Me asking AskMes November 28, 2009 3:03 PM   Subscribe

What makes an AskMe question get a lot of answers?

Several times I've posted (or seen) human relations, tech or nerdy questions of the kind that I thought would have gotten lots of answers but didn't. So, basically, what makes a good (as in prompts response) AskMe question?
posted by cmoj to MetaFilter-Related at 3:03 PM (57 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

sex
posted by Elmore at 3:05 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joking aside, my genuine serious questions get about 10 to 12 answers, and that is usually enough to get the problem solved for me. It works.
posted by Elmore at 3:06 PM on November 28, 2009


mixtapes.
posted by lalex at 3:09 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are just looking for a bunch of responses post a controversial question and then use your sockpuppet account to post about it in MeTa. (Don't do this).
posted by Elmore at 3:11 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Music questions seem to get a lot of answers (as in, "recommend me some music like X"). I'm not sure the volume of response is always indicative of the quality of the answers, though. Questions of taste (like music) don't have a single correct answer so there's not going to be the "someone else got it right, I'm not going to bother posting a duplicate correct answer" effect.
posted by axiom at 3:12 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


AskMe questions with a lot of answers are full of froth, and rarely get anywhere. They devolve into pile ons or bickering.

A good AskMe question is one in which the poster's question gets answered. Period.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:13 PM on November 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


To get good responses the question needs to be answerable and clearly presented/written (which I find difficult and takes me time). Even if it's an obscure subject there's a reasonable chance someone here will know.

To get lots of responses "recommend me your favourite book/movie/song about x".
posted by selton at 3:17 PM on November 28, 2009


If you are using askme to get as many respones as possible then I think you are missing the point of it. Ideally you would only need one answer.

I think this thread needs to be deleted for being chatfilter.
posted by Elmore at 3:20 PM on November 28, 2009


I think tech and nerdy questions don't get a lot of answers because they require specific knowledge. Everyone can give some relationship advice, or share a recommendation for "fun music" or "cooking books." Not everyone can (to be a creeper and look through your history) recommend good cheese-making books.

All of your questions with fewer responsiveness are asking very specific questions that most people can't answer. I think relationship!filters have given us answer-expectation inflation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:23 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Emotional honesty, intense curiosity about the world, and having somewhat of a crazy life. In other words, coming up with questions that other people wouldn't dare to ask, but would like to read and comment on. However, you do not want to go to far off the wall, because you don't want your post to be deleted. I've lurked for a while before joining, those patterns show up on AskMe posts that have a lot of replies, and on other message boards.

On the flip side, really banal stuff work also...almost everyone can relate to the topic at hand.
posted by Eleutherios at 3:25 PM on November 28, 2009


Passion. Some things people are just passionate about and they feel a need to lend their two cents. Whether or not that's helpful depends on the subject, obviously. I'd rather see a couple of good answers than dozens of "me too" responses but I tend to ask a lot of "how do I..." questions. If you're trying to gather opinions more is probably better, I would guess.

Just remember AskMe is not a contest, there's no prize for the most responses to a question. It's truly the quality, not quantity, that matters here.
posted by tommasz at 3:28 PM on November 28, 2009


Taters.
posted by fixedgear at 3:44 PM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anything that makes a wide range of people feel like they're qualified to answer. The current one about songs that make you get up and dance is a great example- plenty of answers, but clearly most of the people responding wouldn't be dancing to everyone else's music. If you took all the answers as gospel, then you'd have a playlist that went from Duke Ellington to Alien Ant Farm and expect people to dance to them both.
posted by twirlypen at 3:59 PM on November 28, 2009


Who he hell are Alien Ant Farm, are they anything to Alien Sex Fiend? Sorry, I should post that in AskMe.
posted by Elmore at 4:02 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What makes an AskMe question get a lot of answers?

When the questioner includes mistaken or controversial assumptions in the question.
posted by dhammond at 4:03 PM on November 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm probably not representative of a huge chunk of potential answerers, but if I'm considering spending more than a couple of minutes typing an answer I'll usually check the asker's history first. If they typically don't respond to followup questions, mark what they wanted to hear as best answers instead of the ones that really answered the questions thoughtfully and accurately, or just appear to be a general dumbass, I usually won't bother answering at all.

So there's that.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:04 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Feel-good chatty stuff that doesn't require any particular knowledge, like with those stupid mixtape questions, give you about the widest door you can possibly have for encouraging participation.

But I think there is a difference between the questions like those that get the maximum quantity of participation, and the questions that get the maximum quality of participation.

