AskMe Synchronicity December 21, 2005 10:12 AM   Subscribe

At last month's CT meetup, nomad observed that from time to time he would see two consecutive AskMe threads that, while not identical, would be similar enough in subject to be notable. Several theories were put forth, but then the tea tree oil toothpicks distracted us from writing a formal paper to submit to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal. He's been spending the last few weeks emailing me whenever he sees these "twin threads" (my term, not his). Here, for your thank-god-it's-not-a-callout enjoyment are the ones he's pointed out to me: How do I get rid of [skin abnormality]: 28255, 28256; What to do in London: 28678, 28679; Bottled water: 29417, 29418. (Related, somehow, to eponysterical posts)
posted by Plutor to MetaFilter-Related at 10:12 AM (30 comments total)

OK, so they're not AskMes, and two were deleted, but I thought it was strange to see two "ultimate" MeFi posts in a row followed (somewhat illogically) by the "penultimate" - 1, 2, 3.

I've noticed a lot of the AskMe twin threads too, allways wondered if it was the same person with two questions posting from a sockpuppet.
posted by loquax at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2005


I thought the 2 AskMe threads that both used the word "Potable" right next to each other was just too wierd for words.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:24 AM on December 21, 2005


Perhaps reading the first question reminded the second person about a question they wanted to ask?

That's always been my theory.
posted by bondcliff at 10:31 AM on December 21, 2005


bondcliff -yup.
posted by grateful at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2005


I've been thinking about this alot lately too as its occurrence has seemed to increase over the last 3 months or so.
posted by spicynuts at 10:33 AM on December 21, 2005


Thats what I thought too. But the examples Plutor links to are all really close together in posting time. Also if you see the second London one, you'll see that the poster's first comment is regret that he didnt see the previous one before posting.

That said, my askme pet peeve is questions that begin "Inspired by the previous question on X..." It makes it seem as if AskMe is about brainstorming questions to ask rather than helping with more urgent needs.
posted by vacapinta at 10:35 AM on December 21, 2005


I think it's like the game of asking everyone in the room their birthday. In a room of 30 people odds are around 0.5 (IIRC) that two will have the same birthday. Same for AskMe. Every once in a while by pure chance there will be very similary questions. We only notice it when it does happen, not when it doesn't (which is most of the time).

Think of it from the other direction: wouldn't it be strange if there were never two questions that were very similar?
posted by ldenneau at 10:54 AM on December 21, 2005


Of course this is all statistically possible. That doesn't make it any less interesting. The birthday paradox is still worth talking about.
posted by nomad at 11:01 AM on December 21, 2005


Mmmm....tea tree oil toothpicks.
posted by Miko at 11:12 AM on December 21, 2005


The birthday thing isn't all that odd if you really understand statistics.

I don't.

I think it's odd.
posted by JeffK at 11:12 AM on December 21, 2005


Good thread. This is what we like.
posted by nthdegx at 11:18 AM on December 21, 2005


I know what I'm doing for the rest of the workday.
posted by smackfu at 11:20 AM on December 21, 2005


HOMEWORK:

1. Collect birthdates of your friends and coworkers.
2. Make a chart of birthdate distribution. (Use a straight-edge! Sloppy work will not be given credit.)
3. Discuss your findings. How many birthdays overlapped? Does a late-December birthday just totally suck, or what? Can you believe Diane is only 37?
posted by cortex at 11:25 AM on December 21, 2005


Does a late-December birthday just totally suck, or what?

God, and how.

(December 30, here.)
posted by jokeefe at 11:39 AM on December 21, 2005


Coincidentally, today is my birthday. Solsticers forever.
posted by Plutor at 11:45 AM on December 21, 2005


Holy crap! That's three comments in a row about late December birthdays. (Mid-September)
posted by grateful at 12:00 PM on December 21, 2005


Holy crap! That's four comments in a row about late December birthdays.
posted by mendel at 12:22 PM on December 21, 2005


metageist
posted by ori at 12:42 PM on December 21, 2005


"Metageist" is a pretty good word for the phenomenon. I think that at the meetup itself, I suggested Bondcliff's idea. But when confronted with timestamps that are eerily close, I guess I'd have to go with a combination of sheer synchronicity and zeitgeist.
posted by Miko at 1:02 PM on December 21, 2005


I am enjoying a tea tree oil toothpick (technically, a "chewing stick") right this very second. It is so cool and refreshing.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:06 PM on December 21, 2005


The birthday paradox is still worth talking about.

it's not a paradox.
posted by mdn at 2:18 PM on December 21, 2005


Can you believe Diane is only 37?

I know, that bitch is toe up.
posted by SassHat at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2005


True, but for some reason it's still called the birthday paradox. Paradoxically.
posted by nomad at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2005


December 24th, represent.

/waits for Mayor Curley so we have a quorum for our Second Coming? Club
posted by yerfatma at 2:47 PM on December 21, 2005


I always thought that people are reminded of a question they want to ask from reading a similar question just posted. Where there are two that are plainly not referencing each other, I always assumed that they got their idea from the content of one of the earlier Q&A's.

I can't remember exactly when or what I read recently, but I noticed that a question popped up in the green right after the topic was broached in a comment on the blue. Two people doing that would cause the "metageist" phenomena (to re-coin the phrase).
posted by qwip at 5:03 PM on December 21, 2005


jokeefe writes 'December 30, here'


30? Pfft, lightweight.

December 31st, somewhere around 10:45pm.
posted by signal at 6:08 PM on December 21, 2005


Maybe there is a third-party involved? If some reasonably popular blog discussed a particular topic, that too could jog peoples' memories of questions they have been meaning to ask.
posted by michaelkuznet at 9:47 PM on December 21, 2005


This thread has been of great value in giving us the word "metageist". I am sure we haven't seen the last of it. Thanks, ori.
posted by Miko at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2005


I've seen a similar deal where AskMeFi questions could be answered by Slate "Explainer" columns that were only a day old.
posted by smackfu at 7:32 AM on December 22, 2005


The circle is complete.
posted by cortex at 11:09 AM on December 22, 2005


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