Closing MeTa threads may be a bad idea January 15, 2005 4:41 AM   Subscribe

I submit reason number one that closing metatalk threads may, in fact, be a bad idea.
posted by The God Complex to Etiquette/Policy at 4:41 AM (136 comments total)

As a pratice to avoid off-topic fighting, I can see it's purpose. But in its currently used form, where it serves as a way for Matt to give his final verdict and disallow any opinion on said verdict, is the discussion simply going to overflow into the blue? It seems like this may not be the best way to use the new feature.

I put this forth with no intended snark (for the record). Perhaps I'm wrong and this is an isolated case, but it certainly seems like something that could happen more frequently now. Also, in this situation, people that happen upon the MT thread only shortly after it was started are no longer capable of expressing an opinion on the topic and possibly effecting Matt's views. Doesn't it hinder the community policing aspect of the site?
posted by The God Complex at 4:47 AM on January 15, 2005


Let it go TGC. Seriously. This place needs a 'chill pill'.
posted by Witty at 6:37 AM on January 15, 2005


I have to agree with TGC - and will add that it takes all the fun out of this place.

Has our motto changed from "Self-policing since 1999" to "Go about your business, but don't look Matt directly in the eyes?"
posted by Quartermass at 6:48 AM on January 15, 2005


Let it go Quartermass. Seriously. This place needs a 'chill pill'.
posted by Witty at 6:51 AM on January 15, 2005


Not only does it hinder the self-policing aspect of the site - removing power from the community will also remove what little sense of community responsibility was ever present - it's simply an example of following bad principles when attempting to influence a community.

Coding solutions will never solve what are inherently social problems. Limiting users (especially when they have a point of freedom in recent history to serve as a comparison point), rather than streamlining their experience will not only breed resentment towards the powers that be, but negatively impact each participant's user experience.

Finally - and this is purely subjective but perhaps more important for it - it feels like a limitation of speech far more than deletion ever did. When I make an offensive comment, or post in a high-risk-of-deletion thread, I'm aware of the risks I'm running, but perhaps Matt will see some of the value in my comment that I did when I posted it. It sets him up as the site's final arbiter of what passes muster, which is the role for him we all accepted when we first began participating here.

The problem is that closing threads not only denies people their chance to appeal to the broader Metafilter community, it seems to sends a subtle message from Matt that further comments on the topic aren't worth the time it takes for him to judge. That his thoughts on the matter at hand are so far above the common user's as to be unassailable and The Final Word (tm).

There's a far cry between setting yourself up as the agent of removal for noise below a certain threshhold, and setting yourself up as an agent that directly and without possibility for appeal demands that conversation between all parties on a given topic flow in a certain direction or cease altogether. Not only is that a shift in Matt's role that some people around here are not comfortable with, it violates the heart of what, at least, I thought the spirit of 'self-policing' was supposed to entail.
posted by Ryvar at 6:52 AM on January 15, 2005


matt is clearly a nazi fascist dictator and his actions are tantamount to making glue from jewish babies. i am disgusted.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:01 AM on January 15, 2005


in fact, i suspect matt is responsible for the worldwide garum colatura shortage.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:04 AM on January 15, 2005


Andrew cooke, I neither said nor implied anything of the kind, even if we adjust to compensate for your hyperbole. I simply stated that I thought it was bad policy for a few different reasons - some of which are purely principle, and one of which is what it possibly reflects a more authoritarian and . . . dismissive side to Matt than I am comfortable with. That is all.
posted by Ryvar at 7:05 AM on January 15, 2005


If you kids would just stop cutting yourselves with the regular scissors, we'd not have to resort to the safety ones.

Seriously, if more users could just walk away from the trainwreck threads instead of having to prove they have a bigger dick than someone else, we'd be fine. Prevent the trainwrecks and I'd assume Matt would stop closing threads, no?

Self-policing includes self-responsibility, too. Anyone who's participated in a trainwreck thread is part of the problem Matt's trying to fix.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 7:07 AM on January 15, 2005


Let it go Ryvar. Seriously. This place needs a 'chill pill'.
posted by Witty at 7:08 AM on January 15, 2005


Witty: I don't get it. TGC seems supremely chilled. He's pointing out a possible problem with a solution implementation. He's not going off on matt being draconian, or mefi falling apart. He's saying, "Look, here's the first sign of a potential side-effect. It may be a statistical anomaly, or it may be the first example of a pattern. Just pointing it out."

Telling him to chill is like telling the Dalai Lama to shave his head.

And I don't have anything, so there's nothing for you to tell me to let go of. And I'm pretty chilled right now, so no Prozac necessary.
posted by Bugbread at 7:15 AM on January 15, 2005


I agree with TGC.
And neither require nor want one of those "chill pill" things.
posted by seanyboy at 7:26 AM on January 15, 2005


I agree with TGC too. There was no sign that previous thread was turning into a trainwreck.
posted by grouse at 7:43 AM on January 15, 2005


My point is... ASSUME that it is a statistical anomaly, for the sanity of the community's sake. Let it go for a bit... one day, two perhaps. Leave Matt alone. Let him do his thing. Let things settle out a little bit. Stop calling everything into question. Or not.
posted by Witty at 7:49 AM on January 15, 2005


I think that to the extent anything's flowing over from the brown/gray to the blue or from the green to the brown/gray or from the blue to the whatever, it's just because y'all can't stop whining about things that are really very trivial. Eventually, one hopes, the metametametawhinging will ease, and then it'll be nicer because the abuses that the fixes were meant to fix will still be gone, but all the crying about the fixes will have ceased.

I suppose that it's not a bad thing for people to be somewhat invested in an online community (to the extent that term is not meaningless on its face), but to take it so very seriously indicates that you probably need to get a life. And not an online life. I'm stuck in my office on a Saturday morning, and I kind of need to look busy for a little while longer so I can go home without annoying anyone. But a lot of you are online on a Saturday morning just so you can whine about things that don't matter. Or that shouldn't matter. Stop thinking about MetaFilter and go take a walk with your boyfriend. It's only fair, since that's what I'd be doing if I didn't have to come to work.
posted by anapestic at 7:53 AM on January 15, 2005


Witty: That makes sense, and it probably would have been more effective to have said that from the start.

(A habit I've noticed a lot here is that it isn't until people's 3rd or 4th post that they actually post what they are trying to say, and the first few posts are just teasers or hints.)
posted by Bugbread at 8:00 AM on January 15, 2005


If you kids would just stop cutting yourselves with the regular scissors, we'd not have to resort to the safety ones.

If you treat people like children, they will act like children - quite a few people have been commenting that Matt seems very . . . well, 'grouchy' lately. I know many, many other users who I speak with frequently that are quite upset with what they perceive as a persona shift, and in at least some measure much of the irresponsible behavior you're seeing is quite possibly a byproduct of this perception regardless of how founded it may be.

Secondly, I think you need to realize that not all tastes are universal. Not everyone wishes for Metafilter to be an erudite, ivy tower one hundred percent of the time. Some people - some very intelligent people who contribute much to the community in fact - genuinely enjoy the more fraught MeTa threads. Politeness keeps them from, for the most part, carrying it over into the blue or green where it is far more unaminously deemed inappropriate. It's a fair and reasonable division of the seperate types of conversations that are bound to arise - regardless of administrative action. To make an analogy - most people produce a considerable volume of both signal and noise when interacting - by establishing a sort of . . . conversational 'sewer system', if you will, you allow people to act in good-faith and sort out which are the appropriate locations to place their signal and their noise.

That is, at least, a large part of what I've always understood self-policing to consist of.

Seriously, if more users could just walk away from the trainwreck threads instead of having to prove they have a bigger dick than someone else, we'd be fine. Prevent the trainwrecks and I'd assume Matt would stop closing threads, no?

If it were only trainwrecks, or threads spiraling into them, or even just really potentially inflammatory MeTa threads being closed, you would have a valid point. The problem is that if you look at every single thread closed thus far this is simply not the case.

Self-policing includes self-responsibility, too. Anyone who's participated in a trainwreck thread is part of the problem Matt's trying to fix.

I mostly addressed this above, so to sum: I'm not sure that there is a problem. You are dealing with people in a community so you are not going to be able to expunge the presence of noise. Period. What you CAN do is provide a specific place - still part of the mainstream site so that people don't feel cordoned off into a 'free speech zone' - where people are encouraged to place their noise so that others may avoid it or seek it out according to their personal wishes.
posted by Ryvar at 8:05 AM on January 15, 2005


bugbread - I disagree. I think my first three posts state my position quite clearly... just not in so many words.

1. Let it go.
2. Seriously.
3. Metafilter needs to chill.

Repeating it three times adds further emphasis to that point. Or not.
posted by Witty at 8:09 AM on January 15, 2005


Let it go...Seriously. This place needs a 'chill pill'.

