Mefi compared to chemical spill June 11, 2001 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I think Lance finally hit upon the perfect motto:

"Like a great train wreck involving hundreds dead in a chemical spill that strips the skin off babies and puppies and makes the entire population collectively vomit up blood, I keep coming back to look some more."
posted by jga to MetaFilter-Related at 3:22 PM (22 comments total)

Well, everyone's entitled to his/her own opinion. I agree with some of what Lance says - it seems more difficult these days (term used loosely) to find meaty discussions here. But there are some. If you want all of the good stuff spelled out on the front page, well, good luck finding that anywhere, methinks.
posted by hijinx at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2001

Lance's entry touches upon a point I've been contemplating recently. I've talked to several people online in the past few days who are so intimidated by the harshness and antagonism of the MeFi that they've never posted front-page comments, and almost never post to threads.

These are intelligent, articulate folks who are usually rather confident. It makes me wonder about the tenor of this place when I hear things like that.

Maybe we should update the guidelines to preclude idiocy like complete strangers trying to change each others' minds about the death penalty by typing vitriolic messages online...
posted by anildash at 3:44 PM on June 11, 2001

Maybe I'm just too damn stupid to notice, but I've never not posted to the front page because of fear. Now, I've not posted a comment because I didn't have the time or energy to defend my position... but that's not the same thing exactly.
posted by silusGROK at 4:04 PM on June 11, 2001

That sounded a lot harsher than it was meant to, anil... no offense intended. My feeling on the tenor of comments at MeFi is that they haven't changed all that much, and that the community is capable of addressing the occassional anomolous posting/poster.

What I'm excited for is MetaFocus. I think that baby will be just different enough from MeFi to ellicit comments from people who might otherwise just lurk.
posted by silusGROK at 4:07 PM on June 11, 2001

"What is wrong with the community" essays don't mean much to me. Each post is met by different groups of posters on any given day. I can't justify assigning any particular adjective to such a diverse group. Occassionaly the mean-spirited posts get to me, but there are enough good folks around to keep it interesting.

Maybe it's because I tend to avoid the political threads. Mefi reads a lot better if you avoid the obvious endless debate threads.
posted by john at 4:46 PM on June 11, 2001

John, I do, too. I can't remember the last time I even clicked on any "us vs. them" thread. I just wish there were a way we could get the (very small) group of extremists on both sides who are willing to shriekingly debate every great unresolvable political issue to be a bit more civil and a bit less strident.

But then, the shrieking man never realizes that he's shrieking, I suppose. And, unfortunately, it's impossible to post on a thread and ask people not to post. At least, impossible without being a hypocrite.
posted by anildash at 5:25 PM on June 11, 2001

that mcveigh thread is the nastiest I've seen in a long, long time. and the global warming thread is filling up with anti-global-warming enthusiasts who are just posting extremest drivel in order to try and either get a rise, or derail the discussion.

either way, I don't think anyone serious is going to actually have a discussion there as a result of them.

I had assumed it was the topics, but maybe it's the crowd. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 6:48 PM on June 11, 2001

you know, and lance makes a good point about posting personal information - names and addresses to the site.

might we make it a policy that this is not allowed? and that all such posts will be deleted? I was quite uncomfortable with the names and addresses of people posted here during the kaycee brouhaha. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2001

It would be such a same if this technology merely allows extremists to endlessly spout their drivel and verbally attack each other. While in person there is always the chance they'd kill each other.

Sure, it's given us eyeglasses that allow folks like myself to not carelessly fall down holes and avoid poison ivy, but we need to allow the extreme members of our society to come together and decide who is right the old fashioned way.

