod activity, namely to avoid thread disruption.
posted by dmh at 7:06 AM on February 23, 2023


This is not quite the request that's been made periodically over the years and turned down on a "too resource-intensive" basis - that'd be the request to be personally notified of deletions. (That one, I still think isn't feasible, especially with lower-than-peak staffing levels.) And while my reflex was the same, on reflection, I think that some kind of simple automation (even just putting a note along the lines of "x comments have been deleted from this thread) might not be a terrible idea.

Used to be, if you wondered about a deletion, you could just ask. Used to be, you could expect a response within 15 minutes, any time of the day or night. If you wanted to call out a deletion, you could hop over to MetaTalk and everyone could talk about the moderation of a given thread, while that thread didn't get disrupted by the meta-conversation. It's a clever setup and it worked for a long time.

Except, for various reasons, MetaTalk became too resource-intensive on its own. I have a lot of thoughts about that - it's something I talked about in that fundraiser Zoom with Loup - but it happened and it's not going to un-happen. The queue ended up being such a suppressing force that MetaTalk stopped functioning as a place to discuss mundane, specific moderation questions. So that channel isn't here any more, and I suspect the mod response time to MeMail is now in the hours-to-days timeframe, for very understandable reasons.

And so now it's more of a black box than it ever was, even with the substantially increased rate of mod notes. A quick "something happened here" automated function might do a good job of making people feel more in the loop, and I don't think it's necessarily going to drastically increase the workload. (Unlike a user-notification function, which opens a communication channel that then needs to be managed.)
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2023 [17 favorites]


No matter which direction this ends up going, it bears repeating that Diskeater brought this up in a fair and valuable way and the discussion is worth having.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2023 [25 favorites]


it bears repeating that Diskeater brought this up in a fair and valuable way and the discussion is worth having.

Indeed. Thank you.

Why would a public moderation record raise the temperature of the room? Wouldn't the issue be that the comment / post was deleted in the first place?

Not speaking to this feature request which I think is for the community to decide and hash out but speaking to this specific question. There are users on MeFi who feel like mods should delete a bunch more and users who think mods should delete a bunch less and a lot of users also in the middle or who don't care.

For users who don't care, they may not notice a silent deletion of some sort of guideline-breaking comment (let's just posit some sort of "Fuck you, user ABC, you're a bad person with bad opinions" comment) and the thread just continues on. With mod notification like "Comment removed. Please refer to the Content Policy and do not call other users names" you can get a lot of people who care about moderation (it's a fine thing to care about) who then want to talk about that deletion or the user who made that comment or the mod who made that deletion.

I feel, potentially, that you'd get people who want the site to err on the side of fewer deletions who would just become deletion-log readers and want to have a discussion about either deleted comments or relative deletion-stats of various mods which gets awkward because some mods, just because of when their shifts happen, do the bulk of the comment deletion but it's not (imo) anything to do with the personality of that mod. Or one user might only be moderated by one mod and decide that's personal instead of timing. And those discussions could get contentious. So I don't think it's a guaranteed temperature raiser, but in my professional experience it's a likely one.

cortex is welcome here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2023 [55 favorites]


METAFILTER: cortex is welcome here
posted by philip-random at 11:11 AM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


What is the average number of deletions a day? Either over time, or, say, in the last six months?
posted by Miko at 11:58 AM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]


One more thing for Metafilter to fight over? Sure, why not.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:38 PM on February 23, 2023 [5 favorites]


Hi all, thanks to everyone for making this a fruitful discussion. Based on this thread it seems like the idea of a separate moderation log is not something that will fly. It does look like people may be more amenable to in-thread mod notes when a comment is deleted and I’d like to shift focus to that, if possible.

I propose that a mod must always post a note when a comment is deleted, enforced via a change in policy or by technical means (or both!).

We all know that code time for the site is limited and any suggested change will tap into those resources. I envision that in-thread deletion notes would utilize a dropdown similar to how flagging works now: the mod would select from a preset list of reasons (derail, double comment, spam, user request, etc) with a freeform option. The comment is deleted after a reason is selected and a mod note would automatically be posted that says something like “comment deleted; REASON”. I also believe that the mod should have to intentionally do another action (press another button, whatever) to NOT leave a note.

It wouldn’t be that far off from how things are now but I believe it would be a big step towards transparency and free puppies for all.

Jessamyn, thanks for your response to my question. I do think there could be ways to build a mod log that could minimize those issues (example: the log could be just a list of threads and any mod actions in those threads with no identifying user or mod information) but the community has spoken and it’s all good. I agree that a log or mandatory in-thread notes or anything like that would probably give fuel to the grar crowd but I believe the benefits outweigh the theoretical downsides and we shouldn’t let potential-grar stand in the way of whatever the opposite of grar is.
posted by Diskeater at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2023 [8 favorites]


I genuinely don’t understand why there’s any objection to leaving a tag that says “[post deleted].” Many other systems on the internet do this and I’m unaware of any time it’s led to massive problems on any system. Yes, sure, we can spend literally weeks chewing over all the chaos that might possibly maybe hypothetically ensue if the management implemented a practice already in wide use across the entire internet, but really, this seems like such a ridiculously common thing on every single system I’ve ever used that I’m really not sure what the problem is or why anyone is so dead set against it. I mean, other than “change is bad.”
posted by holborne at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2023 [19 favorites]


Is the estimate of 2 deletions per day, on average, accurate? That's really not terribly much. It doesn't seem like it'd be a huge burden, either to leave the note or to drop a MeMail to the person.

At the point where there are clear standards/guidelines, those emails can even be pretty automated since text would be roughly the same each time.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


If there are proactive notifications that you've had anything deleted, I'd love a way to opt out of it
posted by sagc at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


I hate myself but I can't resist.

Metafilter: we can spend literally weeks chewing over all the chaos that might possibly maybe hypothetically ensue if the management implemented a practice
posted by Jarcat at 1:33 PM on February 23, 2023 [7 favorites]


Just in case people didn't see it from another MeTa thread: more deletion notes with standardized reasons is part of the "action items" section of a recent Meta discussion. Not sure what time frames look like but in case folks didn't see that outline, it is here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:57 PM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


That's really not terribly much. It doesn't seem like it'd be a huge burden, either to leave the note or to drop a MeMail to the person.

Hi, new mod here (and speaking just for myself) noting that my first week on the job involved a snide attack after I removed a comment and left a note about removing the comment, then another attack in the form of a very grar like and name calling Meta (which was not approved) after I deleted a Metafilter post.

None of which is an argument against (or for!) having a moderation log, but just wanted to point out that grary and fighty comments about moderation records do occur, so it doesn't surprise me that some people are leery.

I personally think it's fine to have the log and/or notes, but don't think it's solving the problem behind all this, aka trusting the mods. If folks who don't trust the mods could offer or verify that notes and/or a log would help establish trust, that would be a useful information.

If not that, then what do people proposed to establish and maintain trust between moderators and community members?
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 2:08 PM on February 23, 2023 [15 favorites]


this seems like such a ridiculously common thing on every single system I’ve ever used that I’m really not sure what the problem is or why anyone is so dead set against it. I mean, other than “change is bad.”

Is this like an ask vs. guess thing? From my perspective, if someone has something deleted, that's a matter for that person and the mods, and I don't want to even know about it. For me, lacunae in threads are like a WET FLOOR - PISO MOJADO sign in Aisle 12 - something's been cleaned up, but unless I'm involved, I'm not interested in the specifics.
posted by zamboni at 2:12 PM on February 23, 2023 [11 favorites]


I genuinely don’t understand why there’s any objection to leaving a tag that says “[post deleted].” Many other systems on the internet do this and I’m unaware of any time it’s led to massive problems on any system. Yes, sure, we can spend literally weeks chewing over all the chaos that might possibly maybe hypothetically ensue if the management implemented a practice already in wide use across the entire internet, but really, this seems like such a ridiculously common thing on every single system I’ve ever used that I’m really not sure what the problem is or why anyone is so dead set against it. I mean, other than “change is bad.”

To me, this type of objection feels like it's saying "our community contains dysfunctions, but acknowledging as much in any way that might prompt conversations about change is scary." If there are few deletions, then surely adding a [post deleted] marker is basically trivial. If there are many deletions... something is wrong. I'm not even pointing fingers in any particular direction, it just seems obvious to conclude that if deletions are distractingly common, there is a breakdown somewhere in the community. Maybe it means there is a set of problem users who the mods have not been able to effectively deal with. Maybe it means the mods are capricious in deleting. Maybe it means the discussion guidelines are unclear and users and mods are recurrently talking past each other. Who knows! And it feels like there is a persistent faction on the site that very strongly wants never to unpack that question. I doubt they represent a majority of users over chronological time, but they hold a ton of sway in any given moment because community members who become bothered by all the aforementioned are continually falling away.
posted by dusty potato at 2:31 PM on February 23, 2023 [12 favorites]


I also think a real functioning metatalk would help but since it seems like that ship has sailed,

The fact that MetaTalk conversations don't always end with the outcomes that you personally are looking for is a feature, not a bug.
posted by Mayor West at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2023 [6 favorites]


I think there's some disconnect here over how many deletions there are every day. Is it two? Twenty? Is the number the same for FPPs, in Ask, in Meta?

It'd also help to know what the breakdown on reasons are, even if it's just at the level of the flags (offensive, breaks guidelines, derail, excessively fighty, poster request).

I realize this may not be tracked; rough guesses from the mods are fine. But it's hard to make policy when it's not clear what the scope is, and what problems actually occur.
posted by zompist at 3:46 PM on February 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


I do not support this idea.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:16 PM on February 23, 2023


If folks who don't trust the mods could offer or verify that notes and/or a log would help establish trust, that would be a useful information.

I don’t have a ton of trust in moderation on this site right now, and lack of transparency is a major reason why. I’m neutral on the specific proposal, but I don’t see how I’d come to a place of more trust without transparency.

A lot of mistrust comes down to my perception of a mismatch between how the mods talk about moderation, and how they actually practice it. I believe that increased mod transparency will either force mods to address the dishonesty and hypocrisy I believe to be at play, or else it’ll reveal I’ve been wrong and need to adjust my thinking. Either outcome would be an improvement and would make me feel better about hanging out here.
posted by dorothy hawk at 4:23 PM on February 23, 2023 [13 favorites]


zompist, agreed, I have no idea the scope of deleted comments and threads to justify a revamped mod note publicly available feature. Also, if a comment is deleted and does not disrupt the content, why place a note. No note is like a small infraction warning/correction, a note is like a direct warning/correction. Like Zamboni' sign, do I want to know about something that's been deleted that I wouldn't know about in the first place. Brandon Blatcher in training gave a classic clear mod deletion and note plus a thread deleted. That's clear modding and asks the question most pertinent, will open logs help clear up mistrust of mod decisions. As a whole, I'm not in favor and seems part of the ombuds idea. But the on-line mod note for each deletion is again like getting a sign when none may be needed and if it gets ugly like Brandon had to deal with, that's how and for the most like 97%, all mods handle a situation.

I’m neutral on the specific proposal, but I don’t see how I’d come to a place of more trust without transparency.

I get this but having public mod notes is the most transparency I can think of and am also not a fan of the open note idea so I'm led back to an ombuds, forget arbitrator, few bans occur to facilitate a legal team mefi, imo. But an Ombuds is a figure for transparency where logs are transparent, photons mostly and alot of emotions.

This is an annoyingly uncharitable reading.
I disagree. You, the Mayor and I know better. He called me a name months back if I read the comment wrong which I didn't. No harm, no fowl and if I did feel flubbed I use memail but that's me and there has always been a que or delay for metatalk, I put one up, got all upset because there's two Ukraine threads. the mods did me a favor there.
Now I rather bare my fumble here, by me, then in some deleted MetaTalk log.
posted by clavdivs at 4:59 PM on February 23, 2023


For one thing, Lobsters is small. The stats show 1,500-2,000 active monthly users, and only 4,000-5,000 comments per month. A really active comment thread on Lobsters gets 50 comments.

this is probably an almost exact description of the size of this website?

i think one of the major problems with MetaFilter is the idea that it is some unique thing and not just another community on the internet. there are thousands and thousands of sites the size of MetaFilter, and none of them have the problems this site does. but god forbid anyone change anything ever around here.

Hi, new mod here (and speaking just for myself) noting that my first week on the job involved a snide attack after I removed a comment and left a note about removing the comment, then another attack in the form of a very grar like and name calling Meta (which was not approved) after I deleted a Metafilter post.

i'm sure the comments in questions sucked but isn't literally the entire argument for this site having paid moderation to have people to deal with this lol
posted by JimBennett at 5:07 PM on February 23, 2023 [13 favorites]


Since people have mentioned reddit many times, I think it's useful to clarify the following: if a comment on reddit has had no replies and is deleted by a mod (or the poster I think), it is fully invisible in the thread context where it was originally posted. The [deleted] indicator only shows if there are replies to the deleted comment. (It's also the case that reddit sitewide filters silently remove many things for opaque reasons, I believe including comments -- though this is most impactful for posts.) So I don't think reddit actually instantiates what people are asking for here. In fact, though subs vary a lot, I think moderation here is already extremely transparent relative to many variants of reddit norms.

(For what it's worth, as a very long-time member I don't think systematic deleted comment indicators on mefi, in some form, would be the end of the world. I do not particularly believe they would directly solve many problems, but I do actually suspect they could on net mitigate the weaponization of deletions in bad faith MeTa discussions.)
posted by advil at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2023 [4 favorites]


I have questioned my memory and reading comprehension when there's been unexplained deletions. I eventually figure it out but it would be nice to have an indication in-thread that it's been modded.

That said, if that's too much of a technical or human resource burden I can live without it. I come from a place of essentially trusting the mods, even if I think they have been "wrong" on occasion. So I'm not pushing for a mod log or more transparency or whatever. My gut also says "more information, more fights" but I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
posted by pianissimo at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]


I don’t feel trust, and for good reason. But isn’t this question:

what do people proposed to establish and maintain trust between moderators and community members?

…a question for the staff to be discussing? I think there is just plenty of data available and there have been a lot of proposals, especially recently. Is this state of affairs being discussed by staff ? What solutions does the staff propose? (With acknowledgment that Jessamyn surfaced some action steps from loup that were deep in a thread that not everyone had seen).

Also, it’s so hard to evaluate a proposal in the absence of data. Can any staff member give us a sense of deletion frequency, even a range low day to high say over the last year, most common reasons, number of possible reasons, etc?
posted by Miko at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2023 [8 favorites]


Hi, new mod here (and speaking just for myself) noting that my first week on the job involved a snide attack after I removed a comment and left a note about removing the comment, then another attack in the form of a very grar like and name calling Meta (which was not approved) after I deleted a Metafilter post.

In trying to understand moderation decisions and consistency, I would like to know why this user still has an active account after behaving in this manner.
posted by JenMarie at 5:56 PM on February 23, 2023 [14 favorites]


how do you they do?
posted by clavdivs at 6:01 PM on February 23, 2023


The person who made the deleted post still has an active account.
posted by JenMarie at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2023


Since people have mentioned reddit many times, I think it's useful to clarify the following: if a comment on reddit has had no replies and is deleted by a mod (or the poster I think), it is fully invisible in the thread context where it was originally posted. The [deleted] indicator only shows if there are replies to the deleted comment. (It's also the case that reddit sitewide filters silently remove many things for opaque reasons, I believe including comments -- though this is most impactful for posts.) So I don't think reddit actually instantiates what people are asking for here

We don't have threaded comments so this breakdown doesn't really work for me. The reason Reddit doesn't need to mark comments with no discussion as deleted is because... there's no discussion. The context of reddit is multiple smaller discussions on a single link or topic - and because of how the threading works, often replies are meant for one person in the thread alone. Our context is one discussion per post. As such, every comment is a part of the discussion. Your reddit example, to me, would be like "unsending" a letter before it got delivered, as opposed to what happens here, where parts of the letter are redacted or excised without any record of what or why. and people wonder why the heat in here is always so high.
posted by JimBennett at 6:05 PM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]


Hi, new mod here (and speaking just for myself) noting that my first week on the job involved a snide attack after I removed a comment and left a note about removing the comment, then another attack in the form of a very grar like and name calling Meta (which was not approved) after I deleted a Metafilter post.

I'm sorry that someone attacked you after you removed transphobia and someone tried to post a name-calling MeTa after you removed sexism (which also meant that we got a much more informative and meaningful obit post). Nobody should be treated like that in the workplace, and that's clearly different than someone who makes an honest mistake or has genuine uncertainty about the site guidelines around these topics.

But I guess I find that to be an argument in favor of more transparency, not less. If someone is going to behave this way on MeFi, having the mods clean up after them and remove all trace of it from view really only benefits the person behaving badly. The fact that people are behaving this way seems like the problem to be addressed, not that transparency means we'd know we have that problem.
posted by zachlipton at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2023 [23 favorites]


That's an issue I have. Silent deletions are one thing - I am glad I missed the disgustingly sexist obit post. But...was that and the Meta deleted...and then what? I would hope a poster would get a time out or at least a mod reach out about said behavior. It's none of our business, but sometimes it's unnerving when it appears a person wasn't addressed about their behavior. I don't know what the solution is, but I am in huge favor of mod deletion notes.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2023 [3 favorites]


The person who made the deleted post still has an active account.

Both accounts being referred to still appear to be active.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 6:39 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


I think there's arguments beyond transparency about the mods to increase trust.

I saw and appreciated the transphobic and sexist shit getting removed (very appreciated) and it had me thinking.

A public record of mod actions like that is a strong statement about this site's values.
A public record of mod actions helps reinforce what people shouldn't do.
A public record of mod actions also shows things that might need to be addressed because they are repeated patterns or edge cases.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2023 [19 favorites]


Both accounts being referred to still appear to be active.

Thank you, I missed the comment that was deleted and wasn’t sure about that user.
posted by JenMarie at 6:55 PM on February 23, 2023 [1 favorite]


Two accounts.
oh, nō I forgot 'know'.

I would like to know why this user still has an active account after behaving in this manner.

I believe in many things, here but that question should be directed to a mod, not to community after a decision has been rendered. IMO. if no decision rendered, by all means other then that, none of us can answer that except the mods.
when it appears a person wasn't addressed about their behavior.
posted by clavdivs at 7:56 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


Can we keep the discussion about logging moderation, and not about any particular users?
posted by NotLost at 8:13 PM on February 23, 2023 [4 favorites]


And not about any particular comments on other threads or particular moderation decisions?
posted by NotLost at 8:15 PM on February 23, 2023 [2 favorites]


For myself, I'm in favor of mod notes being standard with deleted comments, not because I think it would enhance community trust of moderation. I personally have pretty good trust in our mod staff, and I think that that is true of most of the membership overall, though obviously there is a significant (though currently unmeasured) fraction of the membership that does not, and any reasonable steps that will help restore that trust should be taken. However, if I didn't have much trust in the mod staff, I don't think that a log of moderation actions would, in itself, do much to restore that trust, but it might provide the basis for discussions about policies that would.

I'm in favor of mod notes being standard for comment deletions because when comments are deleted without any note, it's confusing, and that confusion itself creates stress and can raise the temperature in a thread. And the ambiguity that is created by not knowing whether comments have been deleted is also confusing, so even if in one contentious thread, mods are being consistent in leaving notes for deletion, the fact that in other threads they might not be means it can still be ambiguous in the contentious thread. I recall one instance in which I was pretty sure a comment I had seen had been deleted, and I believe it was jessamyn who clarified that no such deletions had occurred in that thread, so I concluded I was confabulating or confusing something. I think that can happen to any of us, particularly in a fast-moving thread and/or one that is extended over several days. Knowing that, if any comments are deleted, then there will definitely be a note about it, removes a potential source of confusion.

That said, I'm also in favor of some amount of mod discretion here. If there are some cases where it really is a better idea to just silently delete some comments, I think the mod staff shouldn't be prevented from doing that either by policy or by technical limitations. But I think the standard policy should be to leave a note when deletions occur, and not doing so should be the exception, for considered reasons by the moderator.
posted by biogeo at 9:15 PM on February 23, 2023 [7 favorites]


In terms of what it would take for me to trust: being able to refer to any kind of historical record about anything involving moderation, ever, in conversations like these would be a good start. And, I know this is gonna sound crazy to a lot of people, but: regular, routine admission of error and reversing deletions. On like a daily or near-daily basis. To pull the trigger too quickly is part of being human. It is a thing that is going to happen regularly given the workload. Admission of this does not make someone a bad moderator - the opposite, rather - nor diminish their authority except with the specific flavor of idiot that actually wants and needs a never-admits-fault narcissist to lead them. We don’t have many of that type of idiot, here. Leadership with humility and openness is a realistic possibility.

It’s 3AM so I’m not saying this very well, but all of this is part of why I implicitly trust jessamyn and cortex* in particular to a much greater degree than other online community leaders at any site: even if I think they are leaders within a system that is (strictly in my personal opinion, here) structurally problematic - I see them openly questioning themselves and writing out their internal debate in the middle of briar patch situations and personal attacks. Actively considering the other side before pulling the trigger. That openness to the validity of ideas not your own is the fundamental first step in the sort of mentality I am struggling to articulate here.

Flipside, to behave or carry yourself as if you are infallible, to make it so there is no record that can be used to question you… that is fundamentally narcissistic at a collective and systemic level, even if the individuals involved are each the furthest thing from that. It’s extremely-low-stakes Orwell as an emergent property, with no malice on anybody’s part.

This is what I have always secretly hoped for from Metafilter, but also always known would almost certainly never happen: routine moments of “hey, you’re right I hit delete a little too quick on that comment because it seemed like a derail. The thread appeared to be going strong ‘til then but that was actually the end of the rush, so tangents should be fine now. Deletion reversed, have a good one.”

No drama, nobody loses face, everybody is cool and trust is not just maintained but strengthened because moderation has become a dialogue rather than an impenetrable and unquestioned authority.

It’s probably not realistic but you asked so that is what I want to see.


