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13 September 2008

U.S. Politics on Metachat... A couple of ideas to maybe offset the Pa[l]in.

Please read! [More:]

Here's one idea: if you are going to post something that's U.S. election-related, think about also making another post, or more than one, that isn't political... something fun, something new, something different to discuss, a game, something about music, art, books, whatever. A recipe, a funny story about your day, a nice photo - anything that might have caught your attention and might snag ours, too. This wouldn't be a "rule" - but a suggestion (probably included in the post form) that may help to keep things balanced.

- or -

Another idea that seanyboy came up with was to actually make a special category so U.S. Election-related posts can be tagged and people who want to find all the politics posts can easily find them and discuss without feeling "guilty", and people who want to filter them out can see the front page without these (seanyboy will correct me if I've got the mechanics of this wrong at all)... this would be a one-time thing, until after the elections.

So... your thoughts on either of these ideas? Or other possibilities?

I know that a lot of people want to talk about this. I was obsessively refreshing the MeFi Palin thread for at least 48 hours straight except for sleep before I got (a bit of) a grip, and I'm still interested in developments, but we also need to be a place where people can relax a bit from that if they want to, while still remaining a spot for folks to freely discuss what's on their minds. How can we make this work?
I think a tag would be a good idea.

I have to confess, I had little interest in the election until Palin came into it, and now I'm following it with a sort of horrified incredulity.

But there can never be enough recipes, cute stories, baby pictures or bunnies, so let's balance it out with MOAR KITTEHS!!
posted by essexjan 13 September | 04:01
Could you replace each instance of "Palin" with a picture of a cowbell?
Cuz, you know, we needs more cowbell.
posted by Ardiril 13 September | 04:04
What about a setting a limit per day? Say two electionchat threads per day: anyone who has another thing to bring up needs to put it in an existing thread.
posted by TheophileEscargot 13 September | 04:40
Or, a daily election "Open Thread", for everything election related?
posted by TheophileEscargot 13 September | 04:43
I think we're okay. I mean, I generally can't stand political threads (unless they're on, where I expect them), but I also can avoid clicking on them.
posted by Eideteker 13 September | 06:23
I like both of those ideas a lot... probably the second one more than the first, because it seems like it would take less admin involvement.

oops. that was to TheophileEscargot
posted by taz 13 September | 06:25
^^^^ oh, hell, that was my 1000th comment ^^^^

where's the champagne?
posted by taz 13 September | 06:43
I realize people have a natural inclination to fib a bit about their comment count when it starts getting up there a bit, and its nothing to be ashamed about, but - a factor of 10?
posted by Wolfdog 13 September | 07:35
heh. oops. 10,000th comment. That's a whole lotta commenting. TEN THOUSAND. and 3.
posted by taz 13 September | 07:44
posted by Wolfdog 13 September | 08:03
On topic, I doubt "balancing" politiposts with extra OMG Bunnies! or whatever is really going to add anything positive to the site if people are doing it out of a sense of obligation, even if it's not a rule and voluntary and all of that. Anyway, anyone who has enough self-control to follow that suggestion and do it thoughtfully probably can deal with my suggestion, too, which is: whatever it is you're itching to post about the election, wait at least a day before doing it. If it still seems excellent and important and worth sharing, then go ahead. I don't object to politics at all, but I'm less excited about a stream of breathless "did you hear the latest" posts that are more about making noise than shedding light.
posted by Wolfdog 13 September | 08:12
I'm with Eide. I just tune out any topic that doesn't interest me. For example, due to some deficiency, I am really not that interested in cute kittehs. So, I usually skip those threads. If there were a tag of something, I probably wouldn't even bother to use it, for fear I might miss a thread that I found interesting!

Is there lots of grumbling in the Election threads from non-interested parties?
posted by richat 13 September | 08:50
a daily election "Open Thread", for everything election related?

