Length limits in AskMe May 9, 2007 9:59 AM   Subscribe

"More Inside" is great and all, but perhaps it's time for absolute length limits in AskMe? Brain-dump essays like those (2600 and 1500 words!) don't help people answer, and all those posts need is some judicious editing before posting.
posted by mendel to Feature Requests at 9:59 AM (42 comments total)

“don't help people answer”

Really? I'd say that depends upon the content. And if the content is relevant, then it does help people answer the question.

If the question is too lengthy for you to spend the time reading it, then don't. No one is forcing you.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:07 AM on May 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


Also sprach Zarathustra.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:08 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's not a good idea. Some problems need long questions. For instance if there's some sort of software problem and a whole error log has to be posted. And yeah, these two posts could probably have been shorter, but they've both got answers (one has seven and the other thirteen as of when I type this) so I don't really see the issue.

this will end mel
posted by Kattullus at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


..and this one
I'm sure that many great answers are missed, people having lost interest in such a long read (or avoiding them totally)
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2007


no
posted by [@I][:+:][@I] at 10:10 AM on May 9, 2007


“We realised that life is too short to read all the [AskMe questions] you want to and we never were going to read these ones.”
posted by turaho at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


DR/TL
posted by Mister_A at 10:11 AM on May 9, 2007


"Please see first comment for rest of question."

People route around blockages.
posted by smackfu at 10:12 AM on May 9, 2007


Look, the content that the poster took ten minutes to edit themselves is guaranteed to be more helpful than the content that the poster spewed out and hit "post" without editing. That's why it's called editing.

I admit that it may be self-regulating, and the people who can't write succinct questions won't get much for answers and won't come back for their next question -- though I doubt the people who see nothing wrong with posting thousands of words in a question would pick up on the fact that they're discouraging people with input from answering. We tell people to avoid making their question "too stupid". Let's warn them about "too long" too.
posted by mendel at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2007


I'm sure that many great answers are missed, people having lost interest in such a long read (or avoiding them totally)

Or, people who read the first paragraph(s) and identify with the poster's problem will continue to read and provide great answers.

People who "tl;dr" at a question's lengthy background might not have the most insightful answers to give in the first place.
posted by CKmtl at 10:21 AM on May 9, 2007


It's really an aberration, though, isn't it? I saw the most recent one and thought, yes, good god, that's a lot of detail. But...so? It happens rarely, it doesn't affect the rest of the site, and the question will or will not get answers. Who does this have an impact on, besides the asker?

I don't think it's ideal behavior, and I sure as hell didn't read the whole thing (or, consequently, answer), but I'm not sure there's anything wrong with it—or anything more wrong with it than there is with a 400 word personal/relationship question that also needs editing.

Conciseness isn't a prerequisite, just a good habit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2007


Your objection is functionally equivalent to requiring the questions be well written. But they don't need to be well-written, they only need to be written well enough that people are able to answer. You think your objection is utilitarian, but it's more stylistic.

"I won't answer your question because you need to rewrite it and edit for concision"...this isn't a high-school English class and this isn't a print forum with limited space. Furthermore, except in extreme cases, people aren't going to universally agree on what is "redundant" and "irrelevant". Filtering out what an individual reader judges as such is the responsibility of the individual reader. It's not that hard. And if it's too hard for you because you feel compelled to spend time on every single word, then no one is requiring that you read or answer the question in the first place.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:25 AM on May 9, 2007


What is with the need to enforce arbitrary standards and limitations on others? If you don't want to read 2600 words, by all means, skip it.
posted by knave at 10:25 AM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just skimmed your post because it was kinda long, and No.

AskMe is one of the only avenues I know of where people can put the entirety of an issue out there, concisely put or emotionally raw, and thereby get meaningful feedback. The fact that we do read to the end is what makes us better snootier.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:26 AM on May 9, 2007


it's sad to say that if one is so stressed out/desperate that one needs to write an essay in order to explain some personal drama to strangers on the Internet, well, that person would be better served by talking to a real-life therapist instead of leaving overlong diary entries in a community blog. AskMefi is many things, among them a mailbox for the broken-hearted and other drama-heavy / neurotic personalities. but maybe, just maybe, AskMefi is not the right outlet for venting out one's personal dramas.


too lengthy for you to spend the time reading it, then don't

people here never get credit for politely avoiding to answer to comments such as this.
posted by matteo at 10:27 AM on May 9, 2007


Maybe we could release the Compact Edition of AskMe.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:45 AM on May 9, 2007


I vote no. And especially not for anonymous questions. One of the most frequent complaints I've read in AskMe was that an anonymous poster did not give enough information.
posted by LeeJay at 10:45 AM on May 9, 2007


I personally think that sometimes just having a safe forum where you can brain dump your deepest problems and fears in front of accepting & non-judgmental strangers can be incredible helpful & cathartic to these people. Whether I read the entire post is up to me. But let them have at it if it helps them to sort through their thoughts.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2007


This type of really long question is almost always a MaryWorthFilter thing--I can't recall a 2000-worder about, say, getting rid of mice or finding good sushi in Hoboken. And when you're trying to assess some stranger's personal problem, the way in which the asker chooses to express that problem--the length, the emphasis, the tone--can be as useful as the actual detail. Not that I tend to reply in such threads, but for those who are inclined to do so, a length restriction would probably hurt more than help.
posted by staggernation at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2007


staggernation: Ricockulous! You can't find good sushi in Hoboken!
posted by Mister_A at 11:03 AM on May 9, 2007


This seems like a very good example of something that happens every once in a great while (an extremely long question), and someone suggesting making a rule to eliminate that something. I don't think we're in any immediate danger of running out of inter-space, and probably shouldn't concern ourselves too much with highly detailed questions.
posted by ORthey at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2007


Meanwhile, can anyone identify what has brought on the recent glut of dramalicious AskMeta Qs in the past few days?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:06 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sunspot activity TPS.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2007


MaryWorthFilter
Oh man, oh man, that's the perfect term. Exactly what I've been searching for (the term, that is, not the actual junk) and not finding. MaryWorthFilter. Yes.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2007


Spring, when a young mefite's fancy turns to loveline.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2007


miss lynnster thinks: sometimes just having a safe forum where you can brain dump your deepest problems and fears in front of accepting & non-judgmental strangers can be incredible helpful & cathartic to these people.

