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July 3, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

The question on the page is not always the question that is really being asked.

Often on AskMeFi the correct answer is one that illustrates that the original question was the wrong thing to ask--an insight often offered by people who have asked themselves that same wrong question before. This kind of approach is part of the value of this site. It was deleted as unanswerable, but it's pretty crummy that it was done after a bunch of people took the time to come up with thoughtful answers to it. It would be nice to keep in mind that with deletions you are not only screwing over the one who make the original post, but the ones who take it seriously enough to put good-faith effort into making a meaningful response--24 such responses in this case. If you're not going to pre-screen questions, at least accept some threshold of community response (and in this case, quality response) that would prove it a valid thread of discourse.
posted by troybob to Etiquette/Policy at 11:46 AM (48 comments total)

It's not screwing anyone over to delete a question they've answered. They got to speak their piece and help the OP best they could, up until the curtain came down. They got what they paid for. They're not unpersoned or anything.

It's our job as answerers to answer to the best of our ability the questions put forth, NOT remark on some cockamamie psychological insight we glean from what the question leaves unsaid. If people would rein that tendency in a lot more, I think AskMe would be a better place. Too often, some OP will reveal a dickish character flaw and people will harp on fixing that instead of the actual project at hand. That's my definition of putting "good-faith effort into making a meaningful response," but it speaks nothing to the deletability of chatfilter.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:54 AM on July 3, 2008


Winnow is one of my favorite words. Mostly from this.
posted by spec80 at 11:56 AM on July 3, 2008


I, too, feel that leaving the question up would be a good thing. However, I am biased, because I commented in the thread.

I find the gray area we're in very interesting. There is a lot of emphasis on just answering the question as asked damnit, but there are also clearly times when that is not the most valuable way to contribute (e.g., Dear MeFi, I want to saw off my foot. Should I use a hacksaw or a chainsaw?). I do agree that here, the most valuable answers will probably largely ignore the question as posed. Is that in and of itself sufficient reason to take the question down? Dunno, haven't really thought it through, but it does occur to me to wonder about it.
posted by prefpara at 11:57 AM on July 3, 2008


Unfortunately, we have multiple threshholds of community response. There are the people that answer, and there are the people that flag.

I saw this question early and deleted some snarky non-answers from the thread [quite a few] and cortex came in a bit later and decided the question was too far into the chatfilter range. I was on the fence but I'm okay with his decision. The answers are still there for the OP, but the question isn't a honeypot attracting lolsnark answers.

I'm always sorry when people take considered time to answer a question that winds up getting deleted, but some of the most deleteworthy questions attract lots of quick answers, considered or no, and we don't really use that as a metric when we're deciding delete/not delete. What we try to do is see things early enough so that people don't waste time on them. In this case the question was deletd in about 30 minutes which is pretty decent in my book.

I'm sorry you took the time to answer and the question was deleted anyhow.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2008


Also, I think a question's life in posterity - its relevance for future googlers and tag searchers - is about inversely proportional to its vagueness. So, questions like these have a much higher personal OP value to public value ratio than others. When deleted, they're not a big big loss.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:00 PM on July 3, 2008


No offense intended to anybody, but I'm not sure I'd agree that all 24 of those responses were thoughtful and meaningful.
posted by box at 12:06 PM on July 3, 2008


Speaking as someone who did respond in good faith, I still don't have a problem with it having been deleted.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2008


It's our job as answerers to answer to the best of our ability the questions put forth, NOT remark on some cockamamie psychological insight we glean from what the question leaves unsaid.

I get the issue here, but in many cases when I have a question about something, that means there is a chance I don't know enough about that something to know that the question I'm asking is not going to get me the answer I'm seeking. I learn a lot from these kinds of responses to questions on AskMeFi; the community here is really good about offering different angles, possibilities, and context than even imagined in the original question.

This isn't the same as shouting down or criticizing or passing judgment on the person asking the question, or trying to derail the discussion on it. It's more educational, using your own experience to give a different perspective on it, and making it a richer discussion for the person asking as well as for those who read through the responses without answering themselves.