Take your attempts at censorship of the discussion and shove them where the sun don't shine. It's not up to you to tell other people when the debate is over.
posted by rushmc at 8:19 AM on January 15, 2005


I suppose that it's not a bad thing for people to be somewhat invested in an online community (to the extent that term is not meaningless on its face), but to take it so very seriously indicates that you probably need to get a life. And not an online life. I'm stuck in my office on a Saturday morning, and I kind of need to look busy for a little while longer so I can go home without annoying anyone. But a lot of you are online on a Saturday morning just so you can whine about things that don't matter. Or that shouldn't matter. Stop thinking about MetaFilter and go take a walk with your boyfriend. It's only fair, since that's what I'd be doing if I didn't have to come to work.

Insisting to other people that your set of priorities, and your set of values, and so forth is the only possible optimum is not merely blindingly conceited, it also totally ignores the fact that not everybody is similarly equipped in terms of demeanor, emotional structure, and social skills to interact with the real world in the manner you do.

I care deeply about Metafilter not only because I have no other social outlet, but because I have no other possible social outlet than an online one. Therefore this place - one of the very few generally intelligent and generally open communities on the Internet - matters to me, I would think, a very great deal more than it does to you. I would appreciate you not insisting I adhere to your standards regardless of my situation.
posted by Ryvar at 8:25 AM on January 15, 2005


Thank you, rushmc.

I'm glad other people want to talk this out. Let's declare this thread a place for people who want to talk this out. Others can take their chill pills elsewhere.

I posted this in this thread, but it seems more appropriate here:

That kind of message, even delivered passively as Matt may be doing here, clarifies what his boundaries are in a quantifiable way, which is, most would agree, a rarity and a welcomed event. Mathowie's management of this site has been an inspiration. Those of us interested in social networking, social capital and this new wave of communication systems love this site and think it's unparalleled in the group blog medium. I admire the hell out of the evolution of this site, and I credit user 1 for his light touch and his sparse, almost haikulike direction. He seems to understand that less is more.

That's part of what bothers me about this new policy of ending MetaTalk threads--or this new tool that makes ending them easy. I agree that some threads should die, but that on MetaTalk, killing threads should be rare. This is where we talk about the site, and we should be able to get things out in the open, so that we can be in our best form in the blue, and we don't fuck it up with these tensions and gripes confusions that MetaTalk has traditionally been a place to work out.

I think that if you end too many threads, people will stop trusting threads as a place to put their ideas. Sometimes I put half an hour or more into a reply.

I can completely understand Matt being pissed about some horrendous pissers lately. This site has been hacked, and as a former admin, I know that sucks, and that puts people in a bad mood. Matt, if it will make your job of dealing with the pissers any easier, we will build a tool for you that lets you distribute that task. Don't go taking away the crackers just because some people go crazy with the Cheeze Whiz.
posted by squirrel at 8:42 AM on January 15, 2005


Ryvar:

in at least some measure much of the irresponsible behavior you're seeing is quite possibly a byproduct of this perception regardless of how founded it may be.


Er...the irresponsible behavior predated the changes matt has made that might cause this perception. The only way this perception could cause the irresponsible behavior is if the irresponsible behavior was the behavior of psychics.

Witty:

bugbread - I disagree. I think my first three posts state my position quite clearly... just not in so many words.

1. Let it go.
2. Seriously.
3. Metafilter needs to chill.


It is true that your posts state your conclusions quite clearly. However, what's important isn't just your conclusions, it's your basis for those conclusions. Otherwise there is no discussion, just people saying "yea" and "nay". And, especially in this case, since you're trying to convince other people to do something, it seems silly not to give them the reasons, just the conclusions. What do you expect them to do, accede just on the basis that you told them to?

Rephrased: Without giving reasons, your conclusions, phrased as an imperative, just become commands. And without reasons, nobody is going to obey your commands. In that case, why are you issuing commands you know will be ignored? I can't see any productive outcome.

By the way, give me $1,000.
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 AM on January 15, 2005


Oh shit, maybe I've been online for all the wrong reasons.

This life that we all need to get... it vibrates?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:51 AM on January 15, 2005


I would appreciate you not insisting I adhere to your standards regardless of my situation.

I don't insist that anyone adhere to my standards. I suggested that people are making mountains from molehills and should stop, a suggestion that I stand by. Perhaps you don't get that there is a difference between a rhetorical use of the imperative and a true command.

I have no means of determining why or whether it's not possible for you to have any social outlet than an online one. It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone not trapped in an iron lung (which you may well be, though I certainly hope not) doesn't at least have the possibility of a life in the real world (or meatspace or whatever they're calling it these days), but I certainly accept that you believe that you don't have that option. And I'm sorry to hear that, though no doubt my sympathy is of no use to you. Even so, I would suggest that the constant microexamination of every little thing that happens here depletes rather than enhances the community that you (and many other users) care so much about. Your time might be better spent in finding interesting links or other MeFi-related activities that don't involve such careful exegesis of every post. Or, you know, get a Ph.D. in comparative literature, where that skill is extremely valuable.
posted by anapestic at 8:53 AM on January 15, 2005


This is where we talk about the site, and we should be able to get things out in the open, so that we can be in our best form in the blue, and we don't fuck it up with these tensions and gripes confusions that MetaTalk has traditionally been a place to work out.

Exactly my point. I think rushmc's continuous objections to this stem from the fact that MeTa was never explicitly declared by #1 to be a repository for the inevitable confrontations, negative feelings, and general noise we users will produce. Rather, it was more of a de facto community standard that just . . . arose.

While rushmc's objection (if I'm intepreting correctly here) is a perfectly valid one, that in no way obviates the need for a noise-drainage system of some kind here. Orange swan has repeatedly suggested establishment of a seperate section - a NoiseFilter, if you will (the inevitable shortening to 'NoiFi' would also be a cute German pun), and I would agree that either it needs to be created or MeTa needs to be explicitly declared to be that place.

bugbread: for the past six, and most intensely three, months I have talked with at least 20-25 other users privately who feel very betrayed for various reasons. To speak candidly: all of this has been brewing for a long time now, and it's obvious where we were headed. What's not so obvious is where we go from here. Also, your response to Witty was hilarious.
posted by Ryvar at 8:57 AM on January 15, 2005


anapestic: my apologies . . . I think Witty's use of the command-form imperative might have tainted my perception of your own use somewhat. I can leave the house at will, but it takes days, sometimes weeks of mental and emotional preparation beforehand in order for me to do so and adhere to any reasonably acceptable social standards. Casual, daily social interaction is an outright impossibility.

The rest of your post is quite fair and reasonable. Thank you.
posted by Ryvar at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2005


Ryvar:

I'm just curious, what were the factors that they felt in the past 6-3 months that made them feel betrayed? The first thing that pops to mind is the circumscription against polifilter posts. Past that, the big conflicts I can remember have been the Great Noob Backlash (which didn't involve Matt much), and then the Great Drama Queenery and accompanying explosions, which were pretty recent and have stirred mattzilla from his slumber. I'm sure I'm missing something, but besides polifilter and the very recent stuff, I can't remember too much where Matt has been at the head of a conflict in the last 6 months.
posted by Bugbread at 9:07 AM on January 15, 2005


Perhaps Matt is still stinging from the AlexReynolds Flame-Out Thread that showed just how badly an unclosed thread can go.
posted by geekyguy at 9:20 AM on January 15, 2005


I seem to remember the days when MeTa had a different userface (I think that is the term, I am devoid of geekfu) and there wasn't really much conversation on it. When Matt made it easier and more pleasant to navigate, that is when more conversations started over here.


Again, there is this tension between what so many of the users want the site to be and what Matt wants. Until he comes out and says specifically different it is still my belief that he would rather see a lot less community here and more just posting of interesting links.

I know the pendulum will swing back again from such heavy site policing-but with every swing of the pendulum, (either side) we lose more and more people who made this place what it is.

Human nature is what it is. Like an untidy tropical garden, Metafilter will inevitably be overgrown with what we have seen in the recent past unless the machete and mower are used frequently.

If Matt wants a formal garden and a lot of you want semijungle, someone is gonna be very disappointed. And make no mistake, when it is pruning time, what gets pruned may not be to everyone's tastes.
posted by konolia at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2005


bugbread: there were several banning and deletions that have gotten some people (and their friends) increasingly upset. In my opinion quite a few of them were probably deserved, but I can understand in at least a few of those cases why those being banned or having their threads deleted could reasonably object. To be frank, I'm not sure how much other people are comfortable with me getting into specifics here (I *will* cite as an example though that in my opinion two of quonsar's many bannings appear to have been on extremely flimsy pretexts). I hate to ask you to simply take my word for it, but I'm afraid that my impression that a sizeable group of core posters are growing very dissatisfied will have to fail to withstand any rigorous scrutiny simply because I'm not comfortable revealing private conversation.