And you have to consider the demographics here -- although there are people from all over, and from all kinds of backgrounds, the site skews heavily US, heavily youngish, heavily white, and heavily nerdy in terms of pop culture. So you are golden for questions about Star Wars, and much less so for things further afield or more hands-on, in many instances.
posted by Forktine at 4:17 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's this interesting fringe of questions where there is a coherent problem to be solved, but where that problem is an intangible one having to do with the mindsets of the people involved. "How can I get over this boy/girl/squid?" "How can I explain this situation to my mom/dad/boss/spouse/squid?" "What do hiring managers look for in a cover letter for a sysadmin/editor/accountant/lawyer/squid?"

And the thing about those questions is that nobody can tell when the best answer's already been given, because "best" depends on a lot of personal details about the asker that we can't see. I mean, if I ask how to install a particular bit of hardware on my computer, and the first person to respond links to instructions, everyone else who comes in can see plainly that the situaiton's under control. Whereas if I ask how to get over my ex-squid and someone gives me a truly inspiring piece of emotional advice in the first response — one that instantly gives me the perspective I need on the whole sordid, inky mess and lets me summon up the strength to scrub myself off and move on — the basic rightness of the answer won't be apparent to anyone else, and so more answers will keep piling up.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Questions without a single clear answer tend to get more answers.

Now what makes a question get better answers?
posted by Eideteker at 4:34 PM on November 28, 2009


I don't mean to suggest that quantity is any kind of inherent goal, but as people have noted, some questions benefit from as many viewpoints as possible. RelationshipFilter, most or some of the time.

As for a specific question that I've asked that I expected more discussion about (i don't mind being creepered here), I had hoped that there would be some philosophical waxing in my question about crossword symmetry.
posted by cmoj at 4:47 PM on November 28, 2009


Yes but discussion is not really the point of askme cmoj, and it seems that your crossword question had a few pretty reasonable answers as well as possibilities for followup on your part
posted by Think_Long at 4:56 PM on November 28, 2009


Who he hell are Alien Ant Farm, are they anything to Alien Sex Fiend? Sorry, I should post that in AskMe.

Alien Sex Fiend is an amazing band, and Alien Ant Farm would be forgotten if they hadn't covered Michael Jackson, soooooo
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems that relationship advice questions tend to get the most answers, as well as anecdote questions like the differences between men and women thread.
posted by biochemist at 5:28 PM on November 28, 2009


Timing's also a factor. I find that the questions I post a couple hours before lunch time tend to get the most responses. Ones that go up in the late afternoon or early evening tend to get pushed off the front page pretty quick.

However, as has been noted already. Lots of answers doesn't always equal lots of information. One of my most successful AskMes was only a couple comments long, but was answered perfectly with information that clobbered my problem in the very first response.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:50 PM on November 28, 2009


Forktine: " So you are golden for questions about Star Wars, and much less so for things further afield or more hands-on, in many instances"

Not to argue at all, Forktine, just that I've seen it so much different here, that I could ask about collecting Portuguese stamps from the 1750s on through the late 1800s* and often get high-quality answers from people qualified to give them.

What I tell others, when ranting on merrily about the greatnesses of this site, IS the wide variety of its members professions and experiences and the seemingly unlimited number of whom can and will answer just about any question put out to them; I've been here for a few years and I'm still amazed by it all sometimes.

*dramatization, based upon real life events..
posted by dancestoblue at 6:06 PM on November 28, 2009


zombies
posted by HuronBob at 6:13 PM on November 28, 2009


Males and females alike have a lot of opinions on vaginas.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:19 PM on November 28, 2009


I'm guessing something along the lines of:
* A decent hook, so people are interested in the question itself, and possibly favorite it into the "popular favorites" feed
* A subjective question, so opinion is obviously in-bounds
* A question that doesn't require obscure knowledge

The techy side of me would suggest doing data analysis on the information to determine strong predictors of comment activity. You'd want to look at tags, favorites activity and maybe "popular favorites" status, and perhaps what constitutes an average level of activity.
posted by pwnguin at 6:59 PM on November 28, 2009


Not to argue at all, Forktine, just that I've seen it so much different here, that I could ask about collecting Portuguese stamps from the 1750s on through the late 1800s* and often get high-quality answers from people qualified to give them.

For quality, I think you are right -- your oddball question will attract the three experts in the entire world, and you will get amazing answers. But for quantity (the stated purpose of this MeTa), you want ease of entry -- "What's the best Star Wars mixtape to DTMFA my circumsized declawed obese cat?" would be a great question to get big numbers of responses, even if lots of them would be of low quality.
posted by Forktine at 9:19 PM on November 28, 2009


cmoj: “As for a specific question that I've asked that I expected more discussion about (i don't mind being creepered here), I had hoped that there would be some philosophical waxing in my question about crossword symmetry.”

