Read before answering, please! September 27, 2008 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Do people's just not read through the questions on AskMefi before leaving answers?

I've seen this happen a lot in the past and the most egregious examples lately (that made me post this) are porposie's answers to this question. I mean, come on. Right there in the question, it says "no chunks" and "no booze".

I didn't just flag this because I don't think it would actually get deleted since it's generally on topic, it just doesn't help the OP out at all.
posted by youcancallmeal to Etiquette/Policy at 8:16 PM (118 comments total)

"Do people". Argh.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:18 PM on September 27, 2008


No. No they don't. Anything else?

For the most part, I believe what happens is that instead of clicking on [More Inside], they click on (X Comments), thus being skipped past the [More Inside] and thus not reading it.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:29 PM on September 27, 2008


No, obviously. What do you hope to accomplish here?
posted by puke & cry at 8:32 PM on September 27, 2008


I've noticed some litter down my road, do some not put their rubbish into bins?
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:33 PM on September 27, 2008


I guess I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed this. And was hoping that an offender could tell me why.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:34 PM on September 27, 2008


(the people escaped!)
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:34 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Remember that post on the blue about how people skim stuff when they are reading online? That's why.
posted by smackfu at 8:37 PM on September 27, 2008


Oh. Yeah everyone notices this and yeah I find if really frustrated. I have no explanation though as to why someone would think they can answer a question when they didn't even read the god damn thing.
posted by puke & cry at 8:39 PM on September 27, 2008


frustrating.
posted by puke & cry at 8:40 PM on September 27, 2008


I find many times I will have a pat answer for a question as posted on the front page. However, upon further review inside, it's oh, that doesn't fit. I have to remind myself to always look at the details inside. Those details can limit and change what may have seemed to be the logical answer.
posted by netbros at 8:46 PM on September 27, 2008


You know how they say that most people don't really listen to people they are talking to, but rather are waiting for an opportunity to say what they are thinking while the other person is talking? That. People get three words into a question and they realize they want to say something. Since the internet doesn't involve someone talking, they don't have to wait for the other person to stop talking. They just post.
posted by spicynuts at 8:46 PM on September 27, 2008 [10 favorites]


Next question: is there anything that can structurally be changed within the site to combat this?
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:50 PM on September 27, 2008


No.
posted by puke & cry at 8:56 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


When people do this with my AskMe questions I hunt them down in real life and club them to death.
posted by The Straightener at 9:07 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another thing I find really annoying is when people answer a question without even reading it.
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:07 PM on September 27, 2008 [14 favorites]


In my experience, this really only causes a problem when the questioner takes umbrage to the bad answer and posts about it.
posted by smackfu at 9:08 PM on September 27, 2008


Next question: is there anything that can structurally be changed within the site to combat this?

Beyond annoying you (and others), what harm does this really cause such it requires a coded solution?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:09 PM on September 27, 2008


I hunt them down in real life and club them to death.

What's the up-to-date body count?
posted by netbros at 9:10 PM on September 27, 2008


Poster: the computer won't boot from the CD. Bios is set up properly.
First response: Have you checked the BIOS ...
posted by Rhomboid at 9:10 PM on September 27, 2008


Beyond annoying you (and others), what harm does this really cause such it requires a coded solution?

It reduces the usability of the site. I was just thinking something like a box you had to check before posting an answer that said something like "I have read the complete question and this is an honest attempt at being helpful."
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:15 PM on September 27, 2008


In what way does it reduce the usability of the site?

It doesn't stop others, who have read the question from posting their replies. It doesn't stop the poster from reading those other replies. No functionality has been lost and the increase in time it takes to read the thread is miniscule relative to the total time the asker is likely to invest in it. In the grand scheme of things, it's relatively harmless.

Plus, now you have an ever increasing tally of MeFi members who are stupid and/or impatient and/or self-involved. That's gotta be good for something, no?

I mean, I agree with you that it's moderately annoying, but as someone who does try to read the question before I answer, I'd guess the occasional stupid answer is a hell of a lot less annoying than having to click a little ticky box every time I want to post. And any kind of technical fix is going to represent a barrier to posting for everybody, not just those few people who don't read.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:27 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


youcancallmeal: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will meal come when you do call for it?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:34 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


youcancallmeal: I guess I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed this. And was hoping that an offender could tell me why.

Ah. So you're not one of those jerks who asks rhetorical questions loudly simply to make themselves heard. You're one of those jerks who asks rhetorical questions loudly and then forces other people to answer them as penance for their sins.

I, for one, have done this. I always thought it was obvious why people do it sometimes.