Regardless, this is the gist of the matter that I've been left with: Person X says something they think is acceptable but Matt disagrees, people (Person X and friends) respond to that in anger, Matt gets a bit stricter in retaliation - the whole deal snowballs - and suddenly we have AlexReynolds' thread. It was pretty obvious to me what was going to happen about three months back, and I confess that I have alternated between serious attempts to stem it and irresponsibly standing on the sidelines throwing rocks at the participants. My emotional state and consequently my personal maturity are more than a bit mercurial.
posted by Ryvar at 9:29 AM on January 15, 2005


Snip. (Branch drops to ground). Well, that's taken care of.


Seriously, I've noticed the more "hands-on" approach #1 has taken, but I generally don't mind. Of course, that's because I haven't been "disappeared". I don't know if or when my comments have been deleted, but it would be nice to be notified if they were/are. I've noticed the change in "tone" if you will, because I've been reading MeFi for a while. Matt seems to have at least addressed why he's doing as he is, at least in the other thread.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:38 AM on January 15, 2005


Ryvar: No problem, your reasons for not being able to provide details are understood.
posted by Bugbread at 9:40 AM on January 15, 2005


The person who brought it back into the blue was wrong. Period.
posted by smackfu at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2005


in its currently used form, where it serves as a way for Matt to give his final verdict and disallow any opinion on said verdict is the discussion simply going to overflow into the blue?

I've said as much in the past couple of days. Matt has executive priveleges on everything, obviously. But he keeps saying he wants to close threads once they've strayed off topic or become chatty. I hope he'll consider that to reach that optimal point of completion on an issue, perhaps the members need to discuss and explore a topic amongst themselves as well as hear his proclamation on the matter.

MeTa is the shit-catch, the safety valve. Plugging it up only back-flows pressure into the Blue.
posted by scarabic at 9:49 AM on January 15, 2005


"...but I'm afraid that my impression that a sizeable group of core posters are growing very dissatisfied..."

Maybe the door will hit them in the ass and injury to insult.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:52 AM on January 15, 2005


The person who brought it back into the blue was wrong. Period.

And it was only two off-topic comments in the blue, which I can easily delete.

Seriously, people are taking stuff way too seriously.

I've been very, very, very hands off for the past 5.5 years doing the site, and I guess this is one of the first times I've asserted anything resembling control, so people are kind of taking it hard.

But look at the metatalk post about the stripper thread. It's a new user who I think was a bit overzealous in calling something out. The double post claim was weak and the story was a wacky news story which doesn't make for the strongest post here, but it's not egregious enough to delete. So I disagree with the person making that claim and I figured after I said something I might as well close it.

Now let's imagine if I didn't close it. What would come of it? Maybe a dozen folks would disagree with me, and another dozen would say "read where he said it was borderline but ok and will stay, dumbass". And so it would continue, but for what purpose and what good would come out of it? I'm not suddenly going to change my mind and delete it.

I know this new close feature feels controlling but if you guys could mellow out and let it run its course for a few days or weeks, I'm sure you'll see it's a very minor addition here and I'm not clamping down on the playroom.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:59 AM on January 15, 2005


MeTa is the shit-catch, the safety valve. Plugging it up only back-flows pressure into the Blue.

And those bringing it back into the blue are making mistakes. That's what this thread should be about, the person that mistakenly sprayed their editorial opinions about the merit of a post inside the thread.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2005


Mathowie:

First, I agree with what you're doing. So what I say next is not disagreement overall, just with a little point:

That's what this thread should be about, the person that mistakenly sprayed their editorial opinions about the merit of a post inside the thread.

I guess you think that's what this thread "should" be about, but that's like saying Aliens "should" be about a boy trying to rescue his alien friend trapped on Earth. That's a different movie, called E.T., even though they're both about aliens.

This thread, according to the person who started it, is about the potential for locking grey threads causing bleed into the blue. If you disagree that this is going to be a big problem, as Witty eventually said, then please feel free to say so, but don't try to change the topic.

I agree with Witty that it's too damn early to tell, and making any snap decisions at this point is like telling somebody with an itchy leg that "it may be gangrene. What should we do? Maybe amputation is in order."

Anyway, digression about the digression over. Sorry.
posted by Bugbread at 10:15 AM on January 15, 2005


Now let's imagine if I didn't close it. What would come of it? Maybe a dozen folks would disagree with me, and another dozen would say "read where he said it was borderline but ok and will stay, dumbass". And so it would continue, but for what purpose and what good would come out of it? I'm not suddenly going to change my mind and delete it.

You're predicating your belief that closing the thread is justified on the assumption that the outcome of your deletion decision is the only part of the discussion which matters. People often feel that it is important to be able to voice their views on a given matter even if no change directly or immediately arises from said proclamation. Not only may it have an indirect on your views in the future (for good or ill, depending on how intelligently they phrase their objection one would hope), but stating one's position on certain happenings on the site is means of informing others as to what sort of person you are - thereby fostering a sense of community. Also, to a lesser degree, socialization amongst us users could be seen a noble end in and of itself.

I know this new close feature feels controlling but if you guys could mellow out and let it run its course for a few days or weeks, I'm sure you'll see it's a very minor addition here and I'm not clamping down on the playroom.

Personally it feels more dismissive than controlling - although it feels that way, too. I strongly value my ability to voice my opinion on matters relating to the site, because that is the only way in which those of us who cannot delete or close threads are able to influence other users. It is the core of self-policing.

I am trying very hard to stay calm and polite as regards this matter, but I feel you should know that I am deeply concerned with the direction you have been taking as of late, and it is for that reason I'm commenting here. Judging from the people agreeing with TGC in this thread, it would appear that I am not alone in those concerns. I think all any of us can ask, really, is that you bear our misgivings in mind when clicking on 'Close thread.'
posted by Ryvar at 10:20 AM on January 15, 2005


Maybe the door will hit them in the ass and injury to insult.

Indeed! All them traitors should go back to CanadaFilter.
posted by Ryvar at 10:22 AM on January 15, 2005


An addendum:

I work at a help desk, so I'm used to the idea that everyone who calls is someone who has a problem or complaint. I don't know if you've ever worked a help desk, though, Matt, so I'd just like to remind you not to take the unending complaints in the grey personally. There are heavy months (which indicates there are problems), and there are light months (which indicates things are going well), but there are never months of no calls. That's not because people are always dissatisfied overall, but because this is the place where complaints appear. If you feel "Everybody's complaining about A and B", then these are hot topic issues, but if you ever feel that "Everybody's always complaining about something or other", remember that that's just a natural product of establishing an area that fields complaints. Take the former seriously, but don't get disgruntled by the latter.

And, yeah, I realize you probably already know this, but it doesn't hurt for it to be repeated occasionally. It takes a while to adjust to constant complaints, even if its your full time job, and probably longer (with more bouts of "geeze, people, calm down!") if it's not your full time job.
posted by Bugbread at 10:27 AM on January 15, 2005


not that my opinion as a mostly-lurking semi-newbie matters much (i know i don't contribute much)--and also i'm sure this will be taken as more asskissing on my part (but seriously, i heart Matt and his calm down to earth handling of this giant social tangle o' a site)--but just in case the negatives make you feel most mefites don't like what you're doing Matt, i want to say/reassert that some of us (i at least, and those in the previous post thanking you about this) really, really wholeheartedly support this decision you've made. if you stick to your guns about it some of will be glad. just, you know, to counter any impression that EVERYONE here or nearly everyone dislikes this change.
posted by ifjuly at 10:29 AM on January 15, 2005


Go Ryvar!
posted by Chuckles at 10:30 AM on January 15, 2005


With all due respect Matt, I think the close-the-thread thing isn't so great. First, and most importantly, there already is a built in method for closing the threads-- time!

The scrolling-down-the-page structure of all the *filters insures that fewer and fewer people see or engage in the thread the longer it goes on. Therefore, the people who are participating at the end are the folks that need to be there. What I mean, is that those who are still adamant that their point be heard, those who do not yet feel vindicated, those who have to get the last word in or else, will be there when everyone else has moved on.

But if you deny people with the need to say their peace/piece a place to do it, it will inevitably come out someplace else (and probably with more venom)-- that is just human nature.

The suggestion made repeatedly that "people just need to..." or that "some in the community should..." is useless here. We are talking about a very diverse and large group of people. The important question is not what people "should" do, but rather what is most effective at diffusing and releasing the negative stuff that inherently brews in any community. To me this has always been the brilliance of the scrolling front page and MetaTalk. I think the AlexReynolds "train wreck" was a wonderful demonstration of this. By the end, the only people left at the site of the accident were those who desperately needed to be there for their own psychological reasons. Everyone else had moved on. This structural closure is far more effective and far less arbitrary than you could ever be Matt, and gives those who are going to put garbage comments on the site a place to do so where the fewest number of people see it.

