It's not a question if your voice doesn't go up at the end April 8, 2007 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Do AskMe posts that don't contain a question on the front page annoy everyone else? Should the relevant text on the "Ask a new question page" be more prominent?
posted by ludwig_van to Etiquette/Policy at 1:53 PM (40 comments total)

Here's an example from today, but I see these all the time. I looked at the new question page and the text is pretty tiny and seems like it would be easily missed amongst all the other text.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:54 PM on April 8, 2007


Yes. Thanks for asking.
posted by dobbs at 1:57 PM on April 8, 2007


They certainly annoy me. I tend to skip them, even if the teaser sounds like something I might know about.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2007


Another vote here for "gets on my tits".
posted by chrismear at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2007


Is it any worse than answers that pose a question?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think it's okay when they present a request for information not framed as a question (grammatically). I guess those could still be said to "contain a question."
posted by grobstein at 2:23 PM on April 8, 2007


You know what annoys me? When I drop something, and it rolls under the couch, and I can't quite reach it, but I can touch it with the tips of my fingers, but it's just out of reach, and then when I stand up, and move the couch out of the way, and then I accidentally step on it, and break it. That really annoys me.

Or you know what else annoys me? When I'm behind a slowpoke driver who has no clue where they are, and they drive 15 miles under the speed limit, and they pause at every intersection, and then when they finally do find the intersection they want, they slow down to 2 miles per hour, and navigate the turn so slowly, my head explodes. That really annoys me.

Or you know what else annoys me? Having to buy a new copy of Turbotax every effing year, and agonizing over every entry, only to find out I owe a thousand more than I expected I would, even after I've torn out ever hair on my head. That REALLY annoys me.

Or you know what else really annoys me? When some idiot is blathering on and on and on, and then they have the audacity to say so-and-so "and me" instead of so-and-so "and I." I get so effing annoyed that I want to rip their backbones out and beat them repeatedly over the head.

But how people compose their askme posts? Eh. Not so much.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2007 [6 favorites]


Yes - I mean no, not 'everyone else' - but yes they do annoy me. To the same extent that ass scratching, finger pointing, shoulder shrugging, meta posts about nothing much but what's going on generally posts annoy me. So, I'm with dobbs on this one.
posted by Elmore at 2:33 PM on April 8, 2007


If this annoys, I'd suggest subscribing to the askme feed using google reader or the like. It's much easier to browse in that manner.
posted by fishfucker at 2:43 PM on April 8, 2007


Like Dave Faris, I have many complaints to lodge at MetaLife but since this is Metafilter-related I'll say that yes, folks should ask the question first, as succinctly as possible, then expand it later.

It's not just an etiquette issue. It's also self-serving. I've skipped past more than one ambling mess of a question only to realize later (as the result of a search or referenced in some newer thread) that I could have answered that question but never saw the question to begin with. You want to ask enough of the question that you draw the right set of people to click on the 'more inside.'
posted by vacapinta at 2:48 PM on April 8, 2007


I think Ask Mefi teasers (in RSS) that don't give a clue as to the question, are annoying.

Also, writing "I love this book" or "this is my favorite movie" with a link and no explanation is really, really annoying. Maybe I don't want to go Amazon to find out what you're talking about.
posted by who squared at 3:01 PM on April 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't have a problem so much with questions that aren't phrased as a question, but that's an example of questions that don't contain the information for people to select whether they're part of the audience. That's a little, well, not quite annoying, but poorly structured.

Who squared's example of people who do that stupid linky thing for book or movie titles, though, now that's annoying.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:12 PM on April 8, 2007


Anyone got any suggestions for that the "Post A New Question" page should say? It currently says something about boiling your question down to one sentence, but that doesn't seem to be working.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:14 PM on April 8, 2007


They don't annoy me, but I'm less likely to click if the front page text doesn't at least hint at what the question is. I don't think the Florida one is really that bad; you can tell it's going to be along the lines of "We weren't expecting this cold weather, how do we deal with it?" Ditto for ones where the front page text is something like "I've heard that blah can do/be/treat blah."