I'd like that.
posted by theora55 13 September | 09:26
What richat and Eide said. Well, except that I like political threads and cute kitties, but dislike LOLCATS humor, and the only cute bunnies I'm interested in are the ones who post here. So my feeling, I guess, is that I'm confident in people's abilities to ignore posts they're not interested in. And I'd be wary of tabs and filters, because I worry that, despite their vast usefulness in other situations, they might have a negative effect on the 'community' part of the site.
posted by box 13 September | 09:53
I think having everyone just tune out the posts they don't like and make more posts they do like is fine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 13 September | 10:39
^ except everyone won't do that, as we've seen in the past.

My vote is for the Daily [election] Open Thread
posted by chewatadistance 13 September | 10:50
I'm with eid and richat. Is there grumbling? I suppose there might be from non usians and right leaning usians, but I think it's been civil, and it's what people are talking about around here. And it'll be over in November, this is a temporary spike, imo.
posted by rainbaby 13 September | 11:00
Um, that's supposed to be 'tags,' not 'tabs,' in my above comment.
posted by box 13 September | 11:11
i vote tags. This place is one of my favourite places to read politics threads. Tags are good! while we are at it, we need a cute tag please and a three point status update tag, and a shouting thread tag, and an ask bunnies tag, etc.
posted by By the Grace of God 13 September | 11:31
I like tags.
posted by lysdexic 13 September | 12:07
I think things are fine as they are. I don't like the feeling of having a cap on political posts. I have to say, having just spent 3 weeks traveling with limited internet access, that I have come to rely on my few web communities as a great place to head-check on political issues. During the '04 elections I learned so, so much at MetaFilter that helped me think and talk cogently about the election. I became more informed and my viewpoints were sharpened. I would sorely miss not being able to introduce or discuss political threads here with some of the people whose views and reasoning I most respect. I understand that political threads get boring to some people, but you can skip them, as Eide says.

I'm sensitive to the concern that they can become overwhelming in number, but as on MeFi, I believe in the policy that the solution to bad/uninteresting posts is more, better, interesting posts. And it's up to all of us to find those things and post them. I can guarantee that I'll be posting plenty of stuff that's non-political over the next week or so (I have lovely meetup pics from SFO and a travelogue to write, so I can relive my trip!)

But at the same time, every four years something really important is happening in the country of the majority of people on this site, and a lot of us are actively involved in the efforts and feel a stake in the outcome. This election in particular is extremely serious because of the implications for the international war going on, and the Supreme Court appointments the next President will make. Isn't unrealistic to ask us not to talk about it? I love talking politics here because usually, there's going to be a smart, informed discussion that will raise some key points and provocative questions. I never go onto the comments on news and politics websites because it's a snakepit. MetaChat isn't like that. I think we can manage a political discussion here, for eight weeks, alongside all our other discussions.
posted by Miko 13 September | 12:27
To some extent, I think just having a clear policy on whether the political discussions are ok or not ok might help. This is just gut feeling, so it could be off because I haven't checked it with anyone, but I feel like there's a bit of angst in large part because there's a bit of feeling like "I/we/they shouldn't be doing this here" with the politics posts, so people get jumpy and sensitive. (Does that make sense?)

On the other hand, I've mostly been trying to stay out of the political threads and discussions (anywhere) because they make me tense to the point of dysfunction, so I may just be projecting.
posted by occhiblu 13 September | 12:44
I am not terribly political and, like Eideteker, simply skip things if I'm not interested in reading them.

That said, I'd be grateful if the activists would refrain from making a new post for every news blip and if they kept the discussion in that day's existing politics threads.

And that's all I have to say on the topic.

posted by jason's_planet 13 September | 13:11
First of all, I don't think political filters need to be placed on Metachat, unless we do so for every other monster topic base.

Why not filter for OMG! (cute animal posts) that we see every day here?

Why do we have to come up with a "solution" to political content here? How about do what Eideteker and others have suggested and take the responsibility to simply NOT READ what you aren't interested in?

I don't like the idea of someone telling me (or anyone else on this site) what they can put up here. We all are self-policing and have our personal fave things to post.

posted by Lipstick Thespian 13 September | 13:30
I don't have a strong opinion, really, on any of the solutions, though I think I'd lean towards the tags.