I'd ask you rethink the closure idea. I personally belive the great success and joy of the blue is only made possible by the freedom enabled by the gray for the hot steam to harmlessly escape.
posted by limitedpie at 10:39 AM on January 15, 2005


I agree with limitedpie.
posted by konolia at 10:48 AM on January 15, 2005


I do too.
posted by caddis at 11:10 AM on January 15, 2005


If you disagree that this is going to be a big problem, as Witty eventually said, then please feel free to say so, but don't try to change the topic

I'm not trying to change the topic, I'm trying to be intelligent about what "the problem" really is. So I added a small technical change that may provoke mass social change (if you believe the hysteria), but the core of the blowback -- people taking complaints into MetaFilter when they can't voice their opinion in MetaTalk -- is that folks shouldn't be taking things back to MetaFilter.

Let me reiterate that it's still a new thing and I'm getting my sea legs still. I might have closed a thread too early but I'm testing it out. My hope is that I only have to use it on rare occasions and that the changes to the social structure of the site will be minimal.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:13 AM on January 15, 2005


I think the AlexReynolds "train wreck" was a wonderful demonstration of this.

If you own a bar and a yelling match breaks out in the back, do you let people shout until they're blue in the face, figuring that's a great way for these things to work themselves out, no matter how many people flee out the door telling you to do something about what's going on?

Because that's a lot closer to what it felt like on my side of things. I barely glanced at the thread but I had an inbox full of people saying I should do something and that the tone reminded them of why they no longer wanted to visit the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:16 AM on January 15, 2005


I have been able to slog my way through long, silly MeTa threads before, but this one just plain defeated me. (I did miss the legendary AlexReynolds thread before it was deleted into legend)

I'm not hypersensitive to having one, two or even three comments that shoulda been taken to MeTa litter a thread in the Blue. Why? Because, once set-up in the Grey, those one, two or three comments turn into 50-100, most of which are either re-restatements of the same arguments. This particular thread seemed relatively well-mannered, but it was so dull and repetitive I had to skip the last 30+ comments. Whatever happened to the "tag this post/comment" pony? We desperately need a way for members to express their disapproval in the fewest words possible.

In fact, I've said too much here. I blame MetaTalk.
posted by wendell at 11:24 AM on January 15, 2005


Matt, feel free to close this thread.
posted by wendell at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2005


Matt: I don't see why a situation that's completely getting out of hand can't be resolved by simply deleting the thread and temp-banning any egregious offenders.

Deletion expunges the entire exchange - closure sends the message that "your input is not wanted here." Every closed thread leaves me with this nasty feeling that at some point an arbitrary decision was made that everything that could be said, was - regardless of whether I feel I had something new to bring to the table or a question or feel I had the ability to express a given point better.

On the other hand when a thread I'm participating in gets deleted I'm left with a sense of "that was fun while it lasted" if it's patently obvious what's about to happen and people are just having fun. Or if I genuinely care about the thread that was deleted I may possibly spend some time soul-searching "what could I have done to help prevent that thread from becoming a cesspit?" The latter is the most desirable state for any user in a self-policing community to be in.
posted by Ryvar at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2005


Surely you're reading too much into this? In most circumstances I'd rather have a thread closed than deleted, so at least I'd still be able to read the comments that were made.
posted by adrianhon at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2005


Mathowie:

Just for reference (yeah, just one opinion among many, which may differ): I think the "close thread" button is good. I think its use in the Alex Reynolds thread would have been a good thing. I think its use in the troutfishing thread might also have been good (I was involved in both threads, but I tried to avoid any shitting, and tried to stay on-topic and levelheaded. Dunno if I succeeded or not).

I think your whacking of Konolia asking your goals about the site made no sense. Not so much that I think it was bad, but that I just plain don't get it. Closing it, maybe, but deleting your own opinion about what the site should be? You mention elsewhere that people put words in your mouth / talk for you, but you whack your own most on topic comments...?

I think your closing of the thread about strippers was a bad idea. As you say, what would have happened next? Some people would post that said they disagreed. Some would post that said they agreed. Some would post random stuff. None of it would change your mind. This is all very possibly true, but that applies to pretty much all of the grey. At that point, you may as well make all comments on issues by email, and only provide yourself with the ability to start grey topics when there are issues you want community feedback in.

For that matter, you've made yourself clear in this thread. You could lock it. You made yourself clear on Invisibility/Flight. May as well lock that too.

But if you follow that policy (locking everything where productive discussion is no longer expected, as opposed to locking things which are becoming abusive or pointlessly chatty), there is going to be resentment by a lot of folks. And, unlike the idea of locking the Alex Reynolds post, there's probably going to be resentment not only by people who you don't think contribute to the site, but by people that you do.

Possibly poorly similied (it's 4:30 a.m. here), it's the difference between police arresting people for robbing a store and police arresting people for "hanging around in front of a store suspiciously". Obviously, I don't think it's nearly as dramatic as that, but I hope that clarifies the difference I'm talking about.
posted by Bugbread at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2005


And now, for the first time on MeFi, I can say the four magic words I never thought I'd see outside a shitstorm thread:

"In before the lock."
posted by Bugbread at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2005


Deletion expunges the entire exchange - closure sends the message that "your input is not wanted here."

If you're going get that message from a closed thread, don't deleted threads send the message "your input was so assy I'd rather it never existed in the first place, so I'm rewriting history and I'm expunging it from my servers in the hope that I can someday expunge you from the planet."

Sounds about right, don't you think? Or maybe that's reading a bit much into things, like your interpretation?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2005


If you own a bar and a yelling match breaks out in the back, do you let people shout until they're blue in the face, figuring that's a great way for these things to work themselves out, no matter how many people flee out the door telling you to do something about what's going on?

Because that's a lot closer to what it felt like on my side of things. I barely glanced at the thread but I had an inbox full of people saying I should do something and that the tone reminded them of why they no longer wanted to visit the site.


Matt-- I think the most important point I can make is that you do a great job. Metafilter is amazing and is my favorite place on the Internets. I cannot begin to imagine the weight of having my inbox fill day after day with people unhappy about this, that and ponies.

I guess in my mind though "the site" is the blue-- the gray is just the underground service tunnel with all the gritty mechanical pipes and grimy workaday grease puddles and grungy water drips that keeps "the site" [read: the blue] running.

When dealing with people (as your inbox offers ample proof of) it is messy business. That is the wonder of the gray. All the mess is contained so the real site [blue] can keep chugging along.

Thus, the analogy I would use isn't the bar and the backroom, but instead of a downtown of a great metropolis and the sewage pipe that runs below. The downtown is clean and nice precisely because there is a place buried below the site where everything dirty can be flushed and flow. If suddenly in the town there is a rallying cry to clean up the sewer because we don't want the caca below (or anywhere near) our beautiful downtown, where will all the sewage go? Does one have to make a meta-sewer to clean up the sewer? Then one day will there be a demand that the meta-sewer be cleaned up?

To me, metafilter (the blue (and green)) is the shining downtown-- eclectic, exciting, with something to see on every corner and interesting people to meet on every block. But without a way to flush, no one would go for the shit piled a foot high. So, to those haters who fill your inbox with cries of "leaving the site" I'd suggest to them, that they stay in the cool downtown, enjoy themselves, grab a beer etc., and stop crawling in the pipes that make them so miserable. Certainly (if one accepts this analogy) the answer does not lie in cleaning up the pipes and making the sewer generally inhabitable, but rather letting the sewer do its job efficiently to keep the city pristine.
posted by limitedpie at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2005


In three months, we'll all look back on this and wonder why such a big stink was made over it.
posted by absalom at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2005


How many times has the "Close this Thread" function been used so far?
posted by 23skidoo at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2005


But look at the metatalk post about the stripper thread. It's a new user who I think was a bit overzealous in calling something out. The double post claim was weak and the story was a wacky news story which doesn't make for the strongest post here, but it's not egregious enough to delete. So I disagree with the person making that claim and I figured after I said something I might as well close it.


You could probably make that kind of prediction about every thread on the site, or at least 90% of them (especially in metatalk): "half the people will like it and half won't--but I won't change my mind so why have more discussion?" My original intent here was to point out that if people aren't allowed to let their opinion known, it might spill over into the blue. Maybe it won't. I just assumed when you said that the tool would be used rarely--maybe I'm incorrectly remembering you saying that--you meant you'd use it to curb off-topic infighting or piling-on.

I don't think I was taking things too seriously. I'd just like to know where the line is going to be so I figured we might as well clarify.
posted by The God Complex at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2005


rare occasions and that the changes to the social structure of the site will be minimal.