Given the fact that you're asking a question that one might have thought was rhetorical as if it weren't, it's clear that you're not really in the mood to be rational or reasonable. Therefore, I am providing the following list, for your convenience, of reasons why I might have answered askme questions without reading them first. You may choose whichever one pleases you, given that the obvious fact of the matter clearly does not, and given that you're apparently intent on extracting your pound of flesh from us 'offenders:'

a. I never read the question before answering it because I believe that the world is filled with all sorts of synchronicities, and therefore, like Dirk Gently or Sting in the late '80s, I am intent on drawing these synchronicities out and making the most of their apparent spiritual depth. Whenever my answer turns out to match the question, I tilt my head in your direction, al, and smile significantly.

b. I harbor deep resentment toward people that come to AskMefi, and I want to give them bad advice.

c. I don't actually know how to read. I just stab at these strange buttons in front of me. It's amazing that anything coherent comes across at all, really.

d. I'm really just trying to piss you off.

e. Believing the Delphic imperative that we must seek to know ourselves, I attempt to help the questioner begin her or his path to self-discovery by answering questions in ways that are deliberately confused, thus forcing the questioner to reread the question they just wrote again and again.

f. Huh? I thought those questions were all rhetorical.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 PM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


More to the point, al, you've cited one question. This isn't a widespread problem. I use AskMe daily, I'm active there, and while I certainly can't claim absolute or universal knowledge of what goes on there, I don't think it's a serious problem.

You do, apparently. Why? What other questions have you seen that were disrupted this way? How do you conclude that it's a widespread and destructive problem?
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 PM on September 27, 2008


Half the time when people do this, they come back and apologize for having done so. And sometimes people apologize for not having thoroughly read all the other comments. So all in all, it doesn't seem like a huge problem. Nothing like the problem it would be to have to check a box next to a condescending statement before posting every comment.
posted by salvia at 10:08 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rhomboid: Poster: the computer won't boot from the CD. Bios is set up properly.
First response: Have you checked the BIOS ...


A BIOS can be set up 'properly' and still be set up to boot from the hard disk first, thus bypassing the CD.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 PM on September 27, 2008


I never read thorgh abnewerw on awerkem we onb netqatatalk if I can hekp it , soienthweiotj I haust ansetr at willm be aue ce the trucj this i rately am reaky to taje paryt at all.
posted by parmanparman at 10:17 PM on September 27, 2008


When I read "Bios is set up properly" from a person that has just finished detailing all the they've had trying to get a machine to boot from a CD, the interpretation that I come away with is "I have checked the BIOS and it is set to boot from CD before hard drive." I really can't come up with any other interpretation for that phrase, and in comments the poster clarified that indeed that is exactly what they meant.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:23 PM on September 27, 2008


part of the promblewm si that we donb't consiuder that hald out propationat; might be drunk because it is the end of weekend. I my god! If I keep my eyes closed and not look at he keyboard I can write and there is absolutely no problem. Thank you Mavis Bacon Teaches Typing. Even though you are not a real person.
posted by parmanparman at 10:24 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can tell you I *didn't* read the "answers" you linked to, because it is extremely irritating when people link to single letters of one word.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:33 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought we were finally done with bacon.
posted by netbros at 10:34 PM on September 27, 2008


Anyway, how could you stop with "I have read the complete question and this is an honest attempt at being helpful?" You could add "I will not financially benefit from posting this comment. My comment includes no sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive language. My legal and medical qualifications, or lack thereof, have been appropriately noted. I expressly acknowledge and state that mileages between multiple persons' experiences can and do vary. I have refrained from using outdated Internet cliches including but not limited to: snakes on planes, ceiling cat, O RLY?, the Star Wars kid, "i kiss you!" and /the Fark slash. I acknowledge and agree that Metafilter (or Metafilter’s commentors) owns all legal right, title and interest in and to Metafilter and the Metafilter logo, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in the Metafilter Services (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist).I EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT MY USE OF THE SERVICES IS AT MY SOLE RISK AND THAT THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" AND “AS AVAILABLE.” I AGREE THAT METAFILTER SERVICES HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY TO PROVIDE EITHER PLATES OR BEANS.I ACKNOWLEDGE NOTHING IN THESE TERMS, INCLUDING SECTIONS 14 AND 15, SHALL EXCLUDE OR LIMIT METAFILTER'S WARRANTY OR LIABILITY FOR LOSSES WHICH MAY NOT BE LAWFULLY EXCLUDED OR LIMITED BY APPLICABLE LAW. SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OR THE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY FOR LOSS OR DAMAGE CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE, BREACH OF CONTRACT OR BREACH OF IMPLIED TERMS, OR INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Morbi id felis vitae erat tempor euismod.
posted by salvia at 10:35 PM on September 27, 2008 [11 favorites]


Bacon! Oh man, that's what I forgot in the disclaimer!
posted by salvia at 10:36 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought we were finally done with bacon.

God, I love bacon.
posted by parmanparman at 10:39 PM on September 27, 2008


I was just thinking something like a box you had to check before posting an answer that said something like "I have read the complete question and this is an honest attempt at being helpful."

You know those license agreements you're required to read and agree to after you've downloaded software, but before you install it? How many of them have you actually read before clicking "I Agree"?

I mean, YCCMA, I'm with you on principle. But a checkbox is never, ever going to trump the desire for people to hear themselves type.

