Inviting people to respond to threads about them? February 18, 2003 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Considering two recent author responses to threads, I'm wondering if we should give certain parties the opportunity to rebut or respond to questions raised by MeFites, particularly if the parties involved are not members. I'm not sure how something along these lines could be established. We'd need some way to obtain provenance beyond an email. But if Metafilter is to raise questions and an author of an article wishes to respond, should we develop a policy to implement their participation?
posted by ed to Feature Requests at 3:55 PM (36 comments total)

I am reminded that it is NEVER smart to put anything in an email that you wouldn't want the rest of the world to see.

That, and it's only a website.
posted by konolia at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2003

I don't know, but be assured, if I ever had a chance when I was thirteen to enter the cage of the monkey that threw fistfuls of feces at me I would have violated it with the plastic lizard from the Wild Rainforest Adventure exhibit.

Just sayin.
posted by Stan Chin at 4:09 PM on February 18, 2003

Let them eat pancakes.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:12 PM on February 18, 2003

I always had a fuzzy feeling about square-shaped donuts.
posted by ed at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2003

One e-mail filled us in, the second was in response to comments. So I'm, middle of the road. Need more input from members for me to fully decide. As we also read about threads & comments in other resources.

And is this the same as a member's friend commenting on a thread?

Ed, if they're square, shaped-donuts then they won't get a round.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:01 PM on February 18, 2003

I'm intrigued by the idea, ed.
posted by Shane at 5:01 PM on February 18, 2003

How would you communicate to the subjects of threads that they could get a membership?

Put something on the about page like this?
So you've been tarred and feathered by MetaFilter
Care to refute what the fun loving bunch of comic book guys have said about you, but don't have a membership? Just send an email to with some proof you're who you say you are, and we'll fix you right up and get you into the fray.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:05 PM on February 18, 2003

I think we should let them get their own blog like everyone else. They can always pony up the spare change to Matt for a textad if they feel the need to share with us that strongly.
posted by konolia at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2003

Konolia, this isn't about "feeling the need to share." This is about having the chance to respond to a group drubbing, which I think is only fair. I don't know if memberships need to be offered, and in fact the system seems to have worked so far; I can't imagine that with all these members no one would find a way to get through to somebody who's being discussed and provide their response. (And no, this is not "the same as a member's friend commenting on a thread" unless the friend has been the object of a similar pile-on.)
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on February 18, 2003

If it were me being drubbed, it would be worth five bucks to me to respond.
Besides, I really wasn't kidding about "get your own blog". If you can contact someone here to complain, you can certainly contact someone here to post a link to the rebuttal. Thus leaving poor overworked Matt out of it entirely.
posted by konolia at 5:34 PM on February 18, 2003

Hey, listen to Ole Soft Touch, already! ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:37 PM on February 18, 2003

Seems like a good way to drum up new, probably-contributing, members.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2003

I want a man with a slow hand, myself, Miguel. He's got an easy, though not necessarily soft, touch.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:03 PM on February 18, 2003

I think that it's only fair that they have their say, whether they do it via metafilter (via joining or thru another member) or on their own blog while letting somebody know that they are responding (as if some MeFite wouldn't sniff it out anyway).
posted by ashbury at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2003

There's clearly no reason to alter how MetaFilter works, at least not based on these two examples. They found ways to get their reponses in front of us and presumably others in the future will find similar ways.

Personally, I found Garrett's response hilarious - taking the MetaFilter community to task like a schoolmarm with a room of unruly children, as if that would cause us to overlook the monumental stupidity of someone in her professional capacity committing that kind of crap to email... If Garrett is half as smart as she pretends to be, she'll take her hands off the keyboard and back away now before she embarrasses herself any further.
posted by JollyWanker at 6:43 PM on February 18, 2003

Does anyone think that Matt would refuse membership to a person discussed here who asked to join? I'll bet that most of our past "victims" have been like Laurie Garrett -- eager to fire off a self-indulgent letter of complaint, but not quite as enthusiastic to join the site and be forced to defend it any further.

Besides, I'm guessing that Garrett doesn't turn over her spot in Newsday to anyone who complains about their treatment in her stories.
posted by rcade at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2003

I thought we allowed space to respond in both examples, which is the right solution. I don't know how else we should respond. As rcade said, I doubt many of themreally want a membership (but hey, go ahead an offer.)
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2003

To clarify, I'm not talking about setting up memberships.

Donuts aside, my thinking behind a rebuttal or a response was that, in some threads, MeFi has possibly evolved into something more than a quagmire of opinions. This is common journalistic practice in magazines and newspapers, particularly for articles that present information and opinions. If a MeFi thread is speculating upon the thoughts and opinions of someone else, then it may be in the best interest of discussion (and, indeed, could add to it) to give that person an opportunity to rebut. No need to shout "point of order" -- just a modest opportunity to affirm or clarify things that may have been misconstrued in the author's eye.

In the case of Garrett, I too think she leaped off the wrong side of the schooner. However, if she wants to post a reply, in the interests of fairness, I believe she's entitled to one.

One thing we keep forgetting is that the Web has and is a very auctorial medium. Behind every link posted to MeFi is a human voice who came up with the off-kilter idea. If we can include Trackbacks within a given thread, then certainly we can allow a certain fairness doctrine (and, even then, it will probably not be nearly as formal as it sounds) with which to stimulate discussion.