I agree about the unlabeled links, though. If you replace "this book" with the actual title of the book, people will know if they know the one you're talking about without breaking stride.
posted by Many bubbles at 3:15 PM on April 8, 2007


You could check if there's a question mark in the top bit and abuse the poster if there isn't.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:20 PM on April 8, 2007


Yes, this drives me crazy. It's like the million forums out there full of posts titled "Hi - some questions inside". Arrrgh.

mathowie:
right now it says "This will show up on the front page..." You could change that to "This is the only part of your question that will show up on the front page...".

Also, fuller examples.
You could also include examples for the front-page box, eg "How do I get my iPod to work in my car?" or "How can I train my dog not to whine when I'm out of the house?"

Then corresponding examples in the extended entry part: "I have a 1999 Honda Civic with tape player and CD player. Do I need special cables? I'd like to spend less than $30 if possible." or "She is a 3 year old black lab, and calm when I'm in the house. My house is a duplex, with a family living in the connected unit. I have already tried crating and obedience training."

And corresponding examples in the Title part, eg:
"How do I get my iPod to work in my car?" and "Whiny dog help"
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:35 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's sort of a toss-up. If you ask a question in your teaser, people will say "ooh! ooh!" and answer it without even reading what the [more inside] says. If you put your question in the [more inside] then people will skip over your question.
posted by aubilenon at 3:40 PM on April 8, 2007


The problem seems to be people treating the front page bit as a lead-in to their question rather than a summary of it. I was thinking the relevant text could be larger, and I agree with LobsterMitten that it ought to emphasize "This is the only part of your question that will be seen from the front page; briefly summarize your question here."
posted by ludwig_van at 3:42 PM on April 8, 2007


Also, maybe a bit more vertical green space between the bottom of the explanation of the first text box, and the top of the first text box. It could be that people in their haste are getting confused about which box the description goes with?

And maybe say in the description of the Title box that it's okay if the title is exactly the same sentence as appears in the "Your question" box.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:54 PM on April 8, 2007


Also, maybe a bit more vertical green space between the bottom of the explanation of the first text box, and the top of the first second text box.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:55 PM on April 8, 2007


It currently says something about boiling your question down to one sentence, but that doesn't seem to be working.

It says: "This will show up on the front page, so try to ask your entire question while keeping it to a paragraph or so."

The emphasis in that sentence is on brevity, and it's easy to miss that the word "entire" is in there. How about: "This is all that shows up on the front page, so keep it to a paragraph but try to ask your entire question." Then the whole last subclause is about entire-ness, so people may pay more attention.
posted by cillit bang at 3:57 PM on April 8, 2007


Also, writing "I love this book" or "this is my favorite movie" with a link and no explanation is really, really annoying.

I hate this, and at the same time I'm pretty certain I've done it at least once.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:37 PM on April 8, 2007


I had a feeling the example was going to be the Amelia Island question. It doesn't bother me too much, especially in this instance.

I do try to summarize my question that will appear on the front page. Sometimes I blab a little before the actual question. I have also used the much hated filter: in my questions. I also link, but always state what I'm linking to. Actually I didn't have to link to Google in the Florida question, but I just couldn't help myself.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:08 PM on April 8, 2007


They annoy me, yes, but as someone else once said in MeTa (I forget who), the person asking the question is only doing themselves a disservice by not asking the question on the frontpage as I'm sure that many people, including myself, just skip questions such as this.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:21 PM on April 8, 2007


Looking back, I found that half of my questions, in fact, had no specific question in the "main page" part. I guess I could see how it would be annoying, but I suppose I place more value on a sentence or two or background info that leads up to the question. Rather like what grobstein said, I guess.
posted by niles at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2007


...but maybe I should start asking questions right away.
posted by niles at 6:00 PM on April 8, 2007


Actually I didn't have to link to Google in the Florida question, but I just couldn't help myself.

The thing that amazed me about that question is that they didn't really say which part of Florida they were from, and I think a lot of people (Floridians included) wouldn't know where they were talking about unless they were from the First Coast. (That said, it's nice that people are actually going to the Old New City of the South for tourism purposes, and I'd really like to see a YYZ-JAX non-stop in the future, but that's probably a long way off.)

Back on topic, I really don't like it when I can't tell a damn thing about the question from RSS.
posted by oaf at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2007


A couple of the tweak suggestions here might help a bit, but I think it's largely an unsolvable. I chalk it up mostly to the inevitable variance of a free-form system of composition.

Every now and then someone will post a gigantic pile of question to the front page, with no more inside break, and I'll edit that to be a small lede with the rest as the [MI] graf. I never do more than just a straight cut, but I've noticed that some questions lend themselves to a cut right after the first full-stop, while others sort of need the first three damn sentences in front. I think the former is better style than the latter, [MI] edit or otherwise, and that sounds pretty consistent with what people find less annoying in here. Inneresting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:24 PM on April 8, 2007


Anyone got any suggestions for that the "Post A New Question" page should say? It currently says something about boiling your question down to one sentence, but that doesn't seem to be working.

That direction is only in the "Headline/Title:" portion of the post. ~ which doesn't show up on the front page.
posted by bigmusic at 8:08 PM on April 8, 2007


You know what annoys me? When I drop something, and it rolls under the couch, and I can't quite reach it, but I can touch it with the tips of my fingers, but it's just out of reach, and then when I stand up, and move the couch out of the way, and then I accidentally step on it, and break it. That really annoys me.

That's weird, because I love it when that happens to you. So there's balance.
posted by bingo at 8:49 PM on April 8, 2007


my suggestions:

1. text in a grey like that on a green like the askme background is WAY to easy to simply ignore, much less read carefully.
2. It might not be a bad idea to put something about phrasing your question in the top box in the description for the more inside box. Something like "This is the box for your more inside text. If you'd like to use this box, please try to have the central question posted in the upper box so it will show up on the front page and therefore get the attention of people who can answer you." You know, but phrased better than that.
3. I agree with cilit bang. What if it said "This will show up on the front page, so try to keep it brief but be sure to ask your question in this box. If you have pertinent information to supplement your question, feel free to use the More Inside box below to add it."
posted by shmegegge at 11:51 PM on April 8, 2007


I 3rd (?) the suggestion to remind folks to put their question in the top box, rather than in the [more inside] box. Something like "This will show up on the front page, so remember to include your actual question while keeping it to a paragraph or so (if you must go on longer, use the optional extended area)"
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2007


The best thing about leaving the front-page part of an AskMe question incomplete is that it's a self-punishing crime. Like when you just post 'cleaning products help please' and your [more inside] is 'how many parts of ammonia to parts of bleach?' and the only answer you get is 'just keep pouring the ammonia in until it starts to emit visible fumes', which is what I would say.

Personally, I prefer to discourage answers by lacing my questions with streams of violent profanity.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:39 AM on April 10, 2007


Why not force the "Your question:" box to contain a question mark in it somewhere and throw back a warning after the preview stage if it doesn't .

I'm not suggesting anyone be forced to include a question mark, but perhaps an additional step before a question goes live will help those who hadn't thought their post through to write it more clearly.

Of course, there should be a those that want to be deliberately vague can just click through the warning and damn all the roolz.

I was thinking something along the lines of:

"Are you sure you are asking a question? You appear to have missed out the question mark. If possible, please re-edit the first part of your post into a question form (or click post again if you wish to go ahead anyway)"

Thoughts?
posted by davehat at 5:41 AM on April 10, 2007


Then corresponding examples in the extended entry part: "I have a 1999 Honda Civic with tape player and CD player. Do I need special cables? I'd like to spend less than $30 if possible." or "She is a 3 year old black lab, and calm when I'm in the house. My house is a duplex, with a family living in the connected unit. I have already tried crating and obedience training."

While I like the general idea, I don't like these specific examples, because they're actually short enough that the entire thing could go on the front page. Questions don't have to have [more inside].
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:45 AM on April 10, 2007


This one's an instant classic!
posted by ludwig_van at 3:08 PM on April 12, 2007


It currently says something about boiling your question down to one sentence, but that doesn't seem to be working.

Something like:

"Ask your entire question in one sentence, and make it a real question with a question mark at the end of the sentence. Save all of the explanatory details (if you have any) for the [more inside]."