Plus, there's a not-altogether-surprising tendency for many people to skim the question, get the gist of it, and then offer a good-faith answer. Missing a detail in that instance isn't really the worst crime an answerer can commit. I think many of us have done it unwittingly.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:40 PM on September 27, 2008


When asked if I am really over 18, I leave the site because there is no place to type MYOB.
And of course I read the license agreement once
posted by Cranberry at 11:22 PM on September 27, 2008


Yeah, I have become resigned to the fact that any askme post I make has to be full of clarifications and qualifications even then it won't make a difference to a significant minority of answerers. If you look at a lot of my past AskMes, you can double or triple their length to how many "yes I tried this" clarifications I had edited out.

The only time it gets my goat is when it carries the "LOL YOU ARE STUPID FOR NOT HAVING ALREADY KNOWN OBVIOUS ANSWER X" or "GOD THIS IS A STUPID QUESTION AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD FOR WASTING MY TIME YOU FOOL" connotation.

People posted good-faith answers to my Liquid Diet food question that, even though they won't work for my needs, can be taken and adapted into something that might work within my constraints. I see no problem with that. And the thread is really helping me, and not just with my diet. I take my lumps (or chunks and booze, if you will) with my gold, and willingly. No need to single out porpoise; s/he seems like a good guy/gal trying to help, and I'm sure a few of his suggestions will work (I'm allowed to puree meat, for instance, and the broth might really help make that palatable).

And thank you for bringing this to Metatalk instead of doing something like taking umbrage at the 'beer' response in-thread, which is just noise. I'm not saying it needs to be brought to Metatalk every time someone jumps the gun on a question (oh my how many Metatalk threads we'd have), but less noise is always good.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:26 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I didn't read the [more inside] in this MeTa thread, and yet, I am commenting in it right now.

I am a very bad man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:08 AM on September 28, 2008


Well I mean if you could include some examples in your question we might be able to help.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:13 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Boy, this happens a LOT. I answered a question awhile ago, in which the asker was putting tea tree oil in her hair at night to combat itchy scalp or something, and wanted a way to remove the oil quickly in the morning without leaving her hair all stringy and nasty.

MULTIPLE POSTERS came back with how 'she was shampooing too much' and that if she'd stop that, her hair would stop being oily. Sheesh. Her hair wasn't oily from overshampooing, it was oily from putting oil in it.

I'm not sure that reading comprehension is all that high on Askme, sometimes.
posted by Malor at 12:56 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't read.








There. I said it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:27 AM on September 28, 2008


but what was the right answer???
posted by artof.mulata at 2:38 AM on September 28, 2008


I think the obvious solution to this problem is to append a clever sentence fragment to the end of your 'main question' so that the [more inside] finishes the sentence.
posted by carsonb at 3:19 AM on September 28, 2008


It reduces the usability of the site. I was just thinking something like a box you had to check before posting an answer that said something like "I have read the complete question and this is an honest attempt at being helpful."

This, and all the other code based solutions I can think of (a timer before you can post an answer when you first enter the question, copy and paste some of the more inside text to prove you've looked at it, etc.), also reduce the usability of the site, arguably more than redundant answers.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:20 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


What's worse is when someone posts a pet peeve to MeTa without checking the archives to see if someone's complained about it already.
posted by Plutor at 4:47 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


My job and hobbies often involve me giving people directions via email. I've found that the most effective instruction is one step long. So if I write, "Please meet me in the board room at 3pm," there's a pretty good chance people will understand and comply.

If I write "Please meet me in the board room at 3pm, and bring a notebook," I'll get some people there without a notebook and some people showing up with a notebook but at the wrong time or place.

If I write "Please meet me in the board room at 3pm, and bring a notebook. Also, bring two pencils and your laptop," I'll really start to lose people. They'll say, "Oh, sorry. I didn't see the part about the two pencils."

I'm talking about smart people here. Unfortunately, they're overworked, addicted to multi-tasking and cutting corners, and temporary memory can only hold so much information.
posted by grumblebee at 4:59 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not reading the whole question, is so common that there are acronyms, RTFA, tldr, for this behavior. For many people, reading text onscreen is still difficult, and some people format their questions poorly. So I'm pretty sure it's a lost cause.
posted by theora55 at 5:04 AM on September 28, 2008


I've also noticed that people tend to skim blocks of text. If you need people to get multiple points, it's worthwhile setting them up in some sort of typographically noticeable way.

Bad:

Please be at the meeting no later than four. If you have to come late, call in advance. The number is 123-456-7890. Call twice: once saying you're going to be late and once when you're leaving, saying you're on your way. Make sure you bring all the appropriate forms.

Better.

Here are some key points to remember about tomorrow's meeting. Please read them thoroughly and let me know if anything is unclear:

1. Be there by 4pm. DON'T BE LATE.

2. If you are going to be late, CALL TWICE: once saying you'll be late, and once when you're leaving, saying you're on your way. 123-456-7890.

3. *** MAKE SURE YOU BRING ALL THE APPROPRIATE FORMS. ***

I've had people complain to me that no one follows their directions, and I've given the above advice. Sometimes people balk and say, "I shouldn't have to do that! Grown ups should be able to read and follow simple directions." Yes, grown ups SHOULD be able to read and follow simple directions. But they can't. So you need to break steps down and make them overly clear.
posted by grumblebee at 5:11 AM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was just thinking something like a box you had to check before posting an answer that said something like "I have read the complete question and this is an honest attempt at being helpful."

People aren't doing this because they're assholes, they're doing it because they think they're answering the question and being helpful. Why wouldn't they check that box?
posted by inigo2 at 5:14 AM on September 28, 2008


Dear Sheila:

A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the jubilee clips holding the vacuum pipes onto the inlet manifold. If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the carburetor float chamber. I hope this helps.

Walter
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:26 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it safe to eat this?
posted by fixedgear at 5:45 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


as Plutor noted above, I recently asked a similar question - the recommendations there were to "flag as noise" & move on

(btw, anyone wanting some good explanations of what exactly "noise" means when flagging & how flagging works on the moderator end of things should check out that thread - there are some great detailed answers from jessamyn & cortex)
posted by jammy at 5:50 AM on September 28, 2008


More to the point, al, you've cited one question. This isn't a widespread problem.

Bullshit. This is a widespread problem, and it's infuriating enough it causes me to post cranky answers that get deleted. Read the fucking question, people, twice if you need to, and maybe even read the entire thread in case the poster has clarified or someone has already shot down your brilliant idea. Thank you.

Also, grumblebee is right.
posted by languagehat at 7:02 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't actually like bacon. Or any other pork products, for that matter...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:13 AM on September 28, 2008


Poster: the computer won't boot from the CD. Bios is set up properly.
First response: Have you checked the BIOS ...


I know you've clarified your position, but I still don't get the problem in those answers: Regardless of what the question said, The BIOS was the exact problem.

I really don't think this trend is too much of an issue and I fail to see how it takes away from the usability or really anything from the site. If anything, it might give the OP a different perspective on reevaluating their perceptions. Additionally, it may give commenters different leads on how to give an answer that will help the poster.
posted by jmd82 at 8:15 AM on September 28, 2008


languagehat: Bullshit. This is a widespread problem, and it's infuriating enough it causes me to post cranky answers that get deleted.

Eh, probably correct.

I think what got in the way for me here is that I really can't stand it when people ask rhetorical questions and then demand that other people answer them. "Why did you do that silly thing? No, seriously. Answer me! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?"

There is nothing I hate more.
posted by koeselitz at 8:19 AM on September 28, 2008


I don't even read my posts when I post them, I seriously just close my eyes and mash my keyboard to type in random letters. Which is amazing, considering how much sense this post makes. Furthermore, it seems to contradict what I'm saying, as it implies knowledge of what I'm typing, but I assure you that the tone of self-awareness, not to mention the structure of the English language, is simply coincidence -- these are seriously just random letters! I guess when you think about it, the chance that these letters would come up is just as good as the chance of any other set of letters, but that doesn't make it any less amazing that chance and chance alone has allowed for the creation of this paragraph without even a single spelling erroe.
posted by Damn That Television at 8:32 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um...if someone is asking for a response, it's not a rhetorical question. I wanted to know if other people noticed this and if there was anything we could do about it. Apparently they do and we can't. Question answered.

(And yeah, I should have searched. But I was annoyed. Mea culpa.)
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:33 AM on September 28, 2008


"Look how stupid these people are. I can't wait to get on Metatalk and tell everyone."
posted by Zambrano at 8:46 AM on September 28, 2008


"Look how stupid these people are. I can't wait to get on Metatalk and tell everyone."

If you had actually read what youcancallmeal said, you'd realize that's not what she's saying. Whether they - or you - are stupid or just unhelpful and careless is probably debatable, but unless you're actually going for some sort of MetaMeTa thing, you're proving her point.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:55 AM on September 28, 2008


Yes.
posted by Mister_A at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2008


Why didn't you just google this, dumb-ass?
posted by Mister_A at 9:13 AM on September 28, 2008


MULTIPLE POSTERS came back with how 'she was shampooing too much' and that if she'd stop that, her hair would stop being oily. Sheesh. Her hair wasn't oily from overshampooing, it was oily from putting oil in it.

Well, there is also the problem that some people don't read comments in full, either. I was one of the people on that thread that suggested that she might have been overshampooing, not because her hair was oily (that was from oil) but because her scalp was dry and itchy, necessitating the oil.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on September 28, 2008


Like shampooing and tea tree oil application, AskMetaFilter and MetaTalk are a viscous cycle.
posted by Science! at 9:38 AM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


youcancallmeal, the best answer we have is "flag it as noise if it's not an answer". I think languagehat et al are right in saying this is a recurring problem, and yes, folks, mods included, notice it. I also think the folks arguing it's not a big deal are coming from a reasonable place, because the ratio of the tl;dr stuff to productive answers is nonetheless really pretty solid, which is nice.

Certain topics, and specific threads, can be much worse than baseline for a variety of reasons, but that's pretty much metafilter and the internet and life in general in a nutshell. Again: flag, let us mods know, and we can cull some of the stuff out.

Zambrano, if you would focus more on actually saying what you mean on the site and less on putting quotes in some vague strawman's mouth or talking sarcastically about how you "love that [bitchy description of thing you don't love]" and etc., that'd help the signal:noise ratio out here a lot too. Please cut that crap out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:39 AM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Also, Zambrano, if you keep walking so many batters it's going to be a short post-season.
posted by Mister_A at 9:41 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is nothing I hate more.

Nothing?? What about the sitcom plot when someone thinks her friends forgot her birthday when they were really just planning a surprise party? ("Surprise!!")
posted by salvia at 9:48 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I always read the entire question, but sometimes I can't be arsed to read all the answers before adding my 2c. (Mostly if I'm responding while I'm doing my early-morning webstuff before work and I gotta get my fruity butt out the door.) I notice a lot of other people do THIS as well since there are a lot, a LOT of piggy back comments that all say the same thing. I think this is probably *less* detrimental, but AskMe is filled with a bit of detritus around the edges, and I think that's ok because for the most part, it's a pretty great resource.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2008


Repeats of the same or similar answers help reassure the asker that there is a consensus on the issue.
posted by Mister_A at 9:52 AM on September 28, 2008


Repeats of like answers help reassure the OP that there is something close to consensus on the issue.
posted by Mister_A at 9:52 AM on September 28, 2008


Repeats of answers that are similar to previous ones help reassure the poster that a lot of people agree on the issue.
posted by languagehat at 10:06 AM on September 28, 2008


At least Zambrano has laid off of the gobsmacked "N posts on Supposedly Inane Subject of Thread?" form, where N is the number of comments preceding his own.
posted by CKmtl at 10:15 AM on September 28, 2008


There unquestionably is a problem with this happening, but it's futile to think that you can "fix" the answerers -- there are too many of them, and they're too "busy" to slow down and properly parse questions. I usually find the problem is worst of all in the long-ass rambling questions, or the ones that have sentence. after sentence. with another fact. to be aware of. that. go on. forever.

The "solution", then, as far as there is one, is to put the onus on the asker to be aware of this problem and act accordingly. Questions need to be written in an at-a-glance format, with really important stuff highlighted or bullet-pointed.

Even then the asker has to be aware that it's still likely to be ignored, and be ready to work in the thread to try and clarify. Not with "I ALREADY SAID NO X/Y/Z" but more "Ah, yes, I wondered if it was shampooing/the bios/his fault too, but it definitely isn't because ..."

AskMe answerers are already a cut above almost all the others on the web, and they're free. If you want to get the best from them, make their life as easy as possible, and still be ready to help, even if that means repeating yourself.
posted by bonaldi at 10:16 AM on September 28, 2008


I think that when there is more than one answer which expresses a similar opinion, it helps the questioner to know that several people think similarly about the question.
posted by trip and a half at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2008


Make it so that the person that asks a question can visibly mark an answer as Dumb. Perhaps a little dunce-hat to the right of the answer.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Make it so that the person that asks a question can visibly mark an answer as Dumb. Perhaps a little dunce-hat to the right of the answer.

I like this idea, actually. I'd just say that there would have to be...say, 20 'dumb' votes before the dunce cap comes out. It would at least discourage people from posting before reading.
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2008


Yeah, I have become resigned to the fact that any askme post I make has to be full of clarifications and qualifications even then it won't make a difference to a significant minority of answerers.

Do people think this really works? That adding more text to read will improve the quality of the answers of those who skim?

Or even worse, the questions where it says "I DON'T want this answer and I TRIED this and please DO NOT ANSWER the question if you're not going to read my huge block of explanation." I think you're much better off just asking a simple question and ignoring the answers you don't like.

I liken it to eBay auctions. You set a high reserve or starting price, and you're likely to get the price you want, or no bids at all. You set a $1 start, you're going to get some bids, even though they may not be as high as you desire.
posted by smackfu at 10:45 AM on September 28, 2008


"I seriously just close my eyes and mash my keyboard to type in random letters."

Please get your own shtick, pal.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2008 [9 favorites]


Make it so that the person that asks a question can visibly mark an answer as Dumb. Perhaps a little dunce-hat to the right of the answer.

I like this idea, actually. I'd just say that there would have to be...say, 20 'dumb' votes before the dunce cap comes out. It would at least discourage people from posting before reading.


Inversely it could also encourage jerks to try and get the most dunce hats evar, cause derails like all get out, poison the atmosphere of AskMe in general, and be abused as a shaming device for responses that, while valid, may not jibe with the biases of the Asker or other respondents.

Flagged as stupid.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2008


But if 20 (or whatever) people all had to independently vote it stupid, I think that would prevent most tomfoolery. That said, point taken.
posted by youcancallmeal at 11:12 AM on September 28, 2008


Coming soon to MetaTalk: "Why did my answer get marked as dumb?"
posted by smackfu at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I have done this multiple times. It is a bit embarrassing. And when I am perusing answers it is mildly irritating. This problem and few other problems are directly related to the "user cannot edit posts" policy.

And I don't want that to change. Most Some of the time that keeps me from being una bocchetta di doccia. Still occasionally I read the first bit of an askMe and think, "Hey, I know the answer to this. I get to look smart!" Then I start typing my dumb answer with my little banana fingers wiggling with excitement and press Post Comment. Only then do I smile the satisfaction of the self-righteous, lean back in my desk-chair and scroll up and mutter, "Shit."

If this is really that rebarbative to you (and flagging ain't cutting it) simply mefi-mail the person and ask them to email the mods to delete it.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:38 AM on September 28, 2008


salvia: Nothing?? What about the sitcom plot when someone thinks her friends forgot her birthday when they were really just planning a surprise party? ("Surprise!!")

Fair enough.

Fine then.

There is one thing I hate more.
posted by koeselitz at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2008


Do people think this really works?

If people are gonna skim, they're gonna skim and clarifications won't help that, I agree. Like, imagine my question (the one linked by the OP) if I didn't clarify what 'liquid diet' meant... The people who DID read the entire question would be more likely to give me answers that don't help. No clarifications has the same result as if everyone skimmed.

The question "Do you have any tasty recipes for a liquid diet?", without anything else, would have answers like "Have you tried milkshakes?" "What about pureed meats?" "Milkshakes are good." "Liquid diets are very dangerous and you should seriously reconsider this. There are easier ways to lose weight." "Don't forget about calories and proteins! Here's my list of ways to help with that!" "Did you even try to google? God. I've found dozens, no hundreds, NAY THOUSANDS of results for this." "Yeah, why didn't you just google this? Also, have you talked to your doctor about this 'diet' of yours?"

Clarifications DO cut down on the borderline-dickish non-answers that drive me nuts, though.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:59 AM on September 28, 2008


Community penalties never work well, and I have a feeling they'd be subject to more screwing around and troublemaking than they're worth. And if people don't read the question, why would they read a note at the bottom of the screen that's always there, even if they do have to click it before they post?

The best solution is better questions, though this isn't the fault of the people asking.

I think we should eliminate the "more inside" feature. The biggest cause of the problem we're talking about is that fold that nobody goes below before they decide whether they might have a good answer to a question. These questions where nobody reads an important detail are invariably questions like

Help! I am stuck in a hole! The only item which I have here in this hole is a ladder! What should I do to get out of the hole?
________________________________________________________________________________
Oh, and by the way, the latter is smashed into a billion tiny bits, so I can't use it to climb out.

I know people aren't trying to pull a 'gotcha,' but, for example, the question that Rhomboid linked to earlier where somebody was trying to figure out how to boot a computer was of this type; yes, they mentioned that their BIOS was working properly, but it was almost an afterthought at the end of a paragraph in the middle of their 'More Inside.'

Sometimes, it's true, you can't state the whole question in one or two sentences. But it's helpful when, in those situations, people are forced to mention that there are more important details inside the thread.

Even if we don't eliminate "More Inside," I think it should at least be made more prominent somehow or updated. It becomes this weak spot in the question that a lot of people just don't read, partly because it's not out there on the front page and partly because a lot of askers seem to use it merely for footnotes or extraneous info that's not essential. People have to work harder on condensing their questions and stating them briefly and clearly, and the front-page space restrictions used to do that. Now those restrictions, combined with the fact that people have unlimited space under a fold within the thread, mean that people are lazy and sometimes (often, I think) don't even state a question at all in their initial bit.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on September 28, 2008


Sometimes in life, there will be things that will annoy you. The only way to avoid this is to kill yourself.

but can I have your french fries before you go?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: No, but you can have my milkshakes. I have too many of them anyways.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:28 PM on September 28, 2008


People who read askme frequently usually read through the questions they see on the main page and click on one they feel they have some experience with. The hard bit is what they do when they get inside. Theoretically, people shouldn't necessarily have to read the comments, and some don't; but I think people often get excited because they feel they have particularly insightful things to say and end up roughly skimming the 'More Inside.'

The trick is to weed out those skimmers before they click on the question in the first place, or at least to put them on their guard.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on September 28, 2008


I think we should eliminate the "more inside" feature.

This solution is way too drastic, if you think of the side-effects: clutter on the front page of AskMe and badly posed questions. Just think of what relationshipfilter would look like without "more inside", or coding questions.

There is a positive side effect though: we get rid of the cutesy types that finish the last sentence of their post with [More Inside].
posted by ghost of a past number at 12:29 PM on September 28, 2008


Next question: is there anything that can structurally be changed within the site to combat this?
posted by youcancallmeal at 10:50 PM on September 27 [+] [!]