Yes, and my point would simply be that if you use it to close every thread you've decided on (or even half of them), it will be used quite regularly.

For the record, I'm already onboad in suggesting that the close-thread option is a good one for egregious situations (Reynolds thread, Troutfishing thread, etc.). While I agree with Ryvar's assesment of these situations, I don't think we should really put up with such garbage for the sake of catharsis, especially when it reflects so poorly on the rest of us.

To sum up, you can consider this thread my attempt to gauge community response regarding the frequency you use "the closer". Whether or not it matters is entirely up to you, of course ;)
posted by The God Complex at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2005


If you're going get that message from a closed thread, don't deleted threads send the message "your input was so assy I'd rather it never existed in the first place, so I'm rewriting history and I'm expunging it from my servers in the hope that I can someday expunge you from the planet."

Ignoring the hyperbole . . . a thread deletion is in response to a group failure at maintaining a proper signal-to-noise ratio - the kind of sentiment you're expressing is best conveyed by deletion of all of an individual's comments within a thread and banning them. Thread deletions are group failures, not targeted at any particular individual. Closure suggests that everything worth saying has been said - and that you, the user, cannot possibly hope to further the discussion.

Sounds about right, don't you think? Or maybe that's reading a bit much into things, like your interpretation?

Clearly a lot of people besides myself are also presenting lucid, well-argued cases as to why this is a poor decision. If you find my own reasoning unacceptable despite painstaking effort on my part to construct my case clearly and politely, then their objections at least deserve acknowledgement.
posted by Ryvar at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2005


MetaTalk: The Caca Below

I too have always seen MetaTalk as the place to get "it" off your chest in whatever manner you deem appropriate. Of course, it's your site Matt so do whatever the hell you want. I'm just glad to be here. (not sarcasm)
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:49 PM on January 15, 2005


I prefer threadlocking to thread deleting. Threadlocking suggests that there is some information in there that is important. Thread deletion suggests that there is nothing of import to be found at all in the thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2005


I should also point out that on any other side it wouldn't bother me that much, but for me Metafilter is kind of like the great experiment, the attempt to create a utopic ideal (as far as message boards go--forgive the hyperbole) and balance actual moderation with community moderation. The whole interplay between Mefi proper and The Grey (and now the green and the grey, as well) is part of what makes this community so great and attracted me to it in the first place. Generally I think Matt does a fantastic job with this, but I don't think I'd be doing my part at all if I didn't voice these concerns.
posted by The God Complex at 12:53 PM on January 15, 2005


(sorry--any other 'site')
posted by The God Complex at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2005


TGC: well said. The same goes for me as well.
posted by Ryvar at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2005


23skidoo: How many times has the "Close this Thread" function been used so far?

A quick check shows 5 closed threads, and I also remember Konolia's question to matt got locked before it got deleted, so that makes 6.
posted by Bugbread at 1:14 PM on January 15, 2005


If you treat people like children, they will act like children - quite a few people have been commenting that Matt seems very . . . well, 'grouchy' lately.

I guess we can't really blame him. He tried to walk softly and we acted jerky (and yeah, I realize I'm one of the worst offenders), so he's had to get out the big stick to show us what he will and will not put up with. Fair enough.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on January 15, 2005


I love the chorus of "Matt! Give us unambiguous signs!" followed by, "Uh, not THAT unambiguous!"

MeTa is not primal-scream therapy. The thread closer is great. The spillover into the blue is just as wrong as any MeTa content in the blue. And maybe if people backed off and let this new function evolve a little bit, Matt would have time for some of the actual development he's been trying to get done for the site.
posted by caitlinb at 1:23 PM on January 15, 2005


So, I'll apologize for all the cumulative assholery I've perpetrated here over the years, even though didn't mean any harm. Sorry.

Like the man says, I'm just a soul who's intentions are good, oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2005


I can't help but note that many of you who are asking Matt to be forbearing, flexible, stoic and patient do not seem to be willing to exercise any of those qualities yourselves on his behalf. You are demanding latitude, yet giving him little to none before you begin shrieking.
posted by taz at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2005



I can't help but note that many of you who are asking Matt to be forbearing, flexible, stoic and patient do not seem to be willing to exercise any of those qualities yourselves on his behalf. You are demanding latitude, yet giving him little to none before you begin shrieking.


I like you tax, but that's patently absurd. There's been very little "shrieking" in this thread; it's been very reasoned and polite. I'm not asking for the tool to be dismantled and never used again--just giving my opinion on how it's currently being implemented. What's the point of community feedback if everyone complains once you give some, no matter how you give it? Frankly, if this is all metatalk is going to be, I don't see the point. Have at it.
posted by The God Complex at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2005


jesus. TAZ. I can't even spell today.
posted by The God Complex at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2005


I think rushmc's continuous objections to this stem from the fact that MeTa was never explicitly declared by #1 to be a repository for the inevitable confrontations, negative feelings, and general noise we users will produce...While rushmc's objection (if I'm intepreting correctly here) is a perfectly valid one, that in no way obviates the need for a noise-drainage system of some kind here.

Confrontations and negative feelings are one thing...they have the potential to work something out by bringing it into the open for discussion. I don't object to them so long as they remain civil.

It's the noise that I object to. There IS no such "need" for a noise-drainage system, because the production of noise is not an inevitable outcome of the site but a choice by a few members to misbehave and misuse the site. It's not appropriate or wanted on the blue, the gray or the green (according to mathowie's definition of and desire for each, putting MY preferences aside entirely for the moment). It's disruptive and doesn't contribute to anythiing except the poster's ego. There are many places on the internet where such behavior is welcome and the norm, but Metafilter never has been one of them and shouldn't be allowed to become one. That's all I've ever said, and people shouldn't attribute any more than that to me.
posted by rushmc at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2005


As far as the thread closing issue, I don't really have a dog in this fight. I do think, though, that a better message to send would be to hold individuals accountable for their behavior, rather than penalizing the entire membership. Unlike jonmc above, I don't see the "fairness" in clamping down on everyone because a few people cannot exercise self-control. This perspective extends way beyond just this one issue, but I guess it could be said to apply to it as well. Threads don't misbehave or make noise or insult people—specific individual people do.
posted by rushmc at 1:42 PM on January 15, 2005


because the production of noise is not an inevitable outcome of the site but a choice by a few members to misbehave and misuse the site.

I agree, more or less, with what you said above, except for what I've quoted above. I can't speak for everybody but I think that with a few exceptions, it's not people wanting to willfully fuck shit up that causes problems, but a desire to a) have the last word in an argument or b) keep the "party" of goofery going. Now I am not defending these things, insofar as they screw up MeFi for people, but I do recognize that they are natural human tendencies, and thus difficult to curb for some of us. I just wonder what we as a community can do to encourage the curbing of them (without making people feel small or persecuted, which can make things worse).
posted by jonmc at 1:47 PM on January 15, 2005


TGC, I wasn't even talking about you, and I don't have a problem with the points you were making in posting this thread (that if MeTa threads are closed, further responses on the subjects may travel over to other sections). I suppose I used the word "shrieking" because it seems to me that people are overreacting before anything has been established. One of Matt's first comments, in the first thread about this, was "Yeah, I don't know if it's something I'll use often.", and he has followed that up by saying that he doesn't intend a major overhaul of the way MeTa works, and the dissent is responding by assuming that it is something that will be used often, in a major overhaul of how MeTa works. I just think that if people want Matt to listen to them, they should also consider listening to him.
posted by taz at 1:57 PM on January 15, 2005


A quick check shows 5 closed threads, and I also remember Konolia's question to matt got locked before it got deleted, so that makes 6.

So there's 5 threads that people can read but not contribute to. Voicing concern is always good, but it seems a bit early to make blanket statements about the effects of the decision to lock threads instead of delete them. Would locking a large percentage of posts be a bad thing? Maybe, but that's not happening and it's too early to tell if it's going to happen. Is it a bad idea to lock ANY thread at all? I can see no bad effects of locking that "Bad Elbow Repeat" thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2005


I just wonder what we as a community can do to encourage the curbing of them (without making people feel small or persecuted, which can make things worse).

And it seems to me that people who willfully choose to violate the community standards should be made to feel small or persecuted—or at least on notice and disapproved of. This is the self-policing part of self-policing. If someone craps in my coffeepot, I'm not going to worry too much about their feelings when I complain about it. I guess I'm really not following your line of thought here, because you seem to be saying that even though people are responsible for their own behavior, when they choose to behave badly, they should get a free pass for that as though they somehow weren't responsible?
posted by rushmc at 2:14 PM on January 15, 2005


23skidoo:

I'm just arguing devil's advocate (actually, not even devil's advocate, but "a counterargument that occurs to me, even if I don't think it's a big deal"): you say "I can see no bad effects of locking that "Bad Elbow Repeat" thread.", but I'm thinking it could be argued that the negative reactions in this thread are a result of that locking.
posted by Bugbread at 2:16 PM on January 15, 2005


If someone craps in my coffeepot, I'm not going to worry too much about their feelings when I complain about it. I guess I'm really not following your line of thought here, because you seem to be saying that even though people are responsible for their own behavior, when they choose to behave badly, they should get a free pass for that as though they somehow weren't responsible?