*also, increasingly, loup. I can’t quite point to what flipped the switch in my brain, but the tentative trust is there despite my thinking I was done trusting people. Cheers for that.
posted by Ryvar at 12:19 AM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


I will likely regret this but I will say it anyway, coming from 27+ years of moderating and administration on 4 sites, one international and three US based. And I had no help and was not paid.

Moderating sucks. This site is lucky to have people step up to do it. There are more committees on this site than there are at the UN. That doesn't seem to be the answer.

But I will say that I hate reading a thread with deleted posts more than anything. If you've seen the post and can't find it again, you doubt your sanity. If you hadn't seen it before deletion, you can't figure out what's going on. Frustration.

If a poster crosses the line, I think the post should stay but have a strikeout through it, with a mod note stating the post violates (blank) policy. Then all of us get to read it in context, and know what sort of person we are dealing with. Make a habit of getting struck, and be invited to post at some other site.

Keeping a mod log is adding yet another onerous and time consuming task to an unwieldy job. Burnout will ensue.

This is just a conversational website -- you all know that, right? It's informational, sometimes entertaining and frequently annoying as a bunch of mosquitoes in June on bare legs. The stuff you fight over makes me itch. Try some good faith, some common sense and don't assume bad faith unless it shows up and is struck out, repeatedly.

That's my 5 cents, adjusted for inflation.

And if this gets deleted I swear I will laugh SO hard!
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 2:03 AM on February 24, 2023 [27 favorites]


I’m someone who expressed concern about one prior mod decision. That concern was entirely grounded in the specifics of the comment and the broader context of Metafilter as a struggling business. This does not extend to a larger worry about what other things the mods are deleting and if it did, I don’t know that any kind of log (including in thread notes) would help without including the content… which would of course obviate the deletion.

Looked at from another angle, as one subject to moderation, I would really prefer, if and when I show my ass here in a big enough way to trigger moderation, that the mods do me the favor of keeping that on the DL. It is actually a kindness to me if they delete my nonsense without public comment.

So, I’m a hard no on the public log (I think that proposal is dead) and meh on more routine removal notes (I don’t think I will benefit from this, but don’t object if it remains somewhat vague, helps others and is ok work wise for the mods).
posted by eirias at 3:48 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


if no decision rendered, by all means other then that, none of us can answer that except the mods.

I said as much. It's none of our business what actions are taken behind the scenes with any particular user.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:42 AM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


i think one of the major problems with MetaFilter is the idea that it is some unique thing and not just another community on the internet. there are thousands and thousands of sites the size of MetaFilter, and none of them have the problems this site does. but god forbid anyone change anything ever around here.

Honest question. Do they really not? I'm a member of quite a lot of community sites, ranging from still-around old school forum sites to just-running-on-Facebook meme groups and part of the problem for me in copying features just because other sites have them is that:

a) Often those communities have exactly the same problems anyway
b) More often than not, they have much worse problems

"Reddit" having a feature, for example, is simultaneously of technical interest in terms of implementation triviality and also... reddit kind of sucks?

So I'd be genuinely interested in any examples of other sites of similar size and type which avoid these problems without being very explicitly single-purpose: my tomato growing forum has a hardline immediate-delete policy for any non-tomato-growing related content outside of a particular sub-forum but that's not going to work for a general purpose site.

For the record, I don't have a strong view on whether deletions needs to be consistently logged. When I've had comments of mine deleted, even when I disagreed with the deletion (which I haven't always) I've always known in my own mind exactly why. So maybe I'm in the "meh, maybe" category. I don't object to it, but don't think it's super important either.
posted by atrazine at 5:00 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


I don't think we need a log of deletions. I don't think that all deletions need an inline comment and that this would be actively harmful. I think we should encourage any former staff members to bring their unique experience to Metas.

i think one of the major problems with MetaFilter is the idea that it is some unique thing and not just another community on the internet.

I've been looking for a long time and haven't found any aside from some old school LISTSERVES and those a all single topic. Suggestions on unthreaded, low image, well moderated (and paid) general discussion sites are welcome in my MeMail.

Another vote for minimalist in-thread "deleted" notes rather than a moderation log. I also would prefer that these usually live at the very end of any thread, rather than at the exact location where deletions have happened, and that the notes have very very minimal information - i.e., "one comment deleted", or "some comments deleted".

This seems acceptable or more snarkily a note below the comment box that says "No comments deleted from this thread" that disappears when a comment is deleted fromt he thread. It would let people know that they aren't imagining comments being deleted without creating much that could lead to Metas.

here is a change that could be implemented that would not require any coding or development work and likely wouldn't increase moderator workload - instead of a comment being deleted, it could be edited to read 'deleted'. This would leave a placeholder showing that something has happened, removing the confusion that having them disappear inexplicably creates

I really hate this on Reddit and it would be worse here invariably increasing GRAR levels. Please let us not do this.

I still don't quite get the argument that a log (or in-thread note, whatever) would cause an unreasonable amount of grar in the community. At the risk of repeating myself, a log would just indicate that a comment or post was deleted for whatever reason. Why would a public moderation record raise the temperature of the room? Wouldn't the issue be that the comment / post was deleted in the first place?

This is the site that infamously can over think a plate of beans and have had users who have been silenced all their lives. I don't see how grouping all deletions along with reasons wouldn't increase GRAR.
posted by Mitheral at 5:05 AM on February 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


I would love to see MetaFilter attract and retain new members. I get that people have grown accustomed to it, but the practice of simply disappearing comments with no note or rationale (either in thread or via moderation log) is strange and frustrating. At some point MetaFilter needs to become a more outward facing organisation in order to ensure its long term survival, and not appearing to be really odd, arcane, and unfair should be part of that transformation.
posted by iivix at 5:54 AM on February 24, 2023 [17 favorites]


to behave or carry yourself as if you are infallible, to make it so there is no record that can be used to question you…

I think Metafilter's moderation is generally good, but when a small mistake happens, it tends to spiral out of control because of the insistence on infallibility.

In a parallel universe, the MollyRealized thing would have been quickly resolved with an "oops, on review you didn't actually break any rules, here's your account back".

The insistence on hiding and denying any evidence of mistakes is what makes the mistakes so damaging.

But that's now its own vicious circle. The mods think "man, look how angry and unreasonable the users get despite all our hiding and denial, just imagine how furious they'd be if we ever admitted to making a mistake".

Anyone who opens up the thread twice can see that comments have been deleted. Trying to keep comment deletions a secret when they're happening in front of our eyes doesn't keep users in happy ignorance, it makes them paranoid.

It's a bit like a husband lurching into the house at 10PM with breath stinking of beer and slurring "jusht working late at the offish dear" and thinking both how clever he is for keeping the drinking a secret, and how unreasonable his wife is for getting mad at him...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:10 AM on February 24, 2023 [13 favorites]


In a parallel universe, the MollyRealized thing would have been quickly resolved with an "oops, on review you didn't actually break any rules, here's your account back".

In case anyone wondered what "begging the question" actually meant, this is an excellent example.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 6:15 AM on February 24, 2023 [16 favorites]


I feel it’s worth saying clearly something that I think applies here. A moderation log would not only lead to abstract GRAR of the “otherwise decent people got overheated” variety; some people want to see the world burn. That includes some MeFites: the ones who walk into contentious threads and blow them up with one comment, the ones who give every evidence of disliking and distrusting MetaFilter and stick around to say so repeatedly, and those who presumably feel a moderation log would be a useful tool for bringing down the ruling cabal (!) of MetaFilter. I personally think (as I said above) that there could be some value in a log, but I also think some people live for drama, and that applies to MeFites as much as anyone else. I think a moderation log and related ideas discussed here have value annd could improve the site, but I think they are very much double-edged swords.
posted by cupcakeninja at 6:18 AM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


In case anyone wondered what "begging the question" actually meant, this is an excellent example.

OK then, in another parallel universe, it would have been quickly resolved by a "here is the rule you broke, you're banned".

In both of them, openness would have resolved the situation in a way that silence and secrecy don't.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:37 AM on February 24, 2023 [15 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: OK then, in another parallel universe, it would have been quickly resolved by a "here is the rule you broke, you're banned".

Are you proposing that every single deleted comment immediately leads to a banning? That can't be it, can it?
Or do you think that is currently the case? I've definitely had comments deleted, but I've never been banned.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:52 AM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


I've often come across pages where comments are referring to something said earlier that no longer exists, and there's no mod note about anything being deleted, and it's quite jarring.

This is the only instance where I think mods need to leave more notes. I'm fine with invisible deletions, but when someone has responded to a deleted comment, it's no longer invisible. It needs a note.

I'm opposed to putting "comment deleted," without explanation, in threads. It will drive some people crazy wondering what was deleted and why. We will end up with metas about the lack of transparency about what was deleted and what rule it broke. The people who don't trust the mods will continue not to trust the mods because they'll assume the deletions weren't made for valid reasons. The people who do trust the mods will be annoyed that the conversation is broken up by contextless "comment deleted" notations.
posted by Mavri at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


OK then, in another parallel universe, it would have been quickly resolved by a "here is the rule you broke, you're banned".

The powers that be haven't said so explicitly, but from her own account it always seemed clear that the rule in question was "When a mod deletes your comment and tells you to take a break from a thread, don't immediately respond by continuing to comment in that thread."
posted by firechicago at 6:59 AM on February 24, 2023 [14 favorites]


Thoughtfulness and good faith are in the eye of the beholder; people keep referring to the MR event as if it were plainly egregious, and assuming that anyone who disagrees with them just doesn't understand.
posted by sagc at 7:47 AM on February 24, 2023 [16 favorites]


Damn, r_n, that was hella mean.
posted by dorothy hawk at 7:54 AM on February 24, 2023 [15 favorites]


For a site that prides itself on professional moderation y’all do a terrible job on the “professionalism” part some time.

I get that the mods believe they did nothing wrong in MR’s case. Fine. We can’t know because they won’t share their reasoning, fine — let’s stipulate that IF the reasoning was made public everyone would instantly agree that they made the right decision. Even in that case, it seems like such an easy thing to say “hey, I can see how this looks bad; I understand why some think we made a bad call. I disagree, but I understand.” Instead, snide comments and meanness.

It’s kinda wild to me that in the 15 or so years I’ve been reading this site I can only recall maybe one or two instances of mods saying they made a mistake — or even saying something was a grey area, they can see how it might look that way, etc.

That implies that the mods are staggeringly great at their jobs — like, a mistake rate well under 0.001% for decades — truly legendary, all of them. Or, they are normal humans who sometimes fuck up, but have just decided to never show weakness in front of the kids.

I know which I believe.
posted by dorothy hawk at 8:21 AM on February 24, 2023 [14 favorites]


I think discussion of the MollyRealized case is now derailing the policy discussion. It seems clear that the people who followed that incident are sharply divided on both the facts and interpretation of what happened, and rehashing it is not going to change anyone's mind. If we really need to discuss it further, can it happen in a separate thread so as to keep this one productive?
posted by biogeo at 8:23 AM on February 24, 2023 [16 favorites]


The discussion encompasses why anyone would think a moderation log is necessary. Examples of moderation decisions with a complete lack of transparency are relevant.
posted by JenMarie at 8:36 AM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


Zing! Got 'im! Take that, long-time user making a thoughtful and good faith contribution!

Whether or not it was a good-faith contribution, it was one that used a well-known logical fallacy for rhetorical effect, and I don't think pointing that out is unwarranted. (The question of "good faith" is much, much less useful or relevant than people seem to think. I don't often care how sincere someone is, since that's unknowable. I care what they say and how they say it, because that's all any of us have to work with.)

And yeah, I don't work here anymore, I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 8:48 AM on February 24, 2023 [18 favorites]


And yeah, I don't work here anymore, I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit.

At least we are one step further along to having a moderation team that is not contemptuous of the users.
posted by grouse at 8:59 AM on February 24, 2023 [26 favorites]


I'm glad you notice the bullshit for free, on your own dime.
posted by benzenedream at 9:05 AM on February 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


Wow, this whole conversation seems to be getting hella mean. Is this really where we want to be going?

I would vote against the suggested public logging feature. But I do think that it's a constructive suggestion and that it was brought up as such.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


I think the “retired” tag is the issue here. I think it was originally created for Jessamyn, in part because she was the first person to retire from the site, and because she is special. Having it for people who are just interacting as regular users is problematic because it does imply a connection to the site management. In the rare case that a retired mod is referring to their past as a moderator, they could just mention it in a comment. Maybe it would also be useful to use a retired tag for a few weeks after retiring, just so people get a chance to learn that someone is no longer a moderator.

I mean, for sure it would be ideal if everyone was always on their best behavior and communicating in clear, nonjudgmental ways, but there is definitely a higher bar for mods vs regular users.
posted by snofoam at 9:13 AM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


if I see a “staff” or “retired” tag after your name you work here and represent this site or at least you did and your posts have more weight. From an outsider it looks like you have authority.

Edited
posted by PugAchev at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2023 [6 favorites]


I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit.

Simply astounding. You really lay out everyone's anti-mod complaints in a nice little package here.
posted by Jarcat at 9:25 AM on February 24, 2023 [10 favorites]


And yeah, I don't work here anymore, I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit.

And yet you're still very capable of spouting it out.
posted by JimBennett at 9:32 AM on February 24, 2023


That is... not what I see on my phone.
posted by sagc at 9:35 AM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


Can someone just lock this thread? I don't see how it can possibly come back from any of this.
posted by advil at 9:37 AM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


That is... not what I see on my phone.

Same, but I also don't think that screenshot is faked, nor do I think it's any better to have been said with a "retired" tag.
posted by Jarcat at 9:39 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


I really hate this on Reddit and it would be worse here invariably increasing GRAR levels. Please let us not do this.

personally i find having my thoughts disappeared without a trace to be 100x more infuriating and i suspect that has lead to a great deal of flameouts on this site. if this community cannot handle something hundreds of thousands of redditors see every single day and move right past i'm really not sure what we're even trying to save here.

Honest question. Do they really not? I'm a member of quite a lot of community sites, ranging from still-around old school forum sites to just-running-on-Facebook meme groups and part of the problem for me in copying features just because other sites have them is that:

a) Often those communities have exactly the same problems anyway
b) More often than not, they have much worse problems

"Reddit" having a feature, for example, is simultaneously of technical interest in terms of implementation triviality and also... reddit kind of sucks?


i don't even know who the mods ARE on most of the subreddits i'm on. reddit has plenty of its own problems but since this community is inherently much smaller and more personal, the actions of the mods here carry more weight. it often feels like the things that the mods do here are specifically designed to be infuriating - pretending they are editing a newspaper instead of moderating a website, showing clear bias against users who are deemed annoying or problematic, staying silent on major decisions while hundreds of angry comments bubble up, refusing to ever back down or admit fault. it's a perfect cocktail to cause strife and discord and drive people away. all the talk of moderation logs, comment deletion notices, an ombudsman, a steering committee is just dancing around the real issue which is exemplified by the kind of shit going on in this thread right now.
posted by JimBennett at 9:40 AM on February 24, 2023 [12 favorites]


but the practice of simply disappearing comments with no note or rationale (either in thread or via moderation log) is strange and frustrating.

other more fiery stuff aside, this is the core of the concern for me. Does it help or hinder to NOT somehow track (and share) all mod decisions?

As is, I'm currently leaning toward the current policy being more help than hindrance, particularly with "all" in there. I fear we'd die a death (maybe several) if we tried to keep track of all comment deletions, whether by log or mod note (or other?). Because I think it becomes a "perfect is an enemy of the good" situation at that point, a fooling ourselves into thinking there is some objectively correct way to run things here.

I don't think there is. I don't think this is what Metafilter is about. And so on (ie: I've made my points in this regard elsewhere more than once).

All this said, I hope we're not having an either/or discussion here. Either "as is" or "fully transparent moderation". Because much as I lean toward the former, I more or less completely agree with (and here I will repeat):

the practice of simply disappearing comments with no note or rationale (either in thread or via moderation log) is strange and frustrating.

I do think we need to do a better job of dealing with this strangeness and frustration. I don't think it needs to be every deletion. I do think we need more of it than we're currently getting. And further, I wish we (as a community) could accept that moderating is an art and an evolving one at that. Which means it's edges are not fully defined, its goals are not fully defined beyond somehow reconciling the wrong kind of chaos.

And now I will repeat myself from not too long ago:

We're not going to "system" or "policy" our way out of our various concerns and conflicts and confusions (and other things that don't even start with "con"), because Metafilter is people and people are beyond complex. We don't even know how our brains work (not really) and many of us don't even believe in our souls even as we hurtle through space at a speed and a trajectory that cannot really be calculated because relativity (or whatever) and and and and ...

posted by philip-random at 9:41 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


The way this thread has gone is an example of why having a log of moderation complaints is just asking for more bad tempered interactions. Knowing what was done and why isn't really correlated to people believing it was the decision they themselves would have made.

However, as others have said it would be better if there was a note in thread where comments had been deleted. It can be disconcerting when there isn't. There often is already (which is good) and in addition, the vast majority of comments that are deleted appear not to result in metatalk posts. I understand that the intention going forward is to generally note where comments have been cleaned up with at least an indication of the reason.

On the issue of retired staff members having their retired tag in Metatalk. I think they should. Not everyone knows the history of Metafilter and all its varied users and how they've been involved in the past.
posted by plonkee at 9:42 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


I’m sure it is work, but I could imagine a default of seeing moderation notes like they are now, and an optional toggle to see placeholders for all deletes, so people could see them if they wanted to, but others could just ignore.
posted by snofoam at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


The way this thread has gone is an example of why having a log of moderation complaints is just asking for more bad tempered interactions.

Gently, I would kindly suggest you think about the fact that the bad tempered interactions are happening without the presence of the mod log. We don't need excuses to fight, apparently.
posted by Jarcat at 9:46 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


(sorry misread the comment i was responding to)
posted by JimBennett at 9:47 AM on February 24, 2023


I would say that being allow to post using the "retired" badge, should carry some expectations that the user doesn't abuse it by dropping incendiary and insulting comments in a Metatalk thread.
posted by octothorpe at 9:48 AM on February 24, 2023 [13 favorites]


I am in favour of tools that help the moderators moderate consistently and with lower effort required for straightforward deletions.

So I'm in favour of canned responses for some mod notes and consistent approaches. I can't recommend "mark every deleted comment" without having some idea of what that looks like numerically.

But I do think something to help the readers/users understand the logic and consistency would help. If it's not hard to implement I kind of like the 'x comments deleted.'

Reading the user survey (which was of course one slice of the membership, but it was a good chunk compared to active users), one thing that really stood out to me was how many people were limiting their engagement with the site because they didn't want to expend the amount of energy they perceived was necessary to craft a response or a post that wouldn't get them into hot water -- hot water ranging from feedback from other users through to comments deleted without any remarks to moderator remarks to bans.

When people see other people being banned or comments being deleted and don't quite get why, it does shake their confidence in the mods but also their willingness to contribute to the site. And this site does depend on that.

I would like to see efforts towards decreasing (not eliminating because I don't think that's possible) that friction. (Assuming good faith here, which I believe in.)

I also would like to see a good working environment for our mods. Moderation (and I've done it professionally) even with really good support and tools, can be a real grind.

I am not, especially after thinking it over reading this thread, in favour of a full out moderation log. I agree with Jessamyn that it's not likely to result in decreased friction.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2023 [13 favorites]


Another vote for locking this thread. The idea has been discussed, and without some deeply ironic moderation, I don’t think this thread is going to improve.
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


I really appreciated Brandon Blatcher's mod notes about the items they deleted. That's what I think should be the standard in all deletion cases.
posted by cooker girl at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2023 [11 favorites]


Another vote for locking this thread, deleting MetaTalk in its entirety, and throwing away the key.

What possible benefit is this part of the site providing to anybody at this point?
posted by schmod at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I don't work here anymore, I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit.

Oh man alive. You are not helping the situation.

The question has been asked: why has trust been lost?

Well, here's example number one for you.

I mean I could give like twenty other examples but fuck it. They've been set forth and ignored.
posted by angrycat at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2023 [9 favorites]


Just a note, I saw “staff” when I wrote my comment but upon posting it had been changed to “retired”. Display error or not, something strange is going on and that’s a great look for a thread about transparency.
posted by PugAchev at 11:18 AM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


And yeah, I don't work here anymore

I honestly don't think most people are aware of this. I definitely wasn't. I'm not accusing it of being some sort of secret, I'm sure there was an announcement, just noting that many of us scan quickly over a special tag on someone's username and assume it carries some type of authority. And it can be pretty confusing because mods in the past have been announced as retiring or whatever but then still seem to be working here months later.
posted by dusty potato at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2023 [7 favorites]


Display error or not, something strange is going on and that’s a great look for a thread about transparency.

I asked frimble to look into it when it became clear that some people were seeing r_n with a "staff" badge. They found a weird little bug and fixed it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2023 [9 favorites]


Observations:

-I really don't like it when a deletion leaves me wondering if I sleep-deprivedly hallucinated a comment or what. Example: I could've sworn there was a comment right after mine in this thread, and that I clicked a link in that comment to go read an article, and then when I came back...no sign of the comment. Am I insane? Was the comment I thought was in the Metafilter thread actually a comment on one of the various news articles linked to in that thread? Or did that comment, which seemed totally innocuous and not deletion-worthy for any obvious reason, get deleted? I have no idea. I'd way rather have a [deleted] marker than the weird uncertainty I have instead. I don't really understand the folks who find those [deleted] indicators on reddit really intrusive; I think they're pretty easy to tune out and in a single-threaded site like this it would be even easier to do so.

-I've never seen the mods fail to back each other up and show solidarity. Pretty much any MeTa questioning a specific mod's decisions or behavior has the other mods taking the time to express how they're all a united Moderation Team on [whatever the issue at hand is]. I'm sure that's wise, it's always seemed weird to me how much focus there is by users on which specific mod did what. Brandon Blatcher's example of getting grar for deletions any mod would've made seems like an example of this. (And hi Brandon, congrats on the new job, I think you're doing great!)