If this question was on the borderline, then cool...I was just hoping there is some consideration given at the time of deletion to whether the quality of responses (as often happens on the blue) actually redeems faults in the original post. I was more frustrated in this case not just by the fact that I had given some thought to it and responded, but I was getting benefit by reading the other responses and following their linkages and avenues.
posted by troybob at 12:17 PM on July 3, 2008


That was a terrible AskMe question and I'm glad it was deleted.
posted by languagehat at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes people just like to ask questions
posted by bonaldi at 12:25 PM on July 3, 2008


I thought some people just liked to ask questions?
posted by onalark at 12:26 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think there should be a chatfilter page for questions like this. There's metatalk, but I'd guess that few people read it.
posted by lukemeister at 12:30 PM on July 3, 2008


Sometimes I think there should be a chatfilter page

Welllllll.
posted by cashman at 12:38 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else crack up at the mention of "fresh vegetables"?

The context of the post was that OP wants to "live it up" (sex, good music, good social life, no boring job, whatever)...and then he throws in FRESH VEGETABLES. It just didn't belong.

I guess when you get through with the unhealthy life of fucking, boozing, being unemployed, and having abundance (of what? drugs?)...you'll need some of those fresh nutritious veggies.
posted by sixcolors at 12:42 PM on July 3, 2008


I was more frustrated in this case not just by the fact that I had given some thought to it and responded, but I was getting benefit by reading the other responses and following their linkages and avenues.

Which is a totally understandable response. I never delete a question that already has earnest answers in it without thinking that it has to suck a little bit for the folks who've already jumped in to the thread.

But earnest answers don't make a good question. I tried to be pretty explicit in my deletion reason that trying to take what's here and make a good question out of it for a do-over a week from now is fine. While we sometimes let shakily-constructed questions stand in askme, it's a judgement call and this one seemed a too far in to problematic territory to me. And as Jess said, that folks have been commenting isn't really part of that decision in general, especially when we're talking about a span of tens of minutes rather than a day after the fact.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2008


What's unhealthy about fucking, music, and unemployment?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:51 PM on July 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


By which I mean what probably kept me from deleting that question was that I have some good advice for the OP.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think there should be a chatfilter page for questions like this. There's metatalk, but I'd guess that few people read it.

MeTa isn't for chatfilter. MetaChat is.
posted by mykescipark at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2008


What's unhealthy about fucking, music, and unemployment?

Nothing, really...as long as it is done responsibly. I got a somewhat reckless vibe from the OP though, it could be just me.
posted by sixcolors at 12:55 PM on July 3, 2008


Ambrosia Voyeur writes: It's our job as answerers to answer to the best of our ability the questions put forth, NOT remark on some cockamamie psychological insight we glean from what the question leaves unsaid.

How do I make my suicide as easy on my family as possible?
posted by anifinder at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


OK, it makes sense...not so big a deal--probably more my approach that makes it frustrating. When I have time, I tend to adopt one or a couple topics or questions and dwell on them for a bit as I do other stuff, then make a response. Maybe I'll give the questions some more lead time, then.

But also, I appreciate that people here are generous with how they try to help people and hate to see it go to waste...in this question I didn't see the snarky stuff that was deleted (and maybe that would have burdened it down the line), but I felt warm and fuzzy about those who sincerely and respectfully tried to show this guy a path...
posted by troybob at 1:04 PM on July 3, 2008


How do I make my suicide as easy on my family as possible?

Easy. 1) Take out a big insurance policy on yourself with your family as beneficary. 2) Join the military, and 3) take as many dangerous patrols as you can get, don't wear armour, look for grenades to dive on... they are rich and have a war hero in the family... that is pure gold... the stuff political campaigns are made of...
posted by Deep Dish at 1:05 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Joking aside, I'll have to agree with Ambrosia though. It's pretty annoying when you ask a question here on MeFi, instead of getting direct answers you get judgments, baseless assumptions, and even projections.

I don't think asking for advice on how to self-injure or make your suicide easy on your family is the same thing as asking for advice on how to have a certain lifestyle.
posted by sixcolors at 1:06 PM on July 3, 2008


True, it's more of a deathstyle question.

I'll let myself out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2008


It would be nice to keep in mind that with deletions you are not only screwing over the one who make the original post, but the ones who take it seriously enough to put good-faith effort into making a meaningful response--24 such responses in this case.

It's really not that hard to determine whether a question is chatfilter or not. It's pretty cut and dried. If you answer a question that is chatfilter, you run the risk of people complaining about the question and it getting deleted. If the notion of answering a question that might get deleted upsets you, then don't answer any chatfilter questions, regardless of how long they have been up.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:16 PM on July 3, 2008


MeTa isn't for chatfilter. MetaChat is.