No.
posted by puke & cry at 10:56 PM on September 27 [2 favorites +] [!]


Actually, there is something you could change (which is not to say you should change it): have a character limit for every original post in AskMetafilter. A lot of questions (especially relationshipfilter) are too wordy and have needless detail/exposition, which causes people not to read the whole question. Anyone who truly needed to include more info could post it as an "answer" to their own question, but most OP's would get the hint that if they hit the limit then the question probably shouldn't be much longer.

I'm not saying that would be worth doing, as there are obvious downsides. But it is a potential change to combat people not reading the question.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:31 PM on September 28, 2008


ghost of a past number: This solution is way too drastic, if you think of the side-effects: clutter on the front page of AskMe and badly posed questions. Just think of what relationshipfilter would look like without "more inside", or coding questions.

I remember what it was like (what was it, two years ago?) before Matt added this feature, and I don't remember it being bad at all. However, I'm not a mod, and I can imagine it being tedious to spend time reducing questions to fit the page.

To be clear, we had 'More Inside' then, and it was used often. It just meant that, when people wanted to say more than two or three sentences in a question, they had to say "there's more inside" or "I have a lot more detail to give you inside" and then post that detail as the first comment. That's the perk I'm talking about - the 'More Inside' note was part of the question rather than just a feature of the landscape. People were forced to notice it when they were reading, and people had to work to reduce their question to a manageable level so it wouldn't get deleted.

I know it's nice to push the clutter off of the front page and into the questions, but the point is that that's dragging them down. People should be forced to think about uncluttering their questions; they shouldn't just be given a little space and told to clutter it up as much as they like so long as they stay within the lines.
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2008


koeselitz, right now you get:
-posters hiding information deep within "more inside."
-people not reading the "more insides" out of eagerness

Taking away the current more-inside system has the following problems:
-people who know to post their own more insides hiding information within it.
-people not reading in order to eagerly respond (it'll still happen, it's human nature.)
-people not reading the more insides because they think it's another answer and not by the OP
-misinformed people not knowing they can post a "more inside" and clogging the front page tubes.
-some people taking a long time to write the more inside, confusing everyone (mushrooms, anyone? There are precedents for all of these.)

The current system is problematic, but that doesn't mean returning to an old, more problematic system is the solution.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:38 PM on September 28, 2008


However, I'm not a mod, and I can imagine it being tedious to spend time reducing questions to fit the page.

It was, indeed, tedious to reduce questions to fit the page. It's much better now, and thanks to the explicit more-inside implementation we can do so easily without having to do hacky comments-by-mods against a ticking clock.

Solon and Thanks basically has the right idea, right up there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:46 PM on September 28, 2008


That makes sense. So would it be possible to make the "more inside" a little bigger, maybe?

I know it's hard to see that as a solution to the problem at hand. I guess maybe there isn't one.

The suggestion up above for a character limit on the 'more inside' might make sense. Other than that, I really can't think of anything.
posted by koeselitz at 2:58 PM on September 28, 2008


THEN WHO WAS PHONE?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:27 PM on September 28, 2008


You can't really tell if:

1) They didn't read any of the more inside.
2) They read some of the more inside, but missed the part that makes their answer "wrong".
3) They read the whole thing, but misread part of it.

Try to think up a technical solution that fixes (3).
posted by smackfu at 3:34 PM on September 28, 2008


Try to think up a technical solution that fixes (3).

Medical experiments?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:36 PM on September 28, 2008


maybe instead of having it say "more inside" it could say "porn inside"?
posted by jammy at 3:39 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"porn everywhere"
alternating with
"hugs for everyone"
posted by carsonb at 4:42 PM on September 28, 2008


A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the jubilee clips holding the vacuum pipes onto the inlet manifold. If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the carburetor float chamber.

I hope this helps.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:01 PM on September 28, 2008


I will admit that when I saw the beer response I winced. but then I remembered that the SAT's have a reading comprehension section and that the majority of people don't get a perfect score on that section.
posted by Megafly at 5:12 PM on September 28, 2008


On the side of people saying, "There's not much that can be done about this"--I also notice that in the linked question, the asker got tons of really helpful information. It's a "Best Answer" bonanza in there. Sure it's annoying when people do a poor job of reading the questions, but does it really muck up the functionality of the site?
posted by not that girl at 8:45 PM on September 28, 2008


Megafly: "I will admit that when I saw the beer response I winced. but then I remembered that the SAT's have a reading comprehension section and that the majority of people don't get a perfect score on that section."

Well, to be fair, a lot of people don't consider beer and wine to be "booze". Booze usually means liquor. I don't think that applies to this particular respondent; I'm sure he just didn't read the whole question. But beer isn't necessarily a crazy bad answer. A low alcohol stout could be a pretty nutritious supplement to a liquid diet.
posted by team lowkey at 11:07 PM on September 28, 2008


Maybe a little public humilation would be worthwhile. Add a "this answer is not helpful" flag that can only be clicked once by a user (that is, you can't repeatedly flag an answer as unhelpful).