It seems to me that if deleted comments were automatically replaced with an indicator like [deleted], then you help address both issues: people won't wonder if they're hallucinating, and the mods won't have to leave personally-signed-notes for deletions. It'll be clear that "a mod did this" but users won't get hung up on which specific it mod it was, which is unproductive approximately 98% of the time since the mods always respond to grar as A Moderation Team, anyways. (People judging mod behavior/personality from a mod's visible modding actions has always struck me as being sorta like judging the shape of an iceberg by looking at a satellite photo, anyways.)

I'm agnostic on an overall moderator activity log but if there was one I think it'd probably be for the best if it worked the same way: rather than being individual-mod-specific it could just show all in one place what actions the moderation team has collectively taken without naming mods individually.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:34 AM on February 24, 2023 [10 favorites]


Fuck it again, I can succinctly explain why I've lost trust in the mods. Because I've seen contempt for users displayed, both in posts and in correspondence, by the following staff or former staff.

Eyebrows McGee
Cortex
Taz

and now r-n.

So, you know, if you thought a business had maybe two or three employees who possibly were not hostile to those who frequented their business, and there was like, actual physical evidence that the rest of the employees were contemptuous of their employees (or fellow members of the community they administered, whatever analogy)--

I think you would stay away too.

metafilter is a really cool place in terms of history and potential for a good future. i hope that this trend of contempt for the users is addressed. because otherwise this site is doomed, and that's a really sad thing
posted by angrycat at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2023 [17 favorites]


I don't want a specific moderation log for reasons discussed and in some cases demonstrated in this thread; I think more moderator notes is probably a recipe for (more) angry people to drop into MetaTalk and make angry threads; I do think mod notes are important when there's been a lot of pruning or obvious pruning (replies to deleted comments left hanging).

Overall, as someone who returned at the end of last summer after some years away, it's clear to me that I've missed some incidents that have turned some users off the current moderation team. When I buttoned it was because of a mod incident that I was only peripherally involved with. It made me think I couldn't trust site management at the time. It took me several years to get over it and re-up and BND. But I gave me a BND and the mods a BND, too. Since I've returned, I haven't seen anything that set me personally off. The MR incident was self-explanatory to me but I didn't see what, if anything, set her on what looked like an obvious road to a user flaming out; it may have been before I re-upped or I may have missed it. But I get why a specific incident crystallizes bad feelings because I have been there.

Having said all that, mods are human, mods screw up, mods lose their temper now and then, etc. I know I'd have a hard time keeping my temper 100% if I had as many people telling me I was doing my job as badly and behaving with as much bias as some users, including some in this thread, are suggesting. I've done enough modding (smaller group, shorter time) to know it's hard and often infuriating work and on a good day mods can't please everybody. This point in Metafilter's history is a string of not-so-good days punctuated by awful ones for mods.

People talk about Metafilter being a business and what their customers want and so on. If Metafilter was a restaurant and I saw people treating the staff like some users treat the (current and former) mods, I'd be unpleasantly reminded of the common wisdom about how we treat waitstaff reflecting who we are. There's a lot of bad faith and contempt all the way around in this thread and it's not all on the side of the mods.

Really y'all, everybody needs a hug and that includes you and the people you're mad at.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2023 [39 favorites]


There is already an unofficial log of post deletions, I believe run by zachlipton.

I just clicked on that deleted posts link. There's a lot of "hey this might be better somewhere else" and advice on how to post again better.

How many people who see their post disappear follow up and ask why it's gone, or know to check some random website they've never heard of to figure out why? If nobody sees their mod note, it's like the mods are talking into the void. That's got to be pretty frustrating all around.

It seems like a pretty easily-fixable bug that deleted post mod notes aren't visible anywhere on metafilter.com.
posted by aniola at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2023


I was reading through this thread and planning to leave a comment to agree with this point above:

I hate reading a thread with deleted posts more than anything. If you've seen the post and can't find it again, you doubt your sanity. If you hadn't seen it before deletion, you can't figure out what's going on

since that seemed to be the root of things as far as I could see. I'm pretty neutral on the idea of whether a moderation log would help or just add another layer and extra work for the staff. We can all see that moderation is a tough job, and there are many competing demands and conflicting expectations, but having things disappear adds an extremely unhelpful layer of confusion to it all.

Then, as I was scrolling through, I came across the contemptuous comment from a former mod and my perspective has changed. I'm no longer sure any of these things would help. If that is an example of acceptable behaviour around here, these problems will never be resolved. It may just be that this is the site culture, and we all have to decide whether it's something we're willing to subject ourselves to or not.

Once you see something like that, it's pretty hard to un-see.
posted by rpfields at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


aniola, you're sent a link to the post when you create it, I believe, and deletion notes appear below the post once it's been deleted.
posted by sagc at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2023


(The question of "good faith" is much, much less useful or relevant than people seem to think. I don't often care how sincere someone is, since that's unknowable. I care what they say and how they say it, because that's all any of us have to work with.)

I disagree pretty strongly that good faith or sincerity are unknowable. On the contrary, while you can never know someone's intentions with 100% confidence, I think you can still have a pretty good idea about them from someone's words and from prior interactions with that person. And I think it's a very important thing to suss out if you're in the position of moderating a website.

I think it's become in vogue to say things like "your good intentions don't matter, what matters are your statements" because it's useful in certain social justice contexts where (for example) someone says something really messed up and racist, and then when confronted, promises you've got them all wrong and they're the kindest nicest person or whatever. And it's like, I don't care if you're nice or kind, I care that you posted the messed up racist thing. And that's specifically to shut down these notions that you can really get away with saying anything horrible or harmful as long as you assure people you mean well.

But there's a danger in applying that logic to all situations and contexts everywhere. In most scenarios outside of "someone posted a thing that's upsetting and unacceptable even to read", it's not really helpful to discourse if someone is speaking in good faith and expressing themselves genuinely and you treat them like it's bad faith and then say "hell if I know whether you're speaking in good faith or not, that's unknowable, I can only go by your words". I feel like that particular response might be twisting the concept and end up the opposite of how things are supposed to go if you want to have amenable, fruitful and friendly conversations. And moderators are supposed to have and apply a certain level of EQ or social intelligence to navigate that sort of thing deftly and quickly. I think even normal posters should navigate this if they want to be decent posters, for that matter, I just expect moderators to be better at it than most.

Not trying to get into any sort of argument. I just don't want anyone reading this thread to take "sincerity is unknowable" as a given without at least some pushback to that notion. It's knowable and it matters. It can be tough and something you have to work at, but it's worth doing.
posted by naju at 12:50 PM on February 24, 2023 [6 favorites]


One semi official note, since I just replied to following issue in a message: We've seen the notes suggesting this thread be closed. We still think there's good conversation to be had about the issue, so we'll keep an eye on it and keep it open for now.

Random unofficial thoughts from your newest mod:

I've been in training with Loup everyday I've worked, and it's usually a matter of "Ok, here's a flag, what would you do with it" I tell them what I think, they tell me what they think, we then execute an action. We lean towards not doing anything, when possible, aka, not deleting anything.

Today I realized I'm starting to phrase my actions, both mentally and vocally as "Is this actionable?" aka, do we really need to do anything in this situation. I think that's a good way for me to work here.

I leave a note if I delete something, about 80-90% of the time. Some delations seem like they'd cause more of a derail by leaving a mod mote , so I leave nothing.

I currently am not leaving a note for every single deletion in a thread, because it would clutter the thread up. There was literally a situation where it just would have been 3 mod notes by me, right after the other, in a thread. Updating the one note with the various different reasons is a better way to go.

The other mods seems fine in the sense of no one is eager to delete anything, and they've all been helpful and would like everyone to have a good time on the site.

Sometimes it's good to walk away for the site for a bit. I've found that after a shift, it's personally good for me to get up, grab a snack, go outside for a minute or doing something other than look at Metafilter.

It's been a pretty interesting job so far, these first two weeks. Someone up above called moderating more of an art than science and I'd agree.

I personally see a public moderation log as not super useful, but got no problem if it gets implemented. Seems like overkill if notes are usually left in threads, which happens now.

Try to have some fun this weekend, on Metafilter and other places! I've been enjoying the hell out of the Last Of Us Threads about new episodes (SHOW ONLY FOR LIFE) over on Fanfare, drop by if you'd like.

Mild note that coverage over the weekend is thin, so I wouldn't expect any official replies over that period.

Thanks to all who articulated reasons why they might be distrustful of moderation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2023 [28 favorites]


Yes to a "comment deleted here" marker. No to a log.

This a chat web site, y'all, not the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2023 [28 favorites]


I currently am not leaving a note for every single deletion in a thread, because it would clutter the thread up. There was literally a situation where it just would have been 3 mod notes by me, right after the other, in a thread.

Why are there so many deletions?? [double question marks to connote perplexity, not hostility] It's so strange to me that the amount of deletions described would not be seen (as I discussed in a little more detail upthread) as indicative of some major problem with the way the site or community works that begs for inquisitiveness and an upstream approach to problem-solving.
posted by dusty potato at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


Like, just for example, if the high quantity of deletions is heavily driven by people posting bigoted stuff, while that's not a problem that started with the mods, it sure seems like a problem the site leadership now owns if the only plan is to perpetually delete the same people's comments over and over daily.
posted by dusty potato at 1:45 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


> What is the average number of deletions a day? Either over time, or, say, in the last six months?

This is the raw data for the past two years.

– Deleted Ask comments: 3,769
– Total Ask Comments: 257,004
– Deleted FanFare comments: 196
– Total FanFare comments 52,953
– Deleted MeFi comments: 5,163
– Total MeFi comments: 329,102
– Deleted MetaTalk comments: 524
– Total MetaTalk comments: 32,934

Also, in case there are any follow up questions about the data above, please be patient, I will be off the grid to attend a Technology conference for a couple weeks starting tomorrow but can keep checking this thread from time to time.
posted by loup (staff) at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2023 [31 favorites]


I'm not really enjoying imaging what would happen if deletion standards slid to pre-Jessamyn levels, or even early post-boyzone levels.

We *still* have problems with people posting straight-up bigoted things, or trying to hide hateful opinions in otherwise reasonable phrasing, and I don't see how allowing that to stand would be a net positive.
posted by sagc at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2023 [13 favorites]


Isn't the moderation one of the core things that differentiates MeFi from, say, reddit? (And also the inherent filtering of user personality types that goes with that- i.e. "free speech" absolutists are going to chafe at the rules and go elsewhere- so MeFi's moderation, in addition to shaping the kind of comments which are presented here also shapes who the userbase is going to be, because the "I will not be silenced" crowd goes elsewhere.)
There are times that I wish that (non hostile) thread drift was allowed to proceed a bit more organically, but really I can't complain overall- moderation here is a clear net positive from where I sit.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2023 [9 favorites]


There should be so few deletions that moderating is not a single person's full-time job, much less a job requiring an entire staff of moderators.

This presumes that what takes up moderation time is deleting things, rather than reading threads, responding to flags, etc. That is not the case. We can, and should, debate what the policies should be around comment deletions and whether there are currently too many deletions, but adjusting those policies to result in fewer deletions is not going to reduce the amount of moderator labor required. It may actually increase it if the alternative to deletions is increased moderator engagement in with mod notes, or if comments that would have been deleted instead prompt bit blow-out arguments that require heavy moderator engagement.
posted by biogeo at 2:38 PM on February 24, 2023 [12 favorites]


Then the per day deletion rate is

Ask: 5
FanFare: 0.3
MeFi: 7
MetaTalk: 0.7

Total, 13.

And oh, all right, deletion rates:

Ask: 1.5%
FanFare: 0.4%
MeFi: 1.6%
MetaTalk: 1.6%
posted by zompist at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2023 [23 favorites]


Isn't the moderation one of the core things that differentiates MeFi from, say, reddit?

yeah, the easy answer to why we have "so many" deletions and paid mods to take care of this task is because the site demanded it -- the users. Not everyone obviously. But if you were paying attention, it was pretty clear that a lot of people wanted less unrestrained wild wild west shit, because, simply, too many people were getting hurt.

When people are paid for, in large part, deleting things, that's what they are going to do.

quoting from Brandon Blatcher's recent comment:

I've been in training with Loup everyday I've worked, and it's usually a matter of "Ok, here's a flag, what would you do with it" I tell them what I think, they tell me what they think, we then execute an action. We lean towards not doing anything, when possible, aka, not deleting anything.

[...]

The other mods seems fine in the sense of no one is eager to delete anything, and they've all been helpful and would like everyone to have a good time on the site.


So unless he's lying (or maybe just confused), I'm not seeing his job (being a mod) as reducing down to "in large part, deleting things". I imagine it's more like having refs in a hockey game. Yes, they call penalties etc but mostly their very presence deters a lot of stuff from happening in the first place.
posted by philip-random at 2:41 PM on February 24, 2023 [15 favorites]


(And since percentages can sometimes be subtly misleading: this translates to a bit less than 1 in 60 comments being deleted in each subsite, except FanFare which is about 1 in 250.)
posted by biogeo at 2:47 PM on February 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


There should be very, very few deletions. There should be so few deletions that moderating is not a single person's full-time job, much less a job requiring an entire staff of moderators.

This's up the community, isn't it? Don't say things that need to be deleted, & there won't be that many deletions. /s

Less unhelpfully, I think there's a lot of "what standards are expected/acceptable, and who's included & excluded by those standards" at play, there. Did nixing boyzone run some people out? Definitionally. But boyzone-era Metafilter also excluded people as well. I've done high-touch/low-tools moderation for a community of ~600 people before, and it took a lot of effort & thoughtfulness. And that was with people self-selecting for being partially aligned on an axis, & with a community code of conduct to filter out really incompatible people. In theory, the quality of conversation & trust & willingness for people to speak on sensitive topics where they wouldn't be willing to be vulnerable in a more rough-and-tumble place was much higher. And we prided ourselves on that.

But... people are complicated. Even with all that preliminary alignment, there was still a lot of cases where someone's rough edge bumped into someone else's tender side; or accommodations conflicted where one person's "I need to not have this topic pop up in general-purpose channels, it can go into its own spot but let me opt out of it" bumped against someone else's "I need to not feel like this topic which is important to me is getting marginalized, if I can't talk about it generally I don't feel like I can be a part of conversation". Even with all the external experiences people brought in, & the best pre-planning & after-action review we could bring to bear... there was still a lot of on-the-fly judgment calls required, and decisions that couldn't be unrung socially. There's a lot that I wish I remembered better, even as that would have left me questioning whether I could have done better more acutely.

And that was a community a fraction the size of Metafilter, even today. If Metafilter-as-community was able to self-moderate enough to get to "not a single person's full-time job", what's been stopping us? What does that look like? More people piling on when someone says something shitty? Less, and everyone agrees to ignore threadshit comments? I don't think it's a problem of technical tooling that's kept the community from being able to step up.

So what do we want? Surely we can all come to an agreement that's compatible with each other's goals for the site/community, that's an easy first step comparatively.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


This presumes that what takes up moderation time is deleting things, rather than reading threads, responding to flags, etc... adjusting those policies to result in fewer deletions is not going to reduce the amount of moderator labor required.

I would guess that most people talking about reducing the number of moderators are including in that reducing the "site coverage", i.e., whether there are 1 or more moderators with eyeballs on threads monitoring things. There are times (including very recently) when the site did not have 100% moderator coverage at all hours of the day. 100% has long been held up as the ideal amount of moderator coverage. I think it's valid to suggest that maybe that standard doesn't actually need to be met anymore, realistically, given the lesser amount of traffic the site has now compared to, say, 10 years ago.
posted by naju at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


yeah, the easy answer to why we have "so many" deletions and paid mods to take care of this task is because the site demanded it -- the users. Not everyone obviously. But if you were paying attention, it was pretty clear that a lot of people wanted less unrestrained wild wild west shit, because, simply, too many people were getting hurt.

yeah but that was like 10+ years ago? now the over moderation is the thing hurting the site and there is no willingness to acknowledge that, to the point where they just hired another mod? happy for BB who is a good user but i feel like a bit befuddled by that personally, especially given the stats we're looking at here.

For anyone who has been here (on and off) for 20+ years, you don't have to imagine it. You can remember what it was like. That's when MetaFilter was great, and was an internet culture landmark.

less moderation does not mean reverting to the cultural standards of 20 years ago. it is 2023 after all. this feels a bit disingenuous to me lol. why are we talking about boyzone? none of this has anything to do with what the site is going through now.
posted by JimBennett at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2023 [9 favorites]


There should be very, very few deletions. There should be so few deletions that moderating is not a single person's full-time job, much less a job requiring an entire staff of moderators.

Just in case it's helpful, one of the things that is worth understanding about MeFi as a business is that, with the exception of coding/development/design (all frimble), the moderators did all the jobs of running the business before the SC (and before them the transition team) came into existence and still do a lot of them. There is no other MeFi staff, so it is maybe oversimplifying to call all the staff moderators.

loup does double-duty as both a moderator and a manager. I handle taxes and legal and some of the very high level business things, and also show up here because I like to. Mods maintain social media accounts, do community engagement work (contests, Metatalktails, MeFi Mall, special event posts on FanFare), approve anonymous posts, maintain and update the FAQ, maintain the Global BIPOC Board page), answer email (and some spam filtering and management) and stay on top of site trends, feature requests, site calendar stuff, the banner etc. Until this September they also did all the fundraising.

This is not to say that there shouldn't be some debate about how much moderating is the right amount, only that when comparing it to other sites in terms of how much moderation is needed, it's worth understanding that we're not just paying mods to follow threads and delete comments.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2023 [30 favorites]


do community engagement work (contests, Metatalktails, MeFi Mall, special event posts on FanFare)

This is something I think we as a community should not be paying staff to do, and I hope that the SC can help facilitate deeper community ownership in all of this stuff.

This is purely a personal thing, but me I really actively dislike the "free thread" and "Metatalktail" stuff because it is run by the mods. It feels patronising - "hey kids, unlocking the liquor cabinet and we won't be spanking you if you want to laugh and dance a bit here"... I know this is well off topic but maybe someone else here agrees?

It would be absolutely trivial to hand out "free passes" to whichever users felt like being the host/poster for these "free chat" threads. All that is required of these is that mods understand they do not need to control the conversation, right?
posted by Meatbomb at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2023 [22 favorites]


I think the ~1.5% deletion rate is quite low, actually. I feel like I see more than 1.5% of comments deleted on most of the tolerable subreddits. Given the way deletions are spoken about in MeTa, I expected it to be higher. I'm guessing we may have some unintentional confirmation bias going on.

Brandon Blatcher, I really appreciate you sharing your new mod perspective -- it's really helpful context.

I like what warriorqueen said: "I am in favour of tools that help the moderators moderate consistently and with lower effort required for straightforward deletions." I think clarity and predictability can be calming, and its absence can be stressful. It's possible that a more consistent moderator approach to deletions -- down to consistent wording of the deletion note -- could help users to have a better idea of what to expect.

I personally don't have a problem with the volume of deletions. I do sometimes have concerns about particular deletions, though I'm often willing to give mods the benefit of the doubt (I'm aware that what I see is far from the full picture). I think that deletions sometimes spark grar when the mod deletion comment uses emotionally loaded language. More standardized comments could help with that, too.

To respond to the original question posed in Diskeater's post -- after reading mod and user comments here, I think I'd support a small experiment with noting deletions in-thread using standardized language. I know it's sometimes tough for Metafilter to experiment given the technical debt, staffing limitations, and difficulty of communicating with the whole userbase -- but I think it might be feasible to spend, like, 1 week with mods defaulting to noting every deletion with standardized notes. No need for coding, just a list of reasons to draw from (that perhaps matches the list in the flag dropdown). Maybe limit it to just one subsite -- perhaps FanFare, since the comment volume is lower there. We could try it, gather feedback based on how it works, and proceed from there.
posted by ourobouros at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


now the over moderation is the thing hurting the site

Personally, I'd hazard it's the people being so aggressive in reaction to the mere 13 comment-deletions/day that are hurting the site (including when they get fed up and leave, but also when they double-down on vitriol toward the mods), but I recognize that this difference of opinion is precisely one of the quasi-partisan issue at play. The next time there's a user survey, it might be useful to poll on precisely this question: lay out the numbers and ask if that seems like too much, too little, or if it seems just fine.
posted by nobody at 3:36 PM on February 24, 2023 [23 favorites]


Thank you loup, it is super helpful to see data on this. I'm surprised by how many fewer deletions there are than I would have expected on a quantity basis, yet also surprised in the other direction by how frequent deletion is on a proportion basis.
posted by dusty potato at 3:44 PM on February 24, 2023 [4 favorites]


I'm curious what the numbers are for comments being deleted due to account wipe requests, that might be contributing to the perception of how many comments are deleted.

Making sure to say as well: I appreciate the clarity/updates from Jessamyn and Loup.
posted by Jarcat at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


We *still* have problems with people posting straight-up bigoted things, or trying to hide hateful opinions in otherwise reasonable phrasing, and I don't see how allowing that to stand would be a net positive.

The real question is why are people permitted to stay in the community if they are making bigoted comments that need to be deleted? My understanding is that new members aren't exactly flooding the gates, so if there's a problem the call is coming from inside the house. As per the primary subject of this OP, being opaque about deletions while keeping people around who make harmful comments combines to produce a rather unsettling broken stair effect.
posted by dusty potato at 3:51 PM on February 24, 2023 [12 favorites]


I'm for transparency as to what guideline was broken and who made the comment that was deleted. The volume does not seem sufficient to prevent providing detail.

As for the "three in a row," I don't think it would be super annoying to see something like:

[comment by Foo deleted - duplicate]
[comment by Bar deleted - offensive]
[comment by Foo deleted - noise/derail]

It doesn't give a lot away, but it certainly could make clear if a user has a common pattern of "offensive" or threadshitting/derailing, and would at least let everyone know something people may have reacted to is indeed missing. Also, those who saw it will then have another example to learn from of something that breaks the guidelines.
posted by Miko at 3:54 PM on February 24, 2023 [6 favorites]


That doesn't immediately strike me as a too high proportion. I'd be curious what other sites experience, if anyone has a data source.

