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Just The Facts, Ma'am
January 10, 2008 7:48 PM   Subscribe

If you don't know the answer, don't answer the question. It's that simple.

The etymology thread brought up an aggravating and infuriating tendency people have in Ask MetaFilter: answering with a guess without indicating it as such. People who ask specific questions to which there exists a correct answer are looking for exactly that: the correct answer, not a guess. Guesses do nothing to help, they're just noise, and they do not help people find answers.

For example, Steven C. Den Beste has admitted he posts guesses that are incorrect, and since we have no way of knowing which of his answers are just guesses, we cannot trust or use any of his answers in Ask MetaFilter. So I ignore all his answers, because I can't trust them, so I consider his answers to be just noise in the thread, and I suspect I am not alone.

People need to either stop answering questions to which they do not know the correct answer, or stop posting answers to questions. Like wisecracks, guess answers to specific questions do not help people find answers. Stavros said it best: "The best answer is always the correct answer. The skill comes into play in knowing which questions are the ones that can actually have a correct answer. Many questions on Ask Metafilter cannot be answered with anything other than anecdote, opinion, or advice. Some questions can be answered correctly. If you don't know the answer to a question of the latter variety, DO NOT ANSWER IT."

Please stop answering questions to which you do not know the answer. Thank you.
posted by fandango_matt to Etiquette/Policy at 7:48 PM (350 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. If you don't know the answer, don't answer the question. It's that simple. Thanks.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:55 PM on January 10, 2008


Reading the above-the-fold description you posted, I thought "huh. Wonder if this is about SCDB again." I look inside and hey-presto.
posted by boo_radley at 7:55 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know the answer to this. But I will suggest one anyway: cattle prods.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


To refill your Zippo with butane, combine sulfuric acid, bleach and ammonia in a styrofoam container and mix thoroughly with your arm (since you show clear symptoms of Asperger's, it'll fall off in a couple of weeks anyway). Then, find a doctor for yourself and a lawyer for mathowie.

Oh, and dump the bastard.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Reports that say that someone is just guessing in AskMe are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 7:56 PM on January 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


I just don't know.
posted by yhbc at 8:00 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


...or help in finding an answer...

Sometimes an educated guess can help lead to the answer.

I do agree that just random guesses can be noise.
posted by The Deej at 8:01 PM on January 10, 2008


toot.
posted by Stynxno at 8:02 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


^ sorry. random noise.
posted by Stynxno at 8:02 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess you're right.

haha get it "guess"? hahahaha
posted by SassHat at 8:07 PM on January 10, 2008


Please stop answering questions to which you do not know the answer.

AMEN! You know what else I'm tired of? People who think they can answer a question after 2 seconds on Google. No. Knowing how to use Google.com does not make you qualified to answer every question on every subject.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:08 PM on January 10, 2008 [10 favorites]


My impression is that "hey, fuck it, let's take a guess" has been a prevalent attitude on AskMe since day uno.
posted by mlis at 8:10 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"A modal logic formulation of self-defeating challenge-response knowledge systems, or: STFU you damn morons", by Emmett A. Philtor, University of Liffe. Lecture Notes in Computer Trivia vol. 666, Spring Rolls Verbiage, Beltin' / Heyderebub 2008.

When citing this thread, please include reference to DOI 10:1337uSUX.
posted by Iosephus at 8:10 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh man, there was this guy I was talking to, real smart professor from a name brand college. And I mentioned how I would have to go and wikipedia something someone mentioned, sort of as a joke. He went off for like 20 minutes about how wikipedia is wrong. Well no shit, SCDB is like wikipedia. If you are an expert and correct SCDB please do so in thread. He's not being a troll, he just answers things in ways that sound reasonable to an educated person.

So don't be a dickhead professor in some esoteric topic. If he is wrong, correct him. I've never seen SCDB terrorize an AskMetafilter thread and demand that his answer is the best.
posted by geoff. at 8:11 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, after 2 seconds on Google, I'm still not sure what the emoticon for "shrug" is. Oh well.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:12 PM on January 10, 2008


I think the idea is that AskMe should be useful without the knowledge that SCDB is just making stuff up that sounds reasonable (and not indicating it as such)
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:13 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


posted by geoff So don't be a dickhead professor in some esoteric topic. If he is wrong, correct him. I've never seen SCDB terrorize an AskMetafilter thread and demand that his answer is the best.

Here's one example. I am certain there are many others.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2008


Here's one example. I am certain there are many others.

To be fair, he retracts himself three comments down.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2008


Well I was trying to make the point that a lot of people make stuff up. Usually there's a variety of cues in the grammar, speech patterns or terminology usage that makes us go, "Oh yeah they're just spouting shit." SCDB actually sounds like he knows what he is talking about, when he doesn't have any more knowledge than a wikipedia mention or google search. I think this is what pisses people off. Let's not fool ourselves and think that we're getting Nature quality submissions here.

There's no way we can police the serial guessers. Hasn't SCDB been called out on this before? Wouldn't this be better in the other thread? What's the solution? It seems to me this is just piling on SCDB and mean-spirited. And there have been times where I've seen his answers and gone, "Ugh, he has no idea what he is talking about." But there's other people I do that to too. There will always be an SCDB, there's no effective way to to police this. In light of this I think this is kind of a mean pile-on.
posted by geoff. at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


You know, I'd add to what I said before that I think there's nothing wrong in the case of a question that does have a 'correct' answer in saying 'well, based on my experiences X and Y, I think Z may be a good answer to your question', because certainty is both rare and overrated. As long as it's clear that you're trying to help find an answer to a question that has a correct answer, but that you're not 100% sure.

For my part, there aren't many things in the world that I'm 100% sure about.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:21 PM on January 10, 2008


I hadn't read the MeTa you posted, fandango_matt. Reading SCDB's replies in there is really, truly baffling.
posted by boo_radley at 8:27 PM on January 10, 2008


More examples of SCDB being called on his bullshit:
http://ask.metafilter.com/58530/this-is-not-a-trap#879953
http://ask.metafilter.com/42777/More-sand-or-stars#657687
http://www.metafilter.com/66000/Im-in-ur-city-burnin-ur-church#1891991
http://metatalk.metafilter.com/14361/Offensive-noise#422028
http://ask.metafilter.com/78112/I-loved-being-sincerely-welcomed-to-the-jungle#1160244
http://ask.metafilter.com/78249/Normal-poisson-with-a-twist-of-outliers#1162327
http://ask.metafilter.com/70682/How-to-Sanitize-HTML-Javascript-Security#1054409
http://ask.metafilter.com/79112/What-to-do-for-new-years-in-LA#1174611


What SCDB doesn't understand is that AskMe is about the askers, not the rest of us. It's a great place to learn from and discuss things, but the first responsibility is to the questioner. SCDB is the most damaging part of AskMe and I think deserves a time out. Nothing hurts the discussion more than his air of authority that silences other responses. He says this is acceptable because "he's the decider" and makes decisions, when he should really be shutting the fuck up.
posted by null terminated at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2008 [15 favorites]


Has anyone answered more questions than SCDB? He's averaging almost five answers per day since starting around two years ago.

I'm happy if there's one question a week I can answer - and I know a lot of shit.

I hate though, that I often find myself rushing to post an answer so I can get it in before the bullshitters/guessers get in there. I would often love to spend more time researching/gathering links.

It is unfortunate that the earlier answers seem to carry more weight with the question askers.
posted by davey_darling at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2008


Please stop answering questions to which you do not know the answer.

AMEN! You know what else I'm tired of? People who think they can answer a question after 2 seconds on Google. No. Knowing how to use Google.com does not make you qualified to answer every question on every subject.


Do people really have a problem with this? I tend to do quick Google searches for new AskMe posts that interest me and post my results if I find anything interesting. Examples would be this, this and this. I didn't think most people would mind someone posting valid answers that they found on Google.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2008


Knowing how to use Google.com does not make you qualified to answer every question on every subject.

You can fake it surprisingly well though. The key is to include specific details, to be verbose, and to have total confidence in your answer. It helps to mock someone else's answer as being an amateur who shouldn't be answering. Never link to the Google result or mention Google.
posted by smackfu at 8:41 PM on January 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


What's even more fascinating to me is people who answer simply by telling you that they don't know the answer, e.g. "I don't know what to tell you," or "Do some research." If that is all you have to offer, then please choose between not answering and killing yourself.
posted by bingo at 8:49 PM on January 10, 2008 [10 favorites]


The key is to include specific details, to be verbose, and to have total confidence in your answer. It helps to mock someone else's answer as being an amateur who shouldn't be answering. Never link to the Google result or mention Google.

In all fairness, that's the paulsc method, not the Stephen C. Den Beste method.

The Den Beste method is to state authoritatively things that a two minute google search would demonstrate to be incorrect.
posted by dersins at 9:00 PM on January 10, 2008 [12 favorites]


To add another datapoint, someone asked about IP-aware webcams just the other day, looking for a webcam that could be plugged directly into Ethernet, or a wireless network, without an intervening PC.

SCDB's response? "You're basically asking for a TCP/IP-aware webcam, and such a thing doesn't exist!"

I'm pretty sure they've only been around, in one form or another, for about a decade or so, now...

Anyway, that one irked me. Carry on.
posted by Jimbob at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2008


I think there's value in educated guesses, as long as the Answerer is clear that they are speculating. I'm a research scientist and much of my work is driven by educated guesses: we make a hypothesis based on a guess/hunch/previous-kinda-similar-experience, then we do an experiment to test it. Sometimes we guess right, sometimes we guess wrong, but if we stopped guessing altogether we'd be dead in the water most of the time.

We don't do experiments on AskMe, but by providing educated guesses we can perhaps steer the Asker towards some testing/reading/inquiring/thinking they can do on their own.

Random noise not identified as such? Agreed, pretty useless.
posted by Quietgal at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2008


I didn't think most people would mind someone posting valid answers that they found on Google.

It's not that bad. What's bad is if:

a) The Asker has already seen this stuff on Google and it's not actually what they're after, because you didn't read the question properly.
(b) You heap abuse on the asker because they couldn't find this stuff on Google themselves.
posted by Jimbob at 9:04 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


From : Steven C. Den Beste

Even when it's called MeMail, it's not cool to post private messages.
posted by smackfu at 9:06 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah dude, I don't have a dog in this fight but that seems to cross the line. Seems like you should have thought that through before posting it in here.
posted by nola at 9:08 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even when it's called MeMail, it's not cool to post private messages.

Not cool, but it seems that it's pretty much par for the course here in Metatalk. Note to self: don't say anything in MeMail you wouldn't want posted in Metatalk. Take all nasty, juicy gossip where it belongs: e-mail.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:11 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah. This is a bad pattern.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:12 PM on January 10, 2008


Messages on a largely anonymous online forum stop being private the moment you click the send button.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:13 PM on January 10, 2008


Uh, the point of MeMail is to let people communicate outside of the normal site. If SCDB wanted what he sent to fandango_matt out there for everyone, he would have put it here. It isn't fandango_matt's right to make that decision for him.
posted by MadamM at 9:15 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Messages on a largely anonymous online forum stop being private the moment you click the send button.


No they really don't, unless the online forum tolerates it. Online, offline, it doesn't change anything.
posted by nola at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2008


...the ones we don't know we don't know.
y'know?

Take all nasty, juicy gossip where it belongs: e-mail#bunnies.
Fixed that for me.

And the moral of this story is: some "Mr. Know-It-Alls" should be renamed "Mr. Know-It-Some".
posted by wendell at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2008


"^"
posted by nola at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2008


What the fuck, fandango_matt?
posted by scrump at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2008


you're losing the crowd, fandango_matt.
posted by boo_radley at 9:19 PM on January 10, 2008


I just sent the following MeFi Mail...
From : wendell
To : fandango_matt
Subject : Don't Post This Message to MetaTalk
Message : Well, maybe just this time.
posted by wendell at 9:21 PM on January 10, 2008


Reposting a MeMail without permission is absolutely not cool, as long as we're discussing guidelines here...and, in this case, it actually undermines your argument for me.

I generally try not to answer things unless I'm pretty sure of the answer, but some things are just not that cut and dry. For instance, "I am having trouble getting my laptop to boot" could be caused by any number of problems. Answers, both correct and incorrect, are sometimes useful in troubleshooting problems like these.

That being said, SCDB does seem a bit trigger-happy, and his threshold for answering is certainly a bit lower than most.
posted by dhammond at 9:22 PM on January 10, 2008


Fuck you guys, I think fandango_matt was in the clear — the message is neither particularly confidential nor embarrassing. It's a good defense of his actions.

It's what SCDB will post here when he finds this thread.
posted by blasdelf at 9:23 PM on January 10, 2008


I just sent all but one of you a memail. Please don't anyone post the contents of the memail, because I very much want the person I didn't send it to not to read it. Thanks!
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 9:24 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


jessamyn, you do most of the moderation at AskMe, right? I'm wondering how you feel about Steven's formulation in the other thread:

If I think I know the answer, I say so.
If it turns out I'm right, the OP is helped. WIN
If it turns out I'm wrong, I learn something. WIN
If I post what I think I know, and it turns out to be wrong, it could remind someone else of the right answer and get them to post it. WIN


You and cortex said you don't like it when we attribute opinions to you, so I don't want to do that, but I didn't see you respond to the above. Would you mind clarifying whether you think Steven's approach is a good one for AskMe? I think it's bad for someone to so regularly have to be corrected in threads he knows so little about. That can't be good for the site, and a small nudge or two from the mods - nothing drastic, just an acknowledgment that there does seem to be a problem - might work. I'm curious where you stand on that.
posted by mediareport at 9:25 PM on January 10, 2008


From : Astro Zombie 3
To : Astro zombie
Subject : Narf
Message : Narf narf narf.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:25 PM on January 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


Even when it's called MeMail, it's not cool to post private messages.

Yeah, please do not do this. If you want to put someone's email in the clear, ask them. This is not a hard concept, and personal grudges don't obviate it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 PM on January 10, 2008


Fuck you guys, I think fandango_matt was in the clear — the message is neither particularly confidential nor embarrassing. It's a good defense of his actions.

Irelivent, and fuck you too.
posted by nola at 9:27 PM on January 10, 2008


Irrelevant*
posted by nola at 9:29 PM on January 10, 2008


The correct answer for this problem is for everyone to be a little more patient, and stick with questions a little longer.

Almost any guess is better than complete silence on a topic. On the other hand, taking a deep breath before spouting off gives others, who might be better informed, a chance to have a say.
posted by Chuckles at 9:30 PM on January 10, 2008


Well, after 2 seconds on Google, I'm still not sure what the emoticon for "shrug" is. Oh well.

v'_'v

's about the best i can do. sorry. v'_'v
posted by dismas at 9:31 PM on January 10, 2008


Sticking with the questions longer doesn't always work out, since sometimes the questions asked in the morning scroll off the bottom before the day is even over. Can we make the askme main page two or three times as long?
posted by Pants! at 9:34 PM on January 10, 2008


The fact that SCDB defends his random ass answer style by warning of blaming analysis paralysis is so fucking ridiculous. This is a huge community. You ask a question that is not insanely specific and someone will know the right answer and will know they know the right answer. Not think they know the right answer, but know the right answer. That's what makes AskMe useful. It isn't a place to stroke your ego by being first or most prolific or whatever. It's a place to either answer the questions you know you know or, if you must answer, tell someone how you would research such a question if you were them (maybe with the results of your research.) SCDB, on the other hand, is so convinced of his own brilliance he thinks pulling an answer out of his ass will give the correct answer 90% of the time, and there's no harm in the wrong answer cause, hey, he's smart enough to be close to right. Guess what: it doesn't; it won't; there is; and he isn't.
posted by aspo at 9:35 PM on January 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


fandango should have paraphrased Steven's email, but Steven has a pattern of disappearing from this kind of thread and not coming back, so I can sort of understand bringing his argument out into the open from MeFiMail. It's an argument worth looking at, even if past behavior indicates Steven's not going to show up here again:

So we have two broad categories of answers from me that cover about 90% of what I do post:

1. Cases where I'm sure I know the answer, and turn out to be right.
2. Cases where I'm sure I know the answer, but turn out to be wrong. (Or only partially right.)


Shouldn't the above, which sounds so goshdarn logical, apply to everyone? So why is Steven's case such an obvious outlier? Why is he "sure I know the answer" but wrong so much more often than other members in AskMe? Is it something that's out of sync at his end with the way AskMe works for most members? Or is it confirmation bias, and some of us are only noticing it from him?
posted by mediareport at 9:36 PM on January 10, 2008


(Oh and do you have any idea how hard it was to write that without mentioning the imminent threat of France instigating nuclear war against the United States?)
posted by aspo at 9:37 PM on January 10, 2008


To : Steven C. Den Beste
Date : Jan 10, 2008 9:35 PM
Subject : Re: Answers
Message :

Let's make something else clear: you're either mistaken, being disingenuous, or lying, because earlier today you said posting a wrong answer is better than not posting any answer, but now you're saying you've never posted an answer you think is wrong. You then went on to give a detailed explanation of why your methodology was appropriate, despite the fact several people pointed out its inherent selfishness and flaws.

You have a long and well-documented history of posting answers that are just guesses--and as I and others have repeatedly said, your guesses do not help people find answers, they confuse the person asking the question, they create noise in the thread, and more often than not they're the beginnings of derails. Your guesses-as-answers are just noise in Ask MetaFilter--I stopped reading your answers lng ago, and I know I'm not alone.

I will offer a suggestion: you might consider prefacing your Ask MetaFilter answers with "This is just a guess, but..." or "I'm not sure, but I think..." rather than the declarative assertions of fact which lead people to think you actually know what you're talking about until someone comes along and proves you wrong. This might help ameliorate the notoriety of your false Ask MetaFilter answers and perhaps people won't be so quick to point out how wrong you areif you state up front that you aren't certain about your answer.

Best regards,

Matthew
posted by fandango_matt at 9:37 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm going to call you out if you don't stop doing that. Nobody wants to see your memails, sent or received.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 9:40 PM on January 10, 2008


All this has been mildly entertaining until about 5 minutes ago. Now it's just gross.
posted by YamwotIam at 9:43 PM on January 10, 2008


::tooting elephant::
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:43 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have a history of disagreeing with old Steve, mostly along the line of politics (not like that is a rare thing around here) and if I was pressed, I'd say I notice that he tends to spout off a bit more than others in ask metafilter, but he's also in there slogging away, answering questions. I could probably find fault with most or much of what he says, but I also believe that if you ask a question on askme, as much as you deserve the best possible answer, you need to accept the risk that the responses could be wrong. Personally I waver between being amused by Steve's iron-bound conservative answers and his occasionally very informed and always (seemingly) earnest responses, but I read and query ask with a huge grain of salt.

I know this much, if someone sends you mail, as opposed to commenting in public about what you say, you are showing very poor form to publicize their communication to you without permission. That's an issue of manners though, and very subjective.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:44 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh boy am I waiting for SCDB to turn up here!
posted by Jimbob at 9:44 PM on January 10, 2008


I'm going to call you out if you don't stop doing that.

We may be seeing here the beginnings of a string of MeTa-begetting-MeTas that would be LEGEN... wait for it... DARY!!!
posted by wendell at 9:46 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


We may be seeing here the beginnings of a string of MeTa-begetting-MeTas that would be LEGEN... wait for it... DARY!!!

I suppose my head would be next on the chopping block, and I've never been called out. I suppose you could say I'm a Metafilter virgin. A fresh-face, doe-like Metafilter virgin. Please don't be too rough.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 9:53 PM on January 10, 2008


We may be seeing here the beginnings of a string of MeTa-begetting-MeTas that would be LEGEN... wait for it... DARY!!!

[NOT LACTOSE-INTOLERANTIST]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, IMHO, the moderators here are over-eager to delete interactions that appear to be motivated by aggression, even though those interactions may have intellectual value. Many things can be learned by reading arguments. Obviously an argument over whether A is a prick, or it is B who is the prick, or both A and B are both pricks, has no little intellectual value. But moral arguments can be both emotionally provoking and intellectually enlightening. People feel strongly about things. This can, and should, motivate them to explain those things, and hopefully reconsider their own positions. I certainly have reconsidered, or at least thought through in greater detail, positions of mine because of remarks that others have made that I have found annoying at the time, because they were phrased in an insulting or derisive way. Annoyance is a great motivator to do that. As such I'd rather have the annoyance and intellectual stimulation, than neither.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:54 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can't we go back to arguing over pointless grammar issues?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:57 PM on January 10, 2008


(Of course, I'd rather not have just annoyance, either. We've had "just annoyances" in the past. One in particular: "G-d grant he lie still", as the saying goes. I suspect some of the moderators' intolerance for unpleasantry these days is an immune response to the past infection - him.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2008


For various reasons I don't answer a lot of AskMe questions and I ask even fewer. But I like to think that if a significant percentage of answers that I do give and am sure are right are called out and proved wrong that eventually I will have the self-awareness to question my assumptions of what is right and how I come to be sure of so many things about which I'm actually mistaken, and then - rather than continue the behavior that repeatedly led me to assert fallacy as fact - learn a new way to learn, and a new way to engage in conversation. I like to think that. But I'm probably wrong.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


MetaMeta.

Sidebar: fandango_matt, I like you. A lot. So I'm kind of pissed that I'm having to call you out like this. Come on.
posted by scrump at 9:59 PM on January 10, 2008


No, scrump, this thread was already a MetaMeta. You just completed a triple play.

We're all out!
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 10:02 PM on January 10, 2008


DO I GET A PRIZE owait
posted by scrump at 10:04 PM on January 10, 2008


Interesting... :
Languagehat, what you did was to show up and say, "SHADDUP all you people, you don't know what you're talking about and shouldn't be posting."

If you have an answer, post it. But please leave your high horse at the door.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:26 AM on January 10 [+] [!]
posted by misterbrandt at 10:05 PM on January 10, 2008


Congratulations, fandango_matt, you've managed to out-dick Steven C. Den Beste!
posted by dersins at 10:05 PM on January 10, 2008


But how does that out-dick smell?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:07 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


So I'm kind of pissed that I'm having to call you out like this.

Why did you "hav[e] to" post another MeTa? He's already getting chewed out in this thread.
posted by brain_drain at 10:09 PM on January 10, 2008


This thread has jumped the LiveJournal shark.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:10 PM on January 10, 2008


Oh wait, is that why we are already MetaMeta? Fuck. I am reading through my RSS feeds backwards tonight. Fuck.
posted by misterbrandt at 10:10 PM on January 10, 2008


Why did you "hav[e] to" post another MeTa? He's already getting chewed out in this thread.

This thread is for chewing SCDB out. Anyone chewing fandango_matt out in this thread is in violation.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 10:11 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The problem with SCBD is not that he post wrong answers, but that he posts answers that he knows are wrong. It is left to other people to either clean up his crap and engage him in debate or leave the answers alone which will also influence the questioner.

SCDB has 3434 answers. Since I've never seen an answer from him that has been correct, let's be extremely generous and say 25% of these are wrong. That's nearly 1000 wrong answers. This is damaging to the AskMe community.

This is not the type of community I want to be a part of. I'm sick of looking at every thread and wondering whether SCDB will ruin it. I do not think he should be allowed to post in Ask Metafilter.
posted by null terminated at 10:35 PM on January 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


MetaTalk is very biblical tonight... stupidsexyFlanders' thread begat fandango-matt's thread, which then begat scrump's thread...
posted by amyms at 10:40 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


But how does that out-dick smell?

Like metatalk, of course.
posted by dersins at 10:45 PM on January 10, 2008


MetaTalk: I love the smell of out-dick in the morning
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:46 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


It smells like...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:47 PM on January 10, 2008


Insipid questions bother me more - and are more of a detriment to the site as a useful resource - than poor responses, which can be refuted.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:47 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


It smells like...

...dick-tory?
posted by dersins at 11:04 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I tend to automatically disregard Stephen's AskMe answers as well. Which presents a 2 fold difficulty... what if a particular answer he gives is really the best answer... and those AskMe-ers who don't keep up on the Meta discussions may never really know his pattern and assign equal weight to the answers.
posted by edgeways at 11:09 PM on January 10, 2008


DING DING DING DING!!!

(The judges inform me that we would also have accepted "schween spirit.")
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:09 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Steven den Beste is just trying to live up to his name.
posted by jouke at 11:10 PM on January 10, 2008


Damnit! Quit getting in edgeways!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:10 PM on January 10, 2008


(The judges inform me that we would also have accepted "schween spirit.")

Long --> length, wrong --> wrength, schlong --> schlength (quoth King Kength).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:12 PM on January 10, 2008


Hmm... I don't have too much to say, other then that SCDB's habit of being wrong about everything is really damn annoying. I don't even get how you can be so wrong so often. It's bizarre.
posted by delmoi at 11:15 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


stav, when did you last visit Hength Kenght?
posted by wendell at 11:21 PM on January 10, 2008


Is there where the dicks are all out? *looks around*

goddammit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:22 PM on January 10, 2008


Just let the admins change his account name to Steven den Slechtste.
Then people will be warned!
posted by jouke at 11:22 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes AskMe reminds me of this passage from Herodotus about the ancient Babylonians:
The following custom seems to me the wisest of their institutions next to the one lately praised. They have no physicians, but when a man is ill, they lay him in the public square, and the passers-by come up to him, and if they have ever had his disease themselves or have known any one who has suffered from it, they give him advice, recommending him to do whatever they found good in their own case, or in the case known to them; and no one is allowed to pass the sick man in silence without asking him what his ailment is.
posted by nasreddin at 11:24 PM on January 10, 2008 [36 favorites]


I have a bad feeling about this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:25 PM on January 10, 2008


That's a amazingly apt quote Nasreddin.
posted by jouke at 11:26 PM on January 10, 2008


I bet Heroductus didn't say anything about completely and blissfully ignoring a community and continuing to engage in behavior that will only further undermine his position. I think Livy was the only one who touched that.
posted by geoff. at 11:32 PM on January 10, 2008


Best regards,

Matthew


That is one of the most deeply insincere sentiments I've seen expressed on here in a while, fandango_matt.
posted by dersins at 11:32 PM on January 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


It's clear that the problem is not enough questions about anime. He'd nail those like nothing.
posted by puke & cry at 11:34 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Unless the next post from fandango_matt is the one where he demonstrates he had SCDB's permission several hours ago, it seems like all of fandango matt's comments with his emails should be removed. Leave place markers if they're needed to keep the thread making sense, but why leave the emails up?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:35 PM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I never yet feared those men who set a place apart in the middle of their cities where they gather to cheat one another and swear oaths which they break.

Herodotus
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:36 PM on January 10, 2008


I'd say this thread went waaaay south, but, actually, the south has a lot of good to be said for it. This thread, not so much.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:36 PM on January 10, 2008


And yeah, the dumbass of the day award goes to fandango_matt. You had everyone on your side here until you decided to republish private messages from den beste. Now you look like the bad guy. Bravo.
posted by puke & cry at 11:38 PM on January 10, 2008


Can't you guys just kiss and make up and create some gifs of anime characters having sex with chickens?
posted by brain_drain at 11:42 PM on January 10, 2008


To : Everyone
Date : Jan 11, 2008 1:40 AM
Subject : Duuuuuude
Message : This is so freaking awkward, right? I mean, it's not just me, is it?
Yep. Awkward.

Cringingly - but with hugs and kisses and wishes of a great day,
Alvy&
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:45 PM on January 10, 2008


Not having actually payed attention to SCDB (like banner-ads, I just don't notice anymore) but curious based upon delmoi's above comment:

Is there sufficient signal to simply apply not(SCDB), or is he merely frustratingly random: \bra SCDB | correct | SCDB \ket ~=.5?

(should this be a MeMail to delmoi?)

{and why doesn't an ampersand + lt/gt give me the dirac notation joy I so desperately crave in my preview?}

[and now that it's taken me 15 minutes to compose this, after preview formatting confusion, was it really worth posting to begin with? c.f. 1001 motivations for 'always the lurker and never the lurkee' lamentations]
posted by johnjoe at 11:47 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, I've found that I've totally forgotten if this thread had an original point and am now just waiting to see how much of a dick fandango_matt is going to brand himself.

He's off to a good start with the "posting email" thing, but unless he cranks it up a notch he's just going to be known as a very small dick.
posted by tkolar at 11:47 PM on January 10, 2008


why doesn't an ampersand + lt/gt give me the dirac notation joy I so desperately crave

*Cackles evilly*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:50 PM on January 10, 2008


*Cackles evilly Alvily*
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:52 PM on January 10, 2008


An 80s Ohrwurm for your enjoyment. Here's the start of the lyrics to help you sing along while you take your beer from the tray.

Ich ziehe durch die Straßen bis nach Mitternacht,
ich hab' das früher auch gern gemacht,
dich brauch ich dafür nicht.
Ich sitz am Tresen trinke noch n' Bier,
früher warn wir oft gemeinsam hier,
das macht mir,macht mir nichts.
Gegenüber sitzt n' Typ wien Bär,
ich stell mir vor: "Wenn das dein neuer wär",
das juckt mich überhaupt nicht.
Aufeinmal packts mich,ich geh auf ihn zu und mach ihn an: "Lass meine Frau in Ruh",
er fragt nur: Hast dun Stich?"
Und ich denke schonwieder nur an dich...

Verdammt ich lieb' dich,ich lieb dich nicht.
Verdammt ich brauch dich,ich brauch dich nicht.
Verdammt ich will dich,ich will dich nicht,
ich will dich nicht verliern.

posted by jouke at 12:15 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Unless the next post from fandango_matt is the one where he demonstrates he had SCDB's permission several hours ago, it seems like all of fandango matt's comments with his emails should be removed. Leave place markers if they're needed to keep the thread making sense, but why leave the emails up?

Unless your next post is less pompous and melodramatic, it seems like all of your comments on Metafilter should be removed. There's a rule about that. It's right next to the one that prohibits posting MefiMail messages in the grey.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:19 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, there is actually negative value to answering a question where you don't know the answer, as if this needs to be pointed out. There is a tab labeled "unanswered" which is there, presumably, on the off chance that you can peek in there to help questioners whose hard-to-answer questions got swept off the front page.

By answering those questions with a bullshit answer, you've taken that resource away from the questioner.

We're not getting five cents per answer and we don't promise to answer all questions.
posted by maxwelton at 12:29 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Here's how it works. If you have a question about language, history of language, or linguistic antiquities in general, you turn to languagehat. He's the Indiana Jones of etymology. I once learned on his blog that the work 'shark' comes from a mayan word "xoc". That has to be the coolest string of letters I've ever seen. And it was just some random Thursday. Who the hell opens up a Thursday with 'xoc'? Languagehat, that's who. Languagehat is a guy who knows his linear A from his linear B, if you know what I mean. Because I don't.

But if you have a question about, oh I don't know, maybe orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. You need your orthogonal frequencies divided and thenyou need those motherfuckers multiplexed poste haste near the Nyquist rate. Well, in that case, SCDB is your man. Maybe you simply want to know in general terms how in the hell one can send and receive 1's and 0's over the goddamn ether without accidentally picking up the stray binary digits blasting out of the all-too-close Avril Lavinge wannabe's blinged out RAZR. SCDB has got that shit on lock.

So he posts a wrong answer every once in a while. Big deal. Every single answer to every RelationshipFilter post has been wrong, but you don't hear me complaining. I mean, how hard is it for people to realize the answer to those boy-meets-girl-meets-boy questions is always "You don't deserve love. Only despair."
posted by Pastabagel at 12:32 AM on January 11, 2008 [29 favorites]


It seems that my special purpose in AskMefi is to tell cat stories. Lemme always be that person...or I shall bore my cat with even more talk, spiral downward to cat hoarding, and lob felines at people who even think about stepping on the lawn.
posted by bonobo at 1:09 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's really hard for me to believe that SCDB has no way of telling which of his answers are more likely to be accurate than others. At the very least, he should be able to understand his own knowledge the way Pastabagel does.
posted by grouse at 1:19 AM on January 11, 2008


Fandango. This is a fucking website. At the end of the day its entertainment, its not life or death. Stephen comes up with decent, intelligent answers. They might not be 100% right, its up to the Asker to make the decision. This shit isn't life or death. This is AskMetafilter. Its right up there with watching bowling on sunday. Welcome to nowhere, champ. If you want integrity, go be Kafka's hunger artist.
posted by cascando at 1:53 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


MeTa.
posted by flabdablet at 3:02 AM on January 11, 2008


Bollocks.
posted by flabdablet's sock puppet at 3:04 AM on January 11, 2008


Self linker!
posted by flabdablet at 3:07 AM on January 11, 2008


Stephen comes up with decent, intelligent answers.

I thought the point of this thread was that he doesn't come up with decent, intelligent answers. That he sometimes just googles. And that on those occasions, he doesn't tell us, "I know I'm right because google said so."

I don't know if that's what's happening, but if it is, then that's not cool. AskMe needs to be more than just an elaborate proxy for google.
posted by robcorr at 4:05 AM on January 11, 2008


I don't have any problem with educated guesses in AskMe, but they need to be identifiable as such. Having said that, I like having SCDB around, and have never really understood all the animosity towards him, especially given the condescension and bad-temperedness that some other people seem to get away with.
posted by teleskiving at 4:24 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: stavros said it best.

Metafilter: more than just an elaborate proxy for google.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


And my humble vote for threadwinner? Why, flabdablet, of course, with those 3 deft links above. Flabdablet brings home the thread!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:44 AM on January 11, 2008


You know what drives me nuts? When reporters say that "the smell in here is unbearable." No it's not, you're bearing it ain'tcha?
posted by Skorgu at 4:47 AM on January 11, 2008


I'm going to take SCDB's word about his motivations and approach, which I don't think fandango_matt quite gets.

When SCDB says that it's ok to be wrong, he's not saying it's ok to knowingly give a wrong answer. He's saying it's ok to give an answer you believe is correct, and then for it to turn out that it's not.

Other people are saying that you shouldn't give an answer you believe is correct, but an answer you know is correct. These people are misunderstanding the phrase "believe to be correct". "Believing" something is correct is the same as "knowing" something is correct. What they're arguing against is answering something you believe is probably correct. When you believe something is probably correct, you're guessing. When you believe something is correct, you're "knowing" it. Your knowledge may be incorrect.

So, given the explanation SCDB gave to fandango_matt in the mefimail, SCDB is not defending guessing or throwing out possibilities (which is what I thought he was saying in the other thread). He's saying that he gives answers that he believes to be correct, and that sometimes turn out otherwise.

If it makes the difference clear:

I can tell you that my dad's name is Tom. I know it is. I'm not guessing. But, who knows, despite all the baby pictures and family resemblance, I might actually be secretly adopted. If someone asked me my dad's name, I'd say "Tom", because I believe I'm correct ("I know it!"), but I could be wrong. SCDB is saying "If you believe your dad's name is Tom, that is, you know your dad's name is Tom, and someone asks you your dad's name, and you answer 'Tom', and then it turns out that you're actually adopted, you didn't do anything wrong. You answered what you honestly believed to be correct."

BUT!!!!

Where this stops being a defense of SCDB is: this line of reasoning is true. But if you are wrong over and over and over and over and over again, you need to realize that you're not very good at judging when you are correct or not, and thus, even if you believe you are correct, you should not answer, because statistically, you're probably wrong, despite how confident you feel about it.

There's nothing wrong with answering questions based on believing wholeheartedly that you know their answers. There is something wrong with answering questions based on believing wholeheartedly that you know their answers but you also know that your wholehearted beliefs are frequently wrong.

So the reasons SCDB does what he does are good and sound, in my opinion, but that doesn't mean that SCDB should continue to do it.
posted by Bugbread at 4:51 AM on January 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


"'Here's one example. I am certain there are many others.'

To be fair, he retracts himself three comments down."


To be fair, that wouldn't be possible were his prostate still intact.

I dunno, this sounds like a lover's quarrel to me, what with the broadcasting of private messages and all. I advocate timeouts for the authors of oh, say the first 125 comments in this thread.
posted by Eideteker at 5:00 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dear Bugbread,

There's something Tom and I have been meaning to tell you...
posted by headspace at 5:41 AM on January 11, 2008


Simple solution:

[mark as best answer][mark as den beste answer]
posted by davey_darling at 5:42 AM on January 11, 2008 [11 favorites]


Guesses do nothing to help, they're just noise, and they do not help people find answers.

Wrong, in effect. People like to feel superior to others - Exhibit A: you posting this thread - and proving some numbskull wrong in great detail is often just the extra motivation the knowledgeable answerer needs to spend his or her time on some stranger's technical question. This is the general pattern I've noticed on askme:

1) Someone posts specific question to which there is only one correct answer or solution
2) Someone jumps in quickly with well-meaning but obviously wrong information
3) Someone else knows previous answer was wrong but doesn't know the right answer so posts, "Uh, I don't think that's what the asker is asking" then restates the question, often in more intelligible form than the original
4) Knowledgeable answerer comes in to save the day

and since we have no way of knowing which of his answers are just guesses, we cannot trust or use any of his answers in Ask MetaFilter. So I ignore all his answers, because I can't trust them, so I consider his answers to be just noise in the thread, and I suspect I am not alone.

You can't "trust" anyone's answers on askme. Someone with the right answer almost always shows their work and if you can't distinguish right answers from wrong answers then an anonymous online website is not the place to go with your problem. There are expectations of intelligence on both sides of the exchange, which is why any attempt to save people from bad information strikes some as presumptuous (see the meta about languagehat yesterday). We're most of us smart, free-thinking adults and can take care of ourselves.
posted by otio at 5:53 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't particularly like SCDB, nor do I think his Ask Metafilter contributions are on the whole helpful, but what fandango_matt did should earn him a time-out. What an asshole move.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there sufficient signal to simply apply not(SCDB), or is he merely frustratingly random: \bra SCDB | correct | SCDB \ket ~=.5?

Well, I think you would need to take a random sample of SCDB's answers, and see how accurate they are overall. My guess is that he is more correct about some topics then he is about others.

(So the answer is... I don't know :)
posted by delmoi at 6:22 AM on January 11, 2008



{and why doesn't an ampersand + lt/gt give me the dirac notation joy I so desperately crave in my preview?}


Well, you need to type < and >. Like this <, >. You were probably missing a semicolon.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on January 11, 2008


Yeah, in case my comment in here, the chorus of other people saying likewise, and the followup metatalk post from scrump weren't sufficiently clear:

DO NOT PASTE MEFIMAIL INTO THE CLEAR WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S PERMISSION.

It's private correspondence. This is not cool. It's especially not cool to keep doing it after being told not to.

You're a smart guy, fandango_matt, and I like you a lot, but I don't know what the hell you were thinking here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:43 AM on January 11, 2008


I must have been blind not to have seen your earlier post, cortex. Sorry I missed that.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2008


Yeah, in case my comment in here, the chorus of other people saying likewise, and the followup metatalk post from scrump weren't sufficiently clear:

DO NOT PASTE MEFIMAIL INTO THE CLEAR WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S PERMISSION.


I'm afraid you lost me. What exactly is "the clear" and how would one go about pasting something into it? And who is this "the author" you speak of?
posted by burnmp3s at 6:55 AM on January 11, 2008


But if you are wrong over and over and over and over and over again, you need to realize that you're not very good at judging when you are correct or not, and thus, even if you believe you are correct, you should not answer, because statistically, you're probably wrong, despite how confident you feel about it.

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments
(PDF)
posted by scalefree at 7:15 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Unless your next post is less pompous and melodramatic, it seems like all of your comments on Metafilter should be removed. There's a rule about that. It's right next to the one that prohibits posting MefiMail messages in the grey.

Wow. Apparently that post came off totally wrong. I just don't understand why, given that cortex is reading the thread, and believes that posting private mail in a thread is wrong, he's not removed it from the thread. It wasn't meant to be pompous or melodramatic (err, but I suppose few things ever are, deliberately, I mean).
posted by jacquilynne at 7:21 AM on January 11, 2008


So why is posting private correspondence publicly wrong?
posted by ninebelow at 7:23 AM on January 11, 2008


So, kids, we've got three lessons we've learned here:

(1) SCDB, like lots of engineers, is sort of a curmudeony stick-in-the-mud, and, while he knows a huge amount of things, tends to act like he knows slightly more. And, if we've ever met such people, we know it's pretty easy to put up with. We just keep it in mind.

(2) fandango_matt is a colossally tremendous prick who pulled at least two asshole moves at once: he posted a metatalk thread and kept commenting in it without apparently reading any of the comments, appearing to feel as though it was necessary to drag the object of his callout into the room before engaging in the discussion and explaining why the fuck he was doing what he was doing; and he continually posted private emails in what it seems was an active attempt to drag the person he called out into the discussion. Also, he seems to be a little dumb, because the emails he posted actually justify the guy he called out pretty well.

(3) Be fucking careful who you call out and how you do it. This is the second time in a row that a callout of one person has turned into a callout of somebody else.
posted by koeselitz at 7:29 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is that some people are trying to win at AskMefi, either through getting favorite-ed, getting marked as best answer, or by sheer volume of comments. It's not a healthy way to measure contributions and it contributes to the whole "Hell, I'll guess without researching and maybe luck into a best answer."
posted by Alison at 7:32 AM on January 11, 2008


So why is posting private correspondence publicly wrong?

Please email me your bank account information for an explanation why.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:34 AM on January 11, 2008


ninebelow: So why is posting private correspondence publicly wrong?

Because privacy is the expectation that such correspondence carries, especially here, where it was added as a feature primarily so that conversations could be carried on in private rather than in front of the eyes of all. This is emphatically clear in this case, where Steven C. Den Beste did the right thing by trying to carry on the discussion (civilly and respectfully, I might add, and in a way that impresses me) in private, where it wouldn't waste the community's time and where it wouldn't become a circus (like this one). Posting metafilter emails that were purposefully not public is a passive-aggressive move; this is excruciatingly clear from the last one that fandango_matt posted, wherein he demands that Steven C. Den Beste come into the metatalk thread.
posted by koeselitz at 7:36 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


No, that is why you should be careful who you email and what you email them.
posted by ninebelow at 7:39 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't know what the hell has been going on here since I went to sleep but what the hell? I removed the MeMail that FM pasted in here. Sorry to those who are now confused by what all the fuss was about, but jesus.

As far as the larger topic, SCDB seems to have a habit of barely on-topic non answers in AskMe and it would be super helpful for me personally as well as probably the site as a whole if either 1. he'd stop or 2. he'd be a lot more carful/qualifying of when he was making more or less wild guesses and when he had some degree of authority on a topic. Most people are good at drawing these lines.

FM, you've got a day off here. MeMail posting is 100% not okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:40 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I, for one, have learned no such lessons, koeselitz.

cortex: (MeMail is) private correspondence. This is not cool. It's especially not cool to keep doing it after being told not to.

I respectfully either disagree or don't care. If the idea is that there is some moral imperative in assuming the good intentions (and necessary protection) of one who mails you a correspondence, then I would like to know what that is. I can't see any. If someone emails me, I own the value of it just as much as the sender. The moral should be, don't email anything you want kept private unless you have absolutely certainty that the recipient has serving your intentions as a goal. den Beste has been around long enough to know that.

If the only argument is that posting email is "uncool", then my response is, "Who cares?". Welcome to the internet. Some of the best comedy out here is from mis-sent or posted emails. Funny that, but I just don't remember the crusade to put an end to all of that frivolity ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yay, now we have someone else to pile on to.
posted by smackfu at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the idea is that there is some moral imperative in assuming the good intentions (and necessary protection) of one who mails you a correspondence, then I would like to know what that is.

Common courtesy? Common decency?

Common sense?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:47 AM on January 11, 2008


ninebelow: No, that is why you should be careful who you email and what you email them.

All communites are based on some sort of implicit trust. That includes MetaFilter. One of the things that's been a no-no for all the years I've been online is that you don't post an e-mail you have received without the sender's permission (to this rule there are a few exceptions... RIAA C&D letters, for instance). This goes doubly when you belong to the same community.
posted by Kattullus at 7:50 AM on January 11, 2008


As you should know, BP, there's nothing "common" about any of that.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:50 AM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar!: The moral should be, don't email anything you want kept private unless you have absolutely certainty that the recipient has serving your intentions as a goal. den Beste has been around long enough to know that.

Whatever. Fine. I don't mind if you don't have any scruples about this; I know other people I wouldn't send certain emails to, and you're right, that's not necessarily bad. In fact, those emails weren't embarrassing in any way; they were perfectly rational, and Steve came off pretty well.

It's still pretty easy to see what's wrong with starting a callout and thenceforth only commenting by posting somebody else's emails, right? I mean, he could have provided some context. Given that this was a pointless callout to begin with, right?
posted by koeselitz at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2008


Oh for pity's sake. We've all had good fun reading FPP at Metafilter solely based on one individual posting the 'private correspondence' of another. But somehow, we're above all this? Hardly.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2008


Just paraphrase a little the emails you want to quote. Problem solved for everyone.
posted by mediareport at 7:54 AM on January 11, 2008


See, koeselitz, this is the part you're getting wrong. MY scruples have nothing to do with it. There is no moral imperative one way or the other, save that you (and obviously others) are applying your own scruples toa situation with little or no foundation for doing so.

(And no, many here obviously don't agree with your misplaced assumption that this was a "pointless callout".)
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2008


MORE LIKE DEN WORSTE AMIRITE

[forumlates new askme: "Has SCDB ever correctly answered your question?"]
posted by waraw at 7:59 AM on January 11, 2008


One of the things that's been a no-no for all the years I've been online is that you don't post an e-mail you have received without the sender's permission (to this rule there are a few exceptions... RIAA C&D letters, for instance).

So never post an e-mail, unless the sender is bad and evil. Which has generally been the clause invoked here when someone posts a MeMail (or forces the posting of a MeMail).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:07 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I respectfully either disagree or don't care. If the idea is that there is some moral imperative in assuming the good intentions (and necessary protection) of one who mails you a correspondence, then I would like to know what that is.

There's a social imperative: the reasonable expectation of privacy. There's nothing new or challenging about the idea that respecting the privacy of personal correspondence; it's pretty much the norm, just about everywhere.

That you someone can post your private comments doesn't mean it's socially acceptable for them to do so. It's a violation of that expecatation of privacy; it's come up every once in a while before, and been pretty much roundly condemned every time. So if you don't like "not cool", use "wrong" or "fucked up" or "bizarre and antisocial and basically shitting on the community you're ostensibly part of" instead.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wulfgar! writes "If the only argument is that posting email is 'uncool', then my response is, 'Who cares?'."

I'm gonna guess "the people saying it's uncool".

The question "who cares" lobbed into a debate/argument has always baffled me. The people arguing that position care. That's why the discussion is taking place.
posted by Bugbread at 8:13 AM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


As you should know, BP, there's nothing "common" about any of that.

I think publishing someone's private correspondence publicly and without permission has always been commonly understood to violate expectations of privacy (and, yes, common courtesy, decency and sense) across most if not all cultures, on- or off-line.

You are asserting that Metafilter or "the Internet" somehow permits different expectations of privacy with respect to private communications, but it's not clear why, other than a weak defense that "it happens". I think it is reasonable to say that the onus would be on you to explain why Metafilter/Internet is an exception.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar! writes "The moral should be, don't email anything you want kept private unless you have absolutely certainty that the recipient has serving your intentions as a goal."

There are multiple, non-contradictory morals here:

Moral #1: "Don't email anything you want kept private unless you have absolutely certainty that the recipient has serving your intentions as a goal. Some people are assholes, and will post your email."
Moral #2: "Don't post other people's private email. It makes you an asshole."
posted by Bugbread at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


So never post an e-mail, unless the sender is bad and evil.

No, it's a bit more complicated than that:

1. Posting an e-mail or other private comment/correspondence is a violation of a pretty commonly-held expectation of privacy.
2. Sometimes, private corrspondence contains something of perceived public importance that the sender, when asked, won't give the receiver permission to reveal publicly.
3. If you're going to violate (1) because of (2), it had really better be worth it. It'll still be a violation of the expectation of privacy, and will still undermine the social contract that that represents.

I don't get anything like the idea that f_m and SCDB's correspondence was something that needed revealing. It was a mild sidebar to the conversation, and there was nothing in the contents that was so important for us to see that it justified the bullshit move of posting it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:17 AM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Wulfgar! wrote
There is no moral imperative one way or the other, save that you (and obviously others) are applying your own scruples to a situation with little or no foundation for doing so.

Ah, I see. The community is not establishing its "morals", it's establishing its "scruples".

There are no "moral imperatives" at all without a community. When enough members of a community are squicked out about something, not doing it becomes the standard of behavior. Violating those standards becomes .... wait for it... immoral.


I am interested in your apparent belief in the existence of objective "moral imperatives" that aren't based on the community, though. Do tell.
posted by tkolar at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2008


I think the problem is that some people are trying to win at AskMefi, either through getting favorite-ed, getting marked as best answer, or by sheer volume of comments. It's not a healthy way to measure contributions and it contributes to the whole "Hell, I'll guess without researching and maybe luck into a best answer."

Hmm, I sort of don't agree with this. "Sheer volume of comments" is a shit way to play AskMe -- it reeks of "I just lurve to hear myself talk, don't you?" I also believe that "I think I'm right when I post it and therefore I have no further obligation to the community to improve that metric. I thinks it, I answers it!" is a totally shit way to answer questions.

But AskMe is where I'm most active here, and frankly, I do strive to get marked as Best Answer. I look at a question and the answers already posted, and I think, "Do I need to post just for the sake of posting? Or do I really have something unique and helpful to contribute? Is what I want to say something that is actually helpful to the Asker?"
[ ] Y [ ] N
"Or is it to hear myself talk or to brag about my awesomeness or to castigate the Asker because I don't like his actions or to belittle another poster?"
[ ] Y [ ] N

[If Y+N, proceed to post. If N+Y, close window, exit website]

To me, Best Answer is a totally subjective metric ("I asked a question, and of the answers I received, here were the ones I felt to be most helpful"), and yet it's also really the reason that AskMe exists, to my thinking. They've got questions, we've got answers™I can't remember who.

Without feedback from the Asker, AskMe would be lousy with "I posted first! Here's what I cut from Google" and "IANAD, I don't really have any experience at all with this but you might try thalidomide, my mom said it's great for headaches".

So, using Best Answer for stroke value is bad (one reason I'm glad that Best Answers don't aggregate somewhere like favorites)... but using Best Answer as a way to keep an eye on the value of one's own contributions seems fine to me. (I can allow, though, that maybe the two are the same and I'm just trying to justify my participation.)
posted by pineapple at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2008


I think ThePinkSuperhero summed up the great weight of your "social" imperative quite nicely.

Put more politely, obviously there is something extremely challenging about the idea of respecting privacy in electronic media. What is normal isn't that we all do it. What's normal is that we all agree to do it, unless we think we have reason not to. Given that weak projection of mandate, I think jessamyn's temp-ban of FM was over the top.
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:21 AM on January 11, 2008


As you should know, BP, there's nothing "common" about any of that.

Jesus fucking christ on toast.

Of course common sense, commone decency, and common fucking courtesy are going to be increasingly uncommon if we all act like this.

...obviously there is something extremely challenging about the idea of respecting privacy in electronic media.

Obviously, there isn't or there wouldn't be so many people right here right now saying that repsecting someone's privacy by not posting their emails without permission is not cool.

It's simple. Don't be an asshole. Just because someone is an asshole to you does not require you to be an asshole back.
posted by rtha at 8:25 AM on January 11, 2008


Put more politely, obviously there is something extremely challenging about the idea of respecting privacy in electronic media.

What's the challenge?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2008


"What exactly is "the clear" and how would one go about pasting something into it?"

It goes with the cream, and makes our postings SUPER POWERFUL. Before the cream and the clear, I had trouble posting even five MeTa comments a day, and they'd hardly get any favorites. Now, with the cream and the clear (mostly flaxseed oil, I hear), even comments like "Huh huh, you said 'butt'" get hundreds of favorites! Enough to make it to the MeFi Hall of Fame in upstate Vermont.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't remember who

Radio Shack. Just remember the alternate version: "You've got questions, we've got batteries."

posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2008


rtha, for the record, I don't post private emails. But then I've never been solicited to perform plagiarism through email, or requested to repay half the cost of a dinner date, or received emails from a rejected potential date telling me how awesome the person I rejected is, or any of the other circumstances where posting private email is the rage and celebration among this community that reviles the posting of email.

Consistency, BP. That's the challenge.
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:39 AM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar!: See, koeselitz, this is the part you're getting wrong. MY scruples have nothing to do with it. There is no moral imperative one way or the other, save that you (and obviously others) are applying your own scruples to a situation with little or no foundation for doing so.

Fine. If you'd like me to elucidate this-- and you seem to be begging me to-- I will.

In the absence of Divine Law, which possibility I do not discount, the only basis for a rational morality, a natural right, is common good. There is a regard for the common good which only values it insofar as the common good benefits the individual who has that regard; this, however, is not pure morality, but nobility. Pure natural right is based solely on the common good, and, in a constituent sense, the good of others equally to the good of oneself.

The assumption that one ought to keep the contents of a received email private is roundly justifiable, even in this case, where Steven C. Den Beste's words were clearly not incriminating to him when made public. In an email that fandango_matt sent to Steve and then posted himself above, fandango_matt tells Steven C. Den Beste that this ought to be a public conversation. This makes the reason that fandango_matt posted these emails pretty clear: he wanted to force Steven C. Den Beste to engage in a public discussion. Posting these emails would only force that outcome if those emails contained incriminating information or were incriminating in their very existence. I think fandango_matt believed they were; I think he felt it was incriminating to Steve that he was trying to make this conversation private. Given that Steve was clearly willing to engage in private discussion on the matter, and even public discussion in the still-open thread on this issue from yesterday, it isn't true that a public discussion was the only way to convince Steve to 'do what's right for the community,' even assuming that his method of answering is a serious hurt to ask metafilter. In short, the only intention behind posting those emails was to publically incriminate Steven C. Den Beste. Such an intention is clearly not concordant with the common good.

Generalizing the case: it's also pretty clear that it's impossible to know whether something someone sent you in an email is incriminating or embarrassing to them. People find all manner of things embarrassing, and sometimes they don't want those embarrassing things spread. Your argument seems to be that those people should have known better before sending those things in emails. But natural right is based on common good, and the importance of the good of an individual isn't proportional to their savviness. Your argument is not a rational argument about moral imperatives, because it can be generalized to annihilate all moral imperatives: "shouldn't the old lady whose identity I stole to the tune of millions of dollars have known better? After all, this sort of thing happens all the time, and she should have known better." It's a good moral imperative to indulge the expectation that others have when they implicitly trust us unless some much greater good is at stake. None was here.

As St. Thomas Aquinas points out in his commentary on Boethius, faith is necessary for the just functioning of society.

In fact, if that implicit trust is simply irrational, as you claim, then have a function for email on metafilter is silly. Everything can be posted publicly for all to see, and nothing sensitive can be trusted to metafilter mail. If your argument is correct, then it's a useless feature that should be abandoned.

Wulfgar!: (And no, many here obviously don't agree with your misplaced assumption that this was a "pointless callout".)

There is a still-open thread where this is being discussed. If I were going to define 'pointless callout,' that would be one of the subordinate meanings I'd list.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on January 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wulfgar! writes "I don't post private emails. But then I've never been solicited to perform plagiarism through email, or requested to repay half the cost of a dinner date, or received emails from a rejected potential date telling me how awesome the person I rejected is, or any of the other circumstances where posting private email is the rage and celebration among this community that reviles the posting of email."

Fair point. "Don't post private emails" should probably be amended to "don't post private non-asshole emails".
posted by Bugbread at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2008


Radio Shack. Just remember the alternate version: "You've got questions, we've got batteries."

Lewis Black

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:45 AM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar! wrote...
Consistency, BP. That's the challenge.

Actually, it's a small hobgoblin and completely ignorable.
posted by tkolar at 8:46 AM on January 11, 2008


Not to someone getting temp-banned it isn't.
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2008


or any of the other circumstances where posting private email is the rage and celebration among this community that reviles the posting of email.

And yet, even in discussions of instances where the need-to-know aspect of the revealed correspondence seems to outweigh the expectation of privacy, you'll find people talking about the violation of that privacy, in scale with the degree of both the revealed offense and the violation of privacy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar!: Consistency, BP. That's the challenge.

It is challenging to consistently adhere to moral principles. It is not therefore irrational.
posted by koeselitz at 8:50 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


he'd be a lot more carful/qualifying of...

Oh, jessamyn, thanks for the chuckle. "Carful," indeed.

I love typos, and I love this typo above all others.
posted by breezeway at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


But then I've never been solicited to perform plagiarism through email, or requested to repay half the cost of a dinner date, or received emails from a rejected potential date telling me how awesome the person I rejected is, or any of the other circumstances where posting private email is the rage and celebration among this community that reviles the posting of email.

I apologize, but I do not know what your examples refer to, historically. Nonetheless, even if they refer to previous examples of hypocrisy on Metafilter, I don't see that hypocrisy justifies what happened here.

"Whistleblowing" is a one good reason for violating privacy, and perhaps some or all of your examples are representative of this, but what fandango_matt did was not "whistleblowing" by any stretch of imagination. So that crosses that off the list.

In the absence of any spoken, explicit connection between your examples and what took place here, you seem to be arguing that either:

1. Someone solicited plagiarism, didn't go dutch, etc. through email, and so it is okay that fandango_matt posted SCDB's emails.

2. SCDB solicited plagiarism, didn't go dutch, etc. (?) through email, and so it is okay that fandango_matt posted SCDB's emails.

Your reasoning ignores the offense performed and again reverts to an "it happens, so suck it up" defense.

Lots of bad, wrong things happen in the world — in spite of all that, we, as a group, still recognize them as bad and wrong and undesirable.

In the end, there was no real challenge here, with respect to keeping the privacy of SCDB's communications. Only the willful decision on fandango_matt's part to be an asshole and violate SCDB's confidence as well as generally understood mores and expectations of privacy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:11 AM on January 11, 2008


Semi-serious question: Since SCDB's email was virtually content free, would it have been as offensive to post it as would have been simply to note in public that the email had been sent at all?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:18 AM on January 11, 2008


We're allowed to drunkenly backbite over memail in irc, still, right?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Semi-serious question: Since SCDB's email was virtually content free, would it have been as offensive to post it as would have been simply to note in public that the email had been sent at all?

Well, mentioning that you got MeMail from someone doesn't break any rules, for one. This isn't about offense, this is about community norms. I find that some in-thread references to MeMail seem like weird taunts where the mention of them stirs curiosity and thus agitation to reveal what was said. That sort of thing stinks. Mentioning "I got an email from UserX who explained what he was talking about, I hope he decides to post in this thread" is quite another.

I'll make the FAQ clearer on this subject but in short copy/pasting someone's MeMail, email, transcription of a phone call, video chat or general communication with another user that they have reasonable expectations (or explicit understanding) will be private is against the rules right up there with linking usernames/real names or copy/pasting whois information that includes private details. I'm sure people can ferret out cases where this hasn't been followed historically but in a general sense that sort of stuff is not okay here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2008


We're allowed to drunkenly backbite over memail in irc, still, right?

As long as you keep the backbiting over irc memail backbiting out of metatalk, wevs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:39 AM on January 11, 2008


Blazecock Pileon, what my examples referred to were well received posts on the Blue in which we all had a good laugh, based on nothing more than someone posting emails online from someone else. Simply put, to me it's not really a matter of hypocrisy as much as claiming standards that don't really exist.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:40 AM on January 11, 2008


Man, I never get MeMail, and my AskMe responses are always horrible and useless. I must be doing something wrong.
posted by Skot at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2008


It occurred to me last night that SCDB's theory of answering is actually testable, sort of, in part just because he has so many answers (it would help to have direct access to the database...). The question is whether there's a significant correlation between SCDB's wrong answers, and the thread having a later right answer. It's impossible, without some serious legwork, to actually have any idea of the real right/wrong answers, but best answer could approximate. The most rudimentary way of doing this would be just to set up a chi-square test where one variable is whether SCDB has a (non-best, and therefore "wrong") answer in the thread, and the other variable is whether the thread has a best answer. The null hypothesis is that these variables are independent (meaning, I suppose, that SCDB's wrong answers are just sort of line noise in the data stream of AskMe), though I wouldn't be surprised if there were actually a negative effect. There are various ways this could be refined (e.g. it doesn't test for a temporal effect, and depending on how common it is for SCDB to respond to himself, this might do something too; maybe we should just exclude all threads with SCDB "best" answers).
posted by advil at 9:51 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


FM, you've got a day off here. MeMail posting is 100% not okay.

Wow. So, just to make sure here, are we going to go comb through Meta archives and retroactively give everyone who posted private mail a one-day timeout? Because I remember it happening several times before, and I don't recall any bans being handed out. Or is this just one of those arbitrary insta-rules that the admins suddenly decide to enforce, concerning a policy that has not been outlined until after the offense has been committed?
posted by Krrrlson at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2008


In the absence of Divine Law, which possibility I do not discount, the only basis for a rational morality, a natural right, is common good.

Well... You're ignoring the possibility of morality being derivable from purely rational principles, as well as the possibility that morality is the product of evolution/adaptation/whatever. Aren't you?

posted by Ms. Saint at 9:58 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Simply put, to me it's not really a matter of hypocrisy as much as claiming standards that don't really exist.

Somebody somewhere doing something wrong does not make it okay for people here to engage in that wrong behavior. The fact that someone posted something in the blue that linked to someone's posting of someone else's emails - and that the FPP was enjoyed by some - does not, again, mean that there are therefore no standards around this and we can do whatever we want.

People out in the world are often rude to each other - they cut one another off in traffic, or in line at the grocery store, and they don't say please or thank you. By your lights, this must mean that the standards around politeness have evaporated, and we therefore don't have to adhere to them here, either.

Anyway, if you were in doubt as to Metafilter's standard on this, jessamyn's cleared that right up.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2008


Or is this just one of those arbitrary insta-rules that the admins suddenly decide to enforce, concerning a policy that has not been outlined until after the offense has been committed?

Seriously, it's come up before. It's been considered a problem before. I doubt there's always been a timeout; I also doubt that it's always involved someone starting a new thread just to cheese at someone they're on record as really, really disliking, and then posting email, and then getting told not to post email (in thread and in a brand new metatalk thread), and then doing it again anyway.

I'm pretty sure fandango_matt will be okay.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2008


I'm in the MeMail-posting-really-isn't-cool camp, but I think it's a real outlier -- far worse to me is the more common, "Well, someone in this thread, and I won't name names, sent me an MeMail saying that I'm right and you're all poopyheads and that he has proof, nanny nanny boo boo. But that's really for him to share publicly. If he wants to."

But as to this:

Or is this just one of those arbitrary insta-rules that the admins suddenly decide to enforce, concerning a policy that has not been outlined until after the offense has been committed?