Then again, perhaps I'm overestimating MeFi's potential.
posted by ed at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2003

ed, it's a noble idea, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts implementation of it, I still don't see an easy way to do it besides giving them a membership to post under.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:45 PM on February 18, 2003

Is there a way to make a single-use password? Because if there is, you could create one account for all rebuttals (username: rebuttal or probably something much more clever...), then provide whomever needs to do the rebutting with the password. After their one rebuttal, the password would expire.
posted by faustessa at 11:55 PM on February 18, 2003

What rcade said.

Sir Lofty Lotstolose
c/o Above The Fray
1000 Dismissive Court
Statusville, South Preservia
posted by Opus Dark at 11:58 PM on February 18, 2003

the nuts and bolts implementation
One other consideration: By the time, the drubbee receives access to post a rebuttal, the post will be so far below most readers' horizons that few would ever know of its existence.
posted by mischief at 12:01 AM on February 19, 2003

I agree about the right of someone who is discussed here to respond. However, besides the question of timeliness, there are other, possibly serious problems with posting a public notice.

Trivial responses: People taking issue with such comments as "What an ugly web site - why did they put everything in ALL CAPS!" While the subject of such a comment probably wouldn't bother to dig up a mefi member's e-mail address in order to respond, an invitation on the "about page" would be more likely to inspire a lot more nuisance mails, all of which Matt would have to deal with. Another problem is that if he chose not to set up a guest membership for their responses, their anger would then be directed towards him, personally, as opposed to Metafilter, the site. Not good.

Potential for abuse: With this sort of notice on the About page, my guess is that there would be a few people who would be very tempted to see if they could get by with spoofing the offended party. What a mess that would be, and what a pain in the ass to try to verify every identity.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there is a neat solution. However, it is rare that the sort of thread that spawns such situations doesn't include at least one email alerting the person in question. If the person has a problem with the thread, they will respond. If they respond, the mefi member can point out that a guest membership can be set up (if Matt wants to institute such a thing) so that they can participate in the thread, or that, alternatively, the member will post their response. It's not ideal, but at least it would still be to some degree moderated by members, who know when a thread steps over the line from general comments to personal attacks or assumptions, or in other words, when exactly the subject of a thread deserves equal time.

I just have the feeling that a public notice could become a very ugly can of worms...
posted by taz at 1:49 AM on February 19, 2003

Everything we discuss here is something that is found on the web... just like Metafilter. If somebody feels like they need to respond, they can do so by joining the group, sending an email to a member (just like in the examples), or respond in their own web forum... whatever it may be. The point is, for the most part, anything we find on the web is out there for public consumption and we have the right to discuss it whether the target of such discussion has a chance to respond or not. If they need to respond that badly, then they have the whole internet in which to do so.

Taz makes a good point(s)... what type of FPP is worthy of a rebuttal? The ripping of a website or someone's "poem"? What about a topic that strays a little and a comment in the thread warrants a rebuttal? To me, it seems impossible to cover all possibilities fairly... systematically.
posted by Witty at 6:05 AM on February 19, 2003

What taz said makes good sense. I guess any one of us could contact the subject of a post if we felt that it was in the interests of fairness to do so.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:20 AM on February 19, 2003

...Garrett doesn't turn over her spot in Newsday to anyone who complains about their treatment in her stories.
rcade said it, and that's really all that needs to be said about laurie or any other journalist. let them have a forum for their own defense when the industry begins to provide same for the subjects of their drubbings. and provide the same sort of placement: on page 23d, between the lawn and garden ads and the full page spring snowblower blowout sale.
posted by quonsar at 8:16 AM on February 19, 2003

If it were me being drubbed, it would be worth five bucks to me to respond.

I smell a fundraiser. Let's all pair of into groups of ten following the sum of the three last digits in your user numbers, then dividing by your contribution index. Then, our groups collaborate to take various members of quasi-fame to task. When they get upset, we charge them five bucks for a membership, and Bam! Matt can retire (or at least buy something cool for himself).
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:33 AM on February 19, 2003

Or maybe we could just hit Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Courtney Love up for $50,000 each?
posted by taz at 8:52 AM on February 19, 2003

Or Justin Timberlake!
posted by dangerman at 9:09 AM on February 19, 2003

Or maybe we could just hit Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Courtney Love and Justin Timberlake? Matt wouldn't be able to retire on it, but don't you think we'd all feel better knowing they each received a (collective) MeFi slap up side the head?
posted by JollyWanker at 10:30 AM on February 19, 2003

It's probably not out of the question; we did have some cock punching going on earlier.
posted by taz at 10:59 AM on February 19, 2003

you know, an accessible and visibly linked FAQ could have some of the above verbiage [plus a link to the cool political compass graphic] and then people wondering where all these metafilter hits are coming from could just a) realize the diference between us hosting content and us discussing it and b) know who to email if they wanted to participate in some way.

That said, I think it's worked out just fine so far. Someone mails someone in the thread, their response is posted, no big deal. Most of them have websites, they can respond there if they want to, also.
posted by jessamyn at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2003

I still can't believe Garrett won a Pulitzer. She must have one hell of an editor.
posted by Shane at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2003

Laurie Garrett is insignificant. Her indignation is irrelevant. Ignore her.
posted by Hildago at 3:01 PM on February 19, 2003

aurie Garrett is insignificant. Her indignation is irrelevant. Ignore her.

My god, you sounded just like the Borg when you said that. Wayyyyy coooool.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:37 PM on February 19, 2003

Side effects include being able to date the hot chick from Voyager.
posted by Hildago at 10:28 PM on February 19, 2003

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