Not What I Expected



December 31
Still above ground.


APRIL 10, 2011 2:40PM

A Meta-Post About Meta-Posts

Rate: 29 Flag

Everyone who has been a member of Open Salon for more than five minutes knows that the most popular posts are the "meta-posts," basically posts about posts and the activity of posting.  Though some denounce such posts as a waste of time, energy, and space, few among us have been able to resist the temptation of publishing a meta-post.

Equally popular are the "meta-comments" -- comments about other comments, and it is not uncommon for a meta-comment to inspire many more meta-comments in response.

In my experience, my meta-posts are always my most popular posts.  My little photography posts are lucky if they get 12 "thumbs up," but on any day of the week a meta-post will get me 40, 50, 60 ratings.  One of my meta-posts, Getting Unread on Open Salon, was once the second-highest rated post in the history of OS; it may still be.  With 138 "thumbs up," it is as far as I know the only meta-post ever to receive the coveted "Editor's Pick" designation from OS management.

Thinking about the popularity of meta-posts on Open Salon made me realize that we humans engage in all sorts of other meta-activities, many of which are the most popular things that we do.  Such meta-activities run from the trivial to the monumental, but regardless of importance are almost always popular.

Back before there was an Internet and blogs, ham radio was the way that strangers around the world would connect with each other.  When I was young I was fascinated by the idea of ham radio, the idea that with a little electronic box and an antenna one could communicate with someone in another state, another country, another continent. 

When I was 13 my father bought me a shortwave radio, an inexpensive Zenith, to which I connected a long wire antenna and attached the other end to a tall black walnut tree in the front yard. 

I tuned to one of the "ham bands," frequency ranges reserved specifically for ham radio operators based on international agreements governed by the International Telecommunications Union.  Finally, now I could listen in on what must be fascinating ham radio conversations around the world!  What I heard went something like this:

"Yeah, I'm running a kilowatt from a Hallicrafters X15 to an MJF yagi antenna, and next year I'm gonna buy . . . "  

Alas!  It turned out that ham radio operators connected with other ham radio operators around the world in order to talk about ham radio.  They spent thousands of dollars on ham radio equipment in order to talk about -- ham radio equipment.  To my surprise I came to understand that much of ham radio was a meta-activity -- radio people talking to each other about radios.  And once in a while, about the weather.

But there are many other meta-activities in which we humans engage.  Some of the most popular rock and roll songs are about "rock and roll."  Bands such as Led Zepplin, AC/DC, Bad Company, Kiss, Moody Blues, and countless others have written meta-rock-and-roll songs about rock and roll.

And then we have TV shows about TV shows.  Movies about movies and movie-making.  Books about other books and book-writing.  Poems about poems.  Even Shakespeare "went meta"with Hamlet's "play within a play," a device he also used in several other plays.  

In fact, the "story within a story," is a common literary device, and a Wiki article lists various subtypes including play within a play, play within a film, show within a film, film within a film, and video game within a video game.  While not strictly "meta," they are at least a type of meta-activity.

We waited 100 years for Mark Twain's autobiography, and when it arrived the first 200 pages were in effect a book about Mark Twain trying to write a book.

Perhaps the most famous theorem in logic is a theorem about logic -- Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.  Few people understand it, but almost everyone has heard of it.  (I once spent a summer studying Benson Mates' book Elementary Logic, and I can honestly say that for twenty minutes I understood Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.  And then poof!  -- it was gone.)  It's fascinating to think that people who know nothing about formal logic have heard of this theorem in meta-logic.

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that we humans love meta-things.  We talk about talking, think about thinking, and write about writing.  So we should not be surprised by the popularity of meta-posts, and perhaps we can dispense with the idea that they are a waste of time, energy and space.  Long live meta-posts, and I say bring 'em on!  And perhaps OS management should start featuring meta-posts on the cover, in the same way that other posts are featured on the cover.

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The Well, Salon within Salon within Salon deeply entrenched, highly private, by-invitation-only Lair :) for instance - lets start a readers' Ham Site too, please :) Rated
I'd comment about my commenting, or write about your writing about our writing, but instead I will insert here, and have a meta chuckle about your meta humor. Emoticon.
Feature them on Cover? yes why not? If we actually take time to teach Thinking Routines in so called good schools, give so much importance to Meta Cognition, thinking about how we think, why not to meta posts? Inherently, this exercise helps re-examine and audit the system and helps correct its flaws as we go along, making it robust, resilient, stronger and intrinsically better. If OS founder, the one that originally created this and who initially faced so much flak himself, still cares as much, well, he would be very interested in these meta posts. And if the Editors are smart, they would have some dedicated position on the team just studying Meta to keep their finger on the pulse of this vibrant place and take their cues from it to introduce improvement. WP does it as a matter of practice. It is a systemic thing there. And so this makes sense.
but readers here might not be aware about this and not know that META is an important process that is basic to quality control of any kind in any sphere and is taken very seriously in all designing environment
"Back before there was an Internet and blogs, ham radio was the way that strangers around the world would connect with each other."

Or Grayhound Bus Depots. You could 'connect' and still can with lots of others.

Some of them disease free!


I wonder why exactly Tink is doing this - I wonder what his problem is - I just passed through some blogs where he has commented normally like a normal person!
Your ham radio discovery really made me laugh. I feel so much better about rushing here to see what this meta post was about. I may start doing even more meta, now that I have a good reason. It's got to be genetic!
"we humans love meta-things. We talk about talking, think about thinking, and write about writing.