I'm skeptical of arguments-from-history that it was better in a past that excluded people like me. Self-moderation is really easy when your participants are homogenous in some important ways.

dusty potato asks:
The real question is why are people permitted to stay in the community if they are making bigoted comments that need to be deleted?

What strikes me immediately about this is that it assumes something I don't think is true -- that we can all be categorized easily as bigoted or not. I think rather that we are works in progress who sometimes have bad days. I'd much rather have a high threshold for banning/community exclusion and a lower threshold for, as DirtyOldTown put it so wonderfully, reminding people to be cool.
posted by eirias at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2023 [14 favorites]


How, pray tell is free thread related to the issue or moderation. People have fun, share their hopes and fears, lite stuff, funny stuff... just not cool.
posted by clavdivs at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2023 [7 favorites]


Personally, I'd hazard it's the people being so aggressive in reaction to the mere 13 comment-deletions/day that are hurting the site (including when they get fed up and leave, but also when they double-down on vitriol toward the mods), but I recognize that this difference of opinion is precisely one of the quasi-partisan issue at play. The next time there's a user survey, it might be useful to poll on precisely this question: lay out the numbers and ask if that seems like too much, too little, or if it seems just fine.

sure sure a difference of opinion, the one opinion is "we are facing a declining membership and people flame out on this site constantly after mod actions" vs "i don't think that's a problem". i don't think a user survey would capture any of those user's concerns because they are already gone. also the userbase has literally no control over this website so if we want to change this pattern it has to come from the mods whether the cause is the "aggressive" users or bad modding

here's where it lies for me: the mods are barely deleting any comments, and yet we're constantly having struggle sessions about deleted comments. seems to indicate the judgement about which comments should be deleted is poor, but we can't even get people to agree that we should at least COMMUNICATE those deletions better. "No Way to Prevent This", Says Only Website Where This Regularly Happens.
posted by JimBennett at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


What strikes me immediately about this is that it assumes something I don't think is true -- that we can all be categorized easily as bigoted or not.

I, similarly it sounds like, don't consider 'bigoted' an essential quality that is very useful to assign to a person. However, I also don't believe that bigoted comments are distributed at random throughout a population, and at the end of the day, a discussion website is literally the sum of what people say to each other. Which garden sounds more sustainable-- one where a crew has to spend much of each day pulling out weeds, or one that has a thoughtful mulching strategy to minimize the occurrence of weeds?
posted by dusty potato at 4:17 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


This is purely a personal thing, but me I really actively dislike the "free thread" and "Metatalktail" stuff because it is run by the mods. It feels patronising - "hey kids, unlocking the liquor cabinet and we won't be spanking you if you want to laugh and dance a bit here"... I know this is well off topic but maybe someone else here agrees?

Meatbomb, this does seem really off-topic, so make a MetaTalk if you want to talk about it? In regards to those perennial posts, I have been completely unaware of any moderation in those threads.

One could argue it is because the moderation is opaque, but I think the mods just post them because they are on a schedule and it's just easier for them to set a reminder or something so they happen at relatively the same time each week.

***

As to the meat of the post... Well, I think most has been covered already, and I don't see what I can add.

The only thing I find perplexing is the number of people who "question their sanity" when going back through a thread and something has been deleted. I mean, the first time or two I left a tab open to comment on something after I slept on it so I didn't go all GRAR? Yeah, it was weird.

But, after a while, it's like, "I swear there was a comment here! Oh. Yeah. Probably deleted." Is that not the go-to process for most?

(I mean, yes, there have been several people who said it's not their go-to. I'm just curious about the people who haven't specified one way or the other.)
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 4:42 PM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


I believe it would be sufficient for the there to be an audit log available to the user committees. That way, if there were some question about the propriety of a given action, there would be a record.

I do not believe the site is being "overmoderated." I also do not believe there are nefarious moderations happening such that people can't trust the moderators.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:08 PM on February 24, 2023 [6 favorites]


Tomorrow is the one month anniversary of the Event that sparked all this anger. I have read a lot of these metatalk grar flameout threads through the years, but this one keeps going and going, dying a natural death and then being reborn, phoenix-like, from the ashes. Perhaps there have been others like this before.
I, for one, welcome Metafilter's heretofore unmentioned secret plan for the OmniMod Cabal, a group of unnamed all-powerful mods who answer to no one and who delete comments, posts, and user accounts alike with a devil-may-care grin and a whiplike flick of their mouse, leaving no trace behind.
I would also kind of prefer to see a note when mods delete comments, and I'm glad to be reminded that this decision has already been made and is in progress.
posted by Vatnesine at 5:32 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


Oh hello everyone, OP here. Not going to read anything between my last comment and this one. I assume everything is fine, right? Still on track here? Ok cool.

ANYWAY.

Thanks to Loup for providing the comment deletion data. I expected the volume to be lowish so that all checks out. It’s probably not feasible to figure out how many comments are deleted without a note so let’s estimate 50%. I can safely assume that the actual number is much lower but bear with me. That’s sixish comments a day. Presumably there’s a reason those comments are deleted. Would it be possible to maybe….try noting all comment deletions in-thread for a month? Limit it to one of the subsites? It won’t be that much of a jump from what’s already going on.

BB mentioned that they leave a note about 80%-90% of the time. Threeish comments a day deleted without a note. Not a big deal, right? Right! Might be worth a trial period since it’s only three comments. Again, not a big deal, right? Right! It’s not like this will open a black hole that will tear the community apart from the inside. It’s adding deletion notes to three comments.

And if there’s a situation where a mod has to remove a bunch of comments in a single thread, I’d be fine with a single note that’s something like “nine comments removed, please knock off this derail; everyone knows chocolate is the best ice cream flavor.”

Re: a non mouse, a cow herd – when I run across disappeared comments that I swear were there before, or see obvious gaps in a thread with no explanation, it’s jarring and uncomfortable in a way that I’m not sure I can explain and probably speaks more to my mental health than anything else. Have you ever opened your fridge to get a snack but the snack just isn’t there? You could’ve sworn you put it on the shelf but nope, gone. Did you put it in the pantry instead? Nope again, not there either. But you definitely bought a snack. Right? You’re sure you did. But if you did, wouldn’t it be in the fridge?

Speaking of, now I’m going to go get a snack. Everyone in this thread should get one too.
posted by Diskeater at 5:38 PM on February 24, 2023 [19 favorites]


For the record, I was completely unaware of any bug in the tagging - it's looked like "retired" to me since frimble switched it sometime last year. And I am 100% fine with it being removed, although I expect that might cause confusion too, as I have for sure reverted to my natural surly self.

Since I was talking about rhetorical fallacies above, let's look at a different kind of discourse problem. I made a point above about the logic TheophileEscargot was using to make his point. He responded briskly with a rewording that addressed my point. Other people, seeing this exchange, made an emotional argument about the way this exchange made them feel. Which feelings are valid, sure, in that everyone feels what they feel and acknowledging a feeling in yourself is healthy, but using them to criticize my comment without engaging with the substance is, much to my amusement, a flawless example of what "tone policing" actually looks like.

And I think it's a real problem with how these threads go. If it becomes impossible to talk about policy in a policy thread, then... policy never goes anywhere. Which is a condition I suspect all us MeTa regulars recognize. And I really appreciate Diskeater (and biogeo in the previous one) trying incredibly hard to refocus the thread on actual policy. There has to be room for friction in these conversations without the friction itself becoming the focus of the thread - or what is blamed for the need for policy in the first place.

So yeah, I've got opinions and I'm going to disagree with people. If you think that indicates contempt, then I feel like that reveals a significant reason why these threads go nowhere, and I implore you to search your feelings about the people you are having conversations with in MetaTalk. For me, if I were contemptuous of the community, I wouldn't bother to engage. It's a choice I heartily recommend.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2023 [19 favorites]


This would spawn an infinite set of angry metatalk threads questioning every decision made by the mods.

As a compromise. Set a subscription level that can see the log. Say $200/month.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 6:07 PM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


It says staff again fyi. https://imgur.com/a/W9LuE0J
posted by PugAchev at 6:10 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


I'm seeing "retired."
posted by bondcliff at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


I’m seeing staff on R_N’s tag as well.

Viewing on Safari on iPhone 12 Pro Max
posted by Roger Pittman at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2023


When it said "[n] new comments, show" and I clicked, I saw "staff," but when I did a complete refresh of the page, it switched to "retired," maybe this helps someone figure out what's going on
posted by secretseasons at 6:21 PM on February 24, 2023


I’ve only seen “retired,” both on phone and desktop.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


ignored the content of Theophile Escargot's

you mean the parallel universe reductive fallacy?
posted by clavdivs at 6:31 PM on February 24, 2023 [3 favorites]


Still seeing the staff tag after I clicked for more comments https://ibb.co/QKJ2ZnT
posted by crazy with stars at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2023


This is the point at which a good moderator would step in and delete a lot of the comments above and leave

[deleted: noise/derail]

(grin)
posted by twsf at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2023 [6 favorites]


If you think that indicates contempt, then I feel like that reveals a significant reason why these threads go nowhere

you referred to a user's post as bullshit. this is a serious question: do you not think your expression, specifically conveys contempt?

I implore you to search your feelings about the people you are having conversations with in MetaTalk. For me, if I were contemptuous of the community, I wouldn't bother to engage. It's a choice I heartily recommend.

I don't know if the following sentiment is a correct interpretation of the above quote, so my apologize if I am wrong, but this reads to me as follows:

"If you don't like how things are I encourage you to leave."

I don't think that's a constructive way to engage with criticism, if again, that interpretation is correct
posted by angrycat at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2023 [10 favorites]


I think that he's saying that if a person is contemptuous of the community that they shouldn't be active participants of that community. Making the choice to not be contemptuous and/or not part of the community if they are contemptuous is his recommendation.
posted by ashbury at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


Maybe she should follow her own advice then. Less contempt of the user base, or leave the community. My personal preference is for the latter.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2023


Please rerail.
posted by NotLost at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm not necessarily opposed to a r_n pile-on but there's no need to misgender her
posted by secretseasons at 7:16 PM on February 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


If you don't like how things are I encourage you to leave."

Either/or fallacy.
posted by clavdivs at 7:17 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


Oh oh, my apologies for the misgendering!
posted by ashbury at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm once again really disappointed by Metafilter. What r_n said upthread was totally out of line: I actually dropped my jaw when I saw it.

"I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit" now that I... what, get to tell people how I really feel since I'm not drawing a paycheck off you all anymore?

And doubling down: "If you think that indicates contempt, then I feel like that reveals a significant reason why these threads go nowhere..."

I'm also disappointed by jessamyn's response. My sense is that the intent here has been to take a more background approach to addressing specific issues while the steering committee works on longer-term strategy, which is not a bad thing.

But it's not okay for people who have either a [staff] or [retired] tag after their username to personalize things like this; anyone who's ever had a public-facing job should know that there is a higher standard. Even if a customer/client/patient/user is being a total asshole, you bring in your supervisor right then to deal with the issue if needed, and move on, or else you politely deescalate. You definitely don't come back later and pull that kind of shit.

My personal window of hope that MeFi is going to be able to turn things around ratcheted down a few inches again today.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2023 [21 favorites]


I'm not necessarily opposed to a r_n pile-on but there's no need to misgender her

Argument ad populum
posted by clavdivs at 7:21 PM on February 24, 2023


When you're a mod you're always a mod
From your first angry MeTa to your Retired tag pile-on
posted by dw at 8:44 PM on February 24, 2023 [8 favorites]


The mod job description really is interesting. It’s difficult though to get a sense of the time apportionment for each of these tasks. Is task analysis and % effort part of what the SC is doing?
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2023 [4 favorites]


Ok now do the stats for Projects.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:50 PM on February 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


People do occasionally get a little testy on FanFare and a comment might be deleted. Everyone feels a little embarrassed about it. It doesn't happen often.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:06 PM on February 24, 2023


On an iPad, i see rn was staff now, though it was retired six hours ago,
posted by snofoam at 10:36 PM on February 24, 2023


> It’s difficult though to get a sense of the time apportionment for each of these tasks. Is task analysis and % effort part of what the SC is doing?

Excellent question. This is something I personally tried to raise in November last year, after I noticed from an earlier infodump that there are actually quite a low number of deletions per day. My argument is simple - let's work out what mods actually do and see if we can use mod hours we are already paying for to also do the much needed task of promoting the site / marketing / attracting new users, etc.

My MetaTalk post didn't make it through the queue, with the promise that news on this front would follow shortly. I was OK then with my post being spiked because it was bad timing and I'm sure it would have interfered with fundraising goals to have suggested that more could be done with less, that we ought to be able to reach "Thrive" goals on a "Survive" budget.

Now though, I'm pretty disappointed to see that we raised funds (a huge amount of money relatively speaking), moved onto hiring a new moderator, and it appears to be all business as usual.

One issue here is that we don't have a clearly defined metric for measuring moderator success. (Loup - please let me know if I am wrong here). How do we quantify if they are doing their jobs well or badly? Implicitly it's user satisfaction (although measured how?), to which I would add with some urgency acquisition, activation, engagement levels, and retention. Clarifying these would inform what sort of tasks mods should be doing and how they should be doing them.

It feels like there are some dogmatic beliefs amongst users and management team that are holding back the necessary evolution of the site: that moderation is a unique and special job, an art not a science, and so it cannot be standardised by policy or process; and that it is a black box that is necessarily opaque, and so it cannot be investigated, challenged, or improved.

I don't believe that - it's a job like any other. We should be able to discuss the nature of the role, responsibilities, tasks, goals, etc. to identify workflow optimisations, and to ensure we meet success metric targets.
posted by iivix at 1:07 AM on February 25, 2023 [16 favorites]


I'm aware that everyone needs a hug. On this topic, I'm ambivalent but would rather not add to the mod workload with a log. I think that it would allow my worst impulses to say that I understood their job better than the current team do and that would lead to more objections and challenges to mod decisions.

'I pay' doesn't override the fact 'I'm a guest' here. There isn't some core identical demographic across all the users, but we do have overlapping interests in each thread and a responsibility to work within the thread. For some people, that's on the basis that a thread is facts-only; and others, it's rhetorical back-and-forth conjecturing what should be done next with the facts at hand. Another angle is closely held fragile dreams vs low-investment chatter, or attached to a political in-group vs no such attachment. Sometimes I read feelings behind the actions of a commenter and follow impulses to assumptions that are wrong -- I don't think calling something 'mean' is a good rhetorical stance but it happens when people have reasonable emotional responses to the perceived tone of comments. All the while, perceived tone in a text-based forum is tricky and related to the culture you're posting from as if one of our segregated groups across the planet provides a universal culture. We come together in a thread with our differences but an overlap on the thread's contents. Also, not all threads are for me or even have space for me to add good contributions to the discussion -- I'm okay with that, the world turns and I breathe in and out.

All these things come together: I post on the assumption, one I assume I share with most of the rest of you, that our posts form a set of words put out into the world as part of the thread's community effort and for the good of the thread. In summary, MetaFilter is a a land of contrasts I would be more in favour of an explicit charter that users agree to so that mod decisions all sit within that context: offtopic, a derail, abusive behaviour for its place within the community and the specific context of a given thread. This discussion so far seems to have skirted this aspect of the conversation.
posted by k3ninho at 2:22 AM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


You know, it suddenly occurs to me that we, the users, are more numerous than the mods: perhaps the time is ripe for a MetaFilter peoples revolution?!? I nominate myself as treasurer in the post-cabal regime.
posted by some loser at 3:18 AM on February 25, 2023


(I'm way too smart to nominate myself as a moderator LOL)
posted by some loser at 3:20 AM on February 25, 2023


I'll be selling soss inna bun and merch that reads "let's you and them fight," some loser. You go after the (lack of) money.
posted by k3ninho at 4:38 AM on February 25, 2023


* No to moderation logs

Just a few days ago I was thinking how it would be nice if moderators could toggle their badges on and off when they are commenting or posting as a user vs an official of MetFilter.

Also, I think the retired badges should be retired and perhaps a badge on their profile that states they were once staff.
posted by terrapin at 6:09 AM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


Re: a non mouse, a cow herd – when I run across disappeared comments that I swear were there before, or see obvious gaps in a thread with no explanation, it’s jarring and uncomfortable in a way that I’m not sure I can explain and probably speaks more to my mental health than anything else. Have you ever opened your fridge to get a snack but the snack just isn’t there? You could’ve sworn you put it on the shelf but nope, gone. Did you put it in the pantry instead? Nope again, not there either. But you definitely bought a snack. Right? You’re sure you did. But if you did, wouldn’t it be in the fridge?

Thanks Diskeater. This is an analogy I can totally relate to. Just a few days ago, I was getting ready to make dinner and... several ingredients were just... not there? I looked for some others for the following meals for the next couple of days and a bunch were severely lacking as well.

For reference, I place my grocery order online and pick up either once or twice a week. So, I figured, this may have been one of the times where I just placed the order for the first half of the week. Went and bought the stuff for the rest of the week, and as I was putting it away found at least one of the ingredients and shook my head. (Recipe called for sausage. I had forgotten that I had bought pre-sliced [because I never do, and didn't even realize you could] vs. links)

So, yes, I understand that disconcerting feeling. I have felt it recently. I just... don't feel it for missing comments here. Like you, that probably speaks to my mental health or mindset. I am 100% aware that I forget things and also misremember things and get lied to, and, and, and...

Anyway, I only brought up my experience not to diminish yours (or the several others) who have had the same experience, but to share a different experience.

I almost feel like many of the people who are stating "no log" just assume that their experience is the only experience and much resembles mine. Which, again, is "I could have sworn there was a comment there. Huh. Must have been deleted."

I think, without that fundamental difference of how people are considering this issue being voiced, we are sometimes talking past each other without realizing it. (Maybe, more accurately, some who are "no log" are hearing "lost my mind" as hyperbole?)

**************

I do appreciate you replying, Diskeater. I understand and see yours and other's point better now.

I would ALMOST vote for tabling the ask for a while and see how BB's mod style may shape and affect the site. He seems to be in a happy medium of what we want. As he said, there would have been a spot where, if mod log or inline comments were required, there would be multiple straight from him. Instead, he deleted them all and left one note with the reason. He also seems to leave a reason for all (that I have seen) deletions that need and explanation. (By "need", I mean, do we need to know that a user requested deletion?)

For the record, I would rather NOT have a mod log and NOT have every deleted comment marked as [deleted]. If either of those happen, I don't think it would impact how I interact here.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


but using them to criticize my comment without engaging with the substance is, much to my amusement, a flawless example of what "tone policing" actually looks like.

I see: tone policing is bad... but a month ago someone had their comment deleted (and ended up suspended) because their tone in a MetaTalk thread was seen as unhelpful. But then they weren't [retired].
posted by fabius at 6:41 AM on February 25, 2023 [6 favorites]


Tone policing is what moderation is.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 6:49 AM on February 25, 2023 [2 favorites]


What are the defined parameters for tone policing?
posted by Miko at 6:52 AM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


And to expand on that slightly, that's part of why MeTa was mostly unmoderated for many years, because you can't participate in and also moderate a conversation (and have that conversation be anything like organic.) But MeTa needs moderation like any other part of the site. And trying to thread that needle is unsatisfying for everyone.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 6:53 AM on February 25, 2023 [2 favorites]


OK, so moderators and ex-moderators do the tone policing, and never ever make mistakes (or admit to them), but no one else is allowed to.

I see why it's called "policing", officer.
posted by fabius at 6:55 AM on February 25, 2023 [13 favorites]


And trying to thread that needle is unsatisfying for everyone.

It seems like much more clear and transparent guidelines for deletions and a clearer record they've taken place could only improve that seeming dilemma.
posted by Miko at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2023 [12 favorites]


When the mods make mistakes, they continue to get attacked for it months or even years later (see this thread).

Again, if you don’t like it here, you can leave.
posted by Melismata at 7:35 AM on February 25, 2023 [3 favorites]


if you don’t like it here, you can leave

I’m at least a little worried that a non-trivial number of people might take you up on that offer.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:48 AM on February 25, 2023 [9 favorites]


When the mods make mistakes, they continue to get attacked for it months or even years later

If a mistake is made, but it's acknowledged, apologised for, and the situation resolved, then it's less likely to be brought up again and again.

Again, if you don’t like it here, you can leave.

It's possible to like somewhere and think it could be better.
posted by fabius at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2023 [16 favorites]


Metafilter: If you don’t like it here, you can leave.
posted by octothorpe at 8:01 AM on February 25, 2023 [15 favorites]


Moderation should be much more than tone policing. And "tone policing," pretty much by definition, privileges privileged voices.

This whole thing is worth reading: Tone-Policing and the Assertion of Authority by Alice MacLachlan
At its core, tone-policing is first an argumentative move sideways and then a stall. It first shifts the focus from the content of the conversation to the tone, language, or manner of discussion (as the quote above says) and then – unlike other interventions about tone – policing announces that the shift cannot be reversed until tone is addressed. The tone-policer doesn’t just declare that their interlocutor’s tone is inappropriate and heightened (usually because it is too hostile, adversarial, or aggressive, upset, or irrational). They insist that the conversation cannot continue until the speaker adjusts it. It often involves a further demand – implicit or explicit – that the interlocutor address their infraction with some apology or other gesture of accountability before things can proceed.

The term “policing” is crucial here, carrying implications of vested authority and the right to enforce one’s judgment. Focusing on authority and enforcement is useful for distinguishing tone-policing from other interventions around tone...

Moreover, tone policing or any approach to conversational norms that takes as its standard and starting point the ideal of disinterested impartiality, will inevitably give the upper hand to the person who is able to appear most dispassionate about the topic, precisely because they are least (harmfully) impacted by it. The effects of this subtle prioritization are not just conversational; epistemic authority is conveyed, as is a dangerous model for what epistemic authority in difficult conversations looks like. If, in difficult conversations, we ought to speak and comport ourselves like someone who is unaffected by the subject as much as possible then, it is implied, there is something of value in being unaffected by the subject, something worth paying attention to.