It's why I think the Jerry Springer show went the totally wrong way. Bring back the fights and let's give them weapons. Personally, I think anyone that goes to that show is asking for it anyway. It's time we had full-contact audience participation. Jerry could stand in a mini-Pope-mobile to protect his ass from the stray chair or shotgun round.
posted by john at 7:06 PM on June 11, 2001

By your definitions, I may be a "shrieking man". Am I? I think you're right Anil, maybe its just my particular point of view which causes me to not be able to see the extremity of my opinion. The fact that I tend to be a bit argumentative probably doesn't help any.
posted by owillis at 8:35 PM on June 11, 2001

owillis, i think we all tend to be the extremist sometimes, so I wouldn't single you out. But I had the death penalty debate with my roommate tonight, and the frustration was not that he was diametrically opposed to me in view, which he was. Because I understood his rationale and thought it was entirely justified for his own personal morality.

The frustration was that he would not accept that I could feel the way I do. He didn't want to talk about how we improve our society so that we don't have to worry about whether the death penalty is an option for the judicial system. He wanted me to be convinced that my morality is wrong.

Guess what? It didn't work, and I walked away. I don't want the brilliant minds that swarm over this place to walk away. And I know I already spend more time in MetaTalk than MeFi much of the time, merely because there's no "there" there, on all of the endlessly-rehashed homepage threads.

It's not the topics, per se, it's how they're framed. Front page posts aren't prompting debate anymore. They're not spurring informed discussion. They're saying, "Here's a news event, you probably had your opinion formed on this type of event when you were 15 years old, there are people here who disagree with you: Have at it."

It makes this whole thing seem pointless and lowbrow, and it alternately saddens me and pisses me off, depending on my mood.

Let's raise the bar for front page posts. Maybe I'll start a blog with a suggestion of how we'd all rewrite a front page post to spur a better debate.
posted by anildash at 9:12 PM on June 11, 2001

personally, i don't feel that, just because a discussion relates to some opinion we may have had for a long time, we cannot become better informed (or possibly swap sides). that probably is the reality in most cases, but it's not a certainty. of course front page posts are prompting debate, it's just that the debate's been heard before.

that said, i do agree with you anil, and though i'm still relatively new here, may i suggest something: i think that the front page posts of mefi should primarily be about something new or relatively unheard-of before, and i think that just because a post is a news event does not mean that it is new to us.

i don't think that we must take away the option of people to debate some of these topics, since clearly a number of people would really like to. one solution may be a debate forum, which--should it be created--belongs in metatalk (not according to its current definition on the front page of metatalk, but that can be expanded).

perhaps if that were done, the need to post news events would be lessened on the front page of mefi.
posted by moz at 10:33 PM on June 11, 2001

Apologies for self-linking, but I wrote an essay a few weeks ago that touched on this topic:

my political manifesto

to expound a bit more specifically:

on the opposite of the apathy that i talk about in the above link, extremism is another thing that is breaking down the discourse of our society. I'm not talking about out-there viewpoints, and I may be picking the wrong word. I can't think of a better word off the top of my head though so it'll have to do. The extremism I'm talking about is that of not acknowledging the possible validity of other's opinions.

Being that extreme does not try and further your viewpoint. It is a selfish stance that only shows to show off your pettiness and childishness. What many people don't seem to realize about themselves is: Nearly everything you say is going to be wrong in some aspect. Other people are going to be more correct than you, most of the time.

The solution? No self-policing or segregation of incindiary topics is going to do the trick. The people posting extremist views are going to post them anywhere just to get an argument started. The only real solution is to ignore them, and to try and create an environment where discourse is encouraged, not flame-baiting.

This goes for more than political arguments, btw. People can be quite caustic about MeFi newbie mistakes. Remember that next time you're about to get someone for double posting or commiting some other breach of etiquette. Point it out to them, but do it politely.

I don't ramble, do I? I'm sorry.
posted by chason at 11:50 PM on June 11, 2001

i should say that the reality is that people will NOT swap sides, not that they will... sorry
posted by moz at 11:54 PM on June 11, 2001

"He wanted me to be convinced that my morality is wrong."

<soapbox> Well, you can't really argue about that, morality is subjective (although that you could argue about), the most you can do is explain. If your roommate refused to look past that and to the issue, then you probably couldn't have made much progress and walking away is the best solution.