I guess what I'm wondering about how we can curb behavors that we've all generally agreed are disruptive to the site. I'm just taking into account that making someone feel small and persecuted can sometimes make that behavior worse.

I'm not arguing with you here, just posing a question.
posted by jonmc at 2:20 PM on January 15, 2005


If someone craps in my coffeepot, I am going to get a new coffeepot.
posted by konolia at 2:51 PM on January 15, 2005


Huh. I interpreted jonmc's "feeling small or persecuted" statement differently: How can we curb the bad few without making everyone, including the good folks, feel small or persecuted.

Did I parse that wrong, jonmc?

And personally, I'm too scared to have any of the coffee you guys offer now. I'll just bring a thermos of my own if I ever go to a meetup.
posted by Bugbread at 3:04 PM on January 15, 2005


Did I parse that wrong, jonmc?

No. But making the "bad" folks feel small and persecuted might make their behavior worse, in that "You think you're better than me? I'll show you..." sort of way. Maybe we need to phrase our chastisements of bad behavior in a way that discourages that as well, is what I was getting at, along with wahat you're saying.

I'm concerned about this mainly since it's the vast differences in personality and style, as well as viewpoint and opinion, that make this place such an interesting place to hang out.
posted by jonmc at 3:08 PM on January 15, 2005


If someone craps in my coffeepot, I am going to get a new coffeepot.

Fine. And what happens when those same people come crap in it again? And then again? How many times are you willing to outlay your own resources to rectify their damage before you hold them accountable?

But making the "bad" folks feel small and persecuted might make their behavior worse, in that "You think you're better than me? I'll show you..." sort of way.

If they respond in a petty and juvenile way and behave worse, then they go bye-bye. Where's the problem in that? Why would we want people who don't respect the site on the site??

it's the vast differences in personality and style, as well as viewpoint and opinion, that make this place such an interesting place to hang out.

Yes, it is. But surely "pissing on the site" should not be deemed to add interest value, or to qualify as merely a "difference of viewpoint and opinion." Sure, sometimes it can be fuzzier than that, but we're talking specifically here about those cases that clearly cross the line.
posted by rushmc at 4:20 PM on January 15, 2005


If someone craps in my coffeepot, I am going to get a new coffeepot.

Fine. And what happens when those same people come crap in it again?


Ok, rushmc, the first sign that you need to take a few deep breaths is that you mistook a very obvious joke for a serious statement.
posted by Bugbread at 4:27 PM on January 15, 2005


rush, I'm not advocating permitting or even going easy on those who would piss on the site, just theorizing about what we, as a community, can do to avoid fostering an atmosphere that makes that happen, and I think perhaps a less confrontational, one-upmanship-oriented style might be good. That's all.
posted by jonmc at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2005


There IS no such "need" for a noise-drainage system, because the production of noise is not an inevitable outcome of the site but a choice by a few members to misbehave and misuse the site. [...] It's disruptive and doesn't contribute to anythiing except the poster's ego. There are many places on the internet where such behavior is welcome and the norm, but Metafilter never has been one of them and shouldn't be allowed to become one.

50-foot letters of freaking fire. Precisely. It is not too much to ask of people that they try and behave in communitarian ways. Conversation can playful and undumb at the same time.

Although a bit of fun is important, it's a very delicate balance to strike.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:47 PM on January 15, 2005


Actually, it's less a joke and more a reflection of real life: if MetaFilter is full of crap, it's time to get a new coffeepot. Go browse the market and find a replacement that you like.

If you think someone's shit in your coffee pot, rushmc, maybe it's time to buy another one.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:49 PM on January 15, 2005


Can we get a new metaphor? Gross.
posted by Quartermass at 5:19 PM on January 15, 2005


Ok, rushmc, the first sign that you need to take a few deep breaths is that you mistook a very obvious joke for a serious statement.

I saw the joke, and I also saw that in the metaphorical sense, that that solution is exactly what some are proposing for Metafilter: that those NOT causing the problems should bear the burden for those who are. And that's just wrong.

if MetaFilter is full of crap, it's time to get a new coffeepot.

That's precisely wrong. The coffeepot was just fine before the crappers got here, and it will be again when they are discouraged.
posted by rushmc at 5:34 PM on January 15, 2005


(And so that's not misconstrued, many of those now crapping have been here a while; it matters not how old or new you are, if you decide to start a'crappin', you are a problem.)
posted by rushmc at 5:35 PM on January 15, 2005


One man's mug o' crap is another man's cuppa fine java. If you don't like Peet's, go try Starbucks.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on January 15, 2005


Go eat out of the toilet and I may believe you.
posted by rushmc at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2005


Or, in other words, what part of we're talking specifically here about those cases that clearly cross the line did you not understand?
posted by rushmc at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2005


Ok, let's stop with the metaphors, it's becoming impossible to tell what anyone is actually saying anymore.
posted by Bugbread at 6:16 PM on January 15, 2005


rush, no disrespect, but I'm starting to wonder if you're ever going to understand what I'm trying to say. But that's OK.
Cheers.
posted by jonmc at 6:59 PM on January 15, 2005


One man's analingus is anther man's foreplay.

Sorry, bugbread. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on January 15, 2005


Tossed salad, anyone?
posted by jonmc at 7:08 PM on January 15, 2005


I think you can close this one now, Matt.
posted by scarabic at 7:22 PM on January 15, 2005


not to sound like a drama queen, but I apologize for being dumb and bringing that thing back into the blue. Posting at 3am is not safe (at least for me). When I first read the MeTa thread, I scrolled down to matt's comment and thought "hey, I want to reply to that!" and scrolled down a little further only to find out that the thread was locked just a few hours previously. In my 3am arrghness, I simply flipped back to the blue, posted, and got a fairly decent night of sleep.
posted by gluechunk at 7:34 PM on January 15, 2005


The important question is not what people "should" do, but rather what is most effective at diffusing and releasing the negative stuff that inherently brews in any community.

Sorry, but this steam boiler of metaphor is bogue. There is no negative stuff inherently brewing, there is no pressure to be vented. Acting out is acting out. A pile on provides a false sense of anonymity for the same perpetual cast of participants, who, as a consequence, give one another permission to indulge their collective selves in the sheer pleasure of being little shits to whoever is the scapegoat du jour. Mob psychology is mob psychology: take the average IQ of a mob and divide by the members participating. The Alex Reynolds thread in its intellectual and moral rigor approached the complexity of thought of a Planarian Worm. Which is what makes it so prized for some.
posted by y2karl at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2005


rush, no disrespect, but I'm starting to wonder if you're ever going to understand what I'm trying to say.

What are you talking about now? I didn't even respond to your last comment, indicating (I thought) that I had no further issues with your point.

I understand your point perfectly well, I simply think you're putting the cart before the horse. You can't minimize a behavior by trying to appease those responsible for it. If you want to adjust the tone around here, be my guest—I'm all for it. But you will always have a few people who are unwilling to confine themselves within whatever lines you choose to draw, and you have to have some way of dealing with those people. Traditionally around here, the way has been for the membership with something at stake here to express their disapproval of those behaviors (self-policing), and eventually, in cases where that proves insufficient, mathowie steps in. This works pretty well. The problem lately is that people (including some who should know better) are arguing against this system. Some want to give the bad behavior a Metafilter stamp of approval, while others want the imposition of all sorts of new and more onerous control mechanisms. My argument is simply that the old system, judiciously applied, is adequate to the task.
posted by rushmc at 8:16 PM on January 15, 2005


There is no negative stuff inherently brewing, there is no pressure to be vented. Acting out is acting out.

Yes. This is what I'm saying.
posted by rushmc at 8:17 PM on January 15, 2005


Acting out is acting out.

This idea will get you lots of places - in a perfect world.
posted by scarabic at 8:54 PM on January 15, 2005


Meaning what?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:14 PM on January 15, 2005


Meaning: I may be reading this wrong, but there seems to be a split between people with ideas about how to deal with some of the negative energy that comes up on this site, and others who think that negative behavior is simply dispensable trash. Rather than try to focus that negative energy upon a harmless rock or relieve some of the forces that give rise to it, these folks want to simply discourage it, label it bad, make it verboten and wait for it to disappear. I think this is fairly idealistic and not very practical. People are arguing that the Grey is not needed as any kind of release valve / shit catch, but that just makes you wonder why it was created.