One problem I can see with the proposed daily political thread is that it would quickly get unwieldy, scattered, derailed, etc. There were five front page quasi-political posts yesterday, but the conversations weren't at all convergent. (One was the Palin baby name generator.) Can you imagine having those five different conversations in one thread? It'd be useless for the people who really wanted to discuss those things, and it'd be a playground for the people who just want to make Alaska jokes.

I think it would be an exercise in frustration and futility, and while it might easily solve the problem for the people who are tired of political threads, it would only compound the problem for people who want (and have found) a civil place to discuss these things.

Two cents. Do with it what you will. I'm as sick of hearing about Sarah Palin as anyone, but I also understand why she's important to talk about/post about/discuss. Posts about her are also pretty easy to skip, fortunately. But maybe some people are tired of having to skip, and some way of filtering out (or being able to toggle off/on posts) marked 'politics' would be an easy fix for everyone.
posted by mudpuppie 13 September | 13:48
I think asking for contributions goes too far, but otherwise, I don't care one way or the other.
posted by Ardiril 13 September | 13:49
You mean asking for money, Adiril? (The first time I read it, I thought you meant the way taz asked for people to make posts on other topics, which didn't make sense to me, lol) I would agree with that, I don't think fundraising is something we should get into here.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 13 September | 16:51
Wouldn't one tag lead to more tags, and then everything's pretty much got tags a la MeFi? Now, this would be good for doing a search on all OMG[animal]! posts, etc. but would it be a coding PITA?

Politics - not my election, not my country, and I've my own opinions (along with a theory a friend came up with) on the whole thing that would probably be at odds with some. Posting/commenting would probably go over badly so, hey, it's no deal to just *not click* on the posts. It's not like all the posts on the election can go on forever, as the thing's done in eight weeks, as Miko mentioned.

Tags would be handy though. This site's been here for a while, and there are many threads with cool discussions/links/etc in them so I have to keep a .txt file to remember where they are.
posted by Zack_Replica 13 September | 17:13
i generally skip all political threads, but then i end up skipping big chunks of the site, and then being generally absent.
Sometimes a political nugget here and there catches my eye and sticks, and while it informs me on something i wouldn't otherwise know, none of it changes my mind on what i knew since before a Bush countdown clock showed up (and now dangles from my key hook.)

Without decent comedic delivery, i usually don't want to hear it ('cuz i gets so mad at the obvious flouting of logic and law.) i have to filter my news intake for my overall health and those around me, because apparently i cannot let flaws of common sense, decency and verifiable information go uncorrected without removing myself from the situation.
i'm too old and tired to bother engaging in pointless arguments. It's often clear from the get go when something is worth the bother, and when it's not, i walk away, sometimes even with a polite and genial excuse/self exclusion.

It's not that i don't care about politics; it's not like one can be aware and not care. What i dislike the conflagration of crap, pointless hype, and bringing attention that was never deserved in the first place, not exclusively US politics, in all topics.

i liked it better when people shared things they thought were cool, fun, interesting, we collaborated on projects, added to each others' interests and information, discussed things without looking for people to just agree, validate or commiserate.

i know why some people have left, but it has less to do with US politics and more to do with how the nature of the place has changed.

Metachat, we don't chat much any more. We don't do stuff like we use to, and we've kinda let ourselves go.
We could use some better foundations and a functional wardrobe.

Having a lot of visible political posts does make it look like it's not only an approved part of the fabric of the place, but a place people can come to for that purpose.
What drew a lot of people before was arts, banter, unquantifiable aspects of life loosely netted in the filigreed threads of discussions and details, but not confined by group think definitions.

If everything is only "YAY" or "BOO"
what is there to talk about?

If this isn't a place for spill over from mefi, why does it so often used as a vent?

Hey, i care about some of you quite a bit, and i want to know about what is going on, good and bad, but it's about achieving a balance. Too much of any one type of thing is as bad as, say, omitting any food group: you'll lose weight and it's not healthy in the short or long term.

