Why do people post periods in obit threads? February 27, 2003 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I've looked in the FAQ and elsewhere that I can think of, and I'm only asking because another, more longstanding Mefi-ite asked me if I knew the answer, so maybe I'm not the only one who doesn't know. What's the deal with posting a period on threads when people die? Does it refer to something specific? Does it just mean "speechless?" Is there a thread that this sprang from?
posted by soyjoy to Etiquette/Policy at 10:21 AM (18 comments total)

"speechless" comes close i think. "nothing to add but platitudes" is close, i think. "agree with everything above, just weighing in" too. even "shrug". that's the way i've always interpreted them. or this mental picture: people silently stepping into line and grasping hands out of respect or solidarity or grief. i can't recall a thread where i first saw it, but i first saw it on mefi.
posted by quonsar at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2003

Kinda the textual equivalent of a moment of silence.
posted by shemol at 10:29 AM on February 27, 2003

It wasn't random. There was an original thread were somebody brought up the period as moment of silence in the comments, and it got adopted from there on.
The problem is that unless someone magically remembers a particular phrase from the post or thread itself, this is rather near impossible to search for.
posted by Su at 10:42 AM on February 27, 2003

I think it started post-9/11, here to be exact. (Scroll down past the crud at the top of the thread.)
posted by PrinceValium at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2003

Full stop?

A period of mourning?
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2003

Oops. My bad - Kaycee Nicole predated that.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:48 AM on February 27, 2003

Thanks, all. As usual, it's fascinating to see how a meta-idea emerges and gets codified. Sorry to anyone who was annoyed by my taking up room with this. Whoever oversees the FAQ, it might be a candidate for inclusion there.
posted by soyjoy at 11:10 AM on February 27, 2003

A period of mourning?

This is what I thought it had originated as, in a thread (not on this site, but I cannot find it) about the passing of the mother of a much loved member of the web community.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2003

I read them as tears... honestly.
posted by Witty at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2003

This specific practice tends to spontaneously arise at some point in the development of the cultures of most online communities. It's an everyday occurrance on the WELL, where there are several permanent obit threads; I've seen it every once in a while on several web-based sites; and I recall seeing it back in the '80s on CompuServe.

It seems to be the most natural online textual manifestation of the common refrain upon hearing of someone's death, "I don't know what to say." From that, it becomes a statement of regret unto itself. A fascinating example of how human nature carries over to the online world, IMHO.
posted by aaron at 2:38 PM on February 27, 2003

I think the immediate antecedent of this type of mourning in the MeFi community was the observanceon Dreamless of the passing of Zeldman's mother.
posted by anildash at 3:04 PM on February 27, 2003

i thought it was silence myself.
interesting to see the guy who broke the wtc silence has since left in disgust.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2003

Another one of those memes the likes of which Matt (supposedly) despises because no one but insiders have a clue what they mean.
posted by mischief at 6:30 PM on February 27, 2003

its obviously a silence.
if you dont know that , you really are thinking too much.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:15 PM on February 27, 2003

What's the deal with posting a period on threads when people die?

Wait -- people have died during threads?? Jesus, this place is more dangerous than I thought.
posted by webmutant at 10:59 AM on February 28, 2003

I prefer the old fashioned way:

posted by zerofoks at 1:57 PM on March 1, 2003

Yeah, Anildash is right. I remember that moment of silence asked on dreamless, and seeing as -- at the time -- dreamless and mefi had a large group of shared users, the memory of that thread stayed here. I don't know why that trend kept on, though. If you want to observe a moment of silence, then do it -- you don't need to post a '.' to announce that you are doing it.
posted by mkn at 8:32 PM on March 1, 2003

The "." phenomenon has been around for much, much longer than 9/11. We used to do it on out BBS chatroom in the late 80's -- and it was old-hat by then, too. I always took it to mean "I have nothing to say" or "whatever", though it was also occasionally used as "what the last person said". The "moment of silence" is, I suppose, correct, since the idea is you're not actually saying anything, but I wouldn't give it the same solemn cache'.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:07 AM on March 2, 2003

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