I've been confused the past couple of days about the effort to improve the quality of MetaTalk, as if it were a website with a reputation to uphold. If shitfests abound here but don't pollute the Blue, I say: great. Perhaps the shitfests are getting so out of hand here that they wind up creeping back into the Blue in the form of bad blood. Maybe. But no one's really saying that. They're just not happy about the level of discourse in the Grey. I say: so what? This is the MeFi underworld. People do differ on matters of opinion. And this is the internet, where conversations can and do head south all the time. It's not a perfect world. Normal people go "over the line" all the time. This is not some kind of deviant transgression. It's to be expected. We should expect it and minimize the harm it causes, not cluck our tongues and pontificate about how such things just shouldn't happen at all.
posted by scarabic at 9:55 PM on January 15, 2005


Marge Simpson: "You know, Homer, Fox became a hard-core porn channel so gradually I never even noticed it."

Replace with 'mathowie', 'metatalk' and 'IRC' as you see fit.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:26 PM on January 15, 2005


Uh oh. Now Stavros is arguing for a golden age.
posted by The God Complex at 12:18 AM on January 16, 2005


Hardly.

To suggest that things may be getting worse -- defining 'worse' by whatever yardstick one chooses to use -- is not to say that things were once perfect, but merely to note that the centre cannot hold, and that things fall apart.

To want something to be better is not automatically to wish it to be perfect.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:37 AM on January 16, 2005


Rather than try to focus that negative energy upon a harmless rock or relieve some of the forces that give rise to it, these folks want to simply discourage it, label it bad, make it verboten and wait for it to disappear.

I disagree, to some extent. People do want that negative energy focussed on a harmless rock, and they want that harmless rock to be "anything but http://*.metafilter.com". It could be yelling at your screen, complaining on your own blog, bitching in IMs to your friends, etc. Just not here. What I would say we agree on is that many people don't want to supply the harmless rock, but want users with a need to vent to find their own rocks. Personally, I have no problem with the idea of expecting people to find their own rocks. Some people think that the only way to divert this energy onto a rock is to supply the rock, and in that case, the grey is being touted as a potential rock.

Sorry, wandered back into metaphor territory, but hopefully that was relatively clear.

People are arguing that the Grey is not needed as any kind of release valve / shit catch, but that just makes you wonder why it was created.

I thought it was created to point out bugs, make feature requests, and discuss finer etiquette points (like the recent valuable threads about what AskMe should be and what questions should be allowed on AskMe). I wasn't aware that it was a frustration release area.

If shitfests abound here but don't pollute the Blue, I say: great...This is the MeFi underworld.

True, but I certainly don't gather that that's what it's supposed to be.
posted by Bugbread at 4:18 AM on January 16, 2005


I thought it was created to point out bugs, make feature requests, and discuss finer etiquette points (like the recent valuable threads about what AskMe should be and what questions should be allowed on AskMe). I wasn't aware that it was a frustration release area.

The issue might be one of where things lie on the continuum. When a subset of a large group of people gather in a text medium to "discuss finer etiquette points" the conversation can be very civil or not.

When this conversation is "civil", person X points out the breach or supposed breach of propriety, others chime in with 'nice one ol' chap, yes indeed! Aren't we all clever.' Or perhaps, 'not exactly ol' chap, but we love your spirit! We are all quite clever!' As far as I can read it, those who think MetaTalk should not be a "shit catch" believe that all community disagreements (or "finer etiquette points") can, should and will-be-dammit-or-else-because-we-are-all-so-good-and-clever resolved in this supremely confident and polite manner.

Those of us who believe MetaTalk functions as a shit catch think that in a group this diverse, a group with perhaps no real shared history, no shared "meatspace", and further limited to the not very perfect medium of text communication (which lacks affect for the most part) the discussion of "finer etiquette points" will often go more like this, 'You fucking hurt my fucking feeling and I am fucking angry and hurt and don't do it any more.' And others will respond with, 'You are too thinned skinned, fucking get over it.' Or, perhaps, 'Yeah, the person who said that is a fucking tool-- pile on!'

Now there are a few questions that face the group about this latter situation. First, is it equivalent to the first example in so far as its importance to keeping the group functioning, and the blue clean? Shit catch theorists say yes. I am not sure if those who think the grey can be above this type of discourse think these people should be thrown out, should just change, or just denied a place to articulate their views (assuming they are unable to conform to the extremely rational, gentleman-ish standard.) Thinking they should just change I think is unrealistic. Throw 'em out? OK, but lose a little something in the process. (Look at the list you would make of people who have "vented" in the Gray. I'd personally miss a lot of these people if they were gone.) Deny them a place to bring their issues to the community? This is perhaps the essential point of departure where shit catch theorists disagree with grey-civillity-promoters; we think it'll inevitably come out elsewhere. I guess if we make MetaTalk a shitless place it'll become an empirical question-- we will see who is right by how the blue devolves or (hopefully) not.
posted by limitedpie at 7:06 AM on January 16, 2005


I pretty much agree with you, limitedpie, but for a few points where I think your assumptions in phrasing the positions of the two sides is off.

First, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect civility in an online forum. I've seen civility back when I was on BBSes, and I remember civility back when the internet was new. The limitations of text / lack of meatspace connection / lack of shared history existed in these cases as well, but there was civility.

That said, you aren't saying that it's unrealistic, just that conversations will probably be less than civil. I agree that the probability is low, but so is the probability of people obeying the rules, people being intelligent, people avoiding posting dupes, people avoiding self-links, etc. It is possible to set up a community that does not just conform with the laws of maximal probability.

Second, I think your description of possible options for group 1 to use against problem-causers has some troubling vagueness. You state that thinking "they should just change" is unrealistic. I don't know if you mean this as on-the-average or totalistic. I don't think it's realistic for all of them to change. But I do think it's realistic for some to change. And the people who rise up to civil discourse are the types of people who I'd like to have discourse with. It's not that I wouldn't like to talk with someone who has ever used an insult or said something snarky. It's that I wouldn't like to talk with someone who cannot or will not express himself in something other than a snarky manner. So, in that sense, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect certain people to change, and others to leave.

Which ties in with this comment: "Look at the list you would make of people who have "vented" in the Gray. I'd personally miss a lot of these people if they were gone." Well, this is only an issue if you're thinking of the solution as being a binary issue, where you can choose the solution "Change them" or the solution "Throw them out". I think there is also a solution that adopts both options. "Allow those that would change to change, throw out the ones that refuse to". When I look at the list of people who have vented in the grey and who I would miss, I suspect that most, if not all, of them would be the types who would have changed their behavior, and hence not be thrown out. Heck, I even suspect that some of the people who I wouldn't miss would be likely to change rather than getting thrown out.

Of course, a problem I see is that a lot of the people I value here would probably leave voluntarily if things got that extreme, which is why I support the current, relatively laid-back, minimal banning approach.
posted by Bugbread at 7:45 AM on January 16, 2005


I thought it was created to point out bugs, make feature requests, and discuss finer etiquette points (like the recent valuable threads about what AskMe should be and what questions should be allowed on AskMe). I wasn't aware that it was a frustration release area.

Ooh, look! Someone who gets it!
posted by rushmc at 8:04 AM on January 16, 2005


IMO, MeTa has for years been a shitstorm. Long enough that it's damn near institutionalized: if you're going to have to flip out, flip out in the grey, not the blue. Hence the tendancy to tell people who bitch in the blue to take it to MeTa: we want The Blue to be kept civil, so we direct the shit towards The Grey.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 AM on January 16, 2005


But some of us think that "flipping out" is not appropriate on any portion of this website. Nobody has to flip out. They choose to flip out. In your offline life, do any of you actually cuss people out every time they annoy you?

I think jonmc is the one who commented in an earlier thread that people (including himself) acted like yahoos in the AlexReynolds thread in part because they knew nobody could punch them in the face.

That way of thinking needs to change if MeFi is to become more civil. If you wouldn't say this shit in real life, why is it okay to say here?
posted by naomi at 10:19 AM on January 16, 2005


bugbread: I pretty much agree with you too. And damn, if I ever get caught in some weird black hole that teleports me back in spacetime to a random high school debate meet or mock court at some law school-- I seriously want you on my team. I think if I were slightly more upbeat this week about the human condition I would have chosen the path of optimism that you have. Alas, a bit of sleep deprivation perhaps has left me too binary and too negative. I remain on board with the shit catcher theorists and think the grey does need to serve that important function, but I do appreciate most those who would like to (and try again to, when lapsed) keep it nice.
posted by limitedpie at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2005


Note that you say "if MeFi is to become more civil."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2005


A) discuss finer etiquette points

B) frustration release area

These are not mutually exclusive ideas. A is supposed to take place here, in the event that B occurs, which it frequently does and always will.

