There should be some room for frivolity and banter February 15, 2005 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Boo. There were a lot of fairly well-thought out and witty references to MetaFilter history, past and present, in that thread before it was closed to further comments and had its middle taken out.

Not every thread here should be a linear progression from a problem to a solution. There should be some room for frivolity and banter. Without it, we lose our sense of community and shared experience.

Discuss.
posted by yhbc to Etiquette/Policy at 8:31 PM (153 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

What yhbc said--it was a keeper.
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on February 15, 2005


I thought it was fun, and I didn't think at all that people were actually making fun of AlexReynolds, so I don't really understand why so much got deleted.
posted by interrobang at 8:37 PM on February 15, 2005


[quonsar] why did matt delete all the comments in here that he deleted, but leave the ones he left? http://metatalk.metafilter.com/mefi/9047
[nick redacted1] BEACUSE HE'S AN ASSHOLE
[nick redacted2] it's true
[nick redacted3] why does matt do anything? because he's a knob.
[nick redacted2] matt needs to get overhimself
posted by quonsar at 8:38 PM on February 15, 2005


Good god. And I had just said in another thread about good the thread was, and how editing it would be sacrilege, how we're about what we give each other not some newspaper-esque concept of "reader". But, oh well, things are different now I guess.
posted by bonaldi at 8:39 PM on February 15, 2005


I mean, fuck. If the reason for deleting comments was to protect his dignity or something, then the post itself could have been fixed to reflect his original meaning.

Instead, it's preserved forever as a fucked up post, with only a couple of selected comments and a "resolution".

I can understand how it might have gotten out of control if allowed to go on for several days, but as it was, it was very light-hearted.
posted by interrobang at 8:40 PM on February 15, 2005


This thread is closed to new comments.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:41 PM on February 15, 2005


Damn it!
posted by Saucy Intruder at 8:41 PM on February 15, 2005


It's simple. Matt read my comment, realised it was champagne comedy and that the thread couldn't possibly improve, and ended it.

*tumbleweed*

But seriously:

WHAT
TEH
FUCK
MATTEFILTER?
posted by cosmonik at 8:42 PM on February 15, 2005


Interesting too that he left the link to the original "hope me" post. If this sort of editing continues, there will never be a new hope me.

god hope us all.
posted by bonaldi at 8:43 PM on February 15, 2005


An entire thread devoted to riffing on classic jokes to each other doesn't strengthen a community. Someone was asking for a feature, and I was answering that yes, I worked all day yesterday on implementing it, along with other new features, but it requires a full rewrite of how ask mefi works.

I deleted all the dumb jokes and left a handful behind while trying to answer the question. I'll go in and remove them all then, if that makes things clearer.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:49 PM on February 15, 2005


Are you going to fix the original question too, then?
posted by interrobang at 8:51 PM on February 15, 2005


And I'm not shooting for a 100% pure business, no jokes, 37 days since our last accident type of MetaTalk, but a few jokes here and there is fine. A giant wank off is too much. That thread was a giant wank off.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:54 PM on February 15, 2005


An entire thread devoted to riffing on classic jokes to each other doesn't strengthen a community

Actually, I'd bet it does more good than harm. Deleting people's comments, especially if they're non-harmful jests (as opposed to pissing matches), seems creepy, I wish it were never done.
posted by jonson at 8:54 PM on February 15, 2005


Matt, you could've just closed it and left what was there for the laughs. It certainly wouldn't weaken the community, even if you felt it doesn't strengthen it. Some people seemed to enjoy it, and nobody (other than yourself) seemed to have a problem with it.

Gods hope us all, indeed.
posted by cosmonik at 8:54 PM on February 15, 2005


An entire thread devoted to riffing on classic jokes to each other doesn't strengthen a community

What sort of community is there when all possible escape valves and, well, friendly banter is clamped down on? It's almost like writing for an academic journal or something. There is no "readership" out there ... there's just us, talking to each other.

I'm sure we appreciate all the new features and hard work (honestly), but what use is a bus with air conditioning, silver wheels, in-seat TV screens and a vending machine ... if it's empty?

I think I need a break from MeFi. The place we knew is so gone.
posted by bonaldi at 8:55 PM on February 15, 2005


That thread was a giant wank off.

spoken by the expert.
posted by quonsar at 8:55 PM on February 15, 2005


Well shit, let's just pretend this didn't happen then.

Matt, you're working hard on the site, we all know that, but one of the things that made it successful to this point is that things weren't changed after they went up. For better or worse, our attempts at communication (or the lack thereof) built a community over time.

[on preview] Like bonaldi said - but don't leave. Like it says on the front page, "we're all in this together" (or something like that).
posted by yhbc at 8:58 PM on February 15, 2005


An entire thread devoted to riffing on classic jokes to each other doesn't strengthen a community.

Matt, I have to respectfully disagree. What was the harm - no one was fighting or piling-on anyone (which is destructive to the community). People were having fun.
posted by Quartermass at 8:58 PM on February 15, 2005


That thread was a giant wank off.

Thirty six comments basically celebrating metafilter's past--which we love--is a "giant wank off"? At worst, it was a great thread because it was coming close to making up for what we did to AlexReynolds the last time he posted to MetaTalk.
posted by interrobang at 8:58 PM on February 15, 2005


Let's turn it into a roadside attraction. "The Incredible Shrinking Thread! Every time you reload, half of it is gone!" Should make a little extra for the hosting fund.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:00 PM on February 15, 2005


Keep piling on the pressure guys. Remember the suicide girls of '05.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:01 PM on February 15, 2005


Thirty six comments basically celebrating metafilter's past--which we love--is a "giant wank off"? At worst, it was a great thread because it was coming close to making up for what we did to AlexReynolds the last time he posted to MetaTalk.

well said. that's the thread that should have been scrubbed, if any.
posted by amberglow at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2005


yhbc: For better or worse, our attempts at communication (or the lack thereof) built a community over time.

Amen. Not only does it damage continuity, but the smegma between 'good posts' actually forms a kind of congealed glue over time. It's the magic. The magic smegma. And you're cleaning it, Matt.
posted by cosmonik at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2005


It's the famous "grey goo".
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:05 PM on February 15, 2005


Is there something about an AR thread that just causes Mefi to implode or something?
posted by Jim Jones at 9:06 PM on February 15, 2005


Not derailing in the blue: OK

Not snarking in the green: makes sense

Where do people think snark and goof and general silliness are going to wind up?
posted by trondant at 9:07 PM on February 15, 2005


An entire thread devoted to riffing on classic jokes to each other doesn't strengthen a community

I beg to differ. It's exactly what strengthens a community. Shared experiences, even trivial ones like jokes, bridge divides.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 PM on February 15, 2005


Is there something about an AR thread that just causes Mefi to implode or something?

Actually Alex was remarkably good-humored about the whole thing.
posted by jonmc at 9:09 PM on February 15, 2005


If I were to speculate, and let me preface by saying this is completely unfounded supposition on my part, I'd almost think that this continuing trend we're seeing towards severe editing has been prompted by Matt's parental instincts kicking into overdrive.

I've become increasingly worried that Matt has confused the fact that Metafilter the site is, in a manner of speaking, his baby with the idea that Metafilter the community is his baby, and that he has forgotten that most of us here are in fact adults. When people fail to act like it, the community does a more than adequate job of chastising them - direct intervention should be the exception, not the rule. That's what "self-policing" means. If anyone had acted in a truly hateful or disruptive manner in that thread, people here would have been all over the offenders. The fact that everyone seems to be defending the thread as a bonding mechanism speaks volumes.
posted by Ryvar at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2005


Take it outside, you punks.
posted by ColdChef at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2005


I don't quite know what to think on this one.

I hate the periodic irruptions of #mefi into metatalk (nick redacted indeed), but I also like to read teh funny jokez, and even make 'em, as best I am able.

Tough call all around, but the scalped thread is no great loss, I don't think, in the end.