I think you nailed it there. We're hardwired to be that way, it's part of what makes us human in fact. The meta-king is dead; long live the meta-king!
@ Rolling - you're going to hurt Tink's feelings, calling him normal.
Back in college a well meaning creative writing teacher wanted me to write about what it feels like to play music.I told her I couldn't do that. It's not how it's done. I told herthat if she played an instrument we could play together, or if she just wanted to bring it in we could talk about the instruments. That was irritating to her, but I think I was just discovering "meta".
Rolling writes: " . . . I just passed through some blogs where he has commented normally . . . "

I think I just detected a meta-comment!
Very interesting observation! I agree that the most popular posts at OS have been meta-posts. However, those are mainly based on ratings. The original articles, i.e. non meta-posts, are usually more popular with readers outside OS. Pieces written by Steve Kinglaman and Paul J. O'Rourke come to mind for this category.
I came back to note this here, even tho a lot of people claim to be writers here, yet, unlike the with Ham groups this did not develop into a writers' blog-site where writers discussed the art or craft of writing while critiquing each others work. Never a single meta post about writing itself or even meta comments on writing or the thought process it involves etc
And I thought MEta-posts were so popular because they have "ME" in them . The possibility of being MEntioned. MEmorialized. :)
Did ham radio bring out the ham in people? Enjoyed this read.
Why the 666? I love Mishima, he's a really good author despite the way he ended up being driven nuts by the American occupation. Or is that really your last name?
Rolling, I found Tinks comparison of Ham radio and Greyhound bus stations to be completely astute and deeply funny. Traveling all over the country in a web of busses and bus stations is a metaphor of meta communication. As to the disease free, I think until you have traveled by Grayhound for several days (the stations not usually populated by the cleanest or kindest among us), you don't really appreciate a good shower and fresh towels.
I agree with you, there is place for Meta posts here and I have often wondered at that portion of the group that always turns its collective noses up whenever someone does a Metta post. Interestingly enough this is the same group that will always weigh in heavily in the comment section of such a post.

Oh and as for Tink....he is one of the funniest bloggers on this or any other site and I saw nothing wrong with his humor on this one.
I'm still reeling over the idea that a meta post made the cover. I thought that was like...anathema for Emily and the gang. As far as the meta phenomenon, I got a load of it right away. My very first EP was cross-posted on Salon (never happened since). I wrote a post entitled, "Big Momma Salon is mean", referring to the comment trolls who ripped me to shreds. For months, that was the hightest rated post at my place. I had to resist the urge to go all meta all the time so good was that high ratings high. Now I've started OS Weekly, my own little gossip rag/newsletter (not sure what it is really). I guess that would be the ultimate in meta engagment.

Nice work here...thumbs up!
Interesting read. There is some syntax I never understood about this medium - and *meta* is one of them. This is the closest that comes to explaining it. Thank you.
"As long as OS remains so incestuous it will not be as good as it could be."

Yes. The problem is that posts, ratings, and comments that are only of interest to "insiders" are mixed in with posts that would be of general interest. It's too bad we can't separate out the insider stuff so that only general interest posts were on the cover.
whether they make the cover or not, they stay on the Rated column for a long time, which gets more eyes on them. if they're controversial, all the better. and i daresay the mgmt loves that there are that many eyes and clicks on the site while sparing space on the cover for non-meta pieces. (though the recent covers have had so much actual crap among the few good pieces that maybe *now*'s your chance, mishima!) interesting stuff here.
Here here!!!
Well said! I expect to see this on the cover tomorrow!!!! Do you think they will ever recognize fiction Friday posts or poetry as cover worthy?
Except for this one, I guess people are tired of meta for meta's sake. For now.
"As long as OS remains so incestuous it will not be as good as it could be."

Exactly what I meant too only he could have put it so bluntly being one you I guess :) and you wdnt mind it coming from him :)

As for meta appealing to outsiders or not, Gabby, yes, meta is of universal appeal. I had come in here attracted by one of them :) and then when I tried to comment had found I needed to start an account and so I had to, to continue reading who I had come here to read
and that's one way spam out here is born, bec to engage or participate they force you to open accounts.
I admit to being a whore for meta posts - and i can always lick my finger and stick it up into the wind when I feel a dust up coming on. It's all cyclical.
I especially enjoyed your ham radio description and analogy.
Other Meta categories include Heavy Meta, Soft Meta, Nu Meta, Thrash Meta, Glam Meta and Death Meta. With roots in Blues and Psychedelic Rock, OS posters that create Meta posts have developed a thick, massive writing style, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended rant solos, emphatic point-making, and overall loudness, a style generally associated with a raging machismo.
laugh, amen M. Chariot :D
(that applies to those of us women who dabble in the fray as well...testosterone is not just for boys!)
Nice meta, mishima!

Never a single meta post about writing itself or even meta comments on writing or the thought process it involves etc

Rolling, you might find this old post interesting; some professional writers and editors contributed comments about the writing process. Such posts have appeared now and then in the past, and they've been very helpful for me.
Rob thank you - the date June 2010. Onerarepiece :)
26 ratings. Maybe I should make a metapost about your metapost about metaposts.
Hey this is good. Thanks and congrats on that meta post of yours...
Rated with an Ug.
Useful information, now i know what the 'pros' are talking about.
Since this genre is relatively new and is only represented by a small number of artists, the need for an entirely independent classification of music has occasionally been questioned by music reviewers and listeners. As a label, some see post-metal as redundant, since some bands listed as post-metal contain many elements similar to doom metal, progressive metal, sludge metal, and stoner metal.-
Marla Ahlgrimm