Your point that people can and will get grumpy but they should act it out on their own site is mere MeFi NIMBYism. We can't even get people to gather offsite to discuss movies. It's a win and a half to get people to hash out finer ettiquette points (you make it sound so civilized!) in the Grey instead of the Blue.

This is all long-established convention, hardly debateable. The only new point is whether hashing out finer ettiquette points in the Grey sometimes rises to such a bloody pitch that it should be turned off. This, again, has always happened and always will, but it's happened quite a lot recently, and in extreme cases the thread closing tool makes sense and may be better than deletion.,
posted by scarabic at 10:57 AM on January 16, 2005


Note that you say "if MeFi is to become more civil."

Surely it is obvious that "Metafilter" can be, and often is, used in the all-inclusive "© 1999-2005 The MetaFilter Network" sense. Sheesh.
posted by rushmc at 11:10 AM on January 16, 2005


Your point that people can and will get grumpy but they should act it out on their own site is mere MeFi NIMBYism.

I prefer to think of it as civility. It's the same reason I cuss out the incompetent sales clerk inside my head instead of shouting out loud that he's an incompetent fuckwit. It's the same reason I take my frustrations out by playing music, or why other people take their frustrations out by going to the gym, instead of punching somebody. If that's Not In My Back Yardism, then I don't see anything wrong with NIMBYism.

But I do think you're misunderstanding me, to some extent. You seem to be interpreting it as taking the anger out somewhere else in a forum-like context, which, I agree, is not really that viable an idea. But that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm saying is that disagreement should be aired here, but abusive or nonconstructive anger should be worked out however you work out anger in your real life.

You will get angry at some point, using the internet. I know I do. But in real life you probably don't throw your anger directly at a person unless they've done something unbelievably dangerous or stupid like almost running you over. In other cases, people manage to vent in a less abusive form. I just don't understand what is so special about the internet that makes people think it's natural to take out your anger directly on people, for the littlest things.

And, yes, I'm talking about long-term Mefi goals, not short term. I agree that for now, we have our hands full just keeping people from pissing on the blue. But I don't think that means the grey should be enshrined as a sacrosanct flameboard, either. Just a problem to be dealt with later.
posted by Bugbread at 11:22 AM on January 16, 2005


In my earlier comments in this thread, I was basically saying that people like rushmc and myself, as prominent and active posters, do a lot to set the tone for this site. I hadn't realized how much until recently. And I think that puts some responsibility on us to create an atmosphere that discourages pissing contests, flamewars, freakouts and the like. I don't mean by scolding people, that's what I meant when I talked about making people feel small. I think by simply keeping the atmosphere relaxed and freindly and not taking ourselves too seriously, we can minimize the number of people who'd feel motivated to piss in the pool.

Obviously, you'll still have the occassional asshole who wants to fuck shit up for no reason, and they'll have to be dealt with by Matt, but I'm just suggesting wht we can do as a community to avoid creating an atmosphere that spawns such things.
posted by jonmc at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2005


Well, my major irritation is this. Either things are so lassez-faire that this whole place has a sewer atmosphere, or the banhammer and the machetes come out and the least little thing gets whacked.

One of the worst things you can do as a parent is be inconsistent. If you are raising a child, that child has to know what to expect from you. Otherwise, chaos will and does ensue.

Metafilter, metatalk, and askme posters are no different. We all supposedly KNOW what behaviour is expected, and those of us who have been here for awhile also know that there are seasons when enforcement is nil and seasons when packs of pastel suited jackals roam, and no one is safe.

I personally do much better in my life when things are consistent (talking about real life here, not just cyber.) The only way I cope here these days is to know that there IS no consistency. It still makes it hard not to get all worked up over Mefi/ta crap.

When I asked Matt to publically post his vision for the site, it was for the purpose of taking a small step for the consistency of this site. I actually wanted detail: Did he want all snarkage to end, did he want profane pileups to not happen, did he really want No Newsfilter, what was his opinion on political threads, what would be bannable offenses...etcetera.

I know of sites such as twop who are blessed with multiple admins who monitor the crap out of everything. They run an incredibly tight ship. While true that there is no way Matt could do that here, it is true that they are very very specific in what they do and do not find acceptable on their site.

The way things are run now, there are always going to be people mad at something, there are always going to be pooped-in coffee pots, there will always be people who threaten to leave, and there will always be people who do leave. Now maybe that is just life, and we will carry on.

But if that IS life, then let's just say so, or get off the coffee pot. (Someone fetch rushmc some tea.)
posted by konolia at 11:55 AM on January 16, 2005


Your point that people can and will get grumpy but they should act it out on their own site is mere MeFi NIMBYism.

When there's infinite backyard space available NIMBYism is totally valid and not at all a bad philosophy.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2005


And, yes, I'm talking about long-term Mefi goals, not short term. I agree that for now, we have our hands full just keeping people from pissing on the blue.

Okay, then your POV makes more sense. I'm trying to be practical and accept things more the way they are than steer them toward what I think they should be. Obviously naked agression is a bad thing we all want to go away. I just don't see a near-term gain in simply wishing it away.

That last sentence applies for your point as well, PST. No, it wouldn't hurt people to take their objectionable behavior elsewhere, but they won't volunteer that favor. And realistically, we're not talking about a few rogue offenders who spontaneously start cussing people. All of us from time to time find we've left the land of productivity and stepped onto the dogshit-paved road to hell. It's a fine line in a blurry landscape, and, as a phenomenon, is not so easy to surgically detach from MeFi and export elsewhere.
posted by scarabic at 12:28 PM on January 16, 2005


Stop calling everything into question.

Better advice was never given by Witty. The knee-jerk MeTa threads generally turn out to be a bad idea.
posted by cosmonik at 2:07 PM on January 16, 2005


Worse advice was never given.

Question everything. Just do it in a reasonable manner, and question, by god, don't just whip out your weiner and piss.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:17 PM on January 16, 2005


Somewhere in the middle. I initially wrote that I supported TGC's call, but thought it redundant in the thread. However I think people as a whole need to be more selective on what to call out. Choose your battles, and make sure it's justifiable.

(And if you never got worse advice than that, stav, you're a lucky man.)
posted by cosmonik at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2005


I just don't see a near-term gain in simply wishing it away.

Which is why we're not talking about just wishing, but about how a clear preference for civil behavior can be expressed as a site norm, and how beyond-the-pale violations can be dealt with. Ultimately, obviously, mathowie is the final arbiter, but if there is to be any reality to the popular notion of self-policing, then a discussion of what actually does and should constitute standards is not amiss.
posted by rushmc at 4:34 PM on January 16, 2005


MetaTalk: the dogshit-paved road to hell.

[well, someone had to say it.]
posted by squirrel at 5:38 PM on January 16, 2005


And if you never got worse advice than that, stav, you're a lucky man.

Well, you know, in context.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:38 PM on January 16, 2005


I'd like the ability to close threads and expunge peoples from the planet!

What do you say matt? Give the emotionally immature reactionary the keys to the kingdom? Heh, heh? I promise I'll let your posts stay up (Maybe).

Under my rule:

NO NEWS LINKS
NO WAR LINKS
NO POLITICAL LINKS

Anyone that thinks their witty and clever be trying to create a conversation while providing shit links will get the GYOB whammy!

Think of it. Down to 2 or 3 best of the web links a day.

Ah shit. Who am I kidding...
posted by Jeremy at 12:06 AM on January 17, 2005


Wow, tempest in a teapot.

Close away, Matt. As jonmc pointed out way up higher (I'm too lazy to link), there are a lot of strong personalities who feel the need to "get the last word in", which leaves MeTa threads going well beyond their expiration date. Policy discussions (like this) are good, but how much is there to say about the merits of a given post? Not every crap thread "touches on a larger issue".

Here's a news flash- you're not all entitled to your $0.02. Actually, your self-entitlement costs Matt $0.02, in server resources and bandwidth. There are is a finite amount of horsepower that MeFi can churn out, and I'd rather see it taken up by some good conversation than a hundred "I agree, fuck you" comments.

Oh, and btw Ryvar- if you're going to complain about not having a social outlet beyond MeFi, a good first step might be to start using email again like the rest of the club instead of expecting people to find you on AIM.
posted by mkultra at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2005



posted by darukaru at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2005


I hereby congratulate everyone involved in this thread for allowing it to become over 100 posts, full of disagreement, but no shit-storm, no name-calling, and actually totally relevant to the orginal topic. This is progress, I think.
posted by raedyn at 9:53 AM on January 17, 2005


Up yours, chimneyhead!

;^)
posted by squirrel at 4:51 PM on January 17, 2005


« Older best of the yawn   |   SF Meetup Photos Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments