From Mefi Wiki
In addition, the accumulation of dots is reminiscent of a tradition in Jewish and other cultures, in which pebbles and small stones are left at a gravesite or other memorial location. Also, a word balloon containing a string of dots is a custom in Japanese manga, indicating a speechless moment of silence.
"The dot doesn't mean R.I.P. It means the disappearance of a familiar part of our world, or the world of your fellow mefites who continue living, and that is something worth lamenting, even if you didn't care at all about the person dying." - posted by Pastabagel at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2008
In recent times, a '.' comment may denote a snarky moment of silence for a thread that is expected to be deleted. It may also be used to express agreement with what's been said previously, as in "there's nothing left to say."
"Yes, it's a tradition. It starts out as a representation of a moment of silence or one being speechless, then evolves into the traditional asking by someone of what it means, followed by lots of people using the dot sarcastically in the ensuing MeTa thread, thus demeaning the original purpose." - posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:09 PM PST
The MeFi "." may have evolved from the dash ("-") comments used in the Moment of Silence Thread of September 12, 2001, in which case SilentSalamander should actually be credited with the origination of the concept. Occasional use of the dash (or a triple dot, i.e., "...") continued at least up to the Rick Gleason Memorial Thread of October 23, 2002, but the single dot had by that time become the standard denotation for a "moment of silence", and that standard continues today.
The "." is analogous to the "blank post" of old-style BBS communities like the Well and Echo, where the meaning of the blank post is largely defined by the context.
- In addition to the '.'
- The Steve Irwin [aka The Crocodile Hunter] thread resulted in the variation >_,__,/
- The Kurt Vonnegut thread got quite a few '*'s. ( info )
- The Evel Knievel thread inspired a highly favorited variation.
- In the Syd Barrett thread, poppo offered a '*' ("a dot shining on").
- Frank Gorshin (who played The Riddler on the 1960s Batman TV series) naturally got many '?'s.
- Bobby Fischer earned both #s and ??s.
There have been a number of posts on MetaTalk about this topic:
- Why do people post periods in obit threads?
- Ray Charles Obit Thread
- Obit Guidelines
- How to do an obituary
- Let's Not Derail Obit Threads
- Not About Tim Russert
- A Brief Period of Mourning
- Brittany Murphy
- Let 'er RIP
Critics of the practice have expressed the following concerns:
- Periods make threads more difficult to read
- Periods are irreverent.
- They're banal and boring
- It's like seeing some sort of goddamn dot matrix printer error.
- Oh the dot thing, I hate it, it's just a herd thing to do, and so, so meaningless. Rather than trawl through . after . it would be better if people actually discussed the person's life, what that person meant to them, a link, a story, an anecdote.
- Tmdean's "Hide obit comments" greasemonkey script will allow a user using the Greasemonkey plugin on Firefox to filter out comments that contain only a period.
Additional Metafilter greasemonkey scripts can be found here.
Metafilter "dot threads": threads containing at least one comment consisting solely of a single "." character. (Most recently updated on August 23, 2007.)
In the Hunter S. Thompson commits suicide FPP of February 20, 2005, almost 200 of the 500+ comments included "." (on its own line), mostly without any additional text in the comment.
In the obituary thread for Kurt Vonnegut in April 2007, approximately 300 of the 600+ comments were "." (on its own line), mostly without any additional text in the comment.