Why did my Askmefi question go unanswered? March 15, 2009 10:07 PM   Subscribe

My Askmefi question only recieved one answer...I realize that this must just happen every so often, but I'm wondering, a) how I might avoid it, and, b) can I ask the same question again in the hopes of getting more answers?

I'm not a 100% clear on what metatalk is for, so I apologize in advance if this post is...inappropriate.

If it's at all helpful, I was trying to get help tracking down arts related merit scholarships - it didn't seem like too obscure of a question...
posted by Griffinlb to Etiquette/Policy at 10:07 PM (67 comments total)

a) how I might avoid it

Sometimes folks ask questions badly in a way that may cost them useful answers, but beyond that there's not really any mojo to asking. I'm not sure that in this case there's much wrong with how you presented the question—you just got bitten by a mix of niche subject and the set of eyeballs that happened to run across it so far.

It's not a wildly obscure question, but it's not exactly Joe Random Mefite territory either—the subject is pretty narrow in the first place and that you're actively looking now further restricts it to people with not just historical but up-to-date knowledge on the scholarships that are out there.

b) can I ask the same question again in the hopes of getting more answers?

There's not really a hard-and-fast rule against ever asking a version of the same question again in the future, but if you're saying "can I ask it again in a week or two", that's something we don't really want people to do. Carte blanche do-overs aren't really part of how AskMe normally works, and to a degree you just need to be okay with the fact that your question might not get answered as well as you were hoping.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 PM on March 15, 2009


I doubt there is anything wrong with the way you asked the question. It's possible that such things just do not exist—that such scholarships are only available at individual institutions. It's also possible that they exist but no one here knows about it. It's a fairly specific question.
posted by grouse at 10:17 PM on March 15, 2009


Ask MetaFilter hits an audience of maybe 10,000 people from various backgrounds and you never know what you're going to get in terms of expertise and experience in matters. There have been insanely specific questions asked that I never thought would get an answer only to see a dozen people had in-depth experience in identical situations, and then there are fairly general questions that get nothing for some unknown reason.

You asked something specific but something I'm sure others might have had experience with (though if it was also from scholarship-seekers, they might not be inclined to welcome more competition), but I think you just happened to hit one of those weird no answers questions for a question that is seemingly common. I'd suggest further googling, or finding a art/design community to ask about scholarships on.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:17 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Link to the question.

It just so happens I was introduced to Mira's List the other day. Not sure if that will help definitively, but it's in the ballpark.
posted by peacay at 10:19 PM on March 15, 2009


err....

"MIRA'S LIST -
GRANTS. FELLOWSHIPS. RESIDENCIES. RESOURCES. Mira's List is a free service for writers, artists, composers and others in the arts. Here you will find up=to=date information, resources and deadlines for grants, fellowships and international residencies."
posted by peacay at 10:21 PM on March 15, 2009


At what point should the OP add a 'stumped' tag if they feel the question is unresolved?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:26 PM on March 15, 2009


A lot of times, someone will ask a super-specific question, but also temper it a bit with 'and how did you deal with this more general element of my question?' and people won't know how to answer the first part of the question (too specific for their knowledge) but they will know 'some general thing' and its answer so they'll respond to that.

In your case, for example, I don't know visual arts/whatever scholarships. If you had asked, "and what else would you advise me as a SL incoming student?" I might have added an answer about talking to SL directly and having their FinAid office put you in touch with some resources you might not know about.

For you, that answer may be totally useless.

So for a very specific question, I suppose one could say that it might serve you well to leave in something about being willing to hear about the more general and allow that to start a conversation that you might hope would lead to the more specific answer. Then again, if you just want answer X and not Y, Z, or 1 then you're doing nothing wrong.
posted by librarylis at 12:13 AM on March 16, 2009


Most people who would know the answer are in competition with you. Also, asking in the middle of the night didn't help.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:44 AM on March 16, 2009


Very often I only come to AskMe after I've spent hours scouring the web. By that time, I often don't expect to find an answer. It either doesn't exist, it's not online, or it's buried in the deep web somewhere. Along with everything else mentioned, I'm guessing you hit one of these.
posted by niles at 1:41 AM on March 16, 2009


Ask MetaFilter hits an audience of maybe 10,000 people from various backgrounds and you never know what you're going to get in terms of expertise and experience in matters.