...I would guess the temp ban wasn't a result of the one posting, but the repeating posting after being told in the thread by a mod to knock it off. Especially in a case where objectivity was clearly not in play.
posted by pineapple at 10:03 AM on January 11, 2008


"In the absence of Divine Law, which possibility I do not discount, the only basis for a rational morality, a natural right, is common good. There is a regard for the common good which only values it insofar as the common good benefits the individual who has that regard; this, however, is not pure morality, but nobility. Pure natural right is based solely on the common good, and, in a constituent sense, the good of others equally to the good of oneself."

And this, Koeselitz, is why I love you.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there an official policy outlined yet about sending someone over to Krrrlson's house to kick him in the nuts? Because if not, I'd like to get a freebie in first.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:12 AM on January 11, 2008


So I guess there'll be no treaty of westphalia treatment for my prizewinning 3044 word EB memail.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, and I won't mention how you called me dirty, dirty names in MeMail, making me tear up enough that I had to tell coworkers I had pink eye.

Just yesterday too!
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on January 11, 2008


Blazecock Pileon writes "I apologize, but I do not know what your examples refer to, historically."

The "solicited to perform plagiarism through email" post was this one (which is a little hard to follow because the link is dead).

I think the "requested to repay half the cost of a dinner date" is this one.

And the "received emails from a rejected potential date telling me how awesome the person I rejected is" thread is probably this one.

Krrrlson writes "So, just to make sure here, are we going to go comb through Meta archives and retroactively give everyone who posted private mail a one-day timeout? Because I remember it happening several times before, and I don't recall any bans being handed out."

This is the first time for MeMail, though, right? I can say I'm not surprised if the mods take a harder line with abuses of expected privacy that involve site tools than those that involve external tools.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2008


Seriously, it's come up before. It's been considered a problem before.

Why isn't there a clearly articulated policy posted in a permanent location, especially if it's happened before? There is one for self-linking, which I'm guessing accounts for most permabans around here.

I also doubt that it's always involved someone starting a new thread just to cheese at someone they're on record as really, really disliking...

Speaking of which, with all the numerous emails the admins have posted regarding this Hitleresque, puppy-raping reposting of MefiMail, you'd think they would be able to offer their position/instapolicy on SCDB's pollution of AskMe. Moreover, SCDB's email clearly implied that he had seen the Metatalk thread, but he was able to take advantage of the admins' silence to ignore this callout. Does "the community" frown on that at all?

...and then posting email, and then getting told not to post email (in thread and in a brand new metatalk thread), and then doing it again anyway.

Until your big blinking comment, the only official word was a one-sentence, easily missed "please do not do this" from you.


I'm pretty sure fandango_matt will be okay.

You don't know that! He might be trapped in a burning house with all communications cut except for the internet, and access to but a single IP address, which he remembers by heart: Metafilter. I find this to be pretty likely, so I think I'm safe in saying that YOU KILLED HIM!


Is there an official policy outlined yet about sending someone over to Krrrlson's house to kick him in the nuts? Because if not, I'd like to get a freebie in first.

Did you know llamas use their teeth to bite off each others' testicles?
posted by Krrrlson at 10:26 AM on January 11, 2008


Someone watched Dirty Jobs this week.
posted by smackfu at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Of coures they do Krrrlson, do you have any idea how long it takes if you just use your lips?
posted by nomisxid at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the absence of Divine Law, which possibility I do not discount, the only basis for a rational morality, a natural right, is common good.

Quibble: As Ms Saint said, there are a few other historically well-respected possible bases. (Aristotle and Kant are the first that come to mind.)

Overall, with bugbread and koeselitz's longish posts, some good philosophy happening here!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2008


Is Dirty Jobs the bad apple?
posted by patricio at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


For anybody who feels like dealing with this in terms of precedent, there was this question posed—and answered by several people, saying "don't do that"—in the thread in which mefi mail was announced.

For anybody who likes history, here's a 2002 discussion of mefi and mail.

Until your big blinking comment, the only official word was a one-sentence, easily missed "please do not do this" from you.

So, until a followup comment from me, the only official word from me was me stating clearly that it wasn't okay, and me saying the exact same thing in scrumps metatalk thread on the subject? Is there a "you're not required to pay any attention when you're pursuing a vendetta" clause in the FAQ that I missed?

Seriously, dude fucked up and got a timeout. Your attempt to defend the indefensible is noble and righteous and I'm sure there will be epic lulz about it when we're all older and wiser etc, but this is pretty silly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2008


Okay klang, you want get all passive aggressive and provoke me to do this in public? Fine. I'll lay it out.

I called klangklangston an asshole in memail - in the subject line, at that! High five! So what does he do about it? He gives me his number. He's diseased in more than the conjunctiva, I tell you.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2008


bugbread, I worship your Googlefu.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2008


To: Ambrosia Voyeur
From: klangklangston
Subject: Re: You're an asshole.
Date: [redacted]

I... I don't know why you would send me this, but I feel compelled to offer you my phone number to make it up to you.

It's [phone # redacted]

>To: klangklangston
>From: Ambrosia Voyeur
>Subject: You're an asshole.
>Date: [redacted]
posted by shmegegge at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2008


I'm pretty sure that MeMail didn't tell der klanger anything he didn't already know.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2008


So, what I take from this is
(1) It's not OK to post private correspondence.
(2) It IS OK to post many, many AskMe answers even if you have no idea what you are talking about.

I agree with half of that.
posted by absalom at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Okay klang, you want get all passive aggressive and provoke me to do this in public? Fine. I'll lay it out.

I called klangklangston an asshole in memail - in the subject line, at that! High five! So what does he do about it? He gives me his number. He's diseased in more than the conjunctiva, I tell you."

I GAVE YOU MY NUMBER BECAUSE I WANTED TO HEAR YOUR SWEET VOICE CALL ME AN ASSHOLE, A DIRTY, DIRTY ASSHOLE OVER THE PHONE.

Now I have to tell my coworkers that I have tear-duct cancer.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


absalom: jessamyn said above that it's not okay to do (2).
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2008


Did you know llamas use their teeth to bite off each others' testicles?

No, that's fascinating! Wait, did Den Beste tell you this?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:14 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


(2:25:43 PM) [tehloki] my twelve dicks eat orphans with plum sauce
posted by waraw at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2008


(2:28:34 PM) [tehloki] I am going to get you.
posted by waraw at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


HAY! That was privileged counsel!
posted by tehloki at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2008


Can moderators read people's MeMail?
posted by delmoi at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2008


(2:25:56 PM) why no, I couldn't possibly fit any more cantelopes into your colon, waraw
posted by tehloki at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


me: In the absence of Divine Law, which possibility I do not discount, the only basis for a rational morality, a natural right, is common good.

Ms. Saint: Well... You're ignoring the possibility of morality being derivable from purely rational principles, as well as the possibility that morality is the product of evolution/adaptation/whatever. Aren't you?

LobsterMitten: Quibble: As Ms Saint said, there are a few other historically well-respected possible bases. (Aristotle and Kant are the first that come to mind.)


True, LobsterMitten. I was using shorthand. I'll explain that shorthand here.

My sense is that the different options reduce to two possibilities: a divine law, or a morality derivable from purely rational principles (which is traditionally referred to as "natural right," that is, a right with a real and knowable nature comprehensible to humans.) I want to believe that there is such a thing as natural right, and I argued above from that belief, assuming only what I think have have to assume and can't figure out yet how to get around rationally: the good.

The difficult question you raise, Ms. Saint, is "the possibility that morality is the product of evolution/adaption/whatever." It seems to me that 'morality' as we know it can't be a product of evolution; if it is indeed a product of evolution, then it isn't a way to choose how to live, it's an instinct which might often be wrong. I don't deny that there is such a thing, which I think is meant by the word "conscience." But the trouble is that an evolved impulse isn't rational. That's part of the larger problem that I can't think of any way in which rationality itself could be an evolved thing and still have any validity. In short, if conscience is an evolved thing, then it has nothing to say about how we ought to act, about how it is good to act; it only has things to say about how we do act, and how we tend to feel like acting.

It's very hard to determine a rational basis for good and evil. It may seem easy at first, but one just falls into synonyms like "benefit" and "harm." And if you try to act on the basis of the belief that morality is evolved, then you say things like, "we have evolved the sense that it is wrong to lie to other people because it often harms us when other people lie to us, so it is of mutual benefit that people feel an impulse to tell the truth to each other." It's very hard to know what "benefit" and "harm" mean in that context. If one were to pursue the notion that morality is purely an evolved impulse, then one would have to argue that "benefit" means "the continued survival of the individual organism." I have met scientists of the ilk of British rationalists like David Hume (the best-known example, though he's probably not a great one since he's not incredibly nuanced, is Richard Dawkins) who defend this position strenuously and seem to feel as though it's so intuitive as to be obviously true. I can only say that, first of all, I don't believe what they are defending is what people commonly think of as "morality;" and, second of all, this 'rational' definition of good is not so simple as it seems to them. (Nietzsche pointed out aptly in Beyond Good And Evil that even the so-called utilitarians had not really solved the difficult question of right action with their famous dictums about utility aiming at the greatest pleasure for the greatest number, since "pleasure" is not a simple but rather a very complex and shifting thing, often entirely synonymous with "good.")

I believe that the people who defend the position that morality is purely an evolved impulse do so not because they are immoral people, but because they often come from sheltered situations where morality is made a habit, and they therefore seem to think that morality is so obviously intuitive that no one need think too hard about its difficulties nor consider its validity. They elevate 'nature' so highly as to believe that it aims at a good, and that that good is concurrent with our own. (I think that this notion, like so many in our age, can finally be traced back to Spinoza.) But 'nature,' at least as a static set of principles that govern an ever-changing world, does not aim at a good, nor does evolution, properly understood, necessarily benefit or improve an individual or a species. It does not even necessarily make that species more likely to survive; fish who evolve the ability to walk and to breathe outside of water may well become extinct in a massive flood a generation later, and no characteristic is categorically good or bad.

But science is not supposed to help us with morality. Science aims at repeatable results and observable effects. It aims to determine the principles behind how the world is. Knowing how the world is cannot help us to determine how we ought to act; it can only help us determine how it is possible to act. To even speak as though there is some way we 'ought' to act is to add something to the discussion: a good at which we aim.

It's very difficult to speak, live, think, or act without reference to a good. I can't think of any other basis for action, in fact. At the same time, it's very difficult to justify reference to a good rationally.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on January 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


Can moderators read people's MeMail?

No. pb/mathowie could dig it out of the database I guess if there were some mission-critical reason, but cortex and I have absolutely no access to it except in general stats senses (# of messages sent/received sitewide).
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2008


Dear AskMe,
I belong to a large group of people who think I am not always factual. What shall I do?
Sincerely,
Lonesome
P.S. I rubbed lemon juice on my face but the bank cameras filmed me anyway.
posted by Cranberry at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, I'm perfectly fine with utilitarian accounts of the moral good, if we're just going to say where our own personal beliefs stand.. But your original claim was about the meta-ethical landscape and the viable theorist that inhabit it, not which theory you believe is the correct one. You offer some good arguments against the two possibilities LobsterMitten and I offered, but.. they are not knock-down arguments. These are painfully contentious issues we're discussing, and plenty of smart philosophers believe there is ample reason to disagree with you. So, my issue is not with whether or not you are right about the foundations of morals; my point is that we oughta show some respect to the deontologists, et al, in the audience.

But, the real point is, all of the different meta-ethical positions available agree: posting memail in MeTa is totally uncool.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I GAVE YOU MY NUMBER BECAUSE I WANTED TO HEAR YOUR SWEET VOICE CALL ME AN ASSHOLE, A DIRTY, DIRTY ASSHOLE OVER THE PHONE.

There are numbers you can call that provide that kind of service. No need for all this indirection.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2008


viable theories, not viable theorist... Although, the original creates a more interesting reading.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but I want to come back to the original premise: don't guess. I've learned a lot here today. A fair bit about SCDB. A fair bit about his answers. This is my first serious dip into the grey so I kinda feel dirty too.

I'm with matt's premise (if not methods), that wrong guesses are worse than no answer. And the topic-closing-authoritative-tone leads a lot to the weight of that guess.

Here's my basic problem: prior to 15 minutes ago, I didn't know about SCDB's batting average, nor did I really pay a lot of attention to the tone of his answers. In that, I think I'm a lot like many AskMe folks. And as such, I didn't know to take his answers with a grain of salt.

So I'd ask Mr. den Beste to refrain from random guessery. But how do I balance that with (or differentiate it from) educated guesses? Because I know I'm guilty of that.
posted by jdfan at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2008


Well, I am reputedly rather sweet and soothing, I grant.

♫ Oooh yes, you goddamn fistulated vagina poultice, yes. Mmm, ohh. You're such a shitsmeared cock slurping milkfaced ponyboy I'm gonna trepan your skull and toefuck it with horseradish - the strong stuff, baby. Aahhhh ♫
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:55 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


"My sense is that the different options reduce to two possibilities: a divine law, or a morality derivable from purely rational principles (which is traditionally referred to as "natural right," that is, a right with a real and knowable nature comprehensible to humans.) I want to believe that there is such a thing as natural right, and I argued above from that belief, assuming only what I think have have to assume and can't figure out yet how to get around rationally: the good."

That's not my understanding of "natural right" at all—If I recall correctly, "natural rights" are the atoms of Locke's philosophy, and he justifies them by saying that they come from God. Some philosophers tie them to rationality (I believe Locke did as well) by the kludge of saying that rationality comes from God, but the term "natural rights" always (at least to me) connotes the Catholic morality of inherent and irreducible by divine providence (though obviously, this carries through folks like Locke and Jefferson, who are not at all Catholic).

"And if you try to act on the basis of the belief that morality is evolved, then you say things like, "we have evolved the sense that it is wrong to lie to other people because it often harms us when other people lie to us, so it is of mutual benefit that people feel an impulse to tell the truth to each other." It's very hard to know what "benefit" and "harm" mean in that context. If one were to pursue the notion that morality is purely an evolved impulse, then one would have to argue that "benefit" means "the continued survival of the individual organism.""

This is, for me, the central hole of both Rousseau and Mill—Rousseau claims that we should prosper based on adherence to a General Will (which is circled to the good), and Mill claims that a more liberal society will encourage the greatest good as defined by individuals. At least with Mill, his post-Bentham utilitarianism recognizes competing visions of what is good, though he still makes broader claims about how society will benefit from recognizing them.

But yeah, defining "the good" (or "justice" or "harm") in any philosophical tract ultimately comes down to a subjective decision on the part of the person doing the defining. The only way to tie it to objectivity is to link it to things like death, which Hobbes did, and even then there's a large room for ideologies that don't recognize death as the worst thing possible.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


jdfan, just make it clear that they're educated guesses. "I think that blah blah blah", "My guess is...", "Maybe it's this way..." all are indicators that you're not an expert. Saying with absolute authority "This is the answer" when you're bullshitting is the problem. Verbal cues go a long way in letting people know your level of competence.
posted by doubtful_guest at 11:58 AM on January 11, 2008


LobsterMitten: If nothing happens to offenders, then it is de facto accepted, even if the Triumvirate says otherwise.
posted by absalom at 12:01 PM on January 11, 2008


I guess that should be written cues, or linguistic cues, since we're not actually speaking, but you get the drift.
posted by doubtful_guest at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2008


Ms. Saint: Hey, I'm perfectly fine with utilitarian accounts of the moral good, if we're just going to say where our own personal beliefs stand.. But your original claim was about the meta-ethical landscape and the viable theorist that inhabit it, not which theory you believe is the correct one. You offer some good arguments against the two possibilities LobsterMitten and I offered, but.. they are not knock-down arguments. These are painfully contentious issues we're discussing, and plenty of smart philosophers believe there is ample reason to disagree with you. So, my issue is not with whether or not you are right about the foundations of morals; my point is that we oughta show some respect to the deontologists, et al, in the audience.

A statement about ethics is an ethical statement. A statement about a statement about ethics is therefore still about ethics, and therefore an ethical statement. Unfortunately, there's no way to talk about ethics outside of ethics. But I have to admit that at least half of the reason that I say this is because I so loathe the misuse of the greek prefix 'meta,' which really means 'next to.' Though I don't know why I fight it any more, being here and all.

