Should we have a separate page for politics? January 9, 2001 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Would MetaFilter be improved by moving political discussions to their own community separate from the main page? I love politics, but I think these kinds of links breed like rabbits, and I sometimes wonder if I am contributing to the Free Republicazation of this site.
posted by rcade to Etiquette/Policy at 2:12 PM (45 comments total)

The political conversations had a good lull between the time the election fooforaw settled down and when the media started gearing up for the inauguration.

I'm guessing they'll settle down again until the First Official Presidant Dubya scandel gears up.
posted by cCranium at 3:17 PM on January 9, 2001

I agree . . . it's been (I suspect) uncharacteristically intense what with all the voting weirdnesses. I don't think it'll be a big deal (relative to what it has been) in a month or so. Besides, the most burning-hot post today has been the "favorite movie" thread; I think this might be telling. :)
posted by Skot at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2001

If we didn't have political conversations, what would there be to talk about besides redesigned websites, developments at Pyra, and annoying pop culture trends?
posted by daveadams at 5:29 PM on January 9, 2001

The kinds of topics Dave mentions were a large part of the personality of the site, at least as of the time I found the place. It seemed like a community of webmasters and web designers, more than a community of web users.

I enjoy MetaFilter as it is, but as large as the front page is getting, a split of some kind might be worth considering.
posted by rcade at 6:09 PM on January 9, 2001

It's this daily politicking that everybody is sick of. I could give fuck all what o'reilly has to say on anything, just like some others could give fuck all what nader has to say about genetic engineering. Leave commentary to the commentators — you'll eventually find the opinions you're looking for.

Except you Roger. I signed you up for “Nader Daily”. nudge, nudge.

I don't mind sweeping political discussions, but mefi just isn't the place for the “politics of politics”. One thread on the entirety of the cabinet nominees should've been enough, and we had it on the 4th.

There were two posts on the Hindu holiday in as many days. What could've been said that hasn't been said already?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:15 PM on January 9, 2001

The O'Reilly thread is the kind of thing that prompted me to start this topic. We appear to have reached the point where politics is so all-consuming to some of us that new links are being posted just to further arguments in existing threads.
posted by rcade at 9:33 PM on January 9, 2001

Oops. The O'Reilly thread link was incorrect.
posted by rcade at 9:33 PM on January 9, 2001

Yep, commenting on commenters is really pretty dull. There was already one post about Ashcroft, it should have gone there.

Rest assured that US domestic politics is even less interesting to non-US citizens.
posted by lagado at 10:11 PM on January 9, 2001

Three more U.S. political links have been posted since O'Reilly, adding more weight to my breed-like-rabbits theory.

Maybe the best solution is for people to swear off American politics until such time that we can develop a sense of proportion about it. I'll quit if I can bring an ideological opposite with me.

posted by rcade at 11:35 PM on January 9, 2001

A lot of very good points.

I think though, assuming that this my.Metafilter thing isn't just a joke (If you're reading, Jason, posting "this is all a joke" was a brilliant mind fuck, kudos), that we should see what kind of features are available after it's rolled out.

The entire discussion may just become moot.
posted by cCranium at 7:34 AM on January 10, 2001

Moving all of the chatter about Organizine, Blogger's server woes, the validity of awards, and whether there is or is not an A-list into the "Weblogs general" section here on MetaTalk might go a considerable way toward cutting down on main page clutter. Do folks even know that section is here? Navel-contemplation about weblogs is as uninteresting to as many people as all the political hoo-ha, I'd wager.
posted by bradlands at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2001

Okay, so we've moved everything to a page about politics, we've moved everything about weblogs and their associated hoohaw (adding the 'w' puts a juicy twang in the word! :-) into MetaTalk.

Umm... what's left? :-) Alright, there's the various news links and stuff, but those are the posts that tend to generate the least interesting conversation from my perspective.

I don't know. My real question I guess is do we want to start breaking up the Metafilter community into subcommunities? It seems to have worked for sites like Kuro5hin, allowing a rather large user base to still feel (to an occasion lurker like myself) like a small community.