I get the feeling from comments recently from Matt that he's actively trying to weed out the wacky funsterism, and discourage it, in large part because he's unhappy with how many smart, articulate, long-term members have been quitting, mostly without fanfare. I don't say that to defend his moderation choice here (like I said, I don't quite know what to think about it), and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I can understand, and see that it might be a mighty tough balance to maintain, between the welcome jocularity and the not-so-welcome LOL!!1!.

I don't envy him. No win, either way, it seems clear from this thread.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2005


Hey, cut the Matt some slack. He's been doing all this work on the site, and he just discovered he's Wil Wheaton.

Of course, we could always pressure him and jessyahoo! to hand over the administrative duties to those of us who really ARE MetaFilter.
posted by wendell at 9:16 PM on February 15, 2005


Do we need DailyKos-style revolving open threads?

Hm, well, Matt sez no ghettos. But still ...
posted by dhartung at 9:16 PM on February 15, 2005


What disturbs me more than anything is the sense that there are butlers bristling about the room, swabbing up the splashed wine from the floor and dusting crumbs off the armrests.

All the correction that's going on here seriously makes it look like Matt is primping this place for sale. I don't doubt you when you say you're not, Matt. But consider the lack of accountability such meticulous housekeeping engenders. In other words: Alex Reynolds now has no reason to be more careful posting next time.

A giant wank off is too much.....I deleted all the dumb jokes and left a handful behind while trying to answer the question. I'll go in and remove them all then, if that makes things clearer.

Okay, Matt, I can understand why you WOULDNT want to get into the business of deciding which jokes to delete. But if your solution is to delete them all, we've got trouble. Chill, man. It's not like we're leaving cumstains stains on your pool table, here.
posted by scarabic at 9:17 PM on February 15, 2005


Stav: this might just be me, but I was of the impression that a lot of those departures came about more because of how incredibly vicious the blue became during the time period leading up to the election, rather than any sea change in the nature of the community or discourse.
posted by Ryvar at 9:19 PM on February 15, 2005


Is there something about an AR thread that just causes Mefi to implode or something?

My apologies to everyone, including Matt. I had no idea that was going to happen.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:19 PM on February 15, 2005


I second Stav's sentiments. Also, the site is moving in a new direction and that necessitates change. There will be soon be a job.metafilter and project.metafilter, etc.

One thing this means is that potential employers may look at applicants that were referred because of their membership in metafilter. Do you want a future employer seeing that most of your comments were "haxxorra rulez or roflf11!!? What about excessive bad spelling or verbal attacks on other members?

Change is inevitable but not always painless.

A new day is dawning. I raise my glass to a better, more profitable, streamlined metafilter. Here's looking at you kid!
posted by Jim Jones at 9:22 PM on February 15, 2005


You may be right, Ryvar. I didn't mean necessarily to draw a straight line between excessive joshing around and valued community members bailing. If there is a line, it's probably at best dotted.

I just half-recalled a few recent MeTa comments from #1 that led me to conflating the two, to some degree, in my mind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:22 PM on February 15, 2005


Alex, I hope you don't think I was blaming you or anything. No apologies needed to me.
posted by Jim Jones at 9:25 PM on February 15, 2005


I raise my glass to a better, more profitable, streamlined metafilter. Here's looking at you kid!


OH YEAH!
posted by trondant at 9:27 PM on February 15, 2005


Do you want a future employer seeing that most of your comments were "haxxorra rulez or roflf11!!? What about excessive bad spelling or verbal attacks on other members?

That's your problem, then. Certainly not Matt's. Just 'cause he sets up jobs.mefi doesn't mean that he's obligated to brush your teeth before your interview.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:28 PM on February 15, 2005


The magic smegma.
posted by dong_resin at 9:32 PM on February 15, 2005


That's your problem, then. Certainly not Matt's. Just 'cause he sets up jobs.mefi doesn't mean that he's obligated to brush your teeth before your interview.

Additionally, if one were concerned about dissociating oneself from prior actions, one could simply pony up $5 and achieve just that while further funding the site.
posted by Ryvar at 9:33 PM on February 15, 2005


Anything that diminishes the absurd sense of proprietary ownership of the site that many members have is hunky-dory by me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:36 PM on February 15, 2005


Everyone has seen the latest thread in Meta, right? Good God, people. What is going on tonight? I'm having trouble typing, I'm cracking up so damn hard.
posted by Jim Jones at 9:37 PM on February 15, 2005


you don't have any, EB? come on.
posted by amberglow at 9:37 PM on February 15, 2005


Everyone has seen the latest thread in Meta, right? Good God, people. What is going on tonight? I'm having trouble typing, I'm cracking up so damn hard.

See, though, people will read this thread tomorrow and not know what the fuck we're talking about; that's what's wrong with the "modification" of the thread(s) we're talking about.
posted by interrobang at 9:42 PM on February 15, 2005


Everyone has seen the latest thread in Meta, right? Good God, people. What is going on tonight? I'm having trouble typing, I'm cracking up so damn hard.

Again, speculation here, but I'd say that's probably the other reason a lot of longtime members have been departing. This is just me and clearly nobody asked, but I think allowing 1,000 new signups every three months and charging $10 a pop would have been a good way to handle new signups. It's still $40,000 a year, it limits abuses that come with new signups, it gives each new group time to grow acclimated and for the absolute worst abusers to be weeded out before the next wave hits.
posted by Ryvar at 9:42 PM on February 15, 2005


I say we prune. This site only needs 14353 members, anyway.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:44 PM on February 15, 2005


I don't think any apology is necessary, AlexReynolds. As jonmc noted, you were good-natured about your (inadvertent) posting error that led to the derail.

To recap for those coming in late:

When the thread in question was originally posted, it was broken in the middle, probably on account of Alex's use of the TITLE tag. In any event, what showed up on the front page of MetaTalk was a post reading, in it's entirety,

"Is there any way to add a"

Alex completed his post in the first comment, and there subsequently followed a lot of comments referring to bits and pieces of MetaFilter history, but cut off before the punchline, along the lines of "This is why we can't have", or "This post, it"

After a while, Matt closed the thread and deleted most of the comments, and I started this thread. Subsequently, Matt deleted all the remaining comments and fixed the original post, thereby mooting the humor.

Discussion ensued, to the point you see now. At that point, I went to bed, recognizing that I would not likely be able to check on the status of the situation until tomorrow evening, as I had a meeting to go to early the next morning.
posted by yhbc at 9:45 PM on February 15, 2005


"you don't have any, EB? come on."

A sense of ownership of the site, that it belongs to me or to "us", or that it's mine and others' contributions that give it its value?

Nope. I've been online for over two decades. I know better.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:46 PM on February 15, 2005


interrobang, you think this thread will be here tomorrow? We've always deleted comments in eastasia, we always will.

Oh did I just reference 1984? shoot me now
posted by bonaldi at 9:46 PM on February 15, 2005


Thanks, yhbc. I showed up when there were four comments, and had no idea what the hell was going on.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:46 PM on February 15, 2005


And I opened the first few links in tabs, as usual, without seeing where they led, and couldn't for the life of me figure out why half my tabs were the Alex thread. Thought my mouse's middle button was sticking.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:49 PM on February 15, 2005


I've been online for over two decades. I know better.

don't fuck with him. he knows what RFCs are.
posted by quonsar at 9:50 PM on February 15, 2005


EB: there's a difference between the site and the community. The site does not belong to us - we've all chosen to have faith that Matt will make good decisions regarding the addition of new features and the order in which they are added. While there are better sites than Metafilter out there in this respect, to my knowledge none of them have as articulate and colorful a readership. This is Matt's site to do with as he pleases, and nobody seriously contests that fact.

The community on the other hand is us, and that's a point that many people apparently do not grasp. The Metafilter *community* has a history of being self-policing, of permitting the occasional flamewar or pileon if it's humorous and deserved, of not taking itself seriously 100% - or even 75% - of the time. We all, including you, willingly joined that community with at least some sense of those facts, and with the knowledge that presented with stupidity or abuse the community had little tolerance and even less mercy.