I don't know if I understand precisely what you're asking for, but I think your entire expectation of ask.metafilter is skewed.

An absolutely perfectly-answered ask.metafilter question looks like this: it has one answer. That answer is one sentence long. That sentence has only ten words and perhaps a link for reference.

If a question can be answered directly and forthrightly, it should be. We're not in ask.metafilter to talk a bunch about stuff, and often I find that the fewer answers a question gets, the better it was answered. Your question there, for example, is answered perfectly; I think in particular Ironmouth's answer deserves praise because I think it cuts to the heart and delivers what I think is the proper explanation.

You're seeing it all wrong; the fewer answers a question has, and the shorter those answers are, the more (often) that question has been answered. Don't fall into the typical trap of democratic societies and think that a vast multitude of (often inane) perspectives is ideal, and don't give in to the temptation to hope that people will go on and on and on in talking about the question when really any answer that can be given can and should be given briefly and straightforwardly.
posted by koeselitz at 10:44 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


cmoj: “I don't mean to suggest that quantity is any kind of inherent goal, but as people have noted, some questions benefit from as many viewpoints as possible. RelationshipFilter, most or some of the time.”

By the way, I think that's especially not true. There are some things democracy is great for, but making important life decisions isn't one of them, and deciding what to do by polling a large group of people almost never works because everyone's life is different. I understand what I think you mean – that sometimes it's nice to get a whole bunch of different "perspectives" – but I think the need for those perspectives comes chiefly from our own closed-mindedness, something that we can and should overcome on our own without feeling the need to ask everybody for their little point of view. And it's usually a lot more powerful and immediate when a short, blunt statement can jarringly and clearly state what needs to be done.
posted by koeselitz at 10:52 PM on November 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


My questions have tended to be really closed-ended and specific and have engendered relatively few answers each. I am sure that sooner or later I'll hit on a question that happens to strike the perfect Metafilter nerve and result in a ton of responses, but I ask questions on a need-to-know basis, and I don't care about how many answers, just that someone hopefully hooks me up in an expedient fashion.
posted by padraigin at 10:54 PM on November 28, 2009


Questions that piss people off, or that already have answers that piss people off.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:04 PM on November 28, 2009


Random thinking-out-loud bit here, but at some point I should try and take a look at whether there's a correlation between high-comment-count askmes (maybe by category) vs. high average-flags-per-comment counts. Be interesting if there's some systemic way to identify threads that produce a lot of amiable answers vs. those that start fights or make people angry, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:53 PM on November 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


grizzly bears, typical young men, knives (say, six or eight inches long) and no element of surprise.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:53 AM on November 29, 2009


I'm currently working on the storyline method, incorporating pictures and video.
posted by tellurian at 2:20 AM on November 29, 2009


An invitation to tell a cool anecdote. What's the coolest thing you've ever seen at a bar?
posted by kmennie at 5:08 AM on November 29, 2009


Dear AskMe,

My [spouse/friend/pet] is [racial epithet] and I've been cheating on them with their [mother/brother/best friend]. Obviously they are complete [morons/oblivious/etc] and I want to breakup with them. Should I use a [gun/knife/poem]? And to emphasize my point I want to [kill/steal/mutilate] their [child/cat/dog]. Can you recommend a [gun/undertaker/hitman]?


Guaranteed to get you lots of responses, a MeTa thread, and eventually a front page post when the news media gets a hold of it.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:59 AM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I find that threads which are answered both in quantity and quality, like 'recommend the best book in your field' or the 'best experience from your childhood', allow from the set-up almost everyone's participation while ensuring every contribution can be valuable i.e. not trivial.
posted by ersatz at 6:00 AM on November 29, 2009


Any question that begins with the words "Recommend me" will not get many answers from me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:54 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just don't do whatever it is I've been doing lately. I think asking at bad times (Friday afternoon) or leaving any room at all for ambiguity hurts. I also think it helps if your profile makes you look more inviting. On some level its luck - I memailed someone who had replied to a question in mere minutes on an obscure topic with an insanely great insider answer and they'd just happened to be around and see the question. But there are just so many questions now, luck is probably an increasingly large part of it. If you have a ton of contacts who watch the sidebar and thus can see that you've posted a question - that should help too. Plus if people know you and what kind of person you are, they know what kind of answer you would like. If Jessaymn asks a question about something research-wise, you can bet a good number of answerers will give their best shot.