My next, tenuously related at best, question is what kind of percentage of the Metafilistines actually check out Metatalk? It seems to me that every so often something that's undergone rabid discussion here, and is still within the 30 day death period suddenly becomes an issue in Metafilter Proper.
posted by cCranium at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2001

How does discussion of content-management tools like Organizine and Blogger qualify as navel-gazing?
posted by rcade at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2001

Well, navel-gazing may have been a poor choice of terms. I dunno. Chatting about weblogs (and the attendant internecine squabbles, etc.) on the main page just seems like extra noise in the S/N ratio, when this this poor little ol' neglected category sitting over here, waiting to be filled with weblog talk. Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. ;-)
posted by bradlands at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2001

cC: "My real question I guess is do we want to start breaking up the Metafilter community into subcommunities? "

I don't know about breaking up into sub-communities, but I continue to advocate for some gentle categorization -- self-selecting on the part of the poster -- similar to what exists now in MetaTalk. Four or five rather broad categories would help tame the clutter a little bit, I think, and certainly better facilitate scanning the site for the reader.
posted by bradlands at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2001

Actually, Brad, I do agree with you. I actually tried to start a thread discussing why weblogs are successful a while back when I realized what I liked about 'em after I lost mine for a while.

I guess crying "sub-communities" and "division" is a little drastic, there'd be lots of cross-over and there'd be a whole lot less "who cares" posts.

Although Matt was talking about turning MetaTalk flat, like MetaFilter, so that category will probably not be around long.

What would be nifty, and a slight extension of that idea, is if thread posters have to select one of those 5 broad categories to assign their post to, then the option to filter based on those categories.

Categories could probably be added as people request them, also.

Though I must say, on of MeFi's defining features is the lack of categorization, and like I said elsewhere (possibly even in this thread; my mouse wheel's all the way over there...), K5's method of subpages is pretty nifty and seems to work well also.

I've no idea how difficult that would be from a back-end perspective.
posted by cCranium at 4:14 PM on January 10, 2001

I'm leaning more and more to a simple moderation model. Someone starts a thread, I get an email, take a look at it, and approve it (or not) for the front page.

Honestly, I think the site is growing beyond what it was designed for, and I wouldn't approve half the threads I see these days. I can't understand how any normal person could keep up with all the content on the site now.

Categorization is a good idea, and relatively easy to do. From day one, I've had a category table in the database with 20 topics I could think of at the time. It'd be pretty easy to hook that in and add appropriate fields to the posting form.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2001

moderate! moderate!

You realize, though, soon as you do that, all day long you'll be saying, “no, no, yes. Yes. No. Non. yes. No.”

Copy check!
posted by capt.crackpipe at 5:49 PM on January 10, 2001

Matt, can you name some threads you would not have approved? I just want to check it against what I consider postable.
posted by thirteen at 8:14 PM on January 10, 2001

ok, thirteen, let me look at today, starting at the first one (saying half wouldn't make it was an exaggeration about some of the worst days in the past couple weeks), there are 16 so far. Remember, don't take it personally if you posted something I consider bad or just alright. I'm only looking for things that start discussions or cover interesting things.

The macos X one? it's a toss up. There isn't much to provoke discussion, but there were a lot of comments. I'd probably let it go, but it could turn into yet another OS holy war.

the next one is fine.

the bush protest one would probably not get through because it didn't have a question or anything in it to promote discussion.

The software one was good.

army one was fine.

software patent? I might have deleted it because it could turn into jakob bashing.

the post office one was good.

another macos X thread. nope. one's enough.

the gallup thread was good.

the planets one was alright I guess.

The blackwell link was funny, the post was alright.

The virus thread was really good, though surprisingly no discussion followed (perhaps because there are too many threads?)

I would probably not let the flash one go, because it just begs for flash-bashing, something that is sometimes rightfully deserved but on the whole is a tired argument.

The piercing one I probably wouldn't approve because it doesn't really spark discussion, and it's been up on glassdog for weeks.

The utne article was good, so I'd let that one go through.

the xbox one is ok, though I don't think people are too interested in talking about the xbox.

So I'd delete 3-4 for sure and a couple others are toss ups. I think the site is easier to follow when there are only 10 or so links a day.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:01 PM on January 10, 2001

Your rules sound fair to me. I have been spotty with my topics, but am going to try and make sure there is a clear question attached to anything I post from here on. If you become the ultimate filter for the site, you can control the supply, and hold back non-topical links for slower days. That sounds kind of cool. I have a few links I have been holding onto, waiting for a slow day to come around.

Is it just me, or is there a whole new crowd of really snotty people who have joined in the last 5 days or so? I say this, knowing I am a touch snotty myself. I am always thinking I should quit and leave you nice people alone, but then somebody posts something like "you what is great? COMMUNISM" and I am right back here. If you ever choose to drop me, I will understand.
posted by thirteen at 9:23 PM on January 10, 2001

Matt, when you talk about categorization of MeFi, what sort of a format are you suggesting? I would be amenable to a K5 style (or better yet, something akin to Memepool that keeps down the front page clutter) where the organization is relatively flat but the user has the option to focus on a particular topic. I believe strongly that the beauty of MeFi lies in the discussion that develops from a (relatively) broad spectrum of members; categorization may keep the techies from participating in political discussions, as an example.

Thirteen, hell yes you can be a bit snotty, as I found out the hard way, but you are open to meaningful discourse; I don't want to have MeFi entirely populated with folks who think like me. Also, we know and tolerate you, rather like the crotchety old man with penchant for yelling at small children. I mean that in the best of all possible ways. :-)

But I agree with you; some of the new folks (I can think of at least five by name) haven't yet figured out the spirit of MeFi, and are acting like this is usenet. I think that having newly-registered members wait for a week to post a comment in an existing thread (not just start a new discussion) will give them a chance not just to see what constitutes a good link, but also what constitues civil behavior on MeFi.

What do you all think?
posted by Avogadro at 6:21 AM on January 11, 2001

I think everyone here can be snotty at times, but usually when we see what we consider to be the same tired old argument come up again, and are forced to beat it down with the same tired old links.

Maybe we're all just tired and old. :-)

I think most of us who pay attention to MetaTalk have agreed that a forced lurking period of some kind would be okay.

And that's not meant to imply that this is a tired old argument, honest. :-)

There's been a couple of interesting points made about that though, since many of us lurked for a long time and only created our accounts when we finally decided to actually post something. Perhaps a comment per day cap (one, maybe 2 so they can actually participate in a discussion) for a week for new users?

I think one of the problems with the Politics links too is that so many of the new links posted should be part of slightly older (like, a day or two) threads. This actually happens in a lot of topics (X-Box has gotten at least 2 threads the past couple of days, when it probably could've been in one).

Moderation could handle that, too Matt, because your standard "Deny" response could include "Perhaps this is best suited to a different, current thread?" or somesuch.

I think the site would benefit from your moderation, Matt.

Of course, next people are going to suggest a size limit to in-thread comments just to shut me up, so I'll take my own hint now. :-)
posted by cCranium at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2001

It seems to me that the whole point of Metafilter is to post interesting links, about which a variety of opinions can be held. A poster can express his own opinion with a "more inside" first comment if he wants.

However, there are definitely some posts lately which have as their only true intention to allow the poster to editorialize, and who's editorials really work (whether or not thus intended) more as trolls than as sparks of a worthwhile discussion. Today's Norton post is a good example of this. This is really just self-blogging under another form, and our current rules, properly enforced, are sufficient to knock them out.

Mathowie, perhaps rather than moderating, we could deploy some (very) lite collaborative rating tool, which would enable users to rate things on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 being highly inappropriate (gross selfblogging / editorializing / reposting) and 5 being highly useful. The net rating would appear next to the post, but would not have any direct effect, initially. If this had the desired effect of retarding and detering those sorts of posts, then problem solved. If not, then the same tool could be made to have a variety of effects, such as (a) blocking the comment function, so there'd be no response to the troll denying the pleasure sought, (b) knocking down to a "secondary" posts page, (c) suspending or (in the case of repeat offenders) banning the user.
posted by MattD at 8:59 AM on January 11, 2001

Thanks for the kind words Avogadro, I love you too.

As always, Mr. Cranium, has said what I mean, and I thank him. As always.

The main page is so mean and divisive today, I'd rather hang out in MetaTalk. Can a super secret be formed? I have always liked the club within a club thing, & I'll be good if you let me join.

Lastly, which one of you jokers invited Ed Viehman into the fold? He joined yesterday, and he has already posted more than I ever have.
posted by thirteen at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2001

I don't always say what you mean. I mean, I do have something of an independant voice, don't I? :-)


Regarding Ed, I think the way he formats his text is far more vile than anything else he's done. I haven't actually read anything he's written... everytime I see that block of text my eyes crawl out of my head and hide behind my chair.

It'd be a neat trick if only I could control it.
posted by cCranium at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2001

Matt, I hereby withdraw my support for a flat MetaTalk; the more time that I have spent on MeFi today, the more that I have wanted to withdraw back to here, and a flat MeTa would just make it easier for trolls to follow. Let's just sit here in the back room and rap about folks with their poorly formatted text and outrageously structured arguments.

(by the way, I still love MeFi :-)
posted by Avogadro at 2:22 PM on January 11, 2001

Hey, waitaminute, thirteen.

<narrows eyes>

I just realized what my closing statement a couple of posts back was ("Of course, next people are going to suggest a size limit to in-thread comments just to shut me up...") and that's what you say I'm saying that you usually say.