Tags are an idea, doable for one thing, but it if we tried to tag everything-- how? We haven't even figured out how to find recipes. i'd more appreciate a better search and the page by day (i'd like to click on the date and have it do something, catch up on the day before, etc.) but what i really want is more people who care about more than just US politics.
posted by ethylene 13 September | 17:29
We could use some better foundations and a functional wardrobe.

I like it! Both the idea and the frame of reference :-D
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 13 September | 17:31
I don't get why tags would help. Without exception, it's completely obvious from the heading that each of the threads is a political thread. I don't think anyone needs a tag in order to avoid accidentally falling into a political post on a site with maybe 15-20 posts a day on the best of days.

It's true that MetaChat ain't what it used to be, but nothing is - we love the declension narrative! However, the reasons for that have nothing to do with politics, in my mind. They're largely personal. People's lives changes, priorities change, reactions change, and some have moved on while some have arrived. Even some of the longtime stalwarts are finding more, other things to do with their lives these days - having babies, for instance, taking on new jobs, starting exercise programs, reading books more, whatever. All we can do is try to keep the site vibrant and interesting. For me, one of the reasons I come back is the content of the discussion - not just fun'n'games, which can be had on lots of blogs, but smart talk by smart thoughtful people. I'd be long gone if we stopped talking about difficult things now and then.
posted by Miko 13 September | 21:06
I was thinking of tags as a good thing: keywords to search by, not in any sort of negative sense (i.e. avoidance). Sorry for any miscommunication there...
Example - recipes. I'm sure someone's put a comment in a thread about good things to do with chicken breasts, but searching through all the recipe threads for something to do with this chicken I've got is time-consuming, and not as exact as I'd like it to be. If posts or comments were tagged, then I could find things easier. Alternately, if I could tag specific comments/posts with my own tags (viewable only by me) then that would be even better. But probably a lot of coding work, so basically it's a pony I'd like, but not going to go all pouty over.
posted by Zack_Replica 14 September | 02:49
It ain't broke, so don't try and fix it. I have no interest in US politics, aside from a general interest in the outcome as it pertains to the future of the world, but I accept that this is going to be discussed ad nauseum until it's over. I can deal with it for that amount of time.

Tags would be a good idea in general, though. Except that I hate to see what some of the tags would be ;-)
posted by dg 14 September | 03:33
Improving the search somehow would obviate the need for tags. It's almost impossible to search here; you have to be willing to page through pages of results. If that can't be fixed due to code or something, but tagging is a simple add, it might be a good idea. But tags might also bring a more formal feeling in. I'm not sure how we'd tag the more "so, how are you?" posts.
posted by Miko 14 September | 09:47
It takes a long time and a lot of replaced bearings, but I've learned to use only the right grease for my squeaky wheels. When I'm riding in an area where I know metallic shrieks and grinds will annoy the locals, I ride out into the middle lane and try to coast on by without a sound.

Sewing machine oil won't do, and neither will 10W40. There's actually a pretty wide variety of lubricants that will work, with differences in longevity and penetration, but the wrong grease gums up the works and turns a squeaky wheel into a serious hazard.

The pickier I get about grease, the smoother my ride, and the longer the time between servicing. I find I can go months without a pit stop. I meet fewer good mechanics when my ride is quiet, but I'm less of a public nuisance, and hell, squeaky wheels give everyone a headache, including the rider.
posted by Hugh Janus 14 September | 13:12
Granted, I haven't been here as much as I used to, but I don't see the political threads as being much of a problem. Even though I don't generally post, I enjoy reading them. I learn a lot from the smart people of MeCha and since I live in heavily conservative area, knowing that there are people who think like me makes me feel less alone.
posted by jrossi4r 14 September | 13:32
Improving the search somehow would obviate the need for tags. It's almost impossible to search here; you have to be willing to page through pages of results.

I've completely abandoned the Metachat search engine- if I need to find something, searching for it on Google actually works.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 14 September | 16:03
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