And then list a bunch of examples you would like them to follow.
  • Where can I find a gas cap for a 1932 Muffmobile convertible?
  • How should I respond when my father-in-law tells racist jokes?
  • How can I blame Windows for making my Macintosh crash?
  • Should I leave my violent, lying, cheating, Nazi-porn-watching boyfriend now or should I wait until my wounds heal and the baby is born?
  • Is it better to get a cat declawed at the vet or should I save money by doing it at home with pliers?
  • etc.
And then link to a bunch of good real-life questions from the archives. People will learn if you teach them.
posted by pracowity at 6:48 AM on April 13, 2007


Problem
On the front page, your summary exists on it's own, on your question page it is part of the whole. That's a tough thing to write for. It's like the way Sunday comics have that two panel joke at the beginning.

It also means that we're looking at two different situations. One where the question can be asked completely on the front page and more info is just, well...more info. The other is where a question relies so much on context that the front page can only serve as an introduction.

Not all questions involve a chronological anecdote, but the ones that do present a good example of difficulties with the second type:
If you boil your question down to a single sentence, it becomes unanswerable.
"My mother in law punched me in the face, should I call the cops?").

If you give some background on the front page, it becomes more answerable, but then you've got another situation - you have to ask the question twice.





If you put your entire question on the Front Page, ("my mother in law beat me up, what do i do?") then you run the risk of repeating yourself when you get to the end of your - perhaps chronological - explanation ("So after she threw the first punch i blacked out. Should I call the cops?").

Also you have to have some sort of transition ("It all started when we were dating...")

This requires a much more complicated writing and re-writing. I know I've agonized over my writings of questions because you cant edit them. (not complaining, just trying to empathize).

That god question linked above is a good example. If she had put the "If you believe in intelligent life, you have to believe in god" part on the front page, it would have needed SOME background or else have been somewhat incomprehensible. If she put in SOME background there, it would have meant that reading the question page would have two chronologies of the same event. Who writes like that?
We were talking about X and my boyfriend said this. Does he have a point?
==========
I brought up X while Y'ing. Boyfriend mentioned things about X + Z that I thought were K. We went on for a while....
Analysis
What we want is two versions of a question. One full length, one distilled. The problem is that often, people don't know the distilled one until they look at the expanded one, yet the summary is what's presented first. People are nervous about forgetting things (because they can't edit) and asking them to condense everything down makes them nervous.

I know I've saved myself a lot of crazy by writing the more inside first and then editing it down so what if we were to try that? Picture two boxes titled QUESTION: and SUMMARY:, in between them, a button that says "Summarize".

Question Box's directions say "Put your entire question here, include all relevant detail and use as many paragraphs as you want. Click "Summarize" when you got it all.

Clicking Summarize copies the entire question to the other text box.

Summary's directions are: "Your entire question is displayed in the text box below, please edit it as much as possible. Please be as brief as possible."
(and then next to the question box maybe a javascript meter that urges people to an optimal length, like 500 characters or something. Similar to Google's Password Strength meter.

I have some caveats about that idea (that people won't edit their long missives enough or will chop it up to one sentence that makes no sense) but I am really late for work. Damn I need an interface job so I can stop taking this out on metafilter.
posted by Brainy at 7:23 AM on April 13, 2007


If you boil your question down to a single sentence, it becomes unanswerable.

No, because there's more (context) inside. That's the whole point. Nobody's ever said that the question should be answerable after reading the front page part alone. It just needs to contain the primary question and enough extra information (if appropriate) for the reader to decide that they are interested in or qualified to answer this question.

In other words, the front page doesn't have to contain a literal summary of the chronology of your question. It just needs to contain the gist of the ultimate question.

I see no problem with this appearing on the front page:

My mother in law punched me in the face, should I call the cops? [more inside]

And then this appearing on the individual page:

My mother in law punched me in the face, should I call the cops?
=====================
We were arguing about burritos. We couldn't agree on the ingredients. Then I said she looked like one. She then punched me in the face, and I blacked out for a bit. When I came too, she was gone, along with my tortillas. Should I call the cops, or just learn to accept that this is what in-laws are like?


Yes, there's some repetition, but that's inherent in the format of AskMe, and I think readers can cope with that.
posted by chrismear at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ok, cool, now who's writing the RFC?
posted by fishfucker at 8:26 AM on April 13, 2007


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