What bothers some people - myself amongst them, is that Matt seems to have recently adopted the role of not only active developer of the site, but active developer of the community. This is not the role he has traditionally held, and regardless of whether or not the perception is fair, there are many people who view these attempts to direct the natural progression of the community's development as stifling.
posted by Ryvar at 9:56 PM on February 15, 2005


To clarify, since I'm being too smug about it:

People invariably think they're special. They think, when involved in any sort of social organization, "If it weren't for me and people like me, this organization wouldn't exist. That means that in some sense it's 'mine'."

Sure, if not for any people like us, mefi wouldn't exist. But not a one of us, or even all of us collectively, is special. You could wipe out all 21K of us, ban us forever, and a new metafilter would arise in its place. After about three months, we'd all be forgotten. We're not special. This place doesn't belong to us. It's not a co-op.

I like hanging out here, and if mefi becomes something I don't like, I'll leave. But it ain't mine. It's Matt's. Online commuities come and go. To tie up one's identity in a particular online community is to beg for grief that will come sooner or later, usually sooner.

To feel a sense of outrage over how someone with real power, like Matt, directs the evolution of this site sans our endorsement, is to have a very impoverished sense of outrage and what's actually important in this world.

On Preview:

"What bothers some people - myself amongst them, is that Matt seems to have recently adopted the role of not only active developer of the site, but active developer of the community. This is not the role he has traditionally held, and regardless of whether or not the perception is fair, there are many people who view these attempts to direct the natural progression of the community's development as stifling."

Sure, and you and me and everyone else is entitled to our opinions and preferences. I, for one, like mefi as it's been and am not eager for any big changes. What I have a problem with is when people start to feel entitled, to have grievances. I don't think Matt owes us anything at all. It's commendable that he governs this community as he has; but he's not doing any of us an injustice by changing it. He could ban people whose nicks start with the letter "E" for no rational reason. He could shut it down, he could sell it. There was no partial transfer of ownership when each of us joined. Mefi isn't ours.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:05 PM on February 15, 2005


What Ryvar said. On all counts.
posted by fvw at 10:14 PM on February 15, 2005


"don't fuck with him. he knows what RFCs are".

Damn straight! In fact, I wrote the RFC for writing RFCs.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to servicing my mistress, Morgan Fairchild, whom I've seen naked.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:15 PM on February 15, 2005


It's the rationale I wonder about, not the rationality.
posted by trondant at 10:20 PM on February 15, 2005


There was no partial transfer of ownership of the site when we joined, that's true. There was a partial transfer of 'ownership' of the community, however. If Matt banned everyone people wouldn't come back - they'd go somewhere else and start a new site with the same group that exists now. I know this because I've seen what happens when admins lockout their communities on multiple occasions. I did it myself, once, out of anger, stupidity, and the misguided belief that I could or should attempt to influence the natural development of the community I served. The results of this action regardless of the site are invariably the same - the community regroups elsewhere. Thus my insistence that there is a division between the community and its choice of venues.

The venue is Matt's responsibility. In my opinion the community should be ours.
posted by Ryvar at 10:22 PM on February 15, 2005


But not a one of us, or even all of us collectively, is special. You could wipe out all 21K of us, ban us forever, and a new metafilter would arise in its place.

I'm pretty sure that if all 21K members died it would be something special. I daresay we'd make the evening news. If we all got banned, that would hit the blogosphere. So, um, together we're all special.

Now, let's all join hands and sing kumbayah. Who's with me?
posted by Jim Jones at 10:23 PM on February 15, 2005


Who's with me?
posted by Jim Jones


*edges away, cautiously*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2005


Thank you Ryvar, for peeling back the foreskin of ignorance and applying the wire brush of enlightenment.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:30 PM on February 15, 2005


"Who's with me?"

Oh, is this the beginning of the end?

"...they'd go somewhere else and start a new site with the same group that exists now."

I've seen it not happen, too. In fact, I've far more often seen communities that took themselves very seriously that were proven otherwise than I've seen communities that did what you've described.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:31 PM on February 15, 2005


Enjoyed reading the comments. Wish they hadn't been deleted.
posted by muckster at 10:36 PM on February 15, 2005


Ryvar, I think you're being a bit too sky-is-falling here. I'm not trying to mold the community, it's not going up for sale, and a new day is not dawning. I barely delete anything these days.

Someone made a harmless mistake and 35 jokes later I answered the question, and wondered why I'm about to spend another few hours coding into the night. Maybe it's the farkiness of open thread-like joke pile ons. I know it engenders a culture and reinforces a special secret language and I know every community needs a release.

Someone asked for a feature I've been working hard on delivering and I've been delivering a lot of features lately, to much criticism and scrutiny. I don't want 20k lapdogs that will tell me "good job," but I've been getting tired lately putting work into the site and server and seeing stuff I don't think is all that valuable pop up like this. But I know folks do find some value in it. So someone made an honest feature request and an honest mistake while posting and it turned into a yuk-yuk fest. I just wanted to answer the question was all and make the thread have some semblance of sense to readers.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:36 PM on February 15, 2005


You're hurting Metafilter.
posted by bshort at 10:43 PM on February 15, 2005


That was actually addressed to EB.
posted by bshort at 10:44 PM on February 15, 2005


Maybe just close the thread next time, rather than deleting it?

Seems like a fair-enough middle ground to me.
posted by trondant at 10:44 PM on February 15, 2005


Expressing displeasure with the current state of things, concern for the future, and nostalgia for the past are just as good for community building as a bunch of light-hearted jokes documenting Metafilter's history.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:50 PM on February 15, 2005


Stop to consider for a moment how you would deal with being the owner/admin of this site. How many kvetching/whining/angry emails about this or that post or comment you would be able to field before you said, "Fuck it! Prune the limbs or kill the tree?"

Personally, I view the fact of being able to post links and comments a privilege, not a right. And, if either of them were to be deemed inappropriate or unsuitable, I would expect it to be dealt with as the admin saw fit.

After reading the comments surrounding the SG thing, I thought if that didn't make Matt pull the plug on this place, he has more patience and tolerance than I could muster up even on the best of days.
posted by sillygit at 10:52 PM on February 15, 2005


Matt: I apologize if I came across as melodramatic, but I am concerned about what I've been seeing recently - not so much the individual actions as the trend they represent. I certainly haven't posited that you had any intention to sell the site. As I said, I have faith in you when it comes to matters of managing the site itself, and I consider this faith to have been well placed. You've clearly been putting tremendous effort into further developing the site recently.

Furthermore, I wouldn't ever dispute that the community was initially cobbled together by you. I would, however, contend that it has now taken on a life of its own. If nothing else, consider it a compliment that I care so very deeply about this community you've helped create - I wouldn't be sitting here writing these overly verbose posts if I didn't.

In the end what attracted me to Metafilter was the way that it managed to be self-policing while remaining thoughtful, coherent, and relatively free of any descent into the scatalogical. Closing threads except in the most extreme cases, increased frequency of bannings, increased frequency of deletions, and apparently lowered requirements for such are all factors which impede the ability of the community to self-moderate. The degree to which there has been any movement in this direction is the degree to which I am worried. I say worried because the sky most certainly isn't falling, but all of these things taken together are concerning.

All of this is just my opinion, and I'm only one voice in 21,000, but this thread and others like it in the recent past should demonstrate that I am not alone in this concern - even if others are not as apprehensive as I am. All I can ask is that you give the community some breathing room.
posted by Ryvar at 11:03 PM on February 15, 2005


are all factors which impede the ability of the community to self-moderate

All the factors mentioned were added, acted upon, or employed long after they were initially requested, even after there were demands made.