I'm curious how you come up with this number? I mean, there are almost 90k members here, and while my personality generally precludes me from being an avid AskMe user, I do drop in from time to time.
posted by gman at 4:12 AM on March 16, 2009


It's pretty easy to track how many logged in users load AskMe in any given day/week/month. Add a small windage for non-logged in members who will log in to answer a question and for the occasional lurker who signs up to answer a question and you can tell with a fair degree of accuracy the size of the talent pool. (Lurkers who won't buy an account don't count. Even if they know the answer they aren't sharing.)

Also 90K is the number of people who have initiated the account creation process, the actual user count is much lower.
posted by Mitheral at 4:23 AM on March 16, 2009


I get that there aren't 90k active members, but would, say, I be included in the 10k Matt spoke of?
posted by gman at 4:25 AM on March 16, 2009


Matt estimated 38k-40k paid accounts approximately 11 months ago. But I think the real question that you should be asking is, "How many total accounts have actually been used to log in to the site in the last, say, 6 months?" And if you were to compute that, I think it would be a lot more telling (and a lot closer to 10k) than the number of valid accounts.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:49 AM on March 16, 2009


On tallying the numbers, I think your discrepancies may be solved by one of these:
- AskMe may reach 10,000 people. The rest of the accounts are sock puppets.
- 38k-40k paid accounts, with the rest of those being before-the-$5 days.
posted by whatzit at 4:56 AM on March 16, 2009


Oh, and it's also worth noting that while there might only be 10k logged in users browsing AskMe, there's also the chance that your question is the "I had to sign up because I have a really great answer for this" question for someone. You certainly can't count on that to happen all that often, but when you consider that the vast majority of the traffic of AskMe are people without accounts, then I suppose if even a small fraction of them are regularly induced into getting accounts to add their answer then statistically speaking they do inflate that number by some small amount.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:01 AM on March 16, 2009


> mathowie: "Ask MetaFilter hits an audience of maybe 10,000 people from various backgrounds and you never know what you're going to get in terms of expertise and experience in matters.

That was mathowie's 10,000 MeTa comment, coincidentally.

Also, I just saved a lot on my car insurance. Carry on!
posted by not_on_display at 5:47 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


At what point should the OP add a 'stumped' tag if they feel the question is unresolved?

In an anonymous middle Tennessee town, that was the hometown of a US President, they have an annual festival devoted to the lowly mule. In this town, which shall remain nameless out of shame, one of the historically popular events which has been stripped from the festival is the "Mock Stumping" of the mule in which contestants stand on a stump and pretend to "enjoy the comforts" of a mule. The winner receives a monitary prize and the adoration of his community.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:30 AM on March 16, 2009


On tallying the numbers, I think your discrepancies may be solved by one of these:
- AskMe may reach 10,000 people. The rest of the accounts are sock puppets.
- 38k-40k paid accounts, with the rest of those being before-the-$5 days.


Heh. Well, let me reframe those numbers a little, because I was just looking at them last week to put some bullet points together for Jessamyn for SXSW:

There are ~41,000 active accounts at this time. That's any account for which the signup process was completed and which has not since been closed. That's not just paid, that's pre-$5 accounts as well. But since paid signups have been around for a majority of mefi's life at this point and account for a majority of its active accounts, it's easy to shortcut that to "paid" in discussion, especially by newer folks who don't really remember or possibly even know about that pre-$5 days.

That number includes accounts going back years, many of which are still active in the broader sense of "still doing stuff around here", but many of which, newer and older, are on the dormant side—they stir rarely if ever; if they're coming around at all it's in a read-only fashion.

What qualifies as active vs. dormant in that sense is a bit fuzzy, so we don't usually group accounts in those terms in casual conversation because it'd require a lot of context to make the numbers meaningful. But we can look at, e.g., how many logged-in accounts have dropped by a given section of the site in the last month, which is a decent way to consider it in terms of activity.

And that number for AskMe is about 10,000 at any given time (precisely 9,839 different logged-in mefites have dropped by AskMe in the last month, as of this moment). Mefi is about the same; Metatalk is about half that (5,856 in the last month).

We haven't been calculating that figure for 24 hours mostly because there's likely to be a great deal more local noise and variation in that number and so it's not necessarily a very meaningful number at every snapshot, but it might be fun to try looking at it with a bit more granularity just for the fun of it.

And yeah, as Rhomboid points out, there's always the sign-up-to-answer-your-question factor; that sort of thing happens dailyish, and it's neat when it does. And thanks to RSS and tag-based filtering, the lifespan of an obscure question is a bit longer than that portion of a day that it's on the front page, so there's always a little bit of hope of someone straggling in a bit later.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:47 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Clearly, all of the artists were busy working on their portfolios or something last week. Or are shunning us. I didn't have any luck either with my question either.
posted by desuetude at 6:48 AM on March 16, 2009


My advice to you would be to post a humble, polite MetaTalk asking about how to get more answers for your question. To play this really exquisitely, you need to NOT link your question in your MeTa post, but allow someone in the thread to do it for you. More eyeballs, more attention, and hopefully more answers. hth, good luck.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:31 AM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


And that number for AskMe is about 10,000 at any given time (precisely 9,839 different logged-in mefites have dropped by AskMe in the last month, as of this moment). Mefi is about the same;
Am I misinterpreting this or are you telling us that MeFi (however you pronounce it) visits are now the same as AskMe?
posted by tellurian at 7:34 AM on March 16, 2009


desuetude: Clearly, all of the artists were busy working on their portfolios or something last week. Or are shunning us. I didn't have any luck either with my question either.

See, desuetude, I posted MY similar question the next day -- a Thursday afternoon, not on Wednesday mid-day. Everyone (including mythical beings like leprechauns) knows that's when artists are either watching "The Price is Right" or working on their portfolios or facing some deadline or another. On Thursday afternoons, that's when they're either done with their stuff, have blown the deadline, or are procrastinating wildly, and nothing good is on TV. Placement of your AskMe post is CRUCIAL! For christ's sake, think next time, or your sort-of-neice will no doubt end up a drug pusher, or worse, a Ron Paul follower, instead of the next ummm (I can't name any artists sorry bye!
posted by not_on_display at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2009


On Thursday afternoons, that's when

There's just something about Thursday Afternoon.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 AM on March 16, 2009


I take it this was not simply an email to a mod because it is advertising for the question at the same time...? On preview, stupidsexyFlanders beat me to it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:42 AM on March 16, 2009


More infodump fun:
Percentage of AskMe questions with no more than 10, 5, and 1 answers over time. These numbers have all seemed to have ticked upwards somewhat (although not hugely) since the beginning of 2007. (The scale's a little hard to read, the "≤1" line was between 2.6 and 3.8% for most of 08 and peaked at 4.0% in Oct.)
posted by Plutor at 7:48 AM on March 16, 2009


askMe is an Lender Answerer of Last Resort. We don't promise answers, only that we'll look at your situation and see if it meets our requirements. In this answer-crunch, no everyone can get answers. It's not your fault, it's just the web economy.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:53 AM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, my answer for you would be to go talk to a librarian. A real one, either public or your closest academic, since they get asked similar questions and have a knowledge base that allows them to know where to look.

AskMe is great, it has (in fact) plenty of librarians reading it, but it's not always a good substitute for a thorough search done by a professional.
posted by klangklangston at 7:59 AM on March 16, 2009


Am I misinterpreting this or are you telling us that MeFi (however you pronounce it) visits are now the same as AskMe?

You're not misinterpreting, but this isn't really new info. Mefi and Askme have for a long time had approximate parity in terms of visits from distinct logged-in users. I believe Askme continues to get more overall traffic, but that's an issue of ambient google-driven and lurker readership as well as the (relative drop in the bucket that is) userbase traffic.

And even at that, AskMe and Mefi are still fairly similar in overall traffic, that AskMe I think has held on to a bit of a lead for a while.

I take it this was not simply an email to a mod because it is advertising for the question at the same time...? On preview, stupidsexyFlanders beat me to it.

I know we're really, really good at being cynical in here, but it's not actually necessary to hammer on the "i see what you did there, don't think you're getting away with it" thing at every opportunity. A little bit of charity never hurt anybody.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:00 AM on March 16, 2009


A little bit of charity never hurt anybody.

Yes! I love teh snark as much as anyone, but fer chrissakes, Griffinlb handled this question pretty darn well for a first foray into MeTa.