I should have been clearer and more succinct. Either there is a knowable right way of acting, or not. If there is, then it makes sense to talk about morality, justice, or ethics; otherwise, they are all misconceptions. If there is a knowable right way of acting, then that knowable right way of acting is knowable because (a) it is granted to us by God or by an assumption that happens to be correct, or (b) it is possible for humans to determine it rationally. All the available options seem to reduce to these two; if there is some murky 'good' that we assume, and then draw rational conclusions about how to attain it, then this knowable way of acting is not rationally arrived at; we only have faith that our assumption is correct.

That's all I meant. There are four options, I guess: either we know how to act rightly, or try to find out, through reason; we know how to act rightly through revelation; we know how to act rightly through a lucky guess; or we don't know how to act rightly, and don't care, because there is no way to know.
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


klang: awesome stuff. Thanks. I don't have too much time; I'm at work, and have to get something done today. One small note on something you said:

klangklangston: The only way to tie it to objectivity is to link it to things like death, which Hobbes did, and even then there's a large room for ideologies that don't recognize death as the worst thing possible.

Hobbes is full of interesting little contradictions, many of which I can't help but wonder are intentional. For example: if life is nasty, brutish, and poor, why is it bad for it also to be short?
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 PM on January 11, 2008


"Hobbes is full of interesting little contradictions, many of which I can't help but wonder are intentional. For example: if life is nasty, brutish, and poor, why is it bad for it also to be short?"

That's "life in the state of nature," and it's bad that it's short because, for Hobbes, death is the ultimate in negative outcomes of a system. If it were worse to be nasty, brutish and poor, it would be good to have it short. As it is not, it is not. But the goal of a state is first to extend the lives, then to make the lives better. Hobbes believes he demonstrates this through a rather geometric proof (obviously, some differ, both on his assumptions and conclusions).
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2008


And the fundamental problem with assessing a Hobbesian good on Metafilter is that no one, in the absence of moderation, is killed. That, and vaguely but to a lesser extent, imprisonment, are the only things that someone may resist by force under Hobbes' Leviathan. (I do like Hobbes for his negative formulations of good and freedom, however, and wish that I had the Christian gumption to make it through the final third of Leviathan again, as my first couple experiences had a lot of "Who with the what now?" to them, and my instructors just didn't have the time to go into it, as it's dense and WEEEEEEIRD.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2008


Gah, can't resist a little...

klangklangston: That's not my understanding of "natural right" at all—If I recall correctly, "natural rights" are the atoms of Locke's philosophy, and he justifies them by saying that they come from God. Some philosophers tie them to rationality (I believe Locke did as well) by the kludge of saying that rationality comes from God, but the term "natural rights" always (at least to me) connotes the Catholic morality of inherent and irreducible by divine providence (though obviously, this carries through folks like Locke and Jefferson, who are not at all Catholic).


As far as I understand it, 'natural right' is a conception of the late scholastics: 'natural' as opposed to 'conventional.' A natural right is one which is by nature, rather than by convention; one which is universally so, no matter what particular humans believe, and one whose basis as being so is that it is a natural principle which, yes, is often attributed to having been laid down by God, but which is knowable as a principle within the Christian scholastic framework.

Locke, on the other hand, is either a crypto-Spinozist or a somewhat silly christian; I believe he was the former. He contradicts himself constantly on these subjects. His habit seems to be to outwardly proclaim that a certain thing comes from God, and then speak as though the god it comes from is actually nature. I tend to think that he realized that the only way to make the Machiavellian project palatable to religious people and therefore to increase its currency with the mass of men was to confuse the core issues over and over again. He's almost what you could call the opposite of Thomas Aquinas: instead of trying to show how rationality was an essential part of faith, he made faith seem irrational to make way for the new world the enlightenment sought to create.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2008


jdfan, welcome to the grey and thanks for being brave, because here there be dragons... and much, much [new community-approved word for douchebaggery, which I hear is out now. "Jockstrappery" doesn't really work for me.].

So I'd ask Mr. den Beste to refrain from random guessery. But how do I balance that with (or differentiate it from) educated guesses? Because I know I'm guilty of that.

I think there are two parts to this:

I believe that when the average AskMe answerer is giving an educated guess, it's wholly acceptable -- as long as one is careful in tone or even explicit statement, to convey, "I have never been to Kosovo, nor even Eastern Europe before, but I dug around and found these three sites that have some helpful info that's not already on the Wiki or the first couple pages at Google. You do speak Albanian, right?" Or, "I'm not only not a doctor, but I also don't have any medical training whatsoever, nor personal experience with mammograms, but..." As doubtful_guest said, find some way to communicate that you are contributing an educated guess, not just typing some stuff because you have some compulsion to weigh in. It provides the asker with background information that he or she deserves in weighing the quality of your answer... rather than trying to dupe him or her into thinking you are something that you aren't.

The problem (which is where Mr. den Beste seems to be coming under fire) would be in making a statement with a distinct tone of appeal-to-authority, zero disclaimer or statement about your relevant experience or other credentials -- and forgetting to mention that, five minutes ago, before you frantically Googled, you really had no more idea about the AskMe topic than anyone else.

I don't care for the idea that there's no way to eliminate Answer-Every-AskMe Compulsive Disorder. But other than the mods saying, "that's not really cool," I don't know how it otherwise gets regulated (as absalom just pointed out, on preview). We don't have a "this answer is total bullshit" flag, but I'd love to see one.

Overall, I wouldn't mind seeing AskMe get some different ways to regulate the signal-to-noise. Thousands of people all over the world that don't ever use any other part of MetaFilter, and aren't even members, will view and read AskMe questions -- and I think it's a good thing. I think that it's nice that the collective intellect of our membership can be tapped for good. I like that we are the thinking person's alternative to "How is babby formed?"

But, I hate that the usefulness gets diluted by the crazy talk because we don't have any kind of assessment for shitty answers. Yeah, yeah, I know -- one can always call out someone else's BS in-thread... but the problem is that drive-by information seekers aren't always going to scroll through all the answers to see that. (I assume that, much like Google, people searching for something will look at the first few major answers, pick what works for them, and leave.) I consider this thread a perfect example: someone asks a medical question, there is a huge long scientific-sounding answer posted, it gets a Best Answer vote and a blessing from the OP... and then later SCDB comes back and goes, "Whoops, when I finally researched it, I botched some things and oversimplified others! Not going to explain which, but I'll just link to the Wiki!"

And, simply, if you've got a user who's got the time and energy to sit atop new questions, throwing questionable data into dozens of AskMes every week, there's no way that another MeFite will always be able to refute that; stuff will be missed. So the signal-to-noise ratio goes down in a way that dilutes Askme's value, and which can't be regulated by our current system.

Like I said earlier, though: I'm probably too close to this because I care a lot about trying to create high value in AskMe. (Not saying I succeed, but just saying I do try)
posted by pineapple at 12:41 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


For example: if life is nasty, brutish, and poor, why is it bad for it also to be short?

this is why
posted by pyramid termite at 12:41 PM on January 11, 2008


I used to think that if you sent me an email, that it was mine to do with as I pleased.

I've been disabused of that notion in subsequent years. Why? It's copyright law.

The author has the copyright over his or her email, and he or she didn't give you reproduction rights. It's illegal to post someone's private mail in public without permission, not just unethical.
posted by Malor at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2008


It's illegal to post someone's private mail in public without permission, not just unethical.

Say wha? I don't believe that's true. Is there some point of reference to back that up?
posted by cashman at 12:57 PM on January 11, 2008


I've had several discussions with mods about SCDB giving incorrect answers on legal threads, answers that were clearly dangerous if followed.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2008


cashman writes "Say wha? I don't believe that's true. Is there some point of reference to back that up?"

Let's ask Stephen!

(Sorry, couldn't resist)
posted by Bugbread at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2008


I've had several discussions with mods about SCDB giving incorrect answers on legal threads, answers that were clearly dangerous if followed.

Financially damaging and hazardous to your liberty, maybe. How can following incorrect legal advice be dangerous? Poisonous torte? Slip on a banana appeal?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon writes "Financially damaging and hazardous to your liberty, maybe. How can following incorrect legal advice be dangerous? Poisonous torte? Slip on a banana appeal?"

Off the top of my head, advising someone that being a serial killer is legal might result in the unexpected result of a death sentence...but I kinda doubt SCDB gets things that wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2008


Off the top of my head, advising someone that being a serial killer is legal might result in the unexpected result of a death sentence...but I kinda doubt SCDB gets things that wrong.

Just be patient. If the probability of various answers follow a uniform distribution, any and all possibilities are equally likely.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:32 PM on January 11, 2008


Financially damaging and hazardous to your liberty, maybe. How can following incorrect legal advice be dangerous?

Question: How drunk can I get in State X and still be able to legally drive?

Answer: According to Obscure Case Ruling No. 23792-B in CountyInAnotherState alcohol breath tests are unconstitutional, as are forced blood alcohol tests. Via constitutional voodoo, this applies to you as well. You can legally drive as drunk as you want.

*OP drives into a tree*
posted by CKmtl at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2008


Apologies, I just used the comment as an excuse to make bad puns.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on January 11, 2008


I used to think that if you sent me an email, that it was mine to do with as I pleased.

I've been disabused of that notion in subsequent years. Why? It's copyright law.

The author has the copyright over his or her email, and he or she didn't give you reproduction rights. It's illegal to post someone's private mail in public without permission, not just unethical.


Copyright law is extremely complicated, so just because something is copywrited doesn't mean that it is illegal to post on the internet. It's possible that such a post is considered fair use.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:04 PM on January 11, 2008


CKmtl writes "Question: How drunk can I get in State X and still be able to legally drive?

"Answer: According to Obscure Case Ruling No. 23792-B in
CountyInAnotherState alcohol breath tests are unconstitutional, as are forced blood alcohol tests. Via constitutional voodoo, this applies to you as well. You can legally drive as drunk as you want.

"*OP drives into a tree*"


Question: "Is it legal to skydive without a parachute?"

Answer: "Yes."

*THUD!!!*
posted by Bugbread at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2008


It's possible that such a post is considered fair use.

Totally correct. At the same time whether it's fair use or legal has nothing really to do with whether you're being a jerk by posting it which is what is mainly at issue here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:07 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


jessamyn, my only quibble is that you've just institutionalized the idea that being a 'jerk' on Mefi is a bannable offense (subject to unwritten exceptions, hidden assumptions, variable definitions and general mod mood of the day.) It's pretty obvious that fandango_matt was being a jerk. But seriously, the way I see it, so was SdB, by trying to shuck a deserved callout in the face of 'community' while still claiming the high ground. Not very 'communal' if you think about it.

Seriously, I got no problem with that, as long as we're honest about it. But one of the reasons why I hardly participate at MeWhat anymore is that I don't think we are so much honest about it. And I think we've hidden our dishonesty somewhere behind the illusion of "community".

But hell, I wear the JERK label proudly, so what do I know ...

(I'll go back to lurking now, but sincerest thanks to all who've made this a philosophical pleasure.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2008


He wasn't banned, he was given a timeout. Being a 'jerk' has always been a timeout-able offense, if only to give the 'jerk' time to get a grip.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar!: I thought the message was that when a mod says "can you please stop doing that?" and you continue to do whatever that is, it will probably not end well.

Also, to me, it's not just that he posted an email. It's the entire thread, as much as I love that MeTa threads seem to devolve evolve into philosophy discussions. FM posts a call out to Steve. Steve, of course, does not come in. Well, wait, steve does not comment or defend himself, because that's how Steve operates.

So, an email exchange begins about the same topic. Since FM did not get the satisfaction of his public flogging, he takes it upon himself to make god damn sure that Steve, or an effigy thereof, shows up and can be dismantled or burnt with no resistance. Then, a large portion of the community suggests that's out of line, and he keeps going. Sure, he says later "I didn't see that ya'll think it's wrong." (Unspoken here is that he didn't care enough about anyone elses input to bother reading his own callout, so long as he got his public skewering. If we're calling out Steve for making AskMe about his own personal satisfaction, is it any better to allow FM the same in MeTa?)

At think point, a day time out is in order, if only to preempt a flameout or pileon. (As much as I'd like to see that ASCII art come out.) It's hardly a ban.

PS: I've never thought you were a jerk, I just think you're tilting at the wrong windmill.
posted by absalom at 2:48 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


("Does not comment" because if he's not reading this, I'll eat year old mayo.)
posted by absalom at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2008


Wulfgar! writes "jessamyn, my only quibble is that you've just institutionalized the idea that being a 'jerk' on Mefi is a bannable offense"

It's been that way for a long, long, long time. Lots of folks have been temp banned or even permabanned for being a jerk.
posted by Bugbread at 2:54 PM on January 11, 2008


koeselitz - I think most of what you say above is cogent and it's nice to get a bit of metaethics in here. (I think it's handy to distinguish metaethical questions -- questions about the nature and source of ethical norms -- from plain old ethical questions -- questions about how we should act, ie about what the norms say.)

About evolution - I do think evolution can give us some insight into how our impulse to think in terms of morality arose. But that alone doesn't resolve the question of whether morality is something "real" that we're just responding to, or whether it's a secondary quality, purely a result of our psychological makeup.

When I mentioned Aristotle it was intending to bring in the idea that there may not be right and wrong acts but instead good and bad character, and as a modern corollary that we might learn about what counts as good or bad character by looking at some science. Suppose good character is what promotes human flourishing; science may have some useful info about what promotes it, or even what human flourishing is. (Just a thought, I'm not too committed to this view.)

One can also think that moral goodness is a natural property. I'm not terrifically convinced by this, but it's a live view.

Anyway... good discussion.

absalom: you say "if nothing happens to offenders then it is de facto accepted".

I don't think that's true. All we can conclude in this case is that SCDB's actions don't rise to the threshold where one of the concrete actions (eg a ban) happens. But this doesn't mean tacit approval -- for all we know, admins have emailed him saying "please add disclaimers to your answers when you're less than 100% sure", or taken other steps.

Plus, consider how this can reasonably be handled from an administrative-action point of view. A ban? A ban is really only suitable in extreme cases, and this case doesn't seem to be that extreme. SCDB is acting in good faith for the most part, not insulting people, not posting private details, not self-linking, not constantly derailing discussions onto discussions of him, etc. He's answering in a spirit of helpfulness. So instead, a smaller non-ban correction is called for. Light touch. What's the smaller correction?

I think SCDB should make an effort to put disclaimers in his answers ("my first thought is..." or the like) because the problem isn't so much the wrong answers as the tone of authority and certainty, which can easily mislead people when SCDB doesn't intend to mislead. But can the admins require this? Should they follow him around the site inserting disclaimers forcibly? No. Maybe they should contact him and say "how about adding "I'm not certain but.." to your answers?". Maybe if he gives an answer that's truly dangerous, they could remove it - as they would with anybody, I assume. And all of us can jump in and correct him when he's wrong but not dangerously wrong.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:53 PM on January 11, 2008


FM posts a call out to Steve. Steve, of course, does not come in. Well, wait, steve does not comment or defend himself, because that's how Steve operates.

he'd already discussed it in the other thread about etymology, as people had disagreed with his comments there - he did defend himself - inadequately, but ...

he wasn't obligated to discuss it in two places and i'm not sure what the point was of making a separate call-out over it
posted by pyramid termite at 3:55 PM on January 11, 2008


I think the courts would potentially look quite dimly on claiming fair use for reproducing a copyrighted work, in its entirety, on a public message system. I don't know whether or not that's been tested, but it seems a chancy legal theory. The 'partial work' idea may very well not apply, since even small chunks are presumably very large percentages of the total product.

You don't own an email, you were just given an implied license to read it. Unilaterally changing your permission for a private viewing into mass public reproduction, and calling it 'fair use', strikes me as a massive abuse of the concept.