I'm trying to strike a balance between complete hands-off true self policing, but often people complain that they can't change anyone's rudest behavior and that I must step in, and a gestapo nation where I control it all. I'm in the damned if I don't, damned if I do situation all the time, constantly riding the line, and I catch heat seemingly no matter what I do.

I've probably been over zealous with the close button in MetaTalk, but it was only added after two enormous clusterfuck threads were deleted and dozens of folks demanded the feature. FWIW, this is how I read the thread being debated here:

random person: can you add something to ask metafilter?
[35 jokes]
me: yes. yes, I can.

I didn't think the majority of folks on the site would wade through the jokes or understand them, and that they wouldn't see my answer, so I cut the middle that didn't pertain to the question.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:15 PM on February 15, 2005


Stop wanking off! Enough with the jokes! You're chattering on company time!

Our constant goal must be maximizing customer loyalty and brand identity, by implementing innovative strategies to foster intelligent, productive and supportive customer interaction.

Remember that you are Metafilter's public face! So stop slouching, tuck in your shirt, show enthusiasm, and always remember, you're never really dressed without a smile!

We're in a PEOPLE business! Not smiling is stealing from the company!

Fifteen pieces of flair is the minimum! Like, Quonsar, for example, has thirty-seven pieces of flair. Because he knows there's no "I" in "team". And that no one is irreplaceable!

Always ask yourself, is what you're doing adding to shareholder value?

GET BACK TO WORK, PEOPLE!
posted by orthogonality at 11:20 PM on February 15, 2005


FWIW, this is how I read the thread being debated here:

As is obvious from the uproar, that is not how anyone else read it.

I think that if the thread had been closed, it might have been one thing ("oh man, spoil our fun!), but when all the comments are deleted, it feels personally offensive.

Matt, I rarely get pissed-off at anything here (mildly annoyed at times...), but if I am being honest, seeing those comments deleted made me feel really angry.That thread wasn't just Fark-like wankery - it was a classic in the making, and I think that is where my problem lies.
posted by Quartermass at 11:31 PM on February 15, 2005


Dude, Matt. I miss the light touch, man.

The new ponies are cool. The new server is beyond cool, it's key. But I came for and I stay for the members. You used to trust them a lot more.
posted by scarabic at 11:31 PM on February 15, 2005


Specific issues aside, I'd like to publicly thank Matt for being very willing to discuss the stuff that people disagree with him on. It'd be very easy to just silently administer, or post single explanations without follow-ups, and I'm impressed with the effort he's put into being open about whatever changes (or perceived changes!) there are, on everything from the war photos deletion, to SG, to these smaller issues. For me, the act of getting code to work is exhausting enough... I often don't have the energy to write good comments, documentation, etc. afterwards. The fact that he's willing to do lots of wiring, then discuss criticism personally, is something to be thankful for.
posted by gsteff at 11:34 PM on February 15, 2005


I'm in the damned if I don't, damned if I do situation all the time, constantly riding the line, and I catch heat seemingly no matter what I do.

And yet you continue to do things :)

With due respect, you trot this "damned if you do/don't" line out constantly. It's obvious that you have your ideas about the way things should be here, and you're enforcing them. Can we get past the fact that you can't please all people all the time? One good reason to let that go is that people love you and will continue to love you whether you "do" or "don't," too. You have good judgment. You get as much support as opposition (and that's rare) and anyway it doesn't matter a damn what anyone says.

So please just explain your policies if you have them, or don't if you don't want to (because you don't have to).

But mainly... yeah... I miss the light touch.
posted by scarabic at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2005


Matt: I'm going to respond to your post backwards here . . .

I didn't think the majority of folks on the site would wade through the jokes or understand them, and that they wouldn't see my answer, so I cut the middle that didn't pertain to the question.

How difficult would it be to retool either the data structure for threads or the output code such that you could force certain posts to appear at the top of the thread? I realize that this is Yet Another Pony, and that you are swamped, but that seems to me like a solution that would allow both your response to be immediately visible AND permit humor to run amok. It also would eliminate the need to close threads in all but the most dire situations.

I've probably been over zealous with the close button in MetaTalk, but it was only added after two enormous clusterfuck threads were deleted and dozens of folks demanded the feature.

More than anything else I would identify that as my primary complaint, but that's just personal bias talking. I *hate* not being able to add a suggestion, a joke/snark, or some random insight after the fact.

I'm trying to strike a balance between complete hands-off true self policing, but often people complain that they can't change anyone's rudest behavior and that I must step in, and a gestapo nation where I control it all. I'm in the damned if I don't, damned if I do situation all the time, constantly riding the line, and I catch heat seemingly no matter what I do.

I can understand that you feel caught between a rock and a hard place here. There are libertarian and authoritarian elements within the community and I'm certain being trapped inbetween them is unpleasant to say the least. All I can say is that with these posts in addition to providing well-intentioned criticism, I'm doing my absolute best as a member of the community to help foster a sense of communal responsibility by repeatedly stressing the importance of self-policing. There is literally nothing more I or anyone can do. Myself, I'd argue that people advocating a gestapo approach entirely fail to understand the basic nature of the Internet or communities on it and therefore aren't worth heeding - but that once again may be personal bias.
posted by Ryvar at 11:38 PM on February 15, 2005


Jesus, "libertarian" and "authoritarian" are ridiculously high-falutin' and loaded words to describe anything mefi-related. I didn't realize that people thought that mefi was a college activist group.

"You're hurting Metafilter."

Thanks, Jon Stewart. I'll take that under advisement and give it the due consideration it deserves.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:49 PM on February 15, 2005


Last guy who said that got fired, didn't he? :)
posted by scarabic at 11:53 PM on February 15, 2005


Jesus, "libertarian" and "authoritarian" are ridiculously high-falutin' and loaded words to describe anything mefi-related. I didn't realize that people thought that mefi was a college activist group.

EB I'll just come right out and say that given both our posting histories neither one of us has any right to accuse the other of using "high-falutin and loaded words." Period.

Secondly, MeFi the community is not a college activist group but a collection of people and relationships between those people - this implies communication and where there is communication there will be people offended by it and trying to silence it. Ergo there is authoritarianism and the natural reaction to it, libertarianism.
posted by Ryvar at 11:54 PM on February 15, 2005


As a participant, I think it was a bit of harmless fun that may have had some community value. Matt saw it as jokes getting in the way of a straight answer. Both were true.

I have a (hopefully constructive) suggestion that could possibly address both viewpoints in the future, Matt: place a link to your serious answer immediately following the question. That would enable people looking for The Official Answer to find it quickly, while still allowing the group to have its bit of fun.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:56 PM on February 15, 2005


I'm trying to strike a balance between complete hands-off true self policing, but often people complain that they can't change anyone's rudest behavior and that I must step in, and a gestapo nation where I control it all.
What we've asked for is only the crucifiction of the odd problem user who repeatedly causes trouble and has no intent of taking any heed of the self policing. All other problems (apart from the odd huge-post-filling-the-front-page-fixup and double post deletion) can be handled by polite hinting and public shaming; Yes, this means some of the comments and possibly posts that have gotten community disapproval still stick around. That's no big deal, their numbers will be low as obstinate repeat offences are unlikely (and grounds for a whack with the banhammer), and there's a reasonably high barrier of entry so the number of users in need of polite hinting at any point won't be too big.
posted by fvw at 12:02 AM on February 16, 2005


"Ergo there is authoritarianism and the natural reaction to it, libertarianism."

No, that's human nature. We're not building a nation-state, here.

And this is the sort of nitpicking that drives me utterly insane, but: "EB I'll just come right out and say that given both our posting histories neither one of us has any right to accuse the other of using 'high-falutin and loaded words.' Period." I wasn't objecting to "high-falutin' and loaded words"; I was objecting to "high-falutin' and loaded words" used in the context of discussing metafilter. There is a big difference.

Feel free to use high-falutin' and loaded words with regard to, say, nation building, just to pick something at random. You'll get no complaints from me.