Or something.


In a pointless attempt to drive to maintain topic cohesiveness here in the comfy room, on to MattD's suggestion.

Off-hand, I like it. It's a little subtle negative reinforcement. Since people want to post good stuff, they'll eventually learn what's good and what isn't, and seeing how other people rate your post is the best way of doing that.

I can see one issue with that though. Since we've all agreed so far that we're the official Old Guard (how the hell did I get back here? :-) and them New Folk are messin' things up - we certainly can't do anything wrong (can I get more sidetracked?) - do we want them deciding?

Phrased in a slightly less elitist matter, Metafilter attracted us (I'm being inclusive here, I mean everyone that's become a member) ultimately because of Matt's original vision. If Matt's willing to take on the burden of moderation in an effort to return to that focus, I think it's a Good Thing.

And looking at what he'd be filtering, well, I can't help but agree. It's not like he's saying "Okay, no more politicking!" or "Okay, no more A-list posts!" he's just trying to figure out a way to enforce a little bit of moderation.

And by moderation that time I mean less crap going on in one day, not the filtering. Although I enjoy the fact that they're the same word.
posted by cCranium at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2001

cC, I know that i'm not included in the Old Guard, but thanks anyways.

I trust mathowie's sound judgement regarding posts that should be deleted, or trolls that should be shown the door (including today's actions).

While I agree wholeheartedly with MattD's assertion that many of the posts that we have seen since election-time appear to exist only to editorialize, I don't think that I could support any kind of rating system, even if it initially has no effect on the presence of certain threads.

Rating would seem to legitimize trolling behavior through the clear labelling of particularly virulent threads (I am reminded of a past comment about /.'s troll subculture). Also, it would seem too easy to rate down posts or comments that don't agree with the majority viewpoint. MeFi needs divergent opinions in order to flourish as a community; it doesn't need trolls.
posted by Avogadro at 3:16 PM on January 11, 2001

(Small voice) Some of us newbies check out MetaTalk, too. Some of us are even in favor of some moderation, if Matt's willing to do it . . . or delegate it to someone he trusted who was willing. MeFi is starting to get a bit unwieldy on the front end, it seems, especially for those of us who are OCD enough to want to read almost all of them.
posted by Skot at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2001

Avogadro, while your User Id is over 500, you think like an 'Old Guard' (and I'm going to continue to use scare quotes on that phrase, because it's flagrant silliness in my mind anyway :-), which to me is what's important.

I'm all for Matt taking a stronger hand in guiding MeFi's direction, I know already that I like the direction he'd steer it in.

My only concern is the additional workload it'd put upon Matt's shoulders, and if there's a way we can moderate ourselves (and somehow enforce it) then that would be the optimal solution.

Although, again, considering the past couple of days (full moon? Millenial Madness?) it'd probably be less work for Matt to approve posts.
posted by cCranium at 4:03 PM on January 11, 2001

Dammit cC, that is what I was gonna say.
posted by thirteen at 4:07 PM on January 11, 2001


Hm? Sorry, I only pop over here once every couple of days, since it's only intermittently active.

I dunno ... I am trying to avoid least some of the political threads, especially the ones that are already 40-to-70-reply cockfights before I even see them (cf. those hideous Norton and "edumacation" threads). But in general I have trouble with the concept of others deciding what is and isn't acceptable posting (or, worse, acceptable "levels" of posting) since, as this thread shows, nobody can decide on what constitutes "acceptability." In the end, somebody's going to get shut out, and I think MeFi would be a worse place for that.

I think the best solution would be if Matt could code in a simple categorization system. Pick a few broad topics that seem to make up the vast majority of MeFi posts (web design/content, politics, news, culture, science, goofy web finds, and of course the ever-popular "other" category), and stick in a little pull-down menu on the "Post a Link" page where new posters would have to assign a category to each link. Then each user could go into their prefs and toggle on or off whatever categories they wanted. If you're sick of politics, you could turn that category off, and then turn it back on if/when you're in the mood. It would eliminate the need for more radical "divisions" and "subcommunities," and thus keep the general community as one.
posted by aaron at 4:12 PM on January 11, 2001

Which, of course, is pretty much what others have suggested above. I don't claim it's an original concept.
posted by aaron at 4:14 PM on January 11, 2001

aaron, one thing about Matt moderating, he'd only be moderating the top-level posts. Which he actually already does (by removing self-links and whatnot), he'd just be taking a slightly more proactive hand in the process.