Yeah, that's what I meant. Metafilter, Metachat, Metatalk, Meatfilter, Vegfilter...
posted by lukemeister at 1:27 PM on July 3, 2008


I thought it was BBQ for chatfilter.
posted by box at 1:33 PM on July 3, 2008


BBQ for metaphysical chatfilter, MetaChat for bunnies chatfilter.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:42 PM on July 3, 2008


I can only thank Cortex for saving me from fighting not to respond to someone who's question boiled down to "give me a perfect life without effort." Get in the fucking line, and NEXT!
posted by nanojath at 1:45 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


...I want all the above right here and right now (well I could wait a couple of months I guess)

Wow.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:02 PM on July 3, 2008


prefpara: "Dear MeFi, I want to saw off my foot. Should I use a hacksaw or a chainsaw?)"
Well, a chainsaw will be much quicker, but the edges of the stump will be hard to sew back together, being ragged. The hacksaw will be much slower and more painful, but will leave neater edges. If you choose the hacksaw, make sure you have a couple of spare blades within reach in case you break the blade half-way through.

If you decide to use a chainsaw, make sure you wear goggles to avoid bone splinters in the eyes.

If you have access to one (and can get your leg high enough), a bandsaw would be ideal for this job.
posted by dg at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2008


BBQ for metaphysical chatfilter

meatphysical chatfilter, actually.
posted by shmegegge at 2:21 PM on July 3, 2008


dg, I DID NOT ASK ABOUT A BANDSAW. Why can't you just answer the question I asked? Unbelievable! I can't explain why, but a bandsaw is not an option for me right now, and you need to get over your bandsaw fetish and concentrate on the problem I posed for you. Damn it.
posted by prefpara at 2:33 PM on July 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I guess I just like to answer questions.
posted by dg at 2:52 PM on July 3, 2008


MetaTalk: I find the gray area we're in very interesting.
posted by camcgee at 3:37 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's unhealthy about fucking, music, and unemployment?

Nothing, really...as long as it is done responsibly.


Well that's no fun!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:41 PM on July 3, 2008


Well, I understand the deletion, but I saw this question to simply be, really, "How do I get my life in order," and as far as that goes, it might have been overly vague, but I trumpet the question for not being thrifty with the ambition. Also, alkidoka seems to have paid the $5 to ask this question, first and foremost, so, FWIW, here's my own answer:

Step One: find a job which can support you. Minimum wage might not get you out of your current living situation, but even a job as a line-cook at a moderately successful restaurant in your area will pay more than that, and probably net you a roommate or two, so that'll save money. (estimated time: two weeks)

Step Two: Move out of your parents' place as soon as you can afford to do so. (estimated time: six weeks, depending on your region)

Step Three: Start going out with your co-workers, which will help you meet other people, and possibly a potential partner. If this happens, remember that it may not be long term, but will at least get you back into the game. (estimated time: unpredictable, though I would suggest not really getting serious with anyone until you're out of the parents' place)

Step Four: Start thinking about a job you'll actually like doing. I know nothing of your skills, interests, or education, but you must have some idea of a job which would engage you at it's best moments, and not enrage you at it's worst, and would help you pull in enough to live on your own and possibly raise a family one day if that should arise. (estimated time: now, really, or whenever)

Step Five: Look into what you need to do to get that job. If you want to be a video-game designer, look into art classes and learn code. If you want to be a lawyer, take the LSAT. If you want to be a musician, train yourself to be able to create more than you thought was possible. Then go after those jobs, and really hit the pavement for them. If someone doesn't want you, find out why, and do what it takes to fix it. You've been saving your money, and this is the first place to invest it. (estimated time: 6 months to 2 years or more)

Step Six: Find a new place to live on your own in a good neighborhood. If you're married or engaged at this point, it's a nice time to look at buying a house. If not, it probably won't hurt to hold off for a while. A nice neighborhood will probably have a farmer's market or a Whole Foods nearby. Get your veggies there.