I don't have a problem with you or anyone stating their preferences and complaints. It seems to me that the very existence of MeTa implicitly encourages just that sort of thing.

In the interim between this comment and the ones that preceeded it, I was considering why I think that communities like this (and there are many of them, in the network and real worlds, both) become pathological. My guess is because the only thing the members have invested in it is their egos.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:06 AM on February 16, 2005


No, that's human nature. We're not building a nation-state, here.

What exact component of a nation-state is missing from any large online community? A culture, rules, a system of enforcement for those rules, opposing ideological factions vying either for the minds of the other community members or for control of the direction of the 'government?'

I would contend that any large community virtual or real will face the same challenges and respond in a manner which contains very clear parallels to the solutions employed by an actual nation-state.

Furthermore I would argue that it is a combination of ideological tribalism within the community, chronological tribalism within the community, and disagreements regarding how to best resolve this discord that results in communities becoming "pathological." Egos are every bit as responsible for communities imploding (chronological tribalism is an excellent example) as they are for communities thriving - only when competing for status within a community do people put forth their best efforts, be they intellectual or physical.
posted by Ryvar at 12:23 AM on February 16, 2005


Matt: place a link to your serious answer immediately following the question.

Or even highlight it, a la Ask "best answer."
posted by caitlinb at 12:25 AM on February 16, 2005


the only thing the members have invested in it is their egos.

Fascinating. I guess if you assume Metafilter is becoming more pathological (which it may be), I think the more important question is why it has been so resistant to being pathologized. What makes it work so well?

I don't think I have an answer, but maybe some guesses. Most important is the role that Matt's moderation thus far. The "light touch" as scarabic calls it. Secondly, the "self-policing" discourse that works to keep said ego's in check.
posted by Quartermass at 12:25 AM on February 16, 2005


Ryvar: what tribes do you see at work here, and what forms of status are they working for?
posted by Quartermass at 12:28 AM on February 16, 2005


Matt: I know it engenders a culture and reinforces a special secret language

In other words, "community".

First, I should say that Matt, I agree that you're putting in a hell of a lot of work recently. I am very appreciative. When I was a lurker, it seemed the standard flow was:

1. Ask for a pony.
2. Be told that it's being worked on.
3. In a few months, ask where that pony is.
4. Goto 2

Since I've joined (therefore, obviously, because of my presence :), the flow has been:

1. Ask for a pony.
2. Be told that it's being worked on.
3. Pony arrives!

I'm amazed by the birth rate of the horse, there are so many ponies being born.

Second, I would hate to be you, because it seems we have a 50/50 split on EVERY issue, where every time you do something, half of the people here bitch about it. The Suicide Girls thread was like that (maybe not an even 50-50, though). If you kept the ads, a lot of people would complain. If you ditched the ads, a lot of people would complain.

You've got a mighty thankless job. So let me point out that, even though I disagree with you on this issue, I'm very appreciative of your work.

That said, on this issue, first: I haven't seen the thread, so I don't know too specifically what asshattery was present. However, from reading the descriptions above, it sounds like it was just a little inside-joke-athon, not a pile-on.

As such, I don't really understand the purpose of the deletions. The comments, from what I gather, were non-offensive. They promoted community. They were not in the blue, so they did not dilute the pillars of "good links" and "good discussions about links".

I understand that a question was asked, and that you provided the answer. It seems like the easiest, and, in my opinion, best way to have handled it would be: answer the question, and immediately lock the thread. That's the way it's been with thread locking lately: Question is asked, discussion ensues, Matt answers, thread is locked. As such, someone looking for an answer to the question need only scroll down to the last comment, yours, and read it.

On preview: I was about to make a suggestion, but it has already been made by pmurray63: Matt: place a link to your serious answer immediately following the question. That would enable people looking for The Official Answer to find it quickly

Yeah, it's a pony, but not a huge pony, I hope. You can post the answer, lock the thread, and add a link immediately after the question that skips to your comment with the answer. Heck, even if the discussion is all serious and on-topic, it would be a good idea, for the types of threads that follow the "single answer - lock" pattern.
posted by Bugbread at 12:28 AM on February 16, 2005


And this is the sort of nitpicking that drives me utterly insane, but: "EB I'll just come right out and say that given both our posting histories neither one of us has any right to accuse the other of using 'high-falutin and loaded words.' Period." I wasn't objecting to "high-falutin' and loaded words"; I was objecting to "high-falutin' and loaded words" used in the context of discussing metafilter. There is a big difference.

At this point we all look at each other with tears in our eyes and cry out “I love you man!”

Sadly this is my best efforts, be they intellectual or physical!
posted by arse_hat at 12:29 AM on February 16, 2005


I think MeFi hasn't been pathological mostly because it's been young. Things start to go to hell when people have been around long enough to be proprietary about the place, and when the more organic subcultures become ossified into competing interests.

Anyway, people like me won't ever know why people like Ryvar care so much. But then, we won't care.1

1) Yes, that's plagiarised.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:41 AM on February 16, 2005


Ryvar: what tribes do you see at work here, and what forms of status are they working for?

The most obvious and superficial answers are ideological. The political tribalism - Steve@Linnwood, ParisParamus, hama7 (also formerly dagny and MidasMulligan) versus . . . just about everyone else.

There is also religious tribalism - konolia, dios, and I believe davidmsc versus Pretty Generic and several other atheists versus the huge body of agnostics.

Try discussing weight, mental health, vegetarianism, bioethics (thankfully Metafilter is almost completely devoid of technophobes) ever at all, without spotting immediate and clearly defined groupings. These people will then go and support members of their ideological tribe in other issues elsewhere on the site where they previously had an established history of ambivalence. Even the most cursory observation of any large community reveals these exact same forces at work. This all mirrors the debates between issues of the day amongst the citizens of nation-state.

On a deeper level we see the attempts to influence governance of the site in a variation on this ideological tribalism. There are the Newsfilter supporters and detractors, the aforementioned authoritarian and libertarian debate is rife with tribalism, as is the debate on scatalogical posts, or humor posts, or flash posts, etc. This mirrors debate regarding the direction of the site akin to the politics of nation-states.

Community standards are established even if the ultimate authorities refuse to lay down hard, fast rules. Those standards are enforced - especially in the case of egregious violations. This is the jurisprudence of Metafilter.

External threats both environmental (spammers) and by other hostile groups (trolls) exist to challenge Metafilter and help foster a sense of community exactly the way wars and natural disasters inspire nationalism and a sense of community within nations.

The only element I haven't mentioned from my above post is culture - it is impossible to read this site at all without developing the impression that it has a unique and vibrant culture.

As for what forms of status are being worked for - within issues of the day the goal is respect for one's opinions regarding a certain topic and conversion of others to one's ideology - this 'ego' has inspired nearly all of the most informative and encyclopedic posts to grace Metafilter.

Within the realm of MetaTalk's 'political' discourse people attempt to post well-reasoned and eloquent arguments in the hope of gaining respect and therefore influence with regards to the direction of the site. This is driven by ego in the sense that people believe that they should be helping determine the course Metafilter takes. For example I've been doing precisely this throughout this thread.

My point is - communities have similar frameworks at least at the macroscopic level regardless of whether they are labelled as "group weblogs," "hippie communes," or "nation-states." The same principles and power structures are universal to all large groupings of humans.
posted by Ryvar at 1:00 AM on February 16, 2005


:::hugs metafilter:::
posted by Quadroonian at 1:08 AM on February 16, 2005


I really like in-jokes but come on, I guess Number One can still edit ot close threads if he has a reason. it was a double and he's adding a new feature, so, where's the problem?
we can chat on irc or email
posted by matteo at 1:31 AM on February 16, 2005


This should have been posted to MetaMeTa. Who's with me??
posted by mek at 2:44 AM on February 16, 2005


Not every thread here should be a linear progression from a problem to a solution.

How many posts are closed on Meta right now?

This entire "sky is falling" thing is tired; what percentage of posts/threads are subject to this? 1%? 0.5%?
posted by dflemingdotorg at 3:11 AM on February 16, 2005

...it is impossible to read this site at all without developing the impression that it has a unique and vibrant culture.
It is? I'll be damned.

I've always suspected I had superpowers, but now I have confirmation. I do the impossible with my brain!

Now, don't get me wrong. I've been lurking hereabouts for awhile, and eventually threw a fiver into the pot a rather shorter while back, primarily because, sure, there's a culture here. As a population of mostly-bright folks, that you don't need to fail a battery of spelling and grammar tests to be allowed to post on, it's a somewhat minority culture as far as internet communities go, but still pretty far from unique.

Populations of mostly-bright folks tend to rapidly overvalue their own vibrancy and unique-and-beautiful-snowflakedom, though. I suspect I'm on EB's side here; it's a nice place, and nowhere near pathological (the fact that the primary admin can pull off boneheaded administrivial decisions, and umpty-n members can say, "hey Primary Admin, that was a pretty boneheaded administrivial decision" and not draw censure from a) aforementioned admin and b) a slavering horde of supporters points up the distance between mefi's current state and pathological is pretty damn wide), but grains of salt, people, grains of salt.
posted by Drastic at 3:24 AM on February 16, 2005


That thread was a giant wank off.

spoken by the expert.
posted by quonsar at 8:55 PM PST on February 15


That's not very nice.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 3:53 AM on February 16, 2005


Because "nice" is the word that leaps to mind when we all think of quonsar.
posted by crunchland at 5:12 AM on February 16, 2005


Can stuff be undeleted?


I'm pissed I missed it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:23 AM on February 16, 2005


That's not very nice.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket


true. neither was gutting the thread.
posted by quonsar at 5:25 AM on February 16, 2005


There is a big distance between pruning comments and threads that have become abusive or destructive and pruning comments and threads that user 1 simply doesn't see the utility of. Big distance. And I join the others here who wish Matt would rethink crossing it.
posted by squirrel at 6:17 AM on February 16, 2005


I didn't think the majority of folks on the site would wade through the jokes or understand them, and that they wouldn't see my answer

Matt: place a link to your serious answer immediately following the question.

Or even highlight it, a la Ask "best answer."

Why? The thread was closed, therefore Matt closed it, therefore Matt figured it was done, therefore Matt answered (or verified an answer to) the question, therefore the answer would be at the bottom of the thread, probably the last comment. This has been the pattern for most of the [closed] threads.

At least, that's my thought process on the issue. Everything dealing with this—thread pruning, pony requests, nation-building—seems weirdly unnecessary.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:35 AM on February 16, 2005


There is also religious tribalism - konolia, dios, and I believe davidmsc versus Pretty Generic and several other atheists versus the huge body of agnostics.

davidmsc is a self described athiest (read the whole thing).
posted by jonmc at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2005


I, for one, welcome our new joke-deleting -
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:00 AM on February 16, 2005


scarabic: But I came for and I stay for the members. You used to trust them a lot more.

The nature of the newbie flood changed that if only because of shear volume.
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 AM on February 16, 2005


Strange things are afoot at
posted by shoepal at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2005


but a few jokes here and there is fine.

here and where? if there aren't classic threads that people can reference, how can you have a sense of community and history?
posted by taumeson at 7:44 AM on February 16, 2005


Frankly, it would be great if every meta thread was more or less (an occasional wink is fine) on topic. I deeply regret having contributed to some of the chatty threads that brought about the in-joke trend.

Matt has always resisted (futily, in most cases) those things that would make Metafilter an exclusive place with its own language--he has given the distinct impression that this place should be clear and welcoming to anyone who comes here. In-jokes, personality cults, ongoing feuds--all of those are things a new person wouldn't understand, and shouldn't have to.

Imagine yourself as a reasonably intelligent newcomer, and the first thing you see is a thread with a bunch of pancake references, somebody whining about freeing some quonsar person, and a bunch of other people piling on some jonmc character--all of it full of snark and/or vitriol. I suppose many would be intrigued. I would think that this was somewhere I didn't belong. I think if I were just coming here, I might never come back. As it is, I avoid reading most threads.

Matt has an incredibly light hand with the deletions. Lighter, perhaps, than is warranted. Askme has been a breath of fresh air, and it's remained so because of firm, reasonable moderation. I don't always agree with Matt myself, but I always realize that I'm here at his sufferance, and that I'm not entitled to squat--not a place to vent, not a place to express my inner boogaloo--not jack shit. Most of the time, and especially on pruning, I do agree with him, and because of that I've learned to trust his judgement.
posted by frykitty at 8:00 AM on February 16, 2005


I wish it could be next week, so everybody would have forgotten this little kerfuffle already.
posted by smackfu at 8:09 AM on February 16, 2005


Amen.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:12 AM on February 16, 2005



posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 8:17 AM on February 16, 2005


I joke a lot. I value humor for the way it brings good feelings to the forefront, promotes closeness, diffuses anger, and softens an otherwise unpalatable message.

Unfortunately I keep getting the message that Matt does not appreciate joking. That every time I write something silly, I become a "problem" member in his eyes. I do it anyway, but I always feel a twinge of guilt. It also alarms me that Matt has been coming across as more and more humorless, more and more business-like. I feel like his patience is wearing thin with us and the site.

And that scares me.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2005


Imagine yourself as a reasonably intelligent newcomer, and the first thing you see is a thread with a bunch of pancake references, somebody whining about freeing some quonsar person, and a bunch of other people piling on some jonmc character--all of it full of snark and/or vitriol....I think if I were just coming here, I might never come back.

Um, isn't this how we all were introduced to the place? Please.
I would imagine most people got here the way I did - by discovering Metafilter (or, these days, AskMe) and only checking out Metatalk much later. By then I was already hooked and just kept reading to see if I could figure out some of the obscure references. You really think people will scamper off in fear because of a bunch of in-jokes and snark in Metatalk?
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:53 AM on February 16, 2005


What frykitty said.

Also, a whole lot of y'all are getting all "the sky is falling" over the deletion of a series of jokes in one thread. At the very least this calls into question your perspective and your rationality. Whining children are not the people you want setting policy.
posted by anapestic at 8:57 AM on February 16, 2005


What we've asked for is only the crucifiction of the odd problem user who repeatedly causes trouble and has no intent of taking any heed of the self policing. All other problems (apart from the odd huge-post-filling-the-front-page-fixup and double post deletion) can be handled by polite hinting and public shaming

What he said.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2005


This thread is certainly teaching us who's humorless and who's not--kinda sad.
posted by amberglow at 9:09 AM on February 16, 2005


Imagine yourself as a reasonably intelligent newcomer

You lost me.

kidding!

What squirrel said. I think it's important to ask whether Matt is merely the owner/administrator around here, or if he is ALSO a member. I think he is a member, one of the best here, but the line has blurred between what's necessary for administration of the site and what reflects his personality as a member. A lot of stuff is vanishing because it's not his style. That kinda burns me a little, because this is supposed to be a community entity, and I think that necessarily requires that Matt tolerate some stuff that isn't to his taste. I'm sure he does, but it seems less and less so, and more and more like he's got some vision for what this site is supposed to be, and any steps we take outside those lines are quietly wiped back into the sand.
posted by scarabic at 9:11 AM on February 16, 2005


Where do people think snark and goof and general silliness are going to wind up?

A Metafilter-chatroom?
posted by semmi at 9:28 AM on February 16, 2005


You know, I'm fully in favor of less mean-spirited snark. But I'm very upset about deletions. It really does undercut the sense of community to know that censorship lurks around every off-topic comment, every in-jokey exchange. In-jokes help a community bond, and watching them disappear is disheartening and alienating. I've said it before: Comment deletion has a chilling effect on the community.