I used to argue the other way around, that you were given the right to do anything you wanted with an email. But that clearly doesn't apply if someone sends you a PDF of a book; you don't have the right to publish that PDF further unless you're explicitly granted permission. Email may be informal, but it's still publishing, and it's still covered by the same laws.
posted by Malor at 3:57 PM on January 11, 2008


I don't mind when a user posts an "answer" to my AskMeFi question and says it's only a guess. Some of those guesses have allowed me to find answers on my own by helping me direct my search differently or rephrase/clarify my question.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2008


I don't mind when a user posts an "answer" to my AskMeFi question and says it's only a guess.

The problem is when they don't say it's only a guess.
posted by grouse at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


grouse writes "The problem is when they don't say it's only a guess."

Well, there's a difference of opinion on that. Everyone agrees that guessing without saying it's a guess is wrong. But there is disagreement about whether guessing is wrong period. If you think guessing is OK with transparency, then guessing without saying it is a problem. If you think guessing is verboten completely, then guessing without saying it is extra wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2008


Identity theft is just "fair use". (It'll be for textbooks, honest!)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2008


he'd already discussed it in the other thread about etymology, as people had disagreed with his comments there - he did defend himself - inadequately, but ...

Apologies if I've unwittingly been part of a dead-horse pileon, here. I only read the other thread to the "LH on etymology: terrible or awesome?" section, ergo didn't realize that there had already been extensive discussion elsewhere on the "SCDB on AskMe: terrible or awesome?" topic.
posted by pineapple at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2008


bugbread: I wasn't saying that guessing was acceptable in general. But now that you mention it, I think the acceptability of guessing varies by question, for at least two reasons. One is that some questions can have more certain answers than others. The other reason is that some questions are in areas that have deeper fields of experts to draw on here than others.

A good example, perhaps, is computer questions. While a non-Mac-using Windows user might have sufficient familiarity with principles of computing and hardware to accurately answer a Mac question, they should avoid most of them. There's a small chance they'll miss something peculiar, and there's a very good chance that a Mac expert will be along in a second in this pool. But if someone asked a question about, say, BeOS, they might jump in, noting that they've never used BeOS, but it sure sounds like the RAM may have gone bad, and the user should run MemTest to check.

Note that I'm still not advocating total wild-ass guesses.
posted by grouse at 4:29 PM on January 11, 2008


You know maybe below the box it should say "wisecracks and wild ass guesses don't help people find answers"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:55 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


So I take it the stubborn refusal of the powers that be to comment on SCDB's conduct should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement?
posted by Krrrlson at 5:09 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


So instead, a smaller non-ban correction is called for. Light touch. What's the smaller correction?

An e-mail from a mod?

didn't realize that there had already been extensive discussion elsewhere on the "SCDB on AskMe: terrible or awesome?" topic.

I think that could better be described as "SCDB on AskMe: bannable or just terrible?"

You know maybe below the box it should say "wisecracks and wild ass guesses don't help people find answers"

That would be very nice.
posted by languagehat at 5:11 PM on January 11, 2008


So I take it the stubborn refusal of the powers that be to comment on SCDB's conduct should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement?

Lack of comment = tacit approval, krrrlson? So that means they also approve of Armitage Shanks' plan to kick you in the nuts? Good to know.
posted by dersins at 5:18 PM on January 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Your attempt to defend the indefensible is noble and righteous and I'm sure there will be epic lulz about it when we're all older and wiser etc, but this is pretty silly.

Failure to document rules and then suddenly and selectively enforcing them with disproportionate punishments while ignoring the original grievance is pretty silly for someone trying to maintain credibility and authority as an administrator, agreed.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


There should be a penalty for wrong answers. Nothing icky, like suspended answering priviliges or favorites deductions... Something more like for every wrong answer, cortex declaws a kitten. Don't make him do it. He'll declaw that poor kitteh-
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:26 PM on January 11, 2008


So I take it the stubborn refusal of the powers that be to comment on SCDB's conduct should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement?

Krrrlson, you seem to have missed that jessamyn did comment on it, in her first response in this thread:

SCDB seems to have a habit of barely on-topic non answers in AskMe and it would be super helpful for me personally as well as probably the site as a whole if either 1. he'd stop or 2. he'd be a lot more carful/qualifying of when he was making more or less wild guesses and when he had some degree of authority on a topic.

Which I think sums it up nicely: it's not something that can be legislated against, because the motivation behind every individual answer is, to a large extent, a matter of interpretation - but the pattern is one to be discouraged. I think if Jess/Cortex/Matt went much beyond comments like that, they'd be in danger of joining in a pile-on from the basis of their personal biases, which coming from a mod just throws unhelpful fuel on the fire.
posted by flashboy at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2008


I did miss that, my bad. I shall bite off my own testicles as penance.

That said, my comments about rules and punishments remain.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:44 PM on January 11, 2008


[...] my comments about rules and punishments remain.

To be justly mocked by future generations of Mefites.
posted by tkolar at 7:04 PM on January 11, 2008


No, please - allow us to bite your testicles off for you.

It's really the gentlemanly thing to do.
posted by flashboy at 7:07 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't know Krrrlson was a beaver. I guess these threads are good for something.
posted by maudlin at 7:08 PM on January 11, 2008


jessamyn, my only quibble is that you've just institutionalized the idea that being a 'jerk' on Mefi is a bannable offense (subject to unwritten exceptions, hidden assumptions, variable definitions and general mod mood of the day.)

I take it you didn't see this little exchange. If they banned for being a jerk I think bruce would still be rubbing his head from a banhammer headache...
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:50 PM on January 11, 2008


I shall bite off my own testicles as penance.

pix or it didn't happen
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:58 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did miss that, my bad. I shall bite off my own testicles as penance.

That's like the MeFi version of "I'm sorry" isn't it?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:12 PM on January 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but he'll never have the balls to say it again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


languagehat: "So instead, a smaller non-ban correction is called for. Light touch. What's the smaller correction?"

An e-mail from a mod?


Yeah, that's basically the answer I settled on in the paragraph after that quoted question. I guess I didn't make that sufficiently clear.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2008


I had a dream last night that tehloki was getting called out for his excessive use of the favorite function. So I clicked on his profile page, clicked on the 14765 favorites and realized that they were all dingbats. When I woke up, I decided to make waffles.
As to the problem of people posting emails in MetaTalk, I think all emails should self destruct a short time after being opened.
posted by Sailormom at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Waffles sound really good right now.
posted by tkolar at 9:31 PM on January 11, 2008


He’d been feeling it all night: that tickle on the back of his neck, as if someone were watching him. Impossible, of course. He was quite alone in the tiny apartment. As always, these days.

It was a familiar sensation, fear. At his age, he’d seen plenty to be afraid of: Disease and disaster, of course. Men and women, in general, though for different reasons – and the kids these days, although more for what he couldn’t do than for what they might. Politicians, and worse - those who feel they have to make the point that they are not politicians. Boredom and nostalgia – the twin plagues of time. Inertia. Despair. Real dangers. Consequences all around.

Which is why this nameless terror humiliated him.

At first, he tried to distract himself. Watched the local late-night news for the insipid chirping of the anchors. He ate the leftover meatloaf that was supposed to be tomorrow’s lunch, and then broke into the bourbon for the first time in weeks.

But he couldn’t ignore this feeling. The shadows could barely contain themselves to the corners.

“Go ahead, then, if you’re real! Just get it over with, damn you! You’d be doing me a favor. Just do it quickly.”

“Slowwwwwwwly…” sighed the darkness.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:15 PM on January 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


he wasn't obligated to discuss it in two places and i'm not sure what the point was of making a separate call-out over it

You mean call-outs aren't legally-binding subpoenas?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:47 PM on January 11, 2008


I, personally, find Mr Den Beste's taste in headgear perfectly acceptable.
posted by flabdablet at 12:40 AM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


IRFH, please keep writing that. Don't stop, baby, it's so good.
posted by GrammarMoses at 6:30 AM on January 12, 2008


one variable is whether SCDB has a (non-best, and therefore "wrong") answer in the thread

Just because an answer isn't marked as the best answer doesn't mean it's incorrect.

An example:
"Where's a good place to eat in Houston?"

I say Goode Co., someone else says Demeris and gets marked best, because the poster plans on going there. Does that mean that my answer was wrong?

Too much of AskMe is subjective to measure rightness and wrongness from the poster's arbitrary judgement of which answers help them the most. Best answer is an interesting metric, but not a particularly accurate one.

If you need more examples, look at some of the many ridiculous relationship-filter questions on MeFi. Often, the overwhelming consensus will be DTMFA, but that's often not what the poster wants to hear.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:32 AM on January 12, 2008


As I've often said, "best answers" are useless except as an indication of the poster's psychology. Sometimes they're flat-out wrong.
posted by languagehat at 8:54 AM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know maybe below the box it should say "wisecracks and wild ass guesses don't help people find answers"

I imagine that, from the asker's perspective, the problem is that the wild guesses are not marked "wild guess" in some way. Would encouraging everyone to qualify statements help?
posted by zennie at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2008


Heh, some admin disappeared a generic SCDB answer to the Paypal right-winger question. Guess someone is paying a little more attention now.
posted by smackfu at 10:16 AM on January 12, 2008


Heh, some admin disappeared a generic SCDB answer to the Paypal right-winger question. Guess someone is paying a little more attention now.

I know you didn't mean to imply that we haven't been paying attention.

We watch the flag queue same as always. However, the sort of microscopic-like scrutiny of every action or non-action is likely going to be an exercise in your-brain-is-not-exactly-like-my-brain frustration. I think all of us mod-types heard what people said here which is that the noise level from SCDB and other wild-ass-seeming guessers is reaching irritating proportions. We'll be paying attention to that and moving forward. I expect that at some future date we'll have a referendum on whether too many possible-but-not-quite-jokes-but-not-quite-answers are being removed and we'll adjust accordingly.

yours in hyphen-loving,

Jessamyn
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know you didn't mean to imply that we haven't been paying attention.

"Monitoring this particular issue closely" would have been a better way to phrase it. And I see that you're put in a bit of a tight situation here. SCDB's crappy answers are going to get flagged in disproportionate numbers now. People will be monitoring his comment history in Ask looking for things to take exception to, and I'm sure good answers will be flagged too. At the same time, other crappy answers won't get the same attention or flags, because people don't have a dog in that fight. That's life, and it will settle down once people find a new enemy.

(Plus, it WAS a stupid answer.)
posted by smackfu at 10:43 AM on January 12, 2008


As I've often said, "best answers" are useless except as an indication of the poster's psychology. Sometimes they're flat-out wrong.

This is true; I've certainly seen many cases of a question where the asker is clearly deluded or making an unhealthy choice and is looking for some enabling input from yes-men, and those are what gets the check. That's definitely a sign of "the asker was stupid to begin with." Or, the question has been open for all of an hour, and the asker marks a best answer out of four responses.

But I still think that, in the main, if a poster asks a question and receives some answers, and one or more of those answers fulfills his or her original need, then the community has done its job and the site is "working" as intended.

The only way to make "best answers" more useful would be a consensus-driven best answer... and then we're into the decidedly trickier voting/popularity contest territory.

Something in the middle could be a "best answer as picked by asker" and a "people's choice best-answer." (Although, I don't know that I'm actually advocating that MetaFilter needs more bells and whistles.)
posted by pineapple at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2008


Heh, some admin disappeared a generic SCDB answer to the Paypal right-winger question. Guess someone is paying a little more attention now.

What was his answer?
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 11:42 AM on January 12, 2008


If you paid the deposit with a pet python? These are rodents. If you are so ingenious.
posted by steven c. den beste at 12:58 PM on January 12 [+] [!]

posted by languagehat at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2008


Y'know, if someone had the time to waste, it wouldn't be that hard to come up with some measure of the correlation of questions having a best answer to the "correctness" of those answers. Like, because an answer isn't marked best doesn't mean it's wrong, sure, but there should be a broad correlation of extra value in the "best" answers. If you stayed within a subset of questions most likely to have a single correct answer (I'd guess tech questions, but I'd bet this could be discerned by looking at the proportion of questions marked with a best to the total number of questions in a category), you could assign a binary right/wrong to the answers marked best, then score the category for confidence based on that percentage.

You could then look at user history, and rank them by number of best answers:answers multiplied by the confidence in the category, and have a rough rank of who's the most trustworthy.

But for that kind of thing, you'd probably need access to the database, and it's kinda anti-social to show that kind of ranking (and is based on all sorts of other assumptions that are either subjective or untested)… Once Metafilter reaches 100,000, they'll probably put it on the admin console.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2008


Sailormom: I had a dream last night that tehloki was getting called out for his excessive use of the favorite function.

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who's dreamt MetaTalk (full disclosure: My dreams are incredibly boring).
posted by Kattullus at 3:49 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


As I learned at the recent LA meetup, there is much more drama at MeFi than I was aware or could conceive previously. Perhaps you more saavy MeFites can help develop a Cliff Notes to this thread, since I am a bit confused.

1) Original MeTa says people should not answer AskMe questions when they are wrong
2) A bunch of people pounce on Steven C. Den Beste as a prime culprit and others pile on
3) Someone posted a MeFi Mail without permission (this is very confusing as to who did what)
4) Some people get timeouts for posting MeFi Mail
5) Steven C. Den Beste is now the victim (true?)
6) Smaller regional conflicts break out between commenters, involving MeFi Mail, Assholes, phone numbers, and testiclular cannibalism

Now, as someone who had my first comment in 5 years deleted this week for posting a wisecrack in an AskMe thread, I am even more confused about proper answering behavior.

Could someone help summarize what the lessons I should take from this MeTa thread? TIA.
posted by Argyle at 8:37 PM on January 12, 2008


Could someone help summarize what the lessons I should take from this MeTa thread? TIA.

Why can't people get this through their f**in heads? It's not difficult: he came here and lied to us about who he was in order to shill his charity. And if you don't see how wrong that is, why don't you just f**k off back to your own blog and play your silly identity games.

Christ on a pogo stick, how do we get through to you people?
posted by tkolar at 8:50 PM on January 12, 2008


uh, sorry, it's a reflex now.
posted by tkolar at 8:51 PM on January 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Who is the 'he' you are referring to?

I'm not trying to be obtuse here, I'm trying to understand what's got everyone so riled up.
posted by Argyle at 8:55 PM on January 12, 2008


Wait, so SCDB has a charity now? That's a twist.
posted by smackfu at 9:08 PM on January 12, 2008


tkolar is making a multi-MeTa joke, Argyle. I think you are fine and have nothing to worry about at all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:09 PM on January 12, 2008


My comment was a crossover from an entirely unrelated matter. The "he" in question is named Holden and if you really really really really want to know, you should start here.

With regards to this thread,

1) In a different metatalk thread Steven C. Den Beste trumpeted his incredibly lax standards for posting AskMe answers. Given that he posts quite a few of those, his lax standards had already been noticed, but nonetheless...

2) fandango_matt created this thread, obstensibly to remind people that it would be a good thing to have high standards when answering AskMe question, but really because he wanted everyone to get together and tar and feather Steven C. Den Beste.

3) Since Steven C. Den Beste declined to show up for the fun and games, a desperate fandango_matt resorted to posting parts of private email messages that had been sent to him by Steven C. Den Beste.

4) Everyone said "fandango_matt, you're being a dick, so stop that." He pretty much ignored everyone, including cortex which turns out to be a really bad idea.

5) fandango_matt continued to post private email messages, which earned him a short timeout.

6) Steven C. Den Beste is still on a lot of people's shit lists for his crappy AskMe answers, but since he has (apparently wisely) declined to show up and defend himself, the remaining people have sort of wandered off into a philosophical discussion about what "best answer" means, etc.

So, barring the appearance of Steven C Den Beste or the reappearance of fandango_matt in this thread, you can pretty much safely assume that the interesting part of this thread is over.
posted by tkolar at 9:15 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and take away lessons:

1) If your name is Steven C. Den Beste, a lot of people don't like the number of bad answers that you give in AskMe.