Also: Griffin's art is kickass.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:17 AM on March 16, 2009


My gravestone carving grandfather just got his first pacemaker at age 91, so my grandmother sent me some money. I tried bone marrow, brisket pho and the new Unibroue. They were all terrific and you should have them before you die. Also, the last street on the Lower East Side before the FDR Drive is Mangin Street. You don't have to see that before you die because it's really not much of a street. Also, egg whites in cocktails are better than you'd imagine.
posted by jonmc at 8:38 AM on March 16, 2009


And that number for AskMe is about 10,000 at any given time (precisely 9,839 different logged-in mefites have dropped by AskMe in the last month

Interesting numbers, cortex. But as for the above, I thought Matt meant "your question will reach, give or take, 10,000 people" but your "last month" qualification seems to dispute that. If so, I'd be interested to see how many unique logged-in users hit an individual question page (thread), on average.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:14 AM on March 16, 2009


I would say that Matt's description was not exactly super precise, there, is what's up with that, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2009


Cool, thanks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:39 AM on March 16, 2009


I actually meant to come back and answer that (funding is my area), so I just posted something. Sorry for the brevity, but hopefully that's a couple of new resources. Good luck! (And don't forget to talk to the school and your department.)
posted by clerestory at 1:49 PM on March 16, 2009


Ha, apparently all the art questions are having issues - my question had no answers at all!
posted by divabat at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2009


Heh. I just saw Griffin's work at an opening on Friday! (And it was some of the best work there).
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on March 16, 2009


I did an FPP that not only didn't get any comments but no favorites either! Not that I think it should have, but I thought "Wow! Not even snark?!" I thought it was kind of cool (in a unique way) and intructional. The experience from that kind of correlates in that I would probably do the post differently today, in a lot of different ways (setup, wording, time of post, etc.)
posted by P.o.B. at 4:42 PM on March 16, 2009


Yeah, P.o.B., giving no description at all of what the guy's work is like (beyond "freaky cool!") probably killed that one.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:09 PM on March 16, 2009


I've seen less on FPP's, so...go figure.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:45 PM on March 16, 2009


That wasn't meant as snark, ocherdraco. Just that I've seen less description on SLYT posts and I think a little bit of "figuring out" why is interesting to me.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:48 PM on March 16, 2009


I've seen less on FPP's, so...go figure.

There's a lot of people who probably didn't investigate those posts either, for that reason.
posted by grouse at 5:48 PM on March 16, 2009


I still hold it up as a personal trophy though. Kind of like my own personal Razzie.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:50 PM on March 16, 2009


It's not a Razzie, it's a Ninja. That's a stealthy goddam post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:55 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Further, my issue is when there is only one answer that is either not very specific or not very helpful although well meaning. See my question. Then, it falls out of the unaswered zone into the unlikely to ever be answered zone. (Is Jahaza right, it cannot be done?)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:59 PM on March 16, 2009


Well at least they waited until it was well off the front page.
posted by Mitheral at 7:57 PM on March 16, 2009


I did an FPP that not only didn't get any comments but no favorites either!
You and netbros. Within a day of each other! The last time that happened (no comment) was 2006. I know this because I look out for no comment posts since making this post.
posted by tellurian at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2009


Huh, interesting.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:43 PM on March 16, 2009


Crap! Now I have to share my Ninja award.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:44 PM on March 16, 2009


that number for AskMe is about 10,000 at any given time... Mefi is about the same; Metatalk is about half that
Do you know if they are the same group of users visiting AskMe and MeFi? Also, is the user group for MeTa a complete sub-group of one ( or both) of these, or are there a significant number of people who mostly hang out on MeTa? Please say it's not just me ...
posted by dg at 2:08 AM on March 17, 2009


Man, this sounds like a job for Captain Venn.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:54 AM on March 17, 2009


Crap! Now I have to share my Ninja award.
That's actually a Warnock award.
posted by tellurian at 3:14 PM on March 17, 2009


Don't tell me I've actually managed to stump cortex? Surely not.

I know he just doesn't care - give me my moment of self-illusion.
posted by dg at 4:55 AM on March 18, 2009


Neither stumped nor apathetic, just slow.

Here is a handsome Venn diagram and a bunch of notes on the numbers.

I would like to give each and every one of the 23 mefites who visited Metatalk and only Metatalk in the last month a great big hug.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:49 PM on March 18, 2009


Whoah! Thanks for that.

I'm surprised that the circles overlap so much between MeFi and AskMe - I always had the impression that there was a far greater cohort of users who only use AskMe.