I'm glad to hear that you've been excercizing a lighter touch, Matt, but keep in mind that even off-topic comments have some value to the community.
posted by me3dia at 9:41 AM on February 16, 2005


jonmc: thanks. I am indeed an atheist, and usually agree with PP, hama7, and the other few right-leaning MeFites.
posted by davidmsc at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2005


davidmsc: sorry about that - I must have confused you with someone else. My apologies.
posted by Ryvar at 11:58 AM on February 16, 2005


Unfortunately I keep getting the message that Matt does not appreciate joking. That every time I write something silly, I become a "problem" member in his eyes. I do it anyway, but I always feel a twinge of guilt. It also alarms me that Matt has been coming across as more and more humorless, more and more business-like. I feel like his patience is wearing thin with us and the site.

Exactly. I was one of the lucky ones who got to see the AR "hope me" thread before it got fixed (and I use that word in the sense in which it's used of pets), and I laughed so loud my wife had to come check on me. I was appalled when I discovered today what had happened to it, and I'm saddened by the fact that so many MeFites think that's just fine and everybody else should stop whining. I further think that the whole "damned if I do/don't" thing is a red herring. Here's the bottom line:

I've been getting tired lately putting work into the site and server and seeing stuff I don't think is all that valuable pop up like this. But I know folks do find some value in it. So someone made an honest feature request and an honest mistake while posting and it turned into a yuk-yuk fest.
(Emphasis added.) Serious, on-topic discussion: valuable. (Pony requested; answer given; end of story.) Yuk-yuk: not valuable. We've been preserved from the consequences of this attitude for years because Matt was busy with other things, although a few MeFi Sheriffs kept trying to do his perceived bidding anyway; now that he's concentrating on the site, the chickens are coming home to roost (as Malcolm said in another context).

Yes, I know, it's only a website. And it's Matt's site. And if we don't like it, we can leave. I used to say that kind of thing to people who bitched and moaned, back in the halcyon days when there wasn't much to bitch and moan about. Now the worm has turned and it's in the shoe on my other foot. Or something. But I'd better hit Post before this thread is closed for want of Significant Contributions.
posted by languagehat at 12:50 PM on February 16, 2005


I for one am VERY disappointed by the censorship style that I've seen here lately. I never noticed it before in my brief time here, or in my (far) longer time as a lurker, but it is pretty much unavoidable now.

Metafilter is not Matt, I'm afraid, it is the sum of its users. Not all users equally, to be sure, and I understand Matt is first among many, but IMO, this site is being hurt, and hurt badly, by what's been going on.

And, as much as I hate to say it, I find myself concerned about the fact that Matt is looking towards doing Metafilter fulltime. He can make this place as technically fancy and breed as many ponies as he wants, but if the community is gutted in the process....

I just find the luster of MeFi gone, and no, I'm not threatening to leave (sorry to disappoint some of you), but if I were a lurker today, seeing how things are simply unpersoned out of existence.... I probably wouldn't have been nearly as happy to sign up when memberships opened.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:59 PM on February 16, 2005


I also AM VERY UPSET. VERY UPSET! CAPITALS MAKE ME LOUDER.
posted by smackfu at 1:48 PM on February 16, 2005


So the big question is where are we (the people who make up my part of this community, which I think is probably inclusive of all people who habitually post daily, and usually several times a day) going to go if we find this place no longer to our liking?

I ask, 'cause I miss the old-timers who've disappeared over the years (even those I disagreed with) and would miss most of you, too.

My suggestion is a wholesale takeover of a Citadel BBS. Uncensored is one such beast and I'm pretty sure it lives up to its name.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:12 PM on February 16, 2005


where are we . . . going to go if we find this place no longer to our liking?

why don't we make alt.metafilter?

No?
posted by Quartermass at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2005


Because Netcraft confirms it: Usenet is dying.
posted by Ryvar at 3:09 PM on February 16, 2005


Within the realm of MetaTalk's 'political' discourse people attempt to post well-reasoned and eloquent arguments in the hope of gaining respect and therefore influence with regards to the direction of the site. This is driven by ego in the sense that people believe that they should be helping determine the course Metafilter takes. For example I've been doing precisely this throughout this thread.

See, this is what I think what Metafilter so interesting academically. Only one (now two) users have any formal power to actually steer this ship. As we have often seen (such as in this thread), there are people who try and try to steer the ship with their words. Unfortunately, words don't always do the trick, and ultimately we can type and type all we want, and it does no good if Matt doesn't agree. The whole structure and the progression of Metafilter is based on this one simple power imbalance.

It is why, for example, we see such a number of people who flame out - they feel powerless and give up. Mostly quietly, but there have been some well documented cases where it has been very public, and very ugly.

I think what has made Metafilter work for so long is that Matt hasn't used this power imbalance as a blunt instrument, and this is seen by the rarity of users publicly criticizing him, his policies etc. For the most part, when Matt speaks, it is treated like gospel, linked to, pulled out in battle as trump cards ("Well, you are clearly in the wrong, because Matt said...").

However, recently this power imbalance has become very much more visible. Threads being closed, more comments being deleted. The community is getting upset, and the tone of Matt's comments have clearly been changing recently. Things are getting tense.

The root of this is that we (I) like to think that we matter, that our contributions are important. Yet, if you read the comments in this thread (in particular), there is a clear sense that most people felt like that thread being cleaned up was a punishment, and that we were "misbehaving," and that put a lot of people who, in the past have been very staunchly pro-Matt and everything he does on the other side of the fence (however briefly).

I guess, in a verbose way, what scarabic said: bring back the light touch Matt.
posted by Quartermass at 3:20 PM on February 16, 2005


Frykitty: Matt has always resisted (futily, in most cases) those things that would make Metafilter an exclusive place with its own language--he has given the distinct impression that this place should be clear and welcoming to anyone who comes here

Which is a rather fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of community and readership. Everything has a barrier to entry. You even had to learn how to use the phonebook. The height of that barrier, though, is what builds loyalty. Once you've put yourself through learning Roget's thesaurus, you're likely to use it again and again. This is true of all such things -- once you learn a particular newspaper's way, you're likely to stay with it.

Contrast this to things with deliberately low entry barriers -- they have no reader loyalty and are generally uninteresting. One brand of phonebook is much like another. One seating plan much like another. Yawn

... all of it full of snark and/or vitriol. I suppose many would be intrigued. I would think that this was somewhere I didn't belong.

Perhaps you'd be right. No site can make everyone feel as if they belong. But I think many people are intrigued, and want to stay and put the effort in to do so. What attraction would there be if the personality was stripped? You'd be as well visiting del.iciou.us/popular or something.

Matt has an incredibly light hand with the deletions. Lighter, perhaps, than is warranted.

No, he used to have an incredibly light hand. Now it's a big leaden paw.
posted by bonaldi at 3:32 PM on February 16, 2005


I'm very dissapointed that the comments were deleted, I would have loved to read them.

---


You know, I doubt many light metafilter read the gray, after all if you only browsed mefi a bit, clicked the links, and commented rarely, why the hell would you care about what's going on behind the scenes? Only the hardcore have any reason to read MeTa (other then for callouts).

And to be honest, the in-jokey community feel I get from MeTa is the main reason I read it.

Matt, we want you to do something when users are being assholes, but no one would have 'damned' you for leaving a bunch of in-jokes in that thread. You could have answered his question via email if you didn't think he'd read it. Or answered and closed the thread.

And what was the point of deleting all of the comments after this thread was posted? Just out of bitterness?

Just because something annoys you doesn't mean it's a bad thing. There are a handful of users who really get under my skin, but I know I'd hate a metafilter that got rid of them for ideological reasons. Do you really think deleting a thread, punishing tens of people (I'll never know how many) just for having fun is really a good way to make a stronger community, or just one that annoys you less?