A reason I would like more visible records of deletions and other moderator actions is so that moderation can stay accountable to the community, where we can see if comments expressing justified emotions are getting shut down for not being "nice" enough. And also because sometimes that lack of niceness is due to another commenter's history of bigotry, which is opaque because the comments have all been deleted, which ends up reinforcing the perception that the anger was misplaced, even when it's not.

If your goal is to move toward more shared leadership/authority/investment in the site, then you have to move away from any sort of "policing" model where everything is secret and unaccountable. You have to give the users information so we can make better-informed decisions ourselves, and you can't share authority if you're this defensive about moderation.
posted by lapis at 8:03 AM on February 25, 2023 [24 favorites]


Tone policing is what moderation is.
posted by restless_nomad (retired) at 9:49 AM on February 25 [+] [!]


this is the entire problem with this website in one sentence, thanks for that. the most transparency we have gotten from a mod on this site in years.

When the mods make mistakes, they continue to get attacked for it months or even years later (see this thread).

Again, if you don’t like it here, you can leave.


all my friends already left, maybe you haven't noticed that this site has been consistently hemorrhaging users for years now? jesus christ miss me with this crap. if you want to keep your head in the sand keep the rest of us out of it.
posted by JimBennett at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2023 [14 favorites]


Tone policing is what moderation is.

Which is why there should be as little of it as possible.

But MeTa needs moderation like any other part of the site.

Unless actual harm is in play (bigotry, doxing, etc): no, it really doesn't. Angry words are just that: words. It costs nothing for people to eyeroll at the asshole and scroll on. But allowing people to be silenced in the only forum for raising objections sets up a fundamentally toxic power structure where authority cannot and will not be called out, let alone challenged.

And yes, it is the only forum for raising objections because moderation here does not admit fault, and even when it admits "this could have been handled better" that sentiment is not followed with corresponding action, namely: actually reversing poor judgement calls. Which, because this site maintains a high quality bar for moderation, are relatively rare but still happen. When they do, and this is broadly recognized, they should be undone.

Again, if you don’t like it here, you can leave.

If you were discussing one of the more idiotic bits of US federal policy on a different forum and some gross old dude Republican said this to you, you'd be ripshit at him for such a shitty attitude and your anger would be entirely justified. It's a lazy, pointless thing to say in that context. And this context. And every context. When people are trying to improve a situation the correct response is not "broken things should never be repaired so go away," the correct response is "here is why you are mistaken about this being broken: (reasons)," if you truly believe that.
posted by Ryvar at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2023 [17 favorites]


If you don't like it, you can leave.

Two of the more invested members of the community --- a steering committee member and a person who many were sad to see withdraw from steering committee consideration --- are gone recently. So, who are the sorts of folks you would like to stay?
posted by secretseasons at 8:23 AM on February 25, 2023 [14 favorites]


BB, Loup:

I say this without any personal rancor or sense of irony, I swear:

Giving r-n a timeout right now would be a really great way to establish trust. Because it would demonstrate fairness and accountability.
posted by angrycat at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2023 [22 favorites]


I also keep coming back to this:
White Supremacy Culture: Right to Comfort, Power Hoarding & Fear of Conflict

Fear of (open) conflict shows up as:
  • people in power are scared of expressed conflict and try to ignore it or run from it;
  • when someone raises an issue that causes discomfort, the response is to blame the person for raising the issue rather than to look at the issue which is actually causing the problem;
  • emphasis or insistence on being polite; setting the rules for how ideas or information or differences of opinion need to be shared in order to be heard (in other words, requiring that people "calm down" if they are angry when anger often contains deep wisdom about where the underlying hurt and harm lies);
  • equating the raising of difficult issues with being impolite, rude, or out of line; punishing people either overtly or subtly for speaking out about their truth and/or experience;
  • labeling emotion as "irrational" or anti-intellectual or inferior, which means failing to recognize the importance of emotional intelligence;
  • pretending or insisting that our point of view is grounded in the "rational" or the intellectual when we are in fact masking our emotions with what appear to be rational or intellectual arguments.
​Antidotes or suggestions for how to show up in more connecting and healing ways:
  • distinguish between being polite and raising hard issues;
  • don’t require those who raise hard issues to raise them in ‘acceptable’ ways, especially if you are using the ways in which issues are raised as an excuse not to address them;
  • develop your emotional intelligence so you can tell when you are hiding your emotions with the excuse that you are being "rational";
  • be transparent about power, so that everyone understands who makes the final decision and/or how the final decision is made before you dive into the conflict;
  • invite a third or "neutral" party to support exploration of the conflict;
  • assume that everyone has a very good reason for their position and seek to lift those up to the light of day;
  • once a conflict is resolved, take the opportunity to revisit it and see how it might have been handled differently.
​Power hoarding shows up as:
  • little, if any, value around sharing power
  • power seen as limited, only so much to go around
  • those with power feel threatened when anyone suggests changes in how things should be done in the organization, often feeling suggestions for change are a reflection on their leadership
  • those with power don’t see themselves as hoarding power or as feeling threatened
  • those with power assume they have the best interests of the organization at heart and assume those wanting change are ill-informed (stupid), emotional, inexperienced; blaming the messenger rather than focusing on the message
  • clinging and other emotional constriction that clouds our field of vision and catapults us back into our small self with its insatiable sense of anxiety and threat
​Antidotes to power hoarding include:
  • include power sharing as an explicit organizational or community value
  • discuss and define what good leadership looks like and include how a good leader develops the power and skills of others
  • if you are a leader and/or hold power, understand that change is inevitable and challenges to your leadership are often healthy and productive; adopt the "tell me more" approach to challenges
  • if you are a leader and/or hold power, avoid taking challenges personally and return to the principle of collective thinking and action; ask for help with your leadership, particularly when feeling highly defensive
  • if you are a leader and/or hold power, realize your ability and responsibility to support others to hold power well and responsibly, to support others to be successful and to shine, to mentor and support others; realize your ability to support and help others grow reflects well on you (as opposed to attitudes and behaviors that stem from fear, desire to control and/or micro-manage)
  • allow yourself to feel the joy in helping others grow, thrive, succeed, and even exceed you
  • make sure the organization is focused on the vision, mission, and values rather than staying "in business" for the sake of staying in business
  • lean in to the racial equity principle of "know yourself" (see below) and develop strategies for making friends with your ego so that you are leading and/or acting from a place of integrity rather than fear or anxiety about your importance
posted by lapis at 8:54 AM on February 25, 2023 [18 favorites]


Giving r-n a timeout right now would be a really great way to establish trust. Because it would demonstrate fairness and accountability.

Not unless half the people who have posted in this thread are similarly timed-out. restless_nomad hasn't responded with anything out of the ordinary for this conversation.
posted by curious nu at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2023 [8 favorites]


This is at best not constructive, if not hostile and childish: If you don't like it here, you can leave.

People are contributing to the thread because they are trying to make Metafilter better. As someone said above, people can like something and still want improve it. I doubt anyone think Mefi is perfect.
posted by NotLost at 9:00 AM on February 25, 2023 [3 favorites]


Not unless half the people who have posted in this thread are similarly timed-out. restless_nomad hasn't responded with anything out of the ordinary for this conversation.

literally anyone else who posted the words "I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit" directed at another user would have that post deleted and would be told to take a break from the thread, which has informed the tone of the rest of this discussion
posted by JimBennett at 9:09 AM on February 25, 2023 [22 favorites]


>>But MeTa needs moderation like any other part of the site.

>Unless actual harm is in play (bigotry, doxing, etc): no, it really doesn't.


These sentences are not in contradiction. Both of you are saying moderation is needed. r_n did not say where the line was. You mentioned a line. That's really the only difference, imo.

Angry words are just that: words. It costs nothing for people to eyeroll at the asshole and scroll on.

Um.... Remove the word angry and see how that sentence parses. It has been an ongoing struggle for people in this community to have a safe space where they *don't* have to roll their eyes. Where they don't have to feel they can't speak because their words will be attacked. Maybe you are just talking about MeTa, but that is really free speech absolutism and has a chilling effect on the entire site. I find it kind of shitty to the oppressed groups that we claim to support to even have "it's just words" in this conversation.

And yes, it is the only forum for raising objections because moderation here does not admit fault, and even when it admits "this could have been handled better" that sentiment is not followed with corresponding action, namely: actually reversing poor judgement calls.

It was not very long ago when cortex admitted he handled a mod decision extremely poorly which led to him retiring, no longer being the owner of the site, a transition team created and a steering committee that came out of that.

Is that not admitting fault and having corresponding action?
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:19 AM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


Golly. I opened the thread just thinking "well, universal flagging of deletions in-thread would actually be helpful if it's not overwhelming work, the current vanishing approach is disconcerting," and now my jaw is on the floor. Really???

I'm told that when parents find themselves locked in an oppositional spiral with teenagers they should take a break and try to reset. An imperfect analogy, but...just saying.
posted by praemunire at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2023 [14 favorites]


I think a subset of the people participating in this thread have chosen to pretty thoroughly shit the bed as far as any possibility for further productive policy discussion. I am reluctant to say it, because I think the original topic of this thread is still important, and it was well-framed for discussion, but I can't see us coming back from this in this thread. I'm pretty upset at the people who I perceive as having hijacked this thread, and I'm equally sure that they don't see their own actions as hijacking it (and would probably point to others as the ones responsible for hijacking the discussion), so there's no point in trying to address it as it would only lead to continued arguments and tail-chasing.

I now think this thread should be closed, with deepest apologies to Diskeater who deserved more respect for their work in putting it together. There's a lot of substance up-thread, which I think is a solid basis for consideration by the mod team and the Steering Committee for informing policy decisions, and that is a really valuable contribution from everyone who participated there.
posted by biogeo at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2023 [21 favorites]


literally anyone else who posted the words "I don't have to pretend to not notice bullshit" directed at another user would have that post deleted and would be told to take a break from the thread

I'm tempted to give it a try right now, but a little voice inside is telling me I should finish my coffee first.

... ... ...

And now, I'm way more interested in engaging with r_n's "Tone policing is what moderation is" than worrying about who is or isn't allowed to notice bullshit (and suggest as much to somebody else's face). Because in terms of the moderating that the mods actually do (we've seen that much of what we end up paying them for is other stuff), it feels to me like refereeing the overall dynamics of various conversations is definitely a big part of it.

I used the hockey analogy in a previous thread. I'll use it again. In a perfect game, the refs just hang around trying to keep out of the flow of the play, the beautiful end-to-end action, the hard (but fully legal) hits, the fabulous saves, the brilliant goals, which are the only time (other than end of periods, end of game) that a whistle gets blown. Because, like I said, it's a perfect game. Nobody's ever offside, nobody gets injured, nobody hooks or trips or elbows or charges or spears or ... you get the picture.

There are no perfect games. So we have refs. To keep things contained and as close to perfect as possible, to make the calls that need to made, to call the offsides, to assess the penalties that need to be assessed etc. But for whatever reason, some games are just way harder to contain than others. Which is when things can get genuinely chaotic. The refs miss obvious calls because they're focused on other obvious stuff that's happening elsewhere, the various players riding high levels of emotion and adrenaline decide fuck it, if the refs aren't going to police this thing, we will, and so on ...

Sorry, what point was I trying to make? Oh yeah, something along the lines of moderation maybe not being tone policing but definitely being refereeing. Which, if you actually break it down, does end feeling a lot like a non-combatant (or two) stepping in when the overall tone of things starts veering toward the wrong kind of chaotic.
posted by philip-random at 9:40 AM on February 25, 2023


I am reluctant to say it, because I think the original topic of this thread is still important, and it was well-framed for discussion

biogeo, I apologize if I succumbed to this. This is an important thread and great discussion.

I am going to quote from what appears to be the official stance:
*On a technical level*
– It would be good to have a [Comment Deleted] placeholder for when a comment is deleted.

*On a Policy & Procedure level*

– Comments should only be deleted on Metatalk/Site Updates/Policy Discussions when they violate current policies (Guidelines, Content Policy, Microaggressions page).

– Metatalk comments that are disruptive in one way or another but do not violate the guidelines can be addressed by the mods, but not necessarily deleted.
So... it looks like comment deleted is on the roadmap? Maybe just some nudging now and again is needed?

And, also, r_n's comments in MeTa would be okay because we want fewer deletions in MeTa than the rest of the site?

I am going to go take a walk. Hope everyone here has a wonderful day.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:49 AM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


I now think this thread should be closed, with deepest apologies to Diskeater who deserved more respect for their work in putting it together. There's a lot of substance up-thread, which I think is a solid basis for consideration by the mod team and the Steering Committee for informing policy decisions, and that is a really valuable contribution from everyone who participated there.

sure let's close the thread so we can come back in two weeks and start all over again. that's what we do at metatalk. isn't this all just spillover bad feelings from the molly realized thread? maybe this strategy of pretending dissent is bad behavior actually a big part of the reason why this keeps happening?
posted by JimBennett at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2023 [14 favorites]


I am going to keep this short since I agree with biogeo about not hijacking this thread:

Maybe you are just talking about MeTa

The line I was immediately replying to, which I quoted, specifically mentioned "MeTa" as the context. So to be clear: I am not advocating free speech absolutism here or anywhere else because that is a position that leads to direct harm in the form of bigotry which I listed. I would hope and generally assume that by now, in 2023, even the most privileged of us on Metafilter have done at least enough of the work to recognize that much. I am advocating vastly more tolerance to friction and heated words here, for the reasons stated near the top of lapis' excellent comment on White Supremacy Culture.
posted by Ryvar at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2023 [2 favorites]


I think the material employment conditions of moderators here and the way those contributed (and potentially continue to contribute) to the anger and mistrust and culture of hostility here need to be seriously addressed

No employee is doing work now for which they are expecting to get paid and are not getting paid. Payments go out on time. Period. We have had, historically before my time (and until the funding crisis was addressed), a few bad situations. It still continues to be a challenge to try to resolve a few issues.

- moderation issues that come up during unstaffed hours but which require attention
- moderation tasks that spill over into after-shift time (which can, yes, include some work that is half customer service and half therapy. The alternative is to not do that work which is also a bad/tough choice)
- moderators who are also site users trying to split out site-use time from moderation time and the difficulty of that

We run a very lean budget and older-MeFi had extra money for addressing these things. Hiring Brandon is a step towards having more coverage and just another person to help fill in some gaps so that other mods don't feel like they need to be stepping in when they're not working. Moving from a model where the site owner was also a moderator and was sort of always-around in some ways to one where all the people who work here (I do not work here) have scheduled shifts which means there's not an always-around person has been a change and one that has, at times, been difficult in terms of site expectations. I say this not to be defensive but so that people have a sense of what's changed in the past few months and what they should be able to expect in terms of this specific part of the site (staffing/employment/expectations) moving forward.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2023 [25 favorites]


The secret thing about non-threaded discussion (and we've, as a community, lost the ability to flex a lot of these muscles because things were being kept so tightly controlled) is that you can often pretty effectively rerail conversations just by ignoring stuff and talking about what you want to talk about.

This is in fact what I and multiple others have done here. Thus far it has not been effective. I would be very happy for that to change.
posted by biogeo at 10:53 AM on February 25, 2023 [5 favorites]


Do not tell me what I expect.
posted by biogeo at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2023 [12 favorites]


On the topic of mod jobs: it seems like there isn’t much prioritization going on if the tasks listed earlier comprise the bulk of her job description. There are certain things that would seem like possible lower-priority items that could take a back seat until things get better, like spending a lot of time on coming up with a question for metatalktails or running a special event in fanfare. Again, if it isn’t already being done under loup, a time/task analysis could really help focus in on what the most important work is. Right now , (admittedly from the outside) it seems like everything is carrying equal weight and everyone is trying to do everything, which doesn’t work well at a scale even as small as this.

Some planning and analysis could give everyone a chance to breathe.

I will also say that user interactions that border on “therapy” are, in my experience, where staff get themselves into big trouble. The staff aren’t trained for that; they aren’t trauma-informed and don’t seem to have accessibility skills and principles in play. The over-personalization of interactions is very much part of the reason so many users who were valued and strong contributors have gotten so deeply alienated.

It may seem colder to fall back to guidelines - clearer, simpler ones - and say “this was what happened, this is the result according to the guidelines.” If the guidelines really were in play and it wasn’t a confusing edge case, it would be far easier for all to accept. What we’ve got now is no clarity, which makes everything an edge case. Further clarity and traps next could make getting into people’s personal mental and emotional states, abilities and situations more clearly out of bounds and safer for everyone. Mods should not be therapizing.
posted by Miko at 11:05 AM on February 25, 2023 [32 favorites]


I feel like some of the “if you don’t like it here, leave” comments are directed my way. So apologies to folks trying to re-rail the discussion but I’m gonna continue that derail because I apparently can’t resist defending myself, lol.

It’s true, I don’t like it here. I hate-read this site as often as I love-read it these days.

So the why fuck am I still here? I stuck around because I used to love it here. This used to be one of the kindest and most interesting communities on the web. It’s not, today, for me, but I believed that the change in structure and ownership and leadership was a window of opportunity for this place to get better.

I’m not sure if I still believe that, I’ll have to ponder. The main thing I hate about this place is how fucking mean people are here sometimes. I love the hard line on racism, sexism, transphobia, etc, but sometimes it feels like mods decided those are the only ways to be an asshole and decided to ignore more garden-variety shitbaggery.

Seeing a former mod be so mean and see nothing wrong with that doesn’t inspire confidence. I’ve seen her be so kind and generous in other contexts so I’m hoping this is just a bad day, but, man, it hurts to see.

It also hurts to be told to fuck off from a place that used to feel pretty special to me, by the way. Not sure if that’s what the “love it or leave it” crowd is exactly going for, but certainly feels like that’s a statement meant to harm.
posted by dorothy hawk at 11:30 AM on February 25, 2023 [18 favorites]


You're right, that was rude, apologies.

Look if you're gonna drop lines like that in MetaTalk we're gonna need a soundtrack.
posted by Ryvar at 11:48 AM on February 25, 2023 [3 favorites]


Thank you, I accept your apology.

I don't expect that a MetaTalk thread is going to stay on-topic without derails forever, obviously that is just not how people work. I do, however, think that if MetaFilter is going to be successful as a self-governing online community, we need to be aware of the fact that having multiple conversations running in parallel in the same thread makes it harder to follow any one of those conversations, and that some conversations need to happen with everyone making an effort to keep things productive and easy to follow. I don't think it's too much to ask of people to make an effort to moderate their own impulses to needle each other or to react to every real or perceived provocation.

Derails are inevitable, but when the point is raised that the derail is detracting from the communicative or deliberative function of a policy MeTa, continuing the derail anyway is a choice. And in my opinion, one that is disrespectful of the effort being made by other community members to have what are often very difficult conversations.
posted by biogeo at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


I do think that the MetaTalk queue adds additional friction to spinning off side discussions into their own threads in a way that probably doesn't help, but I'm not sure how much people did that before the queue was implemented anyway.
posted by biogeo at 12:08 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm trying not to get too involved in this discussion, but I thought philip-random had a thoughtful comment that deserves a thoughtful response, even though I disagree, not least because the point I'm going to make is that we can disagree without a referee.

There are no perfect games. So we have refs

I've played a lot of hockey in my life. Very little of it had referees. There are no referees at drop-in hockey, and yet it's not a free-for-all. Things occasionally do happen; a stick gets a little too high, trash talking gets a little out of hand, but it's dealt with by other players, even teammates. If I'm careless with my stick, I'm as likely to hear about it from one of my teammates as from the guy I high-sticked. (This is actually exactly what happened in that Raquel Welch thread before it got deleted, and truth be told, it probably could have prevented the MR blowup.) I've even seen people call procedural stuff like offsides. You don't need a referee to do that. It's probably better illustrated by playground basketball, where it's common for players to call their own fouls and shoot free throws.

The only time I got a concussion playing hockey was in a game with a referee. It was a no-checking league, I was skating toward a loose puck, and a dude cross-checked me from behind headfirst into the boards. When I got up, I yelled an expletive at the guy. We were both assessed offsetting two-minute penalties: him for violently causing a brain injury, me for vocalizing my displeasure about suffering a brain injury. Talk about tone policing!

The point I'm making is twofold: that referees aren't an inherent requirement of hockey, and that even referees can still make mistakes (or at least, apply rules in ways that seem unfair). Refereeing is neither necessary nor sufficient for a functioning hockey game.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:10 PM on February 25, 2023 [10 favorites]


It's harder to identify what counts as "a derail" in MeTa policy threads, though. Unlike on Ask or the Blue, people here are going to see specific topics as related to wider issues and want to discuss that context, and other people are going to want to dive in on the narrow topic initially brought up, and conversations will meander.

I don't see much of a quick fix to that, but my sense is that it's gotten better over the last while; there are more frequent MeTas and that means that we are ending up with fewer catch-all MeTas that go everywhere, with no actionable conclusions, and which just lead to more people getting confused, frustrated or angry and, unfortunately, often giving up on the community altogether.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:14 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


Mods should not be therapizing.

Agree.

And yet, just to talk a bit about mod process, we have users who often have overlaps with moderation issues (either what they want out of the site or a moderation decision which affected them) and mental health issues (situational or chronic). In the past, mods have tried to make moderation decisions, in part, based on a holistic look at what is going on in a user's life, if users shared that sort of thing (an example not from any user's actual situation that I know of) "Please don't ban me for my out of line comment. I am going through a really traumatic divorce. It won't happen again." and then a mod might give them a night off but not a ban, for example, but also a note saying "This user isn't allowed to to XYZ again based on this discussion we had with them." but then maybe they do XYZ a month later and get banned and are surprised and angry, not remembering or misremembering (understandable) that convo. This is where nearly all of the existing edge cases come from, where no choices seem like the right ones.

And yet this creates issues often based on both a mod's own personal ability to work with this information (as you say, they are by and large not trained in this and it's a lot to ask and mods are imperfect humans like all of us) and a user's ability to process and work with mod limitations in this area both personal and professional. This can also affect how a user talks about a moderation interaction. At a casual level a mod may say one thing in a private email and a user hears that with a slightly different tenor or tone and reports it in that way. Some of those are knobs that can be twiddled by the mod team, not all of them are. Moving to form letters makes this more objective but has a cold feeling for users. We've tried to move on as a site from mod-said-user-said MeTa threads but that can be unsatisfying for both mods and users.

It can seem callous or even cruel to have a mod not take into account what is going on in a user's larger life. Users can feel ignored, shunned, or discriminated against. It can seem like mods are giving preferential treatment (which can shake out along existing visible or invisible bias lines) or not modding "objectively" if they do take into account what is going on in a user's life, and that's a more mod-intensive approach in any case.

Again, I can see why more transparency here is something people would prefer and we're moving towards some of that. However the historic high-touch approach that the site has had in the past is something that many site members have grown to expect and doing things differently (even not having mods answer questions and requests in MeTa threads) is going to create friction even if it may be a better idea.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2023 [24 favorites]


FACILITATOR’S GUIDE TO PARTICIPATORY DECISION-MAKING: DYNAMICS OF GROUP DECISION-MAKING
How does group decision-making really work?

To explore these questions in greater depth, the following pages present a series of stop-action snapshots of the process of group decision-making.

When a problem has an obvious solution, it makes sense to close the discussion quickly. Why waste time? There’s only one problem: most groups try to bring every discussion to closure this quickly.

Some problems have no easy solutions. For example, how does an inner-city public school prevent campus violence? What steps should a business take to address the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce? Cases like these require a lot of thought; the issues are too complex to be solved with familiar opinions and conventional wisdom.

When a group of decision-makers has to wrestle with a difficult problem, they will not succeed in solving it until they break out of the narrow band of familiar opinions and explore a wider range of possibilities.

Unfortunately, most groups aren’t very good at cultivating unfamiliar or unpopular opinions.

Now and then, when the stakes are sufficiently high and the stars are in proper alignment, a group can manage to overcome the tendency to criticize and inhibit its members. On such occasions, people tentatively begin to consider new perspectives. Some participants might take a risk and express controversial opinions. Others might offer ideas that aren’t fully developed.

Since the goal is to find a new way of thinking about the problem, variety is obviously desirable . . . but the spread of opinions can become cumbersome and difficult to manage. Then what?

In theory, a group that has committed itself to thinking through a difficult problem would move forward in orderly, thoughtful steps. First, the group would generate and explore a diverse set of ideas. Next, they would consolidate the best thinking into a proposal. Then, they’d refine the proposal until they arrived at a final decision that nicely incorporated the breadth of their thinking.

Ah yes . . . if only real life worked that way.

In practice, it’s hard for people to shift from expressing their own opinions to understanding the opinions of others. And it’s particularly challenging to do so when a wide diversity of perspectives are in play. In such cases people can get overloaded, disoriented, annoyed, impatient – or all of the above. Some people feel misunderstood and keep repeating themselves. Others push for closure. Sometimes several conversations develop; each occupies the attention of a few people but seems tangential or irrelevant to everyone else.

Thus, even the most sincere attempts to solve difficult problems can – and often do – dissipate into confusion.

Sometimes one or more participants will attempt to step back from the content of the discussion and talk about the process. They might say things like, “I thought we all agreed to stick to the topic,” or “We need better ground rules,” or “Does anyone understand what’s going on here?”

Groups rarely respond intelligently to this line of thought. More commonly, a process comment becomes merely one more voice in the wilderness – yet another poorly understood perspective that gets absorbed into the general confusion.

At this point in a process, the person in charge of a meeting can make the problem worse, if he or she attempts to alleviate frustration by announcing that s/he has made a decision.

This is a common mistake.

The person-in-charge may believe that s/he has found a perfectly logical answer to the problem at hand, but this doesn’t mean that everyone else will telepathically grasp the reasoning behind the decision. Some people may still be thinking along entirely different lines.

This is the exact situation in which the person-in-charge appears to have made the decision before the meeting began. This leads many people to feel deep distrust. “Why did s/he tell me I’d have a say in this decision when s/he already knew what the outcome would be?

Obviously, there’s something wrong with the idealized model. Convergent thinking simply does not follow automatically from a divergent thinking process. What’s missing? What would make it more accurate? What’s wrong with this picture?

A period of confusion and frustration is a natural part of group decision-making. Once a group crosses the line from airing familiar opinions to exploring diverse perspectives, group members have to struggle in order to integrate new and different ways of thinking with their own.

Struggling to understand a wide range of foreign or opposing ideas is not a pleasant experience.

Group members can be repetitious, insensitive, defensive, short-tempered – and more! At such times most people don’t have the slightest notion of what’s happening. Sometimes the mere act of acknowledging the existence of the Groan Zone can be a significant step for a group to take.

This is the Diamond of Participatory Decision-Making. It was developed by Sam Kaner with Lenny Lind, Catherine Toldi, Sarah Fisk and Duane Berger.

Facilitators can use this model in many ways: as a diagnostic tool, a road map, or a teaching tool to provide their groups with shared language and shared points of reference.

Fundamentally, though, it was created to validate and legitimize the hidden aspects of everyday life in groups.
posted by lapis at 12:21 PM on February 25, 2023 [8 favorites]


. There are no referees at drop-in hockey, and yet it's not a free-for-all.

kevinbelt - I like your angle and what it suggests we should be aspiring to. That is, if we sincerely want less mod influence and action around here, we need to scale back our ambitions as to what level of game we're playing. Pickup hockey, sandlot baseball, playground basketball -- I do wish we could aim for this level of serious fun. Yeah, we're still playing to win but if push starts moving toward shove, EVERYBODY needs to step back, take a breath or two, remind ourselves that nobody wins if anybody gets hurt -- otherwise, there will be calls for a ref.
posted by philip-random at 12:22 PM on February 25, 2023 [3 favorites]


we have users who often have overlaps with moderation issues (either what they want out of the site or a moderation decision which affected them) and mental health issues (situational or chronic)...This is where nearly all of the existing edge cases come from, where no choices seem like the right ones.

All of this entire generic descriptor sounds just so far out of bounds in the context of healthy community facilitatation. It relies on special pleading, creates an uneven playing field for everyone else who might have mental health issues they haven't disclosed and just accept the decision, makes all mod interactions inconsistent, creates a written record of personal judgements and privately held PII (on which mods' mental health might not be giving them a perfect read). This is exactly how difficult situations are created, not how they are resolved.

The "high touch" approach does not really seem to be what people want and expect at this point. It is, perhaps, a tradition, but things have changed. And that's largely because this approach has stopped working, if it ever did actually work. The record of mods doing "high touch" with fairness, kindness, professionalism and transparency is, at this point, very poor. The clearer and simpler the interactions could be made, the better the experience would be for everyone.
posted by Miko at 12:25 PM on February 25, 2023 [32 favorites]


At a casual level a mod may say one thing in a private email and a user hears that with a slightly different tenor or tone and reports it in that way.

And just to add, not all of the criticisms come from people's secondhand reports of these private emails, but from the language of the emails themselves. There's enough of it out there at this point for anyone who cares to dig to witness the trend. There is unmistakable tone in many of them that simply can't be chalked up to uncharitable user reading. That really needs to be honestly acknowledged.
posted by Miko at 12:28 PM on February 25, 2023 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I'm a therapist and I'm really appalled that this is being held up as a good. It's asking people to offer up their trauma in exchange for continued participation here. That's potentially traumatizing to both the user and the moderator.
posted by lapis at 12:29 PM on February 25, 2023 [16 favorites]


That really needs to be honestly acknowledged.

I am not saying otherwise. Just trying to explain what the shift is, why it's important, and why it's complicated.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:50 PM on February 25, 2023 [5 favorites]


> The "high touch" approach does not really seem to be what people want and expect at this point. It is, perhaps, a tradition, but things have changed.

Exactly, and this is also why I have argued previously that work needs to be done to define MetaFilter's actual unique value proposition and north star vision moving forwards.

In my opinion, the Survive / Thrive plan was disappointing in this regard because it just bundles together a bunch of stuff based on tradition and assumptions, bolting on some more aspirational things as stretch goals - when it had the potential to be a great opportunity to strategically realign the organisation, and look at how to allocate resources more effectively to support new, transformational objectives.
posted by iivix at 12:50 PM on February 25, 2023 [7 favorites]


aniola, you're sent a link to the post when you create it, I believe, and deletion notes appear below the post once it's been deleted.

That means it works for some people, which is neat! I had no idea because I turned those emails off many years ago, and I know a lot of people never read automated emails.
posted by aniola at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2023


I would be OK with a deletion log only if there was a complimentary "Hugs Given" log.

GRAR, you all get one!

((((metafilter))))
posted by shoesfullofdust at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


I don't really think it's complicated. I think what it is is work.
posted by Miko at 1:41 PM on February 25, 2023 [8 favorites]


I love you to bits, even as you tear yourselves to bits. I'm still here. Still a tiny part of this community.

I'm afraid to post or comment.

But the way you tear each other down... it doesn't resonate with me anymore. I was never an "active" community member.

I tried to post weird/wonderful stuff from time to time.

it don't work anymore.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 1:42 PM on February 25, 2023 [16 favorites]


[off-topic] I would be OK with a deletion log only if there was a complimentary "Hugs Given" log.

I'm in favour of a carrot form of moderation (community-driven) similar to reddit gold where users can give tokens for things they like, and maybe people get a small number by default but can buy more so it's also an income stream.

Totally off topic, I know, but there are really positive ways to build social mores as well as the hand of deletion/moderation. I realize this requires a lot of work that may not be possible right now and that is a-ok.

On topic: When I started at my current job, there was a lot of trying to help clients similar to what Jessamyn describes, both at the personal level -- staff staying late to try to help people sort out their lives after their martial arts classes -- and also at the business level -- dozens of cases where people's tuition was reduced or they weren't paying or all kinds of side deals. These are people with written contracts for monthly fees, cancellation policies, etc.

The result on that team was that people were burning out, and the business income was less stable than it should be, which made the business owner hesitant about giving raises and things.

But also, it was partly that 80/20 rule about customers. 20% of the customers were getting 80% of the non-class time, and so the students who weren't having personal issues and were paying regularly were getting great classes, but they weren't getting as regular check-ins as they could (part of running a martial arts place is identifying students who are getting frustrated and helping them over that hurdle, since the system is sort of designed to be hard at certain points.)

What's more, we weren't as focused on bringing in new students and so our numbers were decent - classes were not empty -- but not as strong as they could be. Then it was a bit of a vicious circle from there. New students are most likely to quit, because they haven't invested fully yet. So if you don't have a wide range of them, and you're lacking in bandwidth to check in and ask them how they're finding their classes on a regular basis to keep them, because you're talking to a student who is dealing with, say, a DV situation (for which staff are not really trained), then they quit and then your intermediate classes are smaller, and those students don't have the same camaraderie to get them over the hurdles so you're constantly triaging them...and on up the chain. Again, that impacted revenue and then that impacts on retaining your best teachers...and around it goes.

No one wants to walk away from someone in a tough situation. That's part of being human at work. But we did have to start putting guardrails up - build up our referral network, and refer out, not in. But also make hard decisions about what training with us means and what it doesn't mean. We're still working on it, but I would say being a little colder has meant that we're simply able to work with more people, and then they kind of run with things (and often help each other.)

So I offer that experience as just a single anecdote in a different organization to say that sometimes, trying to help people at an unusually deep level can have an impact that is negative on others, even when everyone has the absolute best of intentions. I think our mod team and SC are pretty smart and can work it out, and support them in doing so whether that's status quo or something else. I agree that transparency about that would help.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:22 PM on February 25, 2023 [26 favorites]


My takeaway here is that some of y’all don’t trust the moderators for whatever reason. Yeah, the site could go down the route where all moderator decisions are made out in the open, but that would, I think, lead to great fractures developing as people took sides, formed factions, instigated shit, etc.,

If you don’t trust the mods, then governance needs to appoint new mods, but I think that would end up just where we are now.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 3:08 PM on February 25, 2023 [5 favorites]


Again, if you don’t like it here, you can leave.

Doubling down, I see. This is the worst possible take, and one that is antithetical to the entire ethos of MetaFilter. It bypasses mutual understanding and compromise. It indicates that someone is willing to abide injustice as long as they are comfortable. One should basically never say that to any MeFite. It's "America, love it or leave it," favored slogan of the reactionaries who used to beat up hippies.

https://carlalaskey.medium.com/hatred-vs-constructive-criticism-and-the-fallacy-of-the-love-it-or-leave-it-clapback-50ce7c9287f2
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rick-santorum-dennis-terry_b_1377023
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/07/love-it-or-leave-it-has-a-racist-history-a-lot-of-americas-language-does/
https://dhinckley.medium.com/love-it-or-leave-it-resurrecting-the-worst-of-america-s-political-legacy-9fcf028b0cc4
posted by hypnogogue at 3:34 PM on February 25, 2023 [14 favorites]


Also, if the mods are having in-depth conversations with users about substance use or divorce or intimate partner violence or whatever, then I can understand why you don't want to share details of your user interactions. But the change that should happen is that the conversations with users should remain focused on the site, not for inappropriately personal conversations to be encouraged.
posted by lapis at 5:17 PM on February 25, 2023 [6 favorites]


again with the charts.
posted by clavdivs at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


The low percentage of deletions came as a pleasant surprise to me. Seems like there is confirmation bias in play. The occasions where I find a thread confusing and belatedly realize that’s because of invisible deletions are apparently infrequent but make a big impression.

My takeaway: Reddit style “comment deleted” notifications would both increase reading comprehension and also deescalate tension since deletions are much less frequent than I and presumably others have perceived.

Thanks for sharing the stats!
posted by lumpy at 6:11 PM on February 25, 2023 [4 favorites]


"Love it or leave it" is a fairly abhorrent message in the real world when it comes to common resources that every citizen should have access to, where the barrier to leaving is high and there are few alternatives.
MeFi is none of those things. Access to MeFi isn't a right, there are plenty of alternative free BBSes a click of a mouse away, and although there seem to be plenty of high status/accomplished/high achieving folks here, MeFi membership isn't the hot ticket to access to the corridors of power/cultural capital. Being shut out of or leaving MeFi isn't going to handicap your career and reduce your opportunities in life.
I'm not saying this to minimize the importance of MeFi, but If it's easy, realistic and practical for a forum to do better than MeFi (whatever that means to you), why do we see few if any forums which achieve that? If there are forums which achieve that, why not jump over there rather than whingeing about this one? There's nothing wrong with wanting to make incremental improvements to MeFi, but if your starting point is one of bitterness towards the mods, the ownership or a big chunk of the user base, are you sure that you are satisfiable or that MeFi is the right fit for you?
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:19 PM on February 25, 2023 [12 favorites]


(aniola, do you not get memails about your posts?)
posted by freethefeet at 6:32 PM on February 25, 2023


(No, I turned those off many years ago. I try to keep a tidy inbox and they seemed to just automate stating the obvious. I find my posts by clicking through from my profile or the front page.

And even when I did get them, I don't know that I would have thought to connect the obvious dots to dig through email to click on a "your post is live!" link after it disappeared from the front page.)
posted by aniola at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry if this has been covered already -- I read a bunch of comments at the top, but then had to stop (for now).

My ruminations here are about the log form of this, not in-thread annotations.

Noting deletions in the thread itself -- maybe even just "4 comments deleted" or ".6% of comment count deleted" (and maybe a breakdown of reasons), at the bottom of the thread -- could help regain that sense of grounding that was mentioned. It can be weird when that one comment you remembered puzzling over is just not there.

But _logging_ means people will find it irresistible to count things. Analyzing a log means counting who is doing how many of what type of deletion; I think that might make moderation, eventually, feel less safe for the people doing it. Or it might mean noticing that certain types of posts, or questions, use the most mod resources -- and then being tempted to 80-20 things and just start carving away parts of the life of the site that seem most annoying or least productive, thus gradually reducing both the complexity and usefulness of the whole.



I'm not 100% clear on what the _positive_ use case for such a log would be. I mean, what useful information that's not misleading (like, which moderator is deleting the most? Are there times of day when more deletions happen? -- answering those questions would _not_ give enough information to make any good decisions, as far as I can imagine right now).

So, in story form, if this _hasn't_ been spelled out, could someone do that? If it has been spelled out already, apologies,




Finally, I _have_ to say this: this will up the "meta" coefficient of Metafilter, which might not be terrible, at least conceptually :)
posted by amtho at 11:13 PM on February 25, 2023 [1 favorite]


I'm not 100% clear on what the _positive_ use case for such a log would be.

I think it's safe to say that the ship has sailed, the train is off the rails, the barn doors have been blown off, and every other idiom you can think of, for a mod log at this time.

My original vision was for a centralized place on this site that collected all mod deletions with their reasons. It could take on many forms but the most basic would be a list of threads and a list of mod actions within that thread. So if a mod deleted a comment with a note that said "deleted; derail", the log would show that note under the appropriate thread in the log.

The log could be designed so that entries would be automatically entered when a post or comment is deleted. No real extra work for the mods. Obviously would require tapping into the limited coding time but so would any change. It also wouldn't have to show the name of the mod, the name of the user, the content of the comment, or anything that isn't already being shown on the site. Mod deletes a comment? An entry is added to the log. That's it.

I suggested this in the interest of increased transparency and because it's shitty and weird to run across a thread with disappeared comments / gaps in the conversation with no mod notes. I've expanded on that explanation in several of my comments so take a look at this if you'd like.

I don't personally believe it would noticeably increase the grar since the deletions are already happening and a log would just show them but clearly even a discussion of such a thing has caused the grar meter to red line so maybe it would.

All of that is a moot point since the people in this thread have said they aren't in favor of any centralized log so that's that.

I still would like to see a test run of required in-thread notes when a mod deletes a comment (or a single '# comments deleted' note if a bunch are removed at once) since it wouldn't be a huge change from what's already occurring on the site.
posted by Diskeater at 10:01 AM on February 26, 2023 [24 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that noting every deletion won't exactly improve things but I also know I've been wrong about Mefi stuff in the past (eg: I was sure the edit window would be a disaster*).

So yeah, let's give it a try. Worst case scenario. It causes more mess and confusion than it resolves and we go back to what we had before.


* in fact, I just used it. Typo on disaster.
posted by philip-random at 11:18 AM on February 26, 2023 [5 favorites]


Considering there are not that many deletions and some are already being noted, it seems like noting them all could be worth a try. Even if it didn't work well and the site went back to current practice after trying it for a couple weeks, folks could still say, "Hey, we tried it!" And that alone might have some value. Compared to some of the other suggestions, this seems like it would be more manageable to actually do.

That said, I think it wouldn't totally solve the issue of comments missing in threads, since I would imagine this would only be done for comments removed at mod discretion, not things like an account wipe or something where a user asks to have comments deleted.
posted by snofoam at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2023 [6 favorites]


What proportion of the deletions are caused by mefites asking for their accounts and comments to be wiped? i.e not a moderator initiated action, but user requested. And how is that handled in thread - I don't think I've ever seen a note to that effect?
posted by gingerbeer at 2:25 PM on February 26, 2023


All of that is a moot point since the people in this thread have said they aren't in favor of any centralized log so that's that.

Seems like quite a few would be for it? I’d say yes to a proposal to do this, given sufficient funding for coding. Honestly though I’m at the point where I have a decent amount of trust in the mods to moderate, but very little trust in the site to implement any technical-side changes, and until the flagging UX improvements are done and rolled out, I don’t expect to see anything other than essentially crash fixes to happen.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:34 PM on February 26, 2023


how is that handled in thread - I don't think I've ever seen a note to that effect?

A wipe is exactly that, an entire no-notes wipe and all posts and comments by that user (and/or all of their sockpuppets if they ask for that) are deleted. I can't speak to the numbers aspect of what proportion of the deletions are represented by account wipes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:05 PM on February 26, 2023


As for the "three in a row," I don't think it would be super annoying to see something like:
[comment by Foo deleted - duplicate]
[comment by Bar deleted - offensive]
[comment by Foo deleted - noise/derail]

Having read through all the for and against comments and all the personal attacks and bullshit, maybe I'm a little cranky now. But I've come to the conclusion that there are two simple, no-code changes that should be and could be made immediately, if not sooner (just my opinion, obviously):

1. Instead of comments being deleted, the content be removed and replaced by 'deleted by < mod >'. In the case of posts (to any sub-site), the same be applied, but the post is also closed to comments. Why? Because it increases transparency for both users and moderators, with no coding and no particular training required. Greater transparency is a good thing, but must be equally applied - it would be wrong to increase the visibility of moderators' actions without increasing who is being moderated at the same time. Deletions are not so great in number that this would make reading significantly different, but it would remove almost all of the confusion that some of us feel when things disappear.

2. Moderators and other staff cease providing de-facto mental health support to members of the community and, instead, moderate based on content only. Any support of this nature should only be provided in the form of referrals to suitable agencies. Why? Because staff are not being paid to provide mental health support and, despite the absolute very best of intentions, doing so is adversely impacting on the rest of the community. If this really is a community, all users should be watching out for each other and providing support where appropriate.

One other thing that is a bigger change and I don't recommend it without lots of thought and the inevitable knock-down, drag-out MeTa. Moderators should not be taking official action or making official commentary as their individual user accounts but from specific moderator accounts. I'm not at all suggesting they should be anonymous, but it should be absolutely clear when they are speaking as an employee and when they are speaking as a member of the community. We've seen an example of this here due to a technical glitch, but something I've seen over many years is that users who become moderators are then held to a different standard, not only while they are moderators, but forever after.
posted by dg at 3:23 PM on February 26, 2023 [13 favorites]


1. Instead of comments being deleted, the content be removed and replaced by 'deleted by < mod >'. In the case of posts (to any sub-site), the same be applied, but the post is also closed to comments.

I very much agree.
posted by lapis at 3:28 PM on February 26, 2023 [2 favorites]


I think a moderation log would be beneficial for certain types of sites, but with the particular dynamics of Metafilter, my vote would be: no moderation log.
posted by mundo at 3:39 PM on February 26, 2023


> A wipe is exactly that, an entire no-notes wipe and all posts and comments by that user (and/or all of their sockpuppets if they ask for that) are deleted. I can't speak to the numbers aspect of what proportion of the deletions are represented by account wipes.