Rather than having to delete posts that are unacceptable, he'd merely not let them be posted. I do like the idea of categorization and filtering based on that, I just don't think that Matt moderating would block anyone from expressing themselves.
posted by cCranium at 6:47 AM on January 12, 2001

I've been someone who's contibuted to the 'Free Republic' style frenzy as said (I'm sorry). I think if you're going to moderate, where do you draw the line? Moderation doesn't work (just look at Slashdot).

Metafilter discussions are still better than 99% of stuff I see on the rest of the internet.

I would like to see shameless self promotion (seen a lot of that on Metafiter) eliminated.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 2:38 PM on January 14, 2001

Oh, by the way, I'm not sorry for my opinions, political as they may be. I am sorry for childish flaming that I have foolishly particpated in. I just can't help myself!
posted by Mr. skullhead at 2:44 PM on January 14, 2001

Moderation doesn't work (just look at Slashdot).

I read Slashdot at +3, and it works for me as a reader.
posted by rcade at 7:30 AM on January 15, 2001

Yeah, Matt's moderations are fine. I'm talking about the idea of everyone trying to decide on their own what is and is not acceptable. That'll never work, and would create huge amounts of animosity during any time it was tried.
posted by aaron at 7:54 PM on January 15, 2001

If you're serious about vetting every post, matt, I think that you're going to have a hard time keeping up with the workload. You really need to start thinking about scale, this thing can only get worse.

...and while we're on the subject of workloads, where's my daily emailed "Best Of" digest? I haven't seen one in months!!

posted by lagado at 4:37 AM on January 16, 2001

When I see "community 'blog" and "we're all in this together" hovering over this discussion, I'm puzzled. This discussion makes me question who "we" are and what a "community" is. I personally wouldn't like to see MeFi turn into a gated community, but that may be inevitable. This marketplace of ideas may be too large for any one person to oversee, but can technological alterations really compensate for sociological shortcomings?

I have just overcome my "Z-list" status (where Z = links > posts), and I'm always fascinated by the use of the "A-list" arguments and the citing of a poster's numerical rank. I don't really have a good grasp of how an "A-list" status is obtained, and I feel it's irrelevant to a person's argument.

This seems like an appropriately "meta" discussion; I just hope that the small spark of "us versus them" that I percieved here doesn't divide the people of the site along with the topics of the site.
posted by JDC8 at 6:17 PM on January 16, 2001

JDC8, you are right when you say that a person's numerical rank is irrelevant to a person's argument (damn, I sound like AOLiza), and I think that you would find few folks on MeFi, including those who have been around for a while, that would disagree with you.

My impression with the "us vs. them" feeling that comes out of this thread is that there has been a certain method of discourse that as predominated throughout the history of MeFi, much of it characterized by a "we're not /., usenet, free republic kind of community", and because the MeFi's growth as not outstripped the influence of existing members, this kind of discourse has remained. Also, because the community was rather small, the quirks and foibles of its members were well known
and tolerated.

I have only been around since August, so I can only relate to you what I have seen. Between mid-August and late December, 500 members joined MeFi; 1000 new members have come since then. With the new members comes great diversity, which is essential for community, but with growth also comes some measure of instability, which seems to me to have been manifested in a change in the way dialogue has been taking place.

So should the gates be closed? I certainly don't want that, and I have not seen evidence that others would desire that either. But it discussion should still be able to take place within the bounds of mutual respect. This to me is where "numerical rank" is mentioned, simply because those have been around have (for the most part) adopted the MeFi conversation style; also, those who in the past did not act civilly were either booted or left MeFi of their own accord.

Alll of the members (with few exceptions) that have come with the thousand member rise of the past month appear to subscribe to the standards that have predominated. Unfortunately, there has also been a few new members that have not, and since they are (or were) vocal, perhaps there is an inclination to tar all new members with the same brush (a grievous mistake). Also, the political events of the past season seem to have stirred some ill will between ideological opposites.

Whew, sorry for the long post. Oh, and all of the above blather is but one person's opinion.
posted by Avogadro at 9:16 PM on January 16, 2001


Thanks for the response. I'll just keep posting the best comments I can, and leave the tough calls to mathowie.


posted by JDC8 at 9:53 PM on January 16, 2001

JDC8: The A-list isn't a reference to long-time MetaFilter users. It's a reference to people within the weblog/web design community who are well-known, and the term is usually employed by someone who is slagging one (or more) of them.
posted by rcade at 7:26 AM on January 17, 2001

Huh? Who's shagging the A-list?
posted by sudama at 7:51 AM on January 29, 2001

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