And such is our problem here: it's difficult to have civil discussions when some people don't know how to debate issues without getting too personal. Short of teaching a debate and critical thinking class on MeFi, it's probably not a problem that can be solved with added or subtratced features. The best we can do is walk away from the discussion when things don't work., and I agree, it's sad. </soapbox>

Heh, since I don't really have much of a soultion, short of growing thicker skin, I guess I'm just blowing hot air. But what solution isn't going to away as much as the the problem? I guess that's the big Q on my mind, and probably every one else's, too. Just call me Captian Obvious. ;)
posted by Hackworth at 1:47 AM on June 12, 2001

"People don't go to MetaFilter anymore. It's too crowded."

Any forum where the public has an open mike is easy to sneer at -- especially if you're one of the people who stays out of the discussion.

When you loaded the death penalty thread, were you expecting the Algonquin Round Table? Intelligent, articulate people who are too scared to post here shouldn't post. They also shouldn't write letters to the editor, speak at public meetings, or do anything else that might damage their reputations as intelligent, articulate people.

I think there's value in most of these hot-headed discussions. As stupid as the political discussions got last year (thanks to frenzied partisans like me), I learned more here from the advocates of each candidate than I did on the nightly news.
posted by rcade at 5:14 AM on June 12, 2001 [1 favorite]

one solution may be a debate forum, which--should it be created--belongs in metatalk (not according to its current definition on the front page of metatalk, but that can be expanded).

Better yet, grab a copy of PHPfi when it's finished, and start an entirely separate site specifically for debates.
posted by darukaru at 7:20 AM on June 12, 2001

"It's a police state of myopic, loud-mouthed idiots proclaiming themselves the cultural police while the rest of us sit back and laugh at them."

Lance Arthur just insulted me. And he was nasty, too.

I like Metafilter more than the bulk of personal weblogs. It isn't perfect, and sometimes the discussions are vacuous or unpleasant, like the McVeigh thread yesterday. But what I learn from the site, and the entertainment I receive from it, makes up for this.

I don't think of Metafilter as an "online community." In fact, I believe that term to be an oxymoron. Metafilter is a discussion forum that people choose to visit and to contribute to. Like a lot of online situations, Metafilter allows people to do things socially that they would most likely not do in real life, and that includes yelling, baiting, and insulting. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

On the other hand, it seems easy to find webloggers who are insufferable, almost overbearing, egoists. They write like newspaper columnists, intent on kicking up shit and gaining notoriety, and believe traffic to their site means something.

Most of their sites are not interesting or useful. Among the better known, I probably check out Camworld weekly because he and I are both concerned about Web content management issues. I liked Lemon Yellow for different reasons. There are others sites I like -- Magnificent Melting Object,, and rebecca's pocket -- but don't visit very often. That's about it.

A few weblogs, especially among the so-called "a-list," are rather crass attempts at creating a brand of the personal. On top of being overwritten and over-designed, one gets the sense that the online identity is much more important to the author that what they do in the real world.
posted by tranquileye at 12:30 PM on June 13, 2001

For the record, I've never posted to the front page of MeFi because I come here to find all the cool links that might be worthy of being posted on the front page of MeFi...
posted by jennyb at 5:39 PM on June 13, 2001

"I don't think of Metafilter as an 'online community'."

I believe it has that potential, but there's too many people who are holding true to the words of Groucho Marx, "We don't want to join any club that would have us as a member." BTW I think Groucho Marx stole that joke from Will Rogers, who stole it from Mark Twain...
posted by ZachsMind at 3:33 AM on June 14, 2001

Zach, I just think the term isn't useful or appropriate for online discussion forums. They can be wonderful things, but they aren't really communities.
posted by tranquileye at 6:55 AM on June 14, 2001

Yeah okay..
posted by ZachsMind at 9:14 AM on June 14, 2001

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