2) Posting private email in a MetaTalk thread is a risky tactic and has a good chance of backfiring.

3) When one of the moderators suggests that you stop doing something, that would be a good time to stop doing it.

I can see where if you came to this thread looking for sage advice about what is appropriate for AskMe how these lessons wouldn't be of much direct use. Sorry about that. When a thread gets its start as a somewhat passive aggressive attempt to get a lynch mob going, it's hard to get any real value out of it.
posted by tkolar at 9:25 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


WAIT! I HAVE... AMNESIA!!!
posted by Krrrlson at 9:27 PM on January 12, 2008


posted by tkolar 2) fandango_matt created this thread, obstensibly to remind people that it would be a good thing to have high standards when answering AskMe question, but really because he wanted everyone to get together and tar and feather Steven C. Den Beste.

Wrong.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:30 PM on January 12, 2008


Wrong indeed, tkolar. In point of fact, he started it to stir up shit, because he thought that would be amusing.
posted by dersins at 11:37 PM on January 12, 2008


Wrong.

which is why you trolled him so hard, even posting his private messages to get his attention
posted by pyramid termite at 6:05 AM on January 13, 2008


Just out of curiosity, is this one of those things that was fueled by drunken IRC chatter?
posted by languagehat at 7:15 AM on January 13, 2008


We haven't had one of those in years. Have we?
posted by timeistight at 7:31 AM on January 13, 2008


Wrong.

Now that you're back, will you do the right thing and openly apologize to SCDB? Because that was a pretty shitty thing you did (repeatedly).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:34 AM on January 13, 2008


Shittier than multiple flameouts, multiple sockpuppets, and a long history of vindictive personal attacks? Glass houses, etc.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2008


It's called "the high road" and it's worth taking.
posted by tkolar at 10:57 AM on January 13, 2008


Shittier than multiple flameouts

For what it's worth, I apologized privately and publicly for a lot of my past behavior. I finally learned from my mistake, which was to respond to escalating personal attacks by unnecessarily escalating it myself.

I apologized to the people who deserved apologies and would like to think that I have pretty much moved on, knowing that I can't do much at this point about receiving personal attacks from anonymous trolls.

Still, I never posted private conversations or violated someone's privacy, not here or anywhere else. That's a line I have never crossed.

multiple sockpuppets

You and your friend were just upset that I didn't advertise my personal information at first. I did this so that I could be on the site without giving you and folks just like you an excuse to troll. Now that you know who I am, Krrrlson, you have tried on repeated occasions — and failed — to goad me into an escalated response.

Calling me out as a "sockpuppet" is ironic, Krrrlson, considering you continue to attack other people from behind your anonymous account.

By hiding behind your anonymous account, Krrrlson, you don't have to be held accountable for your often insulting and rude behavior.

You're behaving in a childish manner, and it seems the best thing to do would be to just ignore you. But I hold out hope that you'll one day quit trying to goad me. If anything, I hope that this reasoned response will teach you that it didn't work this time, nor last time, nor will it work in the future.

long history of vindictive personal attacks?

A long look in the mirror would teach you a great deal, Krrrlson.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2008


"Perhaps you more saavy MeFites can help develop a Cliff Notes to this thread, since I am a bit confused."

We will write it on the moleskines! (Man, I didn't realize there was all that much drama at the meetup. Of course, over on my side of the table, I could barely hear your side of the table, so maybe there was drama.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:05 PM on January 13, 2008


Klangklangston, there wasn't drama AT the meetup. I was told about drama at MeFi that I was unaware of...

I still am unable to comprehend the venom in this thread, but perhaps that's due to the fantastic weather we Angelenos are having this weekend and my new bottle of Rye.
posted by Argyle at 2:00 PM on January 13, 2008


Alright. I stumbled on to this thread, and it sure looks like the exact sort of thing that woudl distract me for an hour or so...

...so I'm just going to jump over to the bash on fandango_matt thread. Because I like fm and he made a really excellent mistake up above [lessee] about seventeen hours ago.

So there may still be a chance of rescue. Either that, or it's "Let loose the dogs!"

BTW, personal highlight...

My impression is that "hey, fuck it, let's take a guess" has been a prevalent attitude on AskMe since day uno.

...a reclaw shout-out!
posted by humannaire at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2008


tklolar put me on the scent: Holy F-ck! This just happened?!?!!

Let me tell you, this is an exciting time to be on MeFi! (Update for '08: Alright, due to extensive exposure to podcast exposure (podcast episode #1 @ 19:02), I'm with the program: It's pronounced "mee-fye"...


...just kidding! Cortex says meh fye, too! (podcast #2 @ 12:11). Happy New Year! '08 is great!)
posted by humannaire at 2:37 PM on January 13, 2008


Steven C. Den Beste is still on a lot of people's shit lists

But now he's 'famous', or not, and he has the "Stink of Science™".
posted by meehawl at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2008


Shittier than multiple flameouts, multiple sockpuppets, and a long history of vindictive personal attacks?

Jesus, knock it off, Krrrlson. Nobody was more pissed off at BP's former avatar than I was, and I now consider him one of the shining lights of MetaFilter. It's pretty rare for someone to truly turn over a new leaf, and being a dick about it just makes you look bad.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on January 13, 2008


What LH said. Grudges make our happy fun internet swell pals' club crappier for everybody.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 PM on January 13, 2008


Okay. It's like our hours later.

WTF?

Can't we all just get along?

I'm moving!

Mike/humanniare
posted by humannaire at 7:48 PM on January 13, 2008


4 hours
posted by humannaire at 7:57 PM on January 13, 2008


It's pretty rare for someone to truly turn over a new leaf, and being a dick about it just makes you look bad.

It's comforting to know that all it takes to "truly turn over a new leaf" is learn not to flame out every few months. I would have thought that to be a basic requisite of membership, not something to be praised for. The fact is that this particular member persists in contributing stubborn, unapologetic, self-righteous outbursts when confronted over any mildly controversial topic, and I reserve the right to call him on it -- contrary to popular belief, this is not intended or expected to provoke a shitstorm. Others are free to point out when they believe I am acting like an arrogant ass, and they do. Lastly, as a proud bearer of the name "KKKrlson" for many a year, I don't see why multiple accounts entitle one to a clean slate.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:20 PM on January 13, 2008


Some people don't really want a clean slate in the first place. Some people simply prefer to carry their little grudges around with them for life. Some folks are damn proud of their little grudges. I guess it fulfills some need in their souls.

It's tiresome and sad, however.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:18 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Krrrlson, who are you and why do you keep following me around?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:05 AM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact is that this particular member persists in contributing stubborn, unapologetic, self-righteous outbursts when confronted over any mildly controversial topic, and I reserve the right to call him on it

By all means, if anyone makes a stubborn, unapologetic, self-righteous outburst in a given thread, feel free to call them on it. That has nothing to do with referring to things said in other threads well in the past, which is childish trolling.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2008


For real, Krrrlson, you're being a dick. There's no reason for you to be hounding him... again.
posted by shmegegge at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2008


There's no reason for you to be hounding him

Krrrlson has a reason. Same reason fandango_matt had for posting all that email from SCDB.

It's called trolling. You know, trying to get a rise out of people for the "lulz." No coincidence, I suspect, that they're all IRC pals, either.

I wish it was a case of "ignore them and they'll go away," but I doubt they will.
posted by dersins at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2008


That has nothing to do with referring to things said in other threads well in the past, which is childish trolling.

Call it that if you want. I think that pompous -- and, given the history, hypocritical -- demands for public apologies, issued by people who are not affected by the issue in the least, are more worthy of that label.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:23 PM on January 14, 2008


Krrrlson: Who are you and why do you keep following me around?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 PM on January 14, 2008


Krrrlson:

Two things. First off, c'mon. You sound like you're challenging him to a duel with rapiers at dawn. Second, I always thought the KKKrrlson was funny, the same way I think Amerikkka is funny—I say it in my mental "K-k-k-k-ken" voice.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2008


No coincidence, I suspect, that they're all IRC pals, either.

Maybe anyone who participates in IRC bullshit should be automatically banned. Everything I hear about it sounds like it's responsible for half the asshattery around here.

And Krrrrlson, I have no idea what you're on about with your "hypocrisy" rant, but I'm not seeing anybody taking your side here. That should tell you something.
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on January 15, 2008


Maybe anyone who participates in IRC bullshit should be automatically banned.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's what we have moderators for, to trim bullshit. IRC has moderators too, for... well... I have no idea, actually. So, formulate a more precise proposal, will ya? Because it's pretty much all bullshit, all the time in there.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:17 PM on January 15, 2008


Maybe anyone who participates in IRC bullshit should be automatically banned. Everything I hear about it sounds like it's responsible for half the asshattery around here.

You're welcome to examine the logs of #mefi, which is the only place where I could have entered into a sinister conspiracy with fellow criminal fandango_matt. I don't keep the logs, but a number of people do (try esch). Or just ask cortex -- he's in there most of the time.

And Krrrrlson, I have no idea what you're on about with your "hypocrisy" rant, I'm not seeing anybody taking your side here. That should tell you something.

The fact that the ten-something people still posting in this thread do not agree with me tells me very little on a website with 30k members and weekly pile-ons involving hundreds. I've explained both the reasoning behind my comments and why I believe that it is valid to bring up past history (something usually done routinely and as a matter of course in Metatalk, as I'm sure you know). Beyond that, you're free to call my words "trolling" and "ranting," which is your prerogative, though they are neither.


Krrrlson: Who are you and why do you keep following me around?

You seem very concerned about my identity. Why is that? In what ways have you been "held accountable" on Metafilter, by virtue of (eventually) revealing your identity, that do not apply to me? If anything, you've received premium treatment usually not afforded to others.

If it matters, I keep my name out of my profile because I would like to minimize the chances of being stalked by a random psycho. Other than that, I am happy to stand by what I've posted on this site, and have often revealed my identity to people who, I am reasonably sure, are not random psychos. You just don't happen to be one of them.


You sound like you're challenging him to a duel with rapiers at dawn.

So? I believe matteo once challenged me to fisticuffs, after stressing how much he abhors violence. I think duels could be the next big fundraiser around here.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:55 PM on January 15, 2008


hye guys, look http://metatalk.metafilter.com/15598/Just-The-Facts-Maam#501313 let's all go and take the piss out of languagehat
posted by chrismear at 4:08 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


shit wrong window
posted by chrismear at 4:08 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


You seem very concerned about my identity. Why is that?

Because you keep following me around. You behave like a creep. This is not an isolated instance of you doing this.

If it matters, I keep my name out of my profile because I would like to minimize the chances of being stalked by a random psycho.

That's ironic, considering the times I've been googlebombed and otherwise hounded by you and your friends.

You use your anonymity to bully. Name yourself, coward, or shut up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:02 PM on January 15, 2008


Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's what we have moderators for, to trim bullshit. IRC has moderators too, for... well... I have no idea, actually. So, formulate a more precise proposal, will ya? Because it's pretty much all bullshit, all the time in there.

I can't formulate a more precise proposal, because I have no idea what goes on in there. Except that every time it's referenced or quoted here, it seems to be assholish asshattery. Which is fine, as long as they keep it to themselves, but I keep hearing about stuff being plotted on IRC that turns up as asshole behavior here at MeFi, whence my comment.

Other than that, I am happy to stand by what I've posted on this site

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? You're a classic case of anonymity enabling asshattery.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on January 15, 2008


And not very good asshattery either.

If you're going to be a troll, could you at least keep it interesting?
posted by tkolar at 5:38 PM on January 15, 2008


Seriously, languagehat. MeTa a list of IRC-spawned fuckery and see if something can't be done, if you want it done, eh? I'm in there a lot, but what with the broken bottles shoved into my vagina jokes, other transgressive deeds don't really stay in mind.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:10 PM on January 15, 2008


Maybe anyone who participates in IRC bullshit should be automatically banned. Everything I hear about it sounds like it's responsible for half the asshattery around here.

Well, IRC was involved, I suppose. Only a couple of us were around when fandango_matt came to bring up the idea of this callout. I suggested that he not make this post, or at least wait for SCDB to engage in his MAS behavior again since he was already taken to task in another recent thread. And I believe the other one or two people that were present at the time agreed with me. I don't know if he came back to bring up the idea of posting SCDB's mefimail, but I doubt anyone in IRC encouraged him to do so.

Of course, there are other IRC channels where mefites gather and I have no idea if fandango_matt also frequents those channels.

BTW, I'm a big fan of fandango_matt, but not so much this callout.
posted by mullacc at 6:24 PM on January 15, 2008


All we do in IRC is talk about how sexy hats are. I think you must be one of them self-hating hats.
posted by SassHat at 6:36 PM on January 15, 2008


Seriously, languagehat. MeTa a list of IRC-spawned fuckery and see if something can't be done, if you want it done, eh?

Eh, I wasn't really serious, it just pisses me off when this stuff comes to my attention. I'm all for people having fun and calling each other names and being goofy, but they should keep their shit out of MetaFilter. I don't really want people banned, I just want them to at least pretend to be grownups.

All we do in IRC is talk about how sexy hats are.

Well, then... shucks... where do I sign up?
posted by languagehat at 6:12 AM on January 16, 2008


Um. when people mentions IRC, they mean #mefi, not #bunnies.

#mefi is vastly different from #bunnies. Lets please keep credit where credit is due.
posted by Stynxno at 7:28 AM on January 16, 2008


Because you keep following me around. You behave like a creep. This is not an isolated instance of you doing this.

Contrary to what your ego tells you, the reason I have called you out in the past is not because I "follow you around" but because you are an ass in so many threads, some of which I happen to read.

That's ironic, considering the times I've been googlebombed and otherwise hounded by you and your friends.

Do you have any proof of these activities and my involvement in them, or are you full of it as always? For my part, I remember you entering chat rooms repeatedly under a false identity, trolling, and then reposting conversations on metachat with the express aim of stirring shit up, as well as threadshitting in my askmes, and emailing me under an assumed name with passive-aggressive jabs.

Name yourself, coward, or shut up.

After you have all but threatened to harass me beyond Metafilter if given the ability to do so? Yeah, that'll work.


Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play? You're a classic case of anonymity enabling asshattery.

So, in your view, the only impediment to and punishment for asshattery is the threat of being stalked by random internet psychos?
posted by Krrrlson at 1:02 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


dude, what the fuck is up with you? all he did was say someone deserved an apology. it's not that terrible a thing to do. why would he harass you beyond metafilter when he doesn't even do it WITHIN metafilter? you're the one who keeps digging into his past every chance you get.
posted by shmegegge at 1:11 PM on January 16, 2008


please keep 4chan on 4chan thanks
posted by dersins at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2008


Despite my not bothering anyone, other people have observed that you have repeatedly been nipping at my heels, so I don't think I need to explain much here.

emailing me under an assumed name with passive-aggressive jabs

That's the email where you called me an anti-Semite and then — instead of responding to your troll — I emailed you this, verbatim, which is a guideline on every Metafilter page:

"note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."


Apparently quoting a site guideline to you in response to being called a Nazi is passive-aggressive.

There's only one thing to conclude about you:

You are sick in the head.

After you have all but threatened to harass me beyond Metafilter if given the ability to do so? Yeah, that'll work.

That you have resorted to harassing me here and through Gmail, along with your sick, obsessive behavior in this and previous threads is indicative of just how warped you are.

I haven't threatened you, but you persist in following me around, and so I think I will ask the moderators to deal with you, cross my fingers and hope for the best. Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:23 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by flabdablet at 1:34 PM on January 16, 2008


note: Everyone needs a hug.

Yeah, well I don't necessarily need one from Krrrlson, who is starting to creep me out a bit.
posted by tkolar at 2:03 PM on January 16, 2008


In this corner! And in this corner!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2008


Well, that's probably just about it for this thread.

Krrrlson, try not to be such an obsessive weirdo about BP. BP, try not to be so reactive to Krrrlson being an obsessive weirdo. You two can take it back to email if you can't just drop it, but jesus christ is this a tired old dance.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:30 PM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


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