Thanks, jessamyn. That's helpful. So even if there were a moderation log documenting mod-initiated deletions, for any reason, there would still be un-logged, un-referenced deletions of comments that users could encounter in posts anywhere on the site. So a moderation log in and of itself wouldn't necessarily provide anyone with the clarity about missing comments that some are looking for with this proposal.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:49 PM on February 26, 2023


So a moderation log in and of itself wouldn't necessarily provide anyone with the clarity about missing comments that some are looking for with this proposal.

I am under the impression (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that mass deletion/wipe is rare. Since (another guess) it's often happening for personal security reasons, it makes sense not to tag those deletions. It doesn't have to be a 100% solution to help.
posted by praemunire at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2023 [6 favorites]


Okay I read most of this entire rather ugly thread. At first I was pretty strongly anti-log, but now I can kind of see the value. I would rather have a separate log than in-thread notations where a comment has been deleted, because then whoever makes a shitty comment still gets to disrupt my reading of the thread if there's a "comment deleted: offensive" remark, distracting me and making me wonder what that remark could have been and by whom.

I am writing this in the hopes of any kind of future productive discussion of this topic.
posted by daisystomper at 9:32 PM on February 26, 2023 [1 favorite]


1. Instead of comments being deleted, the content be removed and replaced by 'deleted by < mod >

I think this is good. But even though I generally like transparency, one Metafilter anomaly I don't really understand is why we know the particular moderator who did something. Most sites and forums don't do that. I'd be perfectly fine if all the mods logged into one account, or pseudonymous accounts like "moderator 3".

Given that there are only 13 comments per day deleted on average, I don't think we really need a technical solution. Just make it a rule to always put a note saying "comment[s] deleted, reason" and the job's done.

I'm not sure what the expectation of these threads is sometimes. As lapis' comment above shows, when organisations do collective decision making, it's always with some kind of structure or process. Free-floating discussions don't just magically turn into collective decisions. Are people expecting that to happen here? Or using the fact that the magic doesn't happen to justify perpetual inaction?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:39 PM on February 26, 2023 [13 favorites]


I agree that more structure should help in MeTas about policy and procedures.

And we would probably have fewer derails if we didn't have a MeTa queue. Etc.
posted by NotLost at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2023


"There is no other MeFi staff, so it is maybe oversimplifying to call all the staff moderators."

As someone with a very small peek behind the curtain through my engagement -- both official and peripheral -- as an advisory board member person, I can attest to the fact that the staff are juggling a lot of roles and have a surprising level of shit to do. A lot of it is not in-thread or in-discussion or directly on-site, even with SC and advisory board volunteer labor involvement and support.

Scaling any endeavor beyond monkeysphere size is a major undertaking and we have seen it eat people alive.

Be kind.
posted by majick at 6:42 AM on February 27, 2023 [8 favorites]


On topic, I can't see any way the a log of moderator deletions would be helpful for the site. There are those who are gruntled for the most part and think the moderators act in good faith to the best of their abilities. Some of these members would find a log or some other accounting interesting. On the other hand, there are those who are either habitually disgruntled or quick to lose their gruntle, and do not think the moderators act in good faith to the best of their abilities. I don't see any way that a log or other accounting wouldn't just become cannon fodder for these members.

As someone who once moderated a very large discussion site, I can say with confidence that moderating is extremely hard work. Moreover, it is always the case that some members of any moderated forum will interpret most moderator actions in the worst possible light, whether in good faith or not. No one likes having their posts deleted, being given a timeout, etc., so it's unsurprising that many people take affront when these things happen to them. I have also noticed a desire among a small but vocal number of members for a return to the "good old days" when discussion was much more freewheeling, and it was not infrequent for members to engage in vituperative argumentation. These are the members who wish for moderation to be so infrequent that the moderators intervene only in response to the most egregious and malignant content--although I am certain that there would be disagreement as to where exactly that line sits and whether the behavior in question had crossed it. But here's the thing: I think a preponderance of Metafilter members are here precisely because they can engage in interesting conversation and learn from others without having to endure name-calling, flame wars (do people still say that?), constant off-topic snark, frequent derails into a member's pet topic/argument, language that disparages people of color, trans people, neurodivergent people, and so on. In other words: because of the moderation. Certainly that's what attracted me to Metafilter back some fourteen years ago, and I have zero interest in an unmoderated discussion site. I think members who find most any moderation an affront and wish for a Usenet-like model with the thinnest veneer of moderation are unlikely to be happy in the long run--although of course that's for each member to decide for themself.

It's completely understandable that it's weird sometimes to go into a thread and discover lacunae in the discussion or the absence of a comment you remembered from the last time you looked. I can't say that I don't sometimes wonder what led to the deletion of several posts. But I believe the moderators are doing a decent job in good faith, and I just move on. I've had one or two comments deleted over the years, and while the first few seconds of my response has been "what the hell, man?" I was able to take a breath and let it go. A moderation log, in my opinion, would just become a flashpoint and wouldn't serve a purpose to very many members other than those who would use it to bolster their arguments against moderation, and/or what they see a heavy-handed bad faith moderation, etc.
posted by slkinsey at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2023 [18 favorites]


At present, some deletions are silent, and some have comments.

If you think silent deletions are better, surely you should either be arguing at that all deletions should be silent, or be able to explain the criterion that makes silence sometimes good and sometimes bad?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:07 AM on February 27, 2023 [7 favorites]


Endorsing the notion that there should be distinct moderator accounts. They could be with unique names, or 1/2/3 as suggested above, or totally anon "Moderator." Any of these would create a clearer boundary for all, and using some version of anonymity would also, I think, help reduce the interpersonal dimension that sometimes goes in a toxic direction and makes it hard for the team to speak with a unified voice.
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2023 [5 favorites]


METAFILTER: they can engage in interesting conversation and learn from others without having to endure name-calling, flame wars (do people still say that?), constant off-topic snark, frequent derails into a member's pet topic/argument, language that disparages people of color, trans people, neurodivergent people, and so on.
posted by philip-random at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2023 [2 favorites]


If you think silent deletions are better, surely you should either be arguing at that all deletions should be silent, or be able to explain the criterion that makes silence sometimes good and sometimes bad?

This will be different for everyone. Off the top of my head, I don't need to see a note saying "comment deleted at user request" or "comment deleted because user placed in wrong thread" (which actually just happened ). That took me out of the flow of the conversation and wasn't (again, to me) necessary to know at all.

Someone messed up html formatting and just resubmitted the comment with correct formatting to save the mods the effort? Accidental duplicate comments? I don't need to know about those either.

I don't think silent deletions are always better. But, in some circumstances, I think they can be better.

Can you explain why you think it must be always or never? And, to use your logic, do you hold that for all areas of your life? That just doesn't really seem tenable to me.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2023 [5 favorites]


Hi, it’s me, dumb leaver of a comment in the wrong MeTa thread! (Thanks, mods.)

Anyway, what I meant to say here is that I am really not in favor of leaving notes for deleted comments that have names of the affected commenters attached. I think it’s very likely to read to people as a public shaming, like when a teacher writes on the blackboard a list of students who spoke out of turn. I know that already some probably feel that way under the current system, but I worry that if this becomes standard practice, the discontent will also grow larger because more people will feel they need to save face, and because the evidence will persist. The community-preserving thing is to let the sting of a deletion fade and that’s going to get harder for people if we’re naming names and leaving them named.
posted by eirias at 11:10 AM on February 27, 2023 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's important to distinguish between a) replacing the body of a comment with "comment deleted" and b) replacing both the body and user/timestamp line with an anonymous placeholder. I've seen at least a few comments where I'm not sure which is being proposed.
posted by sagc at 11:49 AM on February 27, 2023 [4 favorites]


Can you explain why you think it must be always or never? And, to use your logic, do you hold that for all areas of your life? That just doesn't really seem tenable to me.

OK, you've given a criterion: comments deleted at users request don't need a note. Fine, we can go with that.

But the thing is that the current system doesn't have a reason behind it. Sometimes the mods give a deletion reason, sometimes they delete silently, as the whim strikes them. That's just the way it's always been.

But some people are just so terrified of any form of change that they reflexively oppose any alteration to the status quo, even if the status quo doesn't have any particular reason behind it, and isn't even consistent.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:33 PM on February 27, 2023 [10 favorites]


Without challenging the idea that perception issues exist and are real and worth trying to figure out how to address: I think the example of deletions numbers, and the degree to which folks were surprised by them being as low as they are, illustrates that there are always going to be disconnects between what's going on and what people assume is going on. Those current deletion numbers aren't revelatory in any real sense: they're about the same as they've been for years and years, and I shared similar numbers on a bunch of occasions previously. That isn't information the mod team has been coy about for a very long time.

So what is the solution there? There's probably a way to broadcast and highlight that number so conspicuously that it's hard to miss. But what's the upside of doing so other than avoiding that one narrow point of misapprehension? What holistic issues with site culture and community wants and needs does that concretely, practically serve? I don't mean these as rhetorical points; these are practical questions that really should have good, satisfying answers if it's going to justify changes in mod routines, community expectations, etc. It's an example where transparency as an abstract good runs up against a question of whether and how implementing any particular incremental transparency mechanic is actually practical and self-justifying in what it'll accomplish.

I bring that up partly because the idea that "the current system doesn't have a reason behind it" also really isn't true, even though I understand how there could be a perception along those lines. The system has plenty of reason behind it: it's a subjective balancing of all the things folks have talked about in pieces above, of where it does vs. doesn't seem necessary to note a deletion, where updated notes make sense, what kind of things are deletions in a literal sense but not the sort of deletions people are expressing transparency concerns about. But it is subjective, it doesn't follow a strict flowchart: for folks who want that kind of explicit do-or-don't justification, that subjectivity can feel like a whim, or the absence of explicit documentation of every subjective call can feel like a withholding of information. Whatever my personal view on it, I think that sense of uncertainty is valid and understandable as a motive for requesting more deletion markup etc. But whether any specific change brought on by that desire or request will actually resolve that uncertainty etc is a separate thing to consider.

So it's partly a question of what practically we're trying to accomplish with a change, and how any given change actually does that vs. just serving the idea of transparency or better communication. Which, again, this isn't a rhetorical argument for not changing; I think change is good and finding ways to iterate on the existing moderation practices is a natural and positive goal, and an ongoing need for a living community. But it is worth making sure that there's a clear "this is what this will accomplish, and how" sense, with some amount of consensus behind it, rather than just pushing for the idea of change for the sake of change.
posted by cortex (retired) at 1:41 PM on February 27, 2023 [10 favorites]


Any argument that Metafilter has fewer active participants nowadays compared to ten or fifteen years ago because of XYZ fails. The fact is that mega discussion forums on this model are largely a thing of the past. We should be celebrating the fact that Metafilter beat the odds, continues to exist and is relatively vibrant. Most didn't. The vast majority of discussion forum sites that were large and significant back in 2008 are gone or mere shells of what they once were. This has been the trend everywhere for years and years. OneGearIsEnough's guess is that Metafilter would have much more participating members today if it had been effectively unmoderated all these years. My guess is that it would have died many years ago if that were the case. Why? Because Reddit, et al. would have eaten our lunch. One could make the argument that the reason Metafilter has fewer participants nowadays is because moderation isn't strong enough. I'm not making that argument, but just showing that the diminution in participation can be used to justify most any position. Metafilter has retained a level of participation, vibrancy and relevance over decades that hardly any other discussion forum sites has, and unless someone can do the math to account for overall trends--including the fact that even in the discussion forum heyday most sites imploded after a few years--I don't think membership and participation numbers can be attributed to moderation. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other places a person can go who wants a free-for-all discussion forum where the participants flame and squabble and troll and snark and derail and make racist/sexist/transphobic/homophobic/classist/etc. comments and post incessant links to one-off memes and the like. It don't get it why anyone would want that, but I get it that some people do.
posted by slkinsey at 2:54 PM on February 27, 2023 [25 favorites]


cortex, I think transparency is the point, and is a good and valuable thing all by itself. In its absence, people speculate and worry and hypothesize. If you have access to information yourself (and especially if it's anodyne and unsurprising) it can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of those people. But if you don't have access, it's totally normal to want it.
posted by Susan PG at 2:57 PM on February 27, 2023 [6 favorites]


Moderation is not a binary all/none. People can want a different degree of moderation, or less moderation, without wanting a constant flamewar.
posted by lapis at 2:59 PM on February 27, 2023 [13 favorites]


> But it is worth making sure that there's a clear "this is what this will accomplish, and how" sense, with some amount of consensus behind it

So the consensus part is the issue. If moderation feels fair to you, you've probably made your voice heard in this thread. If it doesn't feel fair, especially because you've been on the receiving end of some of the, let's say, "notable moderation incidents" of recent years, you've probably noped out of here already. There's an obvious sampling bias.
posted by iivix at 3:03 PM on February 27, 2023 [11 favorites]


> rather than just pushing for the idea of change for the sake of change.

The opposite of transformation for MetaFilter isn't maintaining the status quo, because the site isn't at equilibrium. It's managed decline. Very sad state of affairs. This is a strategy I've long argued is fatalistic, self-fulfilling and ultimately unnecessary.

This what I wrote back in 2019, and it's more accurate now than ever:

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.
posted by iivix at 3:17 PM on February 27, 2023 [9 favorites]


>Endorsing the notion that there should be distinct moderator accounts. They could be with unique names, or 1/2/3 as suggested above, or totally anon "Moderator."

Or... if we are abandoning the homey human touch altogether... OMNIMOD
posted by Vatnesine at 3:23 PM on February 27, 2023 [1 favorite]


So it's partly a question of what practically we're trying to accomplish with a change, and how any given change actually does that vs. just serving the idea of transparency or better communication. Which, again, this isn't a rhetorical argument for not changing; I think change is good and finding ways to iterate on the existing moderation practices is a natural and positive goal, and an ongoing need for a living community. But it is worth making sure that there's a clear "this is what this will accomplish, and how" sense, with some amount of consensus behind it, rather than just pushing for the idea of change for the sake of change.

i think if i said how i felt about this post i would get banned from this website. you have made your stance on change very clear, thank you sir.

These are the members who wish for moderation to be so infrequent that the moderators intervene only in response to the most egregious and malignant content--although I am certain that there would be disagreement as to where exactly that line sits and whether the behavior in question had crossed it. But here's the thing: I think a preponderance of Metafilter members are here precisely because they can engage in interesting conversation and learn from others without having to endure name-calling, flame wars (do people still say that?), constant off-topic snark, frequent derails into a member's pet topic/argument, language that disparages people of color, trans people, neurodivergent people, and so on. In other words: because of the moderation.

contrary to what OneGearIsEnough said, i think this is a clear misrepresentation of what people are saying. it is 2023. it is possible to have a middle ground between the moderation here (which clearly many people DO have a problem with) and the moderation we had 14 years ago. i think people have made very clear they have problems with the specific actions and tone moderators have taken, actions which are part of a moderation strategy that has been confirmed by the owner of the site. i do not want MetaFilter to be the wild west, i want it to be a place i can post a rebuttal without wondering whether or not my thoughts will still be there when i wake up the next morning.

i don't know, i feel like we've said this 100 times and we keep coming back to "Well some of us don't want this site to go back to how it wss 14 years ago" when that's not what anyone is saying. I would like this to become a place I enjoy participating in again, which actually involves letting go of the past and moving on. A certain subset of users in these threads seem to just be here for STASIS for the stake of stasis. It works for you so why should anything change? It is not working for everyone. I do not know how to say this any clearer.
posted by JimBennett at 3:37 PM on February 27, 2023 [15 favorites]


for the record it's also borderline insulting to talk about how this site is a safe place for trans people when we have had so many trans members button because of blatant mistreatment
posted by JimBennett at 3:43 PM on February 27, 2023 [24 favorites]


it's a subjective balancing

Subjectivity and the related opacity hasven't been this site's friends. Or perhaps more to the point, its users' friends.
posted by Miko at 4:00 PM on February 27, 2023 [18 favorites]


Mod note: Temporarily deleted two comments until loup is available to review them. Please use the contact form for any concerns.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 6:23 PM on February 27, 2023 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's important to distinguish between a) replacing the body of a comment with "comment deleted" and b) replacing both the body and user/timestamp line with an anonymous placeholder. I've seen at least a few comments where I'm not sure which is being proposed.
Speaking only for myself, I proposed the former. Partly because it's something that can be done right now with no coding or system changes, but also because more transparency is what many people are asking for and this moves us towards that goal.
posted by dg at 7:07 PM on February 27, 2023 [1 favorite]


But it is worth making sure that there's a clear "this is what this will accomplish, and how" sense, with some amount of consensus behind it, rather than just pushing for the idea of change for the sake of change.

What do you even mean by "consensus" here?

I chair meetings every day and when I have a dozen or more people I start to get worried about whether we'll achieve our goal. But from a bit of spreadsheet-munging, 120 different usernames have commented in this thread. It doesn't happen that a hundred and twenty people have an unchaired, free-form discussion with no decision making process and a consensus just emerges at the end.

There are mechanisms to make consensus happen. Occupy had elaborate systems of general assemblies and working groups and faciliators and progressive stacks to make a consensus happen. Or you can have formal proposals and a vote (technically that's a majoritarian system not a consensus, but whatever).

We do not have those mechanisms. Without them, it just doesn't happen that a hundred plus people reach a consensus or make a decision. Humans don't work that way.

We're not talking about change for the sake of change. We're talking about one specific change for specific purposes.

Instead of only some deleted comments being marked with a deletion reason, all comments deleted by the moderators, except those done at user request, should have a moderator note with a reason, to increase the transparency of moderation and therefore trust in the moderators.

This is a tiny change.

But even that tiny change seems to be impossible, because the criteria for even the tiniest change getting though seems to be: humans have to stop acting like humans and act like Vulcans in a mind-meld, to come to a consensus without going though any consensus-building process.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:49 PM on February 27, 2023 [27 favorites]


Temporarily deleted two comments until loup is available to review them

If this isn’t a symptom of “I’m on the staff and even I don’t understand the guidelines,” I don’t know what is.

That’s being said with respect to you, TT. It’s not a position any staff member should be in and it’s not your fault.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on February 27, 2023 [17 favorites]


This place used to be quite nasty, here and there. I am glad it is well moderated. I can come here, read, learn, make comments, and I don't get jumped because of some clique that enjoys doing so. It is odd, like they say, on the internet, no one knows you're a dog. I used to be attacked over virtually anything I said. I worked on learning more about web culture, and Metafilter's culture. If people button, they do.

The last five years or so have been difficult for keeping civil conversation, the stress levels on the entire planet have risen, and the fuckery is at an all time high, or maybe I just have enough time to pay attention. There is always misery, loss, and difficulty, but it is getting more difficult everyday, world wide, and keeping a center is not possible when you are on fire, fired upon, underwater, freezing in the subtropics. Argumentative activity for stress relief isn't why I read here.
posted by Oyéah at 8:20 PM on February 27, 2023 [8 favorites]


But, of course, we've now pretty much reached the stage that all recent MeTa discussions have at some point - a bunch of suggestions, some back and forth on the merits of those, with no conclusion on anything. So, because I was stuck in a boring virtual meeting, I tried to distill the various suggestions, which fall roughly into three categories. These are, as much as I could, listed in chronological order and definitely not in any order of popularity or support.

Moderation Log
1. some kind of publicly accessible moderator log so users could at least see if mods have deleted a post or stepped in and pruned a thread. It could be as simple as “1 comment deleted from THREAD on DATE (REASON).”
1a. very simple log - a single line for each post, with a number to note comments deleted
1b. log with one-line when|who|what|where|why information.

Policy Solutions
2. more detailed and clear cut (and constrained) moderation guidelines
2a. an explicit charter that users agree to so that mod decisions all sit within that context: offtopic, a derail, abusive behaviour for its place within the community and the specific context of a given thread.

Deletion Notes
3. mod notes in-thread for almost all comment deletions
3a. a mod must always post a note when a comment is deleted, enforced via a change in policy or by technical means (or both!)
3b. an optional toggle to see placeholders for all deletes, so people could see them if they wanted to, but others could just ignore
3c mods defaulting to noting every deletion with standardized notes
3d. Instead of comments being deleted, the content be removed and replaced by 'deleted by < mod >'. In the case of posts (to any sub-site), the same be applied, but the post is also closed to comments
3e. drop-down tool for mods to use when deleting a comment to easily record the straightforward reason a comment was deleted, and then that comment would be deleted in-thread and replaced with a pre-coded:
[one comment deleted because of (reason a, b, c)].

Just as a reminder for context, the per-day deletion rate is:
Ask: 5
FanFare: 0.3
MeFi: 7
MetaTalk: 0.7
Total: 13.
posted by dg at 8:27 PM on February 27, 2023 [10 favorites]


Just want to quietly point out that the mods have been leaving more detailed deletion notes since this thread began (entirely possible that I'm experiencing confirmation bias but hey!) and I want to acknowledge that, especially as someone who was calling for more transparency. It's seen and appreciated.
posted by Jarcat at 8:48 PM on February 27, 2023 [7 favorites]


As someone on the periphery of the academy: These giant fighty MeTa threads are like faculty senate meetings, where an awful lot of people have more of a comment than a question, little if substance is accomplished, you end up thinking significantly less of several of your social betters, and at worst a couple folks take their toys and go home.

JFC it was a fairly reasonable suggestion to begin with. Some of you might well have realized how low the stakes actually are and . . . maybe left some air in the room.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:48 PM on February 27, 2023 [7 favorites]


The last comment by cortex is thoughtful as a user, but maybe less relevant with the retired tag, and is much weirder with the staff tag, which it somehow has when I see it right now, due to glitches that I know people working on. I empathize with the volunteers and employees that are working to get this house in order. This is a magical place and I hope it can survive.
posted by snofoam at 9:21 PM on February 27, 2023 [1 favorite]


On Cortex's latest post, the tag says he is "Staff", not "Retired".
posted by NotLost at 9:36 PM on February 27, 2023


we've already identified a glitch wherein sometimes-some-browsers-some-whatever it says "staff" sometimes "retired". I'm seeing "retired".
posted by philip-random at 9:45 PM on February 27, 2023 [1 favorite]


Anyway, what I meant to say here is that I am really not in favor of leaving notes for deleted comments that have names of the affected commenters attached. I think it’s very likely to read to people as a public shaming, like when a teacher writes on the blackboard a list of students who spoke out of turn.