I just hate when questions get "spoiled" when the first response isn't an answer at all, in one way or another. I've been wanting to go through and compile links for the best questions of the year that never got good answers, but haven't had time to sift through. Hell, I'm still hung up on the Ostrich question.
posted by cashman at 11:01 AM on November 29, 2009


Any question that begins with the words "Recommend me" will not get many answers from me.

Why?
posted by Eleutherios at 12:54 PM on November 29, 2009


Asking questions on a weekday is a good idea if you want a lot of responses.

And preferably after 2PM UTC/GMT, because that's when people get to work in the US and realise they'd rather be looking at AskMe than whatever it was they were intending to do before the sense of futility set in.

Conversely, the whole of MetaFilter is so lovely and civilised in the morning if you happen to be in Europe. It's like sitting outside a Parisian café reading Le Monde whilst smoking a Gauloises.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:30 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any question that begins with the words "Recommend me" will not get many answers from me.

Why?


Because that phrasing makes me cringe, causing me to avoid the question.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:39 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Relationship questions where at least one person is being dumb.
posted by fire&wings at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because that phrasing makes me cringe, causing me to avoid the question.

In that vein, any question that gets people to start playing armchair linguist.
posted by Bukvoed at 5:22 PM on November 29, 2009


Recommend me.

Please.
posted by longsleeves at 5:29 PM on November 29, 2009


Basically:

An ask question gets a lot of answers if it is very bad.
posted by koeselitz at 10:56 PM on November 29, 2009


Questions where people can talk about themselves:

- What was the turning point in your life?
- What have you learned as you've gotten older that you wish you knew when you were younger?
- What are your tricks for [feeling happy] [making a relationship last]?
- What are your biggest pet peeves [about your job] [when you go to a restaurant]?
- What have you learned from your job?
posted by salvia at 11:26 PM on November 29, 2009


I always try to write my questions - both the lead in and the [more inside], in an engaging way that pulls in as many readers as possible. Maybe I'm alone in that, but I think that's the key. Your initial lead in is essentially your "advertisement" for your question - is it catchy enough to hook me as my eyes scan quickly down the front page of the green? "Hmm what's being asked today...relationship-filter, nope...cats, no...programming, not me...70's music, before my time, hmmmm what's this - sounds interesting but I have to click this more-inside to see what its really fully about..."

Then, when I get there, did they make it worth my time? Even if its a topic I may not consider myself advanced or expert on, is it at least written in a way that makes it interesting or fun to read? If so, chances are I'm going to keep reading that question. It doesn't have to be witty or super-humorous, just well-thought-out. Needs good structure. Needs to not be tl. Needs to close out with the (or a few of the) key, really bottom-line question(s), in a clear way that people can quickly respond to.

If you want examples, check out a few of my questions. Sometimes my lead-ins have been as simple as 5-8 words only - one brief sentence. Again, I may be alone in this, but I always seem to get a pretty decent smattering of questions, and sometimes much more than that. I think if you put the effort into writing a question well, you stand to get more, and often better, answers.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:07 AM on November 30, 2009


I've asked a couple unsuccessful techy questions before, and generally the reason I didn't get the answer I wanted was because I didn't give enough information while at the same time making the question too narrow.

'Bad' question:
A friend needs help finding a realistic A-10 joystick. For a flight simulator. Can anyone help him out?
'Better' question:
A friend needs help finding a realistic A-10 joystick.[more]My friend works for a defense contracting firm building a demonstration flight and battle simulator for an A-10 avionics package. Best-case scenario would be to buy an off-the-shelf stick. Worst-case would be to build it ourselves. Mediocre-case would be to contract a small business to design and construct it for us. Any recommendations for COTS joysticks that have a similar control grip, or failing that companies that specialize in simulating retro flight hardware?
The 'Bad' question is simultaneously vague and narrow. Most of the answers I got were good-faith attempts at answering a question without knowing what I really needed. The re-written question, in all probability, would have generated lots of shots-in-the-dark, but they would have been closer on target.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on November 30, 2009


Cooking questions. ("What can I do with this acorn squash?" etc.) I always get all amped to answer those questions, but usually by the time I see them there's dozens of excellent answers already posted. There are a lot of foodies here.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2009


Coming from the other direction, I think a good way to sabotage your question or your answer to someone else's question is to base it on links that you don't set up or describe. Like if somebody's answer to a question looks like this:

One of these might be neat.

I'm not going to click on it. Maybe it's about crochet or doorstops or something else I don't care about. With limited time, I'm not going to click on things like that. Same thing on FPPs. When they're just like, "These seem to be gaining prominence." I'm not going to bother