I think that if you do keep acting this way it really will embitter people and damage the community. You'll have a mefi that annoys you less at the expense of everyone who helped make it a success. It's your choice, but it's definitely not the one I would make.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 PM on February 16, 2005


There is just way too much deleting happening as of late. It hurts, not helps Metafilter. Oh, you can make an argument as to why each one is appropriate, but on the whole, a heavy deletion hand robs the site of its life. The light editing hand Matt used for the first four years made Metafilter the strong site that it is today. The heavy hand employed as of late will destroy it. (That being said, I am damn glad I do not have to make the keep/delete, ban/not ban decisions.)
posted by caddis at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2005


But February made me shiver......
posted by JohnR at 5:20 PM on February 16, 2005


We didn't use to need this level of editing--people could say what they wanted, and if there was a problem, the community usually reached a consensus for what's acceptable, with Matt as final arbiter if necessary. Short of the banhammer, the main reason not to post too many idiotic/offensive/insulting/inappropriate/drunken comments was that you'd get a reputation. If you read this site for a while, you find out who's full of shit, who's a fool, who's a troll. A reputation was the price you paid for posting crap. Now, apparently, if your comment isn't up to snuff, it'll just just disappear. Your idiocy has been silenced, and you've lost the ability to make an ass out of yourself in public.

I don't want to overstate this, but the deletions are reaching a level where it's a qualitative change. Ultimately, it's a form of censorship. The number of things that cannot be said on Mefi is increasing fast--it already includes questionable dating advice and jokes Matt doesn't find funny. I don't think it's a healthy direction for the site.
posted by muckster at 5:24 PM on February 16, 2005


Well, now that this thread has been closed (Matt having given the last word), I can't give my reaction there, so I'll give it here, where it's just as relevant: this is getting worse than I thought possible.

Asking a date how much they make is a terrible, terrible idea for a conversation starter.
posted by mathowie at 4:33 PM PST on February 16


So now Matt's censoring AskMeFi answers -- not just for off-topicness, but for not matching his idea of what's a good answer.

What's the best wine to serve with salmon?
Actually, I like a good zin... BZZZT
Red wine is a terrible, terrible idea to accompany fish. Please suggest something compatible with my ideas of food-wine matching.--posted by mathowie
posted by languagehat at 5:28 PM on February 16, 2005


hey, dude - what have you done with our beloved leader? Don't worry, Matt, we'll save you.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:15 PM on February 16, 2005


Wait a minute.... an answer got deleted because Matt thought it was bad advice???? Not inappropriate, not offensive... just he disagreed with the answer???

I really have no desire to bitch at our leader, he's done a great job here for years. (My very last posted comment in another thread contained "We still love you chief") But at the risk of being put on the Naughty list, I have to say that is just amazing, and absolutely ridiculous. If he wants to ruin his site, its his to ruin, but its our community, and I for one have to say you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:27 PM on February 16, 2005


I think Matt needs to take a breather.
posted by squirrel at 8:47 PM on February 16, 2005


The deletions I made fell into the wisecracks realm, which is why I removed them.

No, they didn't. The poster, by his own declaration in this thread, was suggesting the use of irony. I can think of several times when "how much money do you make" would have been a great way to get things off on the right foot with an intelligent, witty person.
posted by squirrel at 8:53 PM on February 16, 2005


Yes... Big, big problem with deletions in that thread. This was deleted:
No no no. Animal sounds.

"What sound does a duck make?"

Hours of cultural entertainment.
posted by gramcracker at 4:10 PM PST on February 16
And this is actually quite a good answer. It's always interesting to see how different languages vocalize animal sounds. In fact, there are lots of web pages devoted to the question.

So... I guess I have to get on board the "gone-to-far" train, and like hat, since I can't make this comment there, I'll put it here. Yikes.
posted by taz at 11:46 PM on February 16, 2005


or even "gone-too-far". yep.
posted by taz at 11:48 PM on February 16, 2005


All I have to say is that if you'd ever spent a good amount of time in some of the TV Without Pity forums, you'd have an idea what arbitrary, excessive and hypocritical hyper-moderation is really like. In some of those forums, people cower before the mods like beaten puppies.

That's not to say that what Matt is doing lately isn't counter-productive to the health of MetaFilter in general. Maybe it is. But people are hypersensitive about what he's done so far. Maybe he's going through a cranky phase. He has a four year history of not being that cranky. He'll get less cranky and we'll survive it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:12 AM on February 17, 2005


Okay, EB, but if my husband starts slapping me around every now and then, are you going to tell me to just suck it up and count myself lucky that I'm not being beaten to a pulp everyday like Mrs. Wackadoodle down the street?

I've refrained from expressing my disapproval 'til now because I thought that a lot of what has happened has been sadly inevitable after abuses like the Alex thread and some of the #mefi-inspired juvenility, but the bathwater has long since evaporated and the baby is becoming a feral child.
posted by taz at 12:52 AM on February 17, 2005


"Okay, EB, but if my husband starts slapping me around every now and then, are you going to tell me to just suck it up and count myself lucky that I'm not being beaten to a pulp everyday like Mrs. Wackadoodle down the street?"

No, I'm pretty sure that's not at all what I'd say.

Yours is the usual response to statements like mine; and whether or not it is an effective rebuttal goes the heart of the issue. Spousal abuse is wrong even in very small quantities, so it doesn't really matter if someone's got it much worse. But I don't think that online community moderation is wrong even in small quantities. What Matt has been doing lately seems radical because it is quite a change from what he's done in the past. But in the context of the broad spectrum of moderation, his moderation is still, well, moderate.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:54 AM on February 17, 2005


Animal sounds is a great ice breaker. You talk about the way that barks and meows, etc are spelled and pronounced. It's really a mind-blower of a game, and it lets you know right away if you've got the same level of playfulness.

Matt, please give us the rule that this comment broke so that we can evaluate beforehand if it's worth the trouble to make a post. Seriously. If animal sounds is on the other side of some line, please illuminate that line. If Metafilter is to become an exclusive realm of your personally approved thought, at least give us enough guidelines that we don't have to dodge what seem like arbitrary thunderbolts.

Also, get some rest.

On Preview: EB, there is no on-off switch for spousal abuse, it exists on a gradient. Yes, it's different than site moderation, but taz was referencing it for its spectrum model, which you might agree is fitting. In short, the things that are happening now are not improved by the possibility of things that could be worse.
posted by squirrel at 3:06 AM on February 17, 2005


Get a life, people. You just compared site moderation with spousal abuse. Gradient, shmadient. No amount of spousal abuse is appropriate. I can't wait for the day when Matt has to answer "When did you stop moderating your site?"
posted by anapestic at 3:33 AM on February 17, 2005


I don't think Matt did the deletions. He just took the heat. Jessamyn will 'get it' eventually,or not.
posted by JohnR at 4:14 AM on February 17, 2005


Relax, anapestic, nobody's saying that deleting comments is like wifebeating. My point was that the argument "it could be worse" isn't a convincing reason to be quiet about actions one disagrees with.

Also, the "get a life" insult? Not bad! Some other cool phrases you might like: “Beam me up, Scotty”, “Eat my shorts!”, “Trust no one”, and “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
posted by taz at 6:09 AM on February 17, 2005


EB, are you seriously using the "it's not as bad as it could be" defense? Hey, quit complaining about Bush, you could be living in Turkmenistan! People are starving in Asia! Of course, maybe you're just bucking for the MeFi Sheriff badge. No use hoping for the gold star -- Matt's retired those, having decided the stick is better than the carrot.
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on February 17, 2005


The difference being that you don't need to be beamed up, but you (among others) do apparently need to get a life. I was not speaking figuratively. But if you'd prefer for me to spell out to you that when you start comparing site moderation to wife beating, then you're taking MetaFilter far too seriously and clearly don't have enough going on offline, then now I have.
posted by anapestic at 7:37 AM on February 17, 2005


Ad hominem, anapestic, and utterly untrue. It's possible to have a healthy, balanced life and still feel passionately about a community, including an online community.
posted by squirrel at 7:52 AM on February 17, 2005


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