Sure, but why then do they post on AskMe?
posted by Floydd at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2007


We specifically tell people to include as much information as possible when they compose anonymous AskMes.

That said, I agree that to my way of thinking those posts are too long. However, I think there is more to be gained by putting that in your response "gee the attention you are giving to this topic seems to indicate that you are obsessing over it, that may be getting in the way of your ability to find a solution that works for everyone" or skipping it altogether.

AskMe is much harder to use if other people's pecadillos make you irritable. And as an irritable person generally, I sympathize, I really do. However, I don't think any sort of admin attempt to de-pecadillo people will do any good.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:25 AM on May 9, 2007


God, what awful and useless questions. Seek professional help, folks.
posted by Eideteker at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2007


God, what awful and useless questions. Seek professional help, folks.

That's impressively uncharitable of you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2007


Meanwhile, can anyone identify what has brought on the recent glut of dramalicious AskMeta Qs in the past few days?

Mother's Day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:01 PM on May 9, 2007


God, what awful and useless questions. Seek professional help, folks.

Not to mention uncharitably impressive.

Or no, wait, jessamyn's was better.
posted by ORthey at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2007


I'd rather the kind folks who answer the questions do two things:
1) Read the previous answers so as not to duplicate, and
2) Limit the length of their responses.
posted by Dizzy at 12:13 PM on May 9, 2007


"That's impressively uncharitable of you."

I sincerely doubt that much beyond cold comfort can be given in response to these questions online. They're valid problems, they're just not internet problems. The length and involvement inherent in the questions alone implies that the querents would benefit from counseling rather than the opinions of an undifferentiated, anonymous ego-mass. These questions often come down to:

"Help me, am I crazy?" *logorrhea ensues*
followed by:
1. No, you're not crazy. There, there.
2. Yes, you're crazy. But it's not so bad. (+ We're all crazy, etc.; often supplemented with anecdotes)
3. batshitinsane tag, pls!
posted by Eideteker at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2007


I think some confusion may be caused due to my poor word choice. "Awful and useless" refers to the sprawling prose and the impossibility of supplying a comprehensive answer, respectively. I meant no disrespect to the querents. I myself have often typed out such moral dilemmas and so can't expect any mortal to clearly and concisely convey the issue at hand. All the more reason I don't think they're particularly suited to AskMe.

It's not my call, though. People wouldn't ask if they didn't expect some kind of acceptible (for them) resolution from Ask Me. Once again, all opinions expressed by me are just that: opinions. And opinions are like AskMe questions; everyone's got one and everyone else's stinks.
posted by Eideteker at 12:31 PM on May 9, 2007


Could the [more inside] text at least be excluded from the RSS feed? When one of those mind-numbingly long, unanswerable relationship questions comes along, you have to scroll past the whole thing.

I'll admit that I end up reading part of these posts, but it's for the same reason you can't look away from a car wreck. I keep thinking:

-Jesus Christ, how long did it take them to write this?
-Couldn't that time have been better spent in therapy?
-Why does this person think some strangers on the internet are going to know more about their life than they do themselves?
posted by Gamblor at 1:02 PM on May 9, 2007


Look, the content that the poster took ten minutes to edit themselves is guaranteed to be more helpful

I don't agree. The detail that the poster considers barely relevant - and might be lost upon editing to a shorter length - could end up being the one that is actually the key to providing a good answer. How many times have we seen good answers from people who pick out one sentence, way down in the eighth paragraph or something, and realize that the significance of the sentence is far greater than the poster thought, and indicative of the real problem, which is something entirely different than what the poster thought the problem was?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Could the [more inside] text at least be excluded from the RSS feed? When one of those mind-numbingly long, unanswerable relationship questions comes along, you have to scroll past the whole thing.

The more inside text is often what makes me click on a question in the first place. I prefer to read AskMe via a reader because you can get a more complete idea of the question without having to click through a bunch of links.

I'm of the opinion that scrolling is lower-cost than following a link (especially to often-lagged mefi).
posted by fishfucker at 1:24 PM on May 9, 2007


perhaps it's time for absolute length limits in AskMe

That would really interfere with my plans to write a periodic novel using my AskMe allotments.
posted by dhartung at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2007


How many times have we seen good answers from people who pick out one sentence, way down in the eighth paragraph or something, and realize that the significance of the sentence is far greater than the poster thought....

Who says those answers are good? With Anonymous posts, we rarely get the feedback, so I tend to think answers like that are more interesting for us than helpful for the poster. And often times, they're borderline off-topic, unhelpful, judgmental and/or stupid.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:13 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


querents just don't understand.
posted by staggernation at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I like to suggest that comments be limited in length, because reading long comments are as appealing as licking the sweat off of a h
posted by The Deej at 9:06 PM on May 9, 2007


Who says those answers are good?

Me. When people are writing the story from their own perspective, the more they write, the more likely they'll let some truth slip out.
posted by smackfu at 5:44 AM on May 10, 2007


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