This raises a more fundamental issue around the role of feedback loops and site culture and, yes, shame in setting community norms.

Under the present system, the silent deletion of comments doesn't provide really any feedback. People don't know their comments have been deleted and other users don't know what comments been deleted, so often nobody really learns anything from the experience to better self-moderate or help guide the discussion within community norms in the future. If there's a missing stair situation where someone is repeatedly breaking the guidelines, their bad behavior is cleaned up after them, and it doesn't become more widely known until it becomes a Very Serious Problem.

As a non-representative example of what I mean, Brandon Blatcher casually mentioned here that in his first week on the job, he was subjected to a "snide attack" after making it clear that we're not ok with questioning the validity of trans identity here and was also the subject of "a very grar like and name calling Meta" after deleting a post for sexist framing. And but for the fact that he choose to mention it here—a form of transparency that is a significant departure from the norm—none of us would have any idea those things happened. Nobody would have learned that behavior is unacceptable here. That sounds like an obvious fact, but communities develop and self-enforce norms based on feedback loops where everyone can see that undesired behavior results in a negative social reaction, and that process is absent here in an environment where undesired behavior results in the mods silently cleaning up all trace that it ever happened.

I remember this was an issue in the megathread era too. Comments were often deleted for being too deraily or jokey as people riffed off each other, but unless a mod note was left, all that really meant was that there were two entirely separate experiences with the thread: those who were interacting with it in real-time often weren't even aware of deletions and so had no idea that they had done something wrong, and those who were catching up on the thread later who had no idea what they missed and so learned nothing about what not to do in the future.

I recognize that one of the issues here is that everyone experiences making a mistake and shame very differently, so some people here will not realize there's a problem unless it's been repeatedly and boldly pointed out to them, while others will respond to any notice that they've committed the slightest faux pas with an undue amount of shame. It's hard to be really clear and explicit for the users who need that without simultaneously scaring away people who are more sensitive to criticism. So I'm not certainly calling for a policy of public shaming, but I do think it's important for users to be able to visibly see that problems are being solved, both because that's important to rebuild trust and so that everyone can learn and better self-moderate to hopefully decrease the need for moderation actions in the future.

But the extremely labor-intensive style of moderation that MeFi has evolved means that perhaps one user who is corresponding one-on-one with the mods might get bespoke advice on how they're expected to behave here, but nobody else learns from that labor because all signs of the problem have already been wiped from public view.
posted by zachlipton at 10:08 PM on February 27, 2023 [38 favorites]


> Under the present system, the silent deletion of comments doesn't provide really any feedback.

Exactly, cultural arguments aside, this is like literally UX 101 stuff.

Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics have been around in one form or another since the mid 90s, and these silent comment deletions currently break guidelines 1, 4, 6, 9, & 10. This alone should be reason to fix this.
posted by iivix at 1:24 AM on February 28, 2023 [9 favorites]


Hmm. If there are only a handful of deletions a day, on average, doesn’t that suggest that those who post already have a pretty good idea how to stay within community norms?

I don’t think the people who are upset here are upset because they don’t understand the rules. My sense is that they don’t like being on the receiving end of moderator power, whether because they disagree with the rules, or because they don’t like the people who are enforcing them, or because they see the power as part of an ingroup-outgroup divide that makes them feel devalued (and maybe part of that is loyalty to another community member they liked who left).

Someone else mentioned selection bias, which is near to my heart! That could be in play twice, I think — it affects who is around to talk about this (disproportionately more people who find the rules tolerable will stay in the community) but it may also affect who is speaking up here in a different way (this kind of thread will attract a disproportionate number of those unhappy with the status quo).
posted by eirias at 4:23 AM on February 28, 2023 [5 favorites]


If there are only a handful of deletions a day, on average, doesn’t that suggest that those who post already have a pretty good idea how to stay within community norms?

Again referencing the user survey, a reasonable number of people who actually took the survey said that they actively avoid posting or commenting even when they would like to, both due to comments back from users but also due to being unclear about things like what makes a good post or how far off a topic a derail is.

That doesn’t take into account the experience of a new user, either. Numerically that may not be many people right now but hopefully that changes at some point.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:06 AM on February 28, 2023 [14 favorites]


I dropped my monthly donation a year or two ago over some particularly poor moderation decisions re: trans issues. Several thoughts about how things have gone since then omitted, because I absolutely don't care to fight with anyone here, but a moderation log would go a long way towards making me consider reinstating it.
posted by jordemort at 5:24 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]


Just for reference, here's the User Survey results.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:42 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]


In the user survey I said that the moderation here was one of the most important things about the place.

But I realised later that I was saying this because (a) I rarely came across any objectionable comments (it probably helped that up till then I only ever read the green), and (b) because everyone else kept saying that moderation was one of the most important things about the place.

I realised that I had no knowledge of how much moderators were making the place better. For all I knew, the fine people of MeFi were so thoughtful and well-behaved that no moderation was required, and the moderators were putting their feet up while claiming this nice environment was all down to their hard work. (For clarity: I didn't actually think that, I'm exaggerating.)

One of the benefits of making comment deletions visible (and/or having a moderation log, which is less interesting to me personally) would be to make visible some of the work the moderators do, so that we can appreciate the difference they're making.

To use a possibly tenuous analogy, if you walked out of your front door every morning and there was no trash anywhere you might think "ooh, everyone is so neat and tidy and lovely, I don't know why the city keeps street cleaners on the payroll!" Meanwhile, these street cleaners are actually working hard overnight to keep the place sparkling.

If, instead, you walked out of your front door every morning and occasionally saw some trash but also saw a friendly street cleaner tidying it up, you might think "It's a shame a handful of people drop litter, but I know most people don't, and it's great we've got these hard-working street cleaners to keep the place tidy!"

Yes, the occasional litter of "two comments deleted" notes might be a little unsightly, but at least you're aware of the benefit moderators are bringing and also aren't living under the illusion that everything is entirely fine and polite.
posted by fabius at 5:59 AM on February 28, 2023 [13 favorites]


The fact that those two completely innocuous comments were deleted is ridiculous.

Gosh, I wish I knew which comments they were.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:21 AM on February 28, 2023 [13 favorites]


I don't mind people having power, and I am annoyed at others assuming all objections are coming from anti-authoritarianism. I am strongly in favor of responsible use of power, which requires clear and fair guidelines that are clearly communicated and fairly enforced. Right now it seems the guidelines are not clear, not communicated, and unfairly enforced. That is what I am objecting to.

Without clarity and fairness, you get the combination of phenomena described above, where people are both scared to participate because they don't understand the rules and mindlessly praising the rules because everyone else is talking about how important and great the rules are. It feels very emperor's new clothes.

I don't think marking comment deletions is going to 100% fix that, but it's a step that makes sense in that direction.
posted by lapis at 8:04 AM on February 28, 2023 [12 favorites]


The issue of transparency if applied to moderators, steering committee and guidelines should perhaps also extend to user identity as well. When posts on Metatalk are through sockpuppet accounts, it is unclear if the individual is one or several accounts.

It's frustrating that the community as a whole coalesced to help the site develop some working funds, a steering committee, some really hard volunteer work, answered opinion surveys and the good will post got immediately trumped by several very contentious Metatalk posts in a row.
posted by effluvia at 9:35 AM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]


The issue of transparency if applied to moderators, steering committee and guidelines should perhaps also extend to user identity as well. When posts on Metatalk are through sockpuppet accounts, it is unclear if the individual is one or several accounts.

It's frustrating that the community as a whole coalesced to help the site develop some working funds, a steering committee, some really hard volunteer work, answered opinion surveys and the good will post got immediately trumped by several very contentious Metatalk posts in a row.


yeah i mean maybe they shouldn't have disrespected and banned a member in good standing whose contributions many of us valued in the middle of a thread that was supposed to be a celebration. or are you saying this is our fault for being upset?

this is nasty. my real name is on my comments, thanks. if you think people are posting under multiple names in here to stir up grar i would consider you to consider occam's razer: no, there's just THIS many people who have had shitty experiences with the mods. can you all stop trying to psychoanalyze us for that and just admit you don't give a damn?
posted by JimBennett at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2023 [9 favorites]


Just want to quietly point out that the mods have been leaving more detailed deletion notes since this thread began (entirely possible that I'm experiencing confirmation bias but hey!) and I want to acknowledge that, especially as someone who was calling for more transparency. It's seen and appreciated.

I am really glad to see this! loup announced moving towards this at the beginning of the month but I only saw that because it was linked in a comment here. Seems like a great thing to try. Look forward to seeing how mods and users feel about it after it's been done for a little while.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on February 28, 2023 [8 favorites]


It's frustrating that the community as a whole coalesced to ... [do happy stuff] ... and the good will post got immediately trumped by several very contentious Metatalk posts in a row

Respectfully, had the community coalesced around solving some of the other ongoing problems identified by users, or attempted to coalesce, or even just didn't pretend those problems don't exist, these threads probably wouldn't have gotten so contentious. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other on this particular proposal, but I do strongly believe it was a good proposal, a worthwhile proposal, and a discussion we should be having. As was the previous one about the ombudsman. And maybe my memory is overly rose-colored, but reading back through the beginning of the thread, it does seem like it was mostly polite, if vehement, disagreement until a former mod jumped in and started responding pretty aggressively, which had the presumably unintended effect of highlighting the existence of these problems that people are asking to solve.

I will once again point out that this is exactly the substance of the deleted comment in the goodwill/celebration thread that kicked off this whole recent period of argumentation: yay fundraising, but also what about other problems? If you're concerned that the goodwill created by the fundraising has been dissipated by the recent MetaTalk threads, it's probably at least worth considering that a good faith response to that question in real time, rather than a deletion and secret account disabling, might have prevented these recent threads from becoming so heated.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:24 AM on February 28, 2023 [12 favorites]


I have to say, with the advent of AI'S slick ability to communicate, and communication organizations bending opinion for money, from "rich enough to buy heaven," entities, reasonable discussion will be in their sights, especially as we get closer to the next election. I think this and these technologies and actors will make political, environmental discussion expensive to moderate, if not impossible. I know this is not a mom's recipe site, or Tinder, or Grindr, it is a respected venue for discussion, and exchange of opinion. Exchange of opinion implies more than one opinion, exchange of information, implies osmosis, real, considered back and forth. We need to stay alive, and live, without our mods being worn down by internal strife. Information is continuously targed with the opposite, communication is continuously targeted by disruption, we are having a civil conversation here about a myriad of things, with a myriad of human types involved. The lucky Mefites have toes and sometimes they get stepped on, OK. Wear good shoes, bring your best self, and best ideas.

It's not like I never had a comment deleted. I don't know if the site keeps track. I have had plenty of deletions, and usually I know why. I have been kicked off the site for a time out at least once, maybe twice. I try not to come here led by my wounded inner child, seeking recognition. Oh, wait a minute, hold my bottle, maybe I do.

I am old
I am fat
I'm a democrat
I am not out to get anyone.
I got no money
And I am out of honey
The emotional labor I do
Is internal,
I mollify me
I care for me,
I like all you humans
Keeping me company.
posted by Oyéah at 11:17 AM on February 28, 2023 [4 favorites]


BURMA-SHAVE!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2023 [9 favorites]


Mod note: I see some comments addressed to me directly, ICYMI, I'm currently away taking time off to attend a technology conference. Feel free to email me directly (loup@metafilter.com) if anything needs immediate(ish) attention from me, otherwise I'll try to catch up as fast as humanly possible when I'm back.

Also, let me address the Mod note from travelingthyme above so that it isn't taken out of context. Mods do know when/how to moderate and apply the guidelines we have. BUT, as we discussed before, I've asked them to leave moderation of Metas related to policy/moderation/site updates to me. In this case I was (and technically still am) away for several days and they needed to take actions anyway. So yes, cross-site talk/comments are generally removed (depending on context), as in the case above.

I hope this clarifies it. Now, back to being away(ish).

posted by loup (staff) at 6:00 PM on February 28, 2023 [11 favorites]


If moderation feels fair to you, you've probably made your voice heard in this thread

🙄Clearly!

Personally, as fired up as I am about the MollyRealized and Odinsdream fiascos, nothing would make me leave the site faster than going back to the "good old days" of the loudest voices deciding whose viewpoints deserve respect.

Some people in this discussion seem to be pretty confident about the loudness of their voice. I'm one of the trans women who left and later came back, and this place feels like a sort of home to me, for better or worse.

What this discussion has convinced me of is that this is not the time for me to voice my concerns about the treatment of trans women on this site. It will continue not to be, as long as the very idea of moderation is under attack by some of my fellow mefites who are eager to be top dog in the free-for-all once again.
posted by tigrrrlily at 6:52 PM on February 28, 2023 [12 favorites]


nothing would make me leave the site faster than going back to the "good old days" of the loudest voices deciding whose viewpoints deserve respect

Must be very comforting then that literally no one wants this to happen or is actually asking for that.
posted by Jarcat at 10:42 PM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]


Personally, as fired up as I am about the MollyRealized and Odinsdream fiascos, nothing would make me leave the site faster than going back to the "good old days" of the loudest voices deciding whose viewpoints deserve respect.

i mean right now we have an unelected group of moderators-cum-editors-cum-therapists deciding whose viewpoints deserve respect and whose comments get disappeared without a trace? that seems just as bad if not worse? and besides that why are you all just making stuff up? no one is saying we want the good old days! no one is saying we want unmoderated free for alls! many of us have been specifically arguing for guidelines, processes, and training to resolve these issues. can we argue about the substance of what people are actually asking for instead of continuing to do this?
posted by JimBennett at 5:23 AM on March 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


the very idea of moderation is under attack by some of my fellow mefites who are eager to be top dog in the free-for-all once again.

It's a very, very long thread so I may have forgotten something I've read, but can you point out which people are suggesting that we do away with moderation? Because I don't remember anyone saying that.
posted by fabius at 5:28 AM on March 1, 2023 [5 favorites]


cross-site talk/comments are generally removed (depending on context)

If so, can that be added to the guidelines or content policy please?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:40 AM on March 1, 2023 [10 favorites]


It's a very, very long thread so I may have forgotten something I've read, but can you point out which people are suggesting that we do away with moderation? Because I don't remember anyone saying that.
posted by fabius at 5:28 AM on March 1 [2 favorites +] [!]


This comment would seem to fit the bill.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


why are you all just making stuff up? no one is saying we want the good old days! no one is saying we want unmoderated free for alls! many

While there isn't anyone calling for unmoderated free-for-alls, at least one user has stated that they do, in fact, want to go back to the good old days, so this isn't "just making stuff up."
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 6:37 AM on March 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


you're right I apologize, there was one comment out of 400 saying that. as long as we're being pedantic, the comment i quoted said "some people" were making this argument - personally i think taking the argument one user made in one post and applying it to a vast swath of arguments by many different users over the course of a 400 comment thread is basically just as bad as "making stuff up" and is not a healthy way to have a conversation.
posted by JimBennett at 6:49 AM on March 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


I seriously doubt it's just one person that wants it, which is I assume is part of the reason why tigrrlily made that comment. If you're saying that returning to the "good old days" is so ridiculous and such a minority position it shouldn't be part of this conversation, you're not going to get any disagreement from me.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2023 [5 favorites]


There was
I have also noticed a desire among a small but vocal number of members for a return to the "good old days" when discussion was much more freewheeling, and it was not infrequent for members to engage in vituperative argumentation. These are the members who wish for moderation to be so infrequent that the moderators intervene only in response to the most egregious and malignant content

That's a fair description of what I would like, yes.


and appeals to things like drop-in hockey.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, despite not having referees, drop-in hockey is a freaking diversity showcase where everyone including your elderly mum gets a turn with the puck. Or maybe, maybe it's weirdly self-selecting in some way.
posted by tigrrrlily at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2023 [6 favorites]


I'd just like to note that talking about making things better is not necessarily the same as thinking things are terrible. Hugs to everyone.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:15 AM on March 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


(have we already talked about killfiles? wouldn't the "i want minimal moderation with very little except the most egregious comments deleted" and the "i'd like more moderation and thread-steering" and the "what mods do should be transparent and rules-based" sides all benefit if individual users could choose not to see other users they found annoying or fighty?) (off-topic i know but still!)
posted by mittens at 8:18 AM on March 1, 2023


This comment would seem to fit the bill.

Thanks!

Although a single person thinking there should be much less moderation doesn't sound like "the very idea of moderation [being] under attack by some of my fellow mefites".

But, either way, obviously MeFi isn't going to drop all moderation! It takes several MeTas and hundreds or thousands of very vaguely consensus-generating comments to make even the slightest change.

Picking out the most extreme points of view as a reason not to do... er... whatever it is this thread is actually about any more... is er... where are we again?
posted by fabius at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


I’ll apologize for my snark as I thought there literally wasn’t any calls for the ‘good old days’ in any form. The accountability and explanations people are calling for would seem to do the opposite of what one be would be afraid of in a free for all setting.
posted by Jarcat at 8:29 AM on March 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


Picking out the most extreme points of view as a reason not to do... er... whatever it is this thread is actually about any more... is er... where are we again?

Well, talk about bad faith. At no point does tigrrrlily give any user action as a reason not to take any actions on moderation. In fact, she seems as ticked off about moderation as most other people here. She merely stated that going back to the days where other mefites would mock, harass, and/or objectify her just for existing (which absolutely happened in the "good old days") would mean leaving the site.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


Well, talk about bad faith.

Sorry tigrrrlily. I was confusing your line about people questioning the idea of moderation, and associating it with things other people wanted.
posted by fabius at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


While there isn't anyone calling for unmoderated free-for-alls, at least one user has stated that they do, in fact, want to go back to the good old days,

maybe it's just one comment but it did get a bunch of favourites.

Maybe, despite not having referees, drop-in hockey is a freaking diversity showcase where everyone including your elderly mum gets a turn with the puck. Or maybe, maybe it's weirdly self-selecting in some way.

I favourited the comment you're referring to here (which was, in fact, a counter to my likening mods to hockey refs, whose job was to keep a fast, passionate game from tipping into sheer chaos). What I liked was that it suggested that maybe the way out of a lot of the contention we sometimes find here is not to find a way to officiate more effectively but to overall lower the stakes of "the game". That is, in high level playoff hockey, anything is justified by victory. Whereas drop-in leans hard the other way. You end up looking like something of a goof if you're charging hard into the corners, elbows up, etc.

I happened to play a lot of hockey in my youth, much of it at a high level, various tournaments, championships. But when I look back, I'm sure I had way more fun just mucking around playing road hockey with a bunch of neighbourhood kids, games that fundamentally didn't work if anybody was being too dominant. It would cease being fun. We'd go home and watch Gilligan's Island reruns instead.
posted by philip-random at 9:38 AM on March 1, 2023 [1 favorite]


The purpose of my comment about drop-in hockey was to refute a particular argument about approaches to moderation, not to argue that moderation is unnecessary. What I said was that referees were unnecessary, and you can only conclude from that that moderation is unnecessary if you assume that the referee model is the only possible model for moderation. That's both untrue and not what I said. Anyone suggesting that I upheld drop-in hockey as an ideal for a community is, at best, misunderstanding what I wrote and at worst willfully misreading it.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:46 AM on March 1, 2023 [2 favorites]


I went to MetaTalk and a hockey game broke out.
posted by riverlife at 11:07 AM on March 1, 2023 [11 favorites]


I'd just like to point out (way too late) that, in the tech world "system logs" are notorious for filling up disk space and going unnoticed until the system fails from lack of disk space, which in turn makes this post somewhat eponysterical.
posted by grog at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2023 [4 favorites]


let me address the Mod note from travelingthyme above so that it isn't taken out of context.

Thanks for clearing that up - it's not a standard I knew about (and sure, that multiplicity of standards in different places is one of the confusing things) , but I really do appreciate my misread of that scenario being corrected, and I'm glad it wasn't a lack of clarity but a coordinated response. Thank you for that background, loup.
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on March 1, 2023 [3 favorites]


One could make the argument that the reason Metafilter has fewer participants nowadays is because moderation isn't strong enough.

i may not be typical but i know that my participation and willingness to share in threads has plummeted precisely because of a lack of trust in the community and the moderation, vis-a-vis race and queer/trans issues.
posted by i used to be someone else at 8:27 PM on March 1, 2023 [9 favorites]


I don't se the benefit such a log.

A [comment deleted] note is sufficient and proper notification of a deleted comment. The author of that comment already has access to a back-channel discussion with the mod who deleted it. Mods have a further, and appropriate, responsibility to shut down a thread that seems to be careening off the rails. In that event, an appropriate comment by the mod seems sufficient.

My curiosity is aroused when I see a [comment deleted] note in a thread. But, not being able to scratch that particular itch passes because I have a general, and well-founded, respect for mod integrity at Meta, even if I might disagree with any specific action. As always, users are not required to respond to any comment, or read every post.

If the worry is that mods guide discussions, a log would not address that worry. Back-channel notes, respectfully exchanged, might be a first step to deal with a particular user's worry. If not that, the Gray might be a good forum for such an exchange. Booger flicking and thread-sitting are more apt to draw mod appearances in a thread.

It should never be assumed that any action taken by any mod will be beyond the reach of a commenter wanting an explanation. In that vein, anyone wishing to have a complaint taken seriously should constrain themselves to civility. It's possible to mistake for opacity a reluctance to see something staring you in the face.

Full disclosure: Although I rarely get a comment deleted, I have made comments that in retrospect, should have died when they were still brain-farts. I would not want to have them deleted, because they help me trend toward prudence.
posted by mule98J at 7:48 AM on March 2, 2023 [2 favorites]


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