While it hasn't been the case in the past month, there would be months where I only visit MeTa. It's my favourite MeFi place and where I always start my time on MeFi. Often, I just don't have time to go anywhere else.
posted by dg at 3:28 AM on March 19, 2009


Lurking logged-in users is one thing, but actual participation is essential to the success of MeFi (and AskMe). Without posts and comments, it'd just be a handsome shade of blue. Believe it or not, these numbers are somewhat (but not very) different for actual participation:

total = 6800
mefi = 1431 (21.0%)
askme = 2926 (43.0%)
meta = 58 (0.9%)
mefi + askme = 1362 (20.0%)
mefi + meta = 139 (2.0%)
meta + askme = 107 (1.6%)
mefi + meta + askme = 777 (11.4%)

Here's the code, for reference. I couldn't run this for "the last month", so this represents December 2008, the last full month in the last infodump. For these purposes, "participation" is defined as posting or commenting.
posted by Plutor at 5:32 AM on March 19, 2009


I'm surprised that the circles overlap so much between MeFi and AskMe - I always had the impression that there was a far greater cohort of users who only use AskMe.

Yeah, I agree; I expected to see a slightly larger group of AskMe stand-offs. I noted in the Flickr writeup that there might be some navigational fakeouts there, though, if a lot of folks who really only read AskMe nonetheless come through the blue as a first point of contact, even just to click on the "AskMeFi" link in the header.

Lurking logged-in users is one thing, but actual participation is essential to the success of MeFi (and AskMe).

Yup, that's the next step there. Thanks for doing the crunching. And that does bear out the expected shift toward (proportionally) larger Ask-only numbers. Aside from that bump, the starkest change from the visit graph is the big drop in the troika section—down from 47% of visitors hitting all three sites, only 11% actually comment and/or post to all three!

I might try running the last-30 numbers today for participation, see how much of the difference in proportions here is local noise vs. practical difference, say.

One thing pb pointed out is that, if I understood this correctly, we update the "last visited" counterers based only on visits to the main index pages. If you manage to somehow assiduously avoid the front page of metatalk for a whole month but end up clicking through to some actual threads (say, via a callout link in the blue or green, or from a link on another site), you could end up visiting without hitting the "visited" metric.

You could even end up contributing without visiting, which would be one possible explanation for Plutor getting 58 grey-only contributors while I got only 23 grey-only visitors, something that in literal terms (assuming we were using the same date ranges) would be nonsensical. But so it goes.

If I do contribution numbers, I'll fold in favorites as well, and flags. Those are measurable non-read-only forms of participation and may fill out the numbers a bit.

It'd also be interesting to look at this in terms of volume-of-participation thresholds. Plutors numbers above are any contributions. What does it look like if you say at least 5? 10? 25? 100?
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Very interesting.

Do I read right that in Plutor's numbers, 58 + 139 + 107 = 304 unique accounts participated in Metatalk in December '08? That seems low somehow.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:54 AM on March 19, 2009


+ 777 = 1081

You forgot the people who participated in all three subsites.
posted by Plutor at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2009


Of course. Thanks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:18 AM on March 19, 2009


Actually, part of me really wants to see the names of the 58 Gray Ones. Part of me kind of doesn't, but part of me really does.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:20 AM on March 19, 2009




Gosh, with the exception of goold ol' Paphnuty, half of those seem like bad in-joke sock puppets. But what excuse do the others have?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:37 PM on March 19, 2009


While it hasn't been the case in the past month, there would be months where I only visit MeTa.
... and Burhanistan proves it for me. I don't have an excuse - why do I need one?
posted by dg at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2009


Interesting!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:49 PM on March 19, 2009


Being an outlier is its own reward, then.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:51 PM on March 19, 2009


Well, most active users are just one of a group of 12k or so. I'm part of an elite force of 58, most of whom actually don't exist in the flesh, so that makes me special. Or "special". Or something.
posted by dg at 3:17 PM on March 19, 2009


cortex: "One thing pb pointed out is that, if I understood this correctly, we update the "last visited" counterers based only on visits to the main index pages."

Does that include the various tabs of the main pages? My bookmarks are straight to recentcomments on both MeFi and MeTa. Does that mean I never visit the site?

And I used to only browse the sites via rss, and follow links directly into threads.

I don't think those "visit" numbers are all that useful.
posted by team lowkey at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2009


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