After a certain number of those flags is reached in-thread, the comment is struck through. As individual users accumulate X number of these flags, a warning appears on their profile, something like: "Caveat lector: this user has a history of giving unhelpful answers to questions. Take any answer from them with a larger grain of salt than you would the answers of other users". That user can still post answers, but if they continue to accumulate unhelpful flags, eventually they lose the ability to post to Ask at all.

This would also reduce the likelihood of people competing for these flags, because once you've gotten flagged as an unhelpful answerer, the only way to get that removed is by asking the mods, and your history speaks for itself. Redemption is only really possible by one of the mods, or /all/ of the mods, agreeing that, okay, you're not being as much of a dick as you used to be. If people get annoying about this ("ZOMG IM BEIN OPRESED" MeTa's, etc) ban 'em. It's not like they're contributing, and you already got their $5. Screw 'em.

To reduce abuse (e.g. someone headhunting a user they don't like and trying to unhelpful them to be a general dick), the aggregation of "unhelpful" flags only counts each reporting user once, so no matter how many times you click "unhelpful" on various different AskMe answers, your opinion only counts once, and profile flagging only happens when someone reaches X many unique users reporting them as unhelpful.

Of course, you'll have a cohort of people who will think that being flagged as unhelpful is just this total hoot, and there's nothing any of us can do about that, but at the least you could ensure that their contributions are appropriately rewarded, by being made hard to read and that when people click on their username, it essentially says "THIS PERSON IS AN UNHELPFUL ASSHOLE, DON'T LISTEN TO THEM".

I will point out that something similar to this already occurs under the radar, in that certain users (SCDB leaps out at me) have accumulated a reputation for being unhelpful, and that reputation is one of those things that occasionally crops up when someone reports them to MeTa. I think that's good, but inconsistent, and I'd have no problem at all with it becoming algorithmically quantified.

My opinion is like an asshole, in that I have one, and it stinks.
posted by scrump at 11:19 PM on September 28, 2008


USE A TRIPOD
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:28 PM on September 28, 2008


Oh please Ubu: nobody on mefi except me drives a naturally-aspirated car. You may as well ask them to roll-start next.
posted by pompomtom at 11:31 PM on September 28, 2008


FOR WHAT
posted by scrump at 11:31 PM on September 28, 2008


Metafilter: "porn everywhere" alternating with "hugs for everyone."
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:43 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I just committed the error I was railing against upthread so fuck me.
posted by puke & cry at 11:47 PM on September 28, 2008


*also drives a naturally aspirated car*

You can't engineer behaviour, therefore this is a problem that cannot be solved except by more humanistic techniques.

Like electroshock therapy.
posted by dg at 1:15 AM on September 29, 2008


Scrump, your grand plan might castigate a small group of "serial bad answerers", but I doubt they are the cause of most of these issues. A small group of people doing something consistently are often outweighed by a large majority doing something occasionally.
posted by smackfu at 5:44 AM on September 29, 2008


But, see, my approach would be a deterrent, and would probably work as effectively as all those other deterrent approaches like the death pena oh hey waitaminute
posted by scrump at 8:18 AM on September 29, 2008


You can't really tell if:

1) They didn't read any of the more inside.
2) They read some of the more inside, but missed the part that makes their answer "wrong".
3) They read the whole thing, but misread part of it.

Try to think up a technical solution that fixes (3).


When I have done this it has been because I read the question but there were a lot of answers and by the time I read through them I forgot some detail of the original question. And one time I got the signs for inches and feet mixed up just as in Spinal Tap, so any fix would have to address those issues as well.
posted by TedW at 12:52 PM on September 29, 2008


Good example of complete failure to read here:

http://ask.metafilter.com/103057/A-lawyer-or-still-a-lawyertobe
posted by Perplexity at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2008


Sorry for ruining your example so quickly. The flagging system: it works!
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 AM on September 30, 2008


So, in that example, people managed to read it as:
After Before I pass the bar examination, but before I'm sworn in, what am I?
Which implies there is another possible cause:

4) People answer the question they want to answer, even if it's not the question that was asked.
posted by smackfu at 10:35 AM on September 30, 2008


I read that whole question and remembered the "no chunks" and "no straws" and "not all based on dairy" parts, but by the time I got halfway through my list of trying-to-be-helpful answers, I forgot about "no booze". My answer was an honest attempt to help, and I did give some good suggestions, and even if I suggested two booze options which won't help the poster, my answer still wasn't fully useless. And it might help another person down the line who has the same issue but can drink. I made an error because I'm human and because it's hard to remember every detail of someone else's problem.

Part of the problem might be that it was a pretty complex question with a lot of conditionals (8 restrictions on answers is a lot to remember). Users can help by making the conditionals brief when possible, because overly-specific restrictions tend to cut down on the number of answers. Or you can list all your conditions and just accept that some people will miss some of them. At the end of the day, despite a few misfired answers, this particular poster certainly got his/her $5 worth.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:04 PM on September 30, 2008




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