Step Seven: Be honest with your partner about what you want in bed, and listen to your partner as well. Pleasure and great sex take input and effort from both (or more) parties involved. Be careful that you don't get pregnant when you're not ready for it, as that will severely alter your plan here. (estimated time: immediately as soon as is applicable)


Step Eight (optional): Record a song so immediately memorable and potentially iconic as to be used everywhere so that the royalties alone may sustain you until you die, and your family ever afterwards. This will allow you to do nothing until your last days, but I don't recommend it. Work sustains us, gives us a purpose, and rewards us for our gifts as part of society. People hate Paris Hilton because she's rich and getting richer while contributing seemingly nothing to deserve it. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, on the other hand, will inherit 40x as much as Paris, but everyone's generally okay with it because she made us laugh as Elaine Benes. Don't shun work. Work is what people have to show for themselves, and to be proud of. Stress is what happens when people have commitments, and it allows them to be interesting due to the experiences. These are things to desire, not to try to dispel. If you choose to go with the royalties route, however, "Happy Birthday," and "We Will Rock You," are some good examples, and in fact the only two I can think of.

Good luck!
posted by Navelgazer at 4:54 PM on July 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well at least box answered part of the question.

which was probably the most hilarious real answer ever.
posted by clearly at 5:27 PM on July 3, 2008


Fine. I'll keep my secret to myself.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:30 PM on July 3, 2008


I got a somewhat reckless vibe from the OP though

I can't think of the word for the vibe I got, but it was odd. Agree with the deletion, though. My answer was sincere, but definitely not the kind of thing he was looking for.
posted by Pax at 6:17 PM on July 3, 2008


Strip away the fluff, and the question really boils down to this:

I am a basement-dwelling dude in my thirties, without much to show for my life, and I want all of the things that people spend their whole careers seeking, and I want them within a couple of months at most.

Really, the question sounds like this guy speaks in the type of language you generally only see used in taglines on the cover of women's magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Who actually uses the phrase "life full of abundance," full of other than Oprah-appearing authors of low-brow books aimed at depressed middle-class women?

Who would string together "music, great sex, fresh vegetables, no stress," other than someone who has bought into the whole mentality of the consumer lifestyle industry exemplified by Tony Robbins, Eckart Tolle, Real Simple Magazine™, Oprah Winfrey, etc.?.

Perhaps the poster is writing a book or an article? He has no prior history on Metafilter prior to this question. $5 is cheap to get some great ideas to pad out a book or magazine article.

Is "full of abundance" a tautology?
posted by jayder at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2008


What's unhealthy about fucking, music, and unemployment?

Eventually, you die from it. Whereas if you remain celibate, never listen to music, and go to work every day, you will live forever.

That's what they told me, anyway.

Hi from the Arctic, y'all.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:35 PM on July 3, 2008


Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, on the other hand, will inherit 40x as much as Paris, but everyone's generally okay with it because she made us laugh as Elaine Benes.

And she's still working, albeit on a TV show watched by less than half as many people as Seinfeld was, and while the writing isn't as funny (but what IS?), her lead role gives her more chances to be funny so that part evens out.

I won't say any more or else I might talk myself into getting a real job.
posted by wendell at 10:09 PM on July 3, 2008


What's unhealthy about fucking, music, and unemployment?

Well, after you run out of money and the claim ticket for your pawned stereo expires, you'll find yourself with 11 kids and smelling like government cheese.

That was a terrible AskMe question and I'm glad it was deleted but made me feel a bit better about my life.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:33 PM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, fourcheesemac! Say hi to the Arctic for me!
posted by languagehat at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2008


I gotta say, it's always really irritating, it's always going to be really irritating, to write out a long post in which you think you had worthwhile things to say ... and then, wham!, the thread's gone out from under you. Arrgh! It happens to everyone from time to time. Don't take it personally. Why not? Specifically and importantly, the thread did not at that time include your wonderful and incisive new comment.

All it means is this: the more you cared about what you had to say, the more it will irritate you to have it rendered un-sayable. This is an issue entirely separate from whether the mods thought the base FPP and the discussion engendered was worth keeping.

Take comfort in this: as long as it continues to be irritating, it means you care about your comments, which means that (all else being equal), your comments everywhere here, not just in the deleted thread, are better.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:15 AM on July 4, 2008


Whereas if you remain celibate, never listen to music, and go to work every day, you will live forever.

Whereas if you remain celibate, never listen to music, and go to work every day, you won't live forever, but it will feel like it.
posted by orange swan at 10:14 AM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with the deletion in retrospect, but at the time it drove me a little bonkers; I had written up what I thought was a good, sincere, helpful response ...

... and the thread got canned somewhere in the two minutes between Preview and Submit when I was typo-fixing.

Obviously this is a sign that I should just lighten up and shoot from the hip more.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:34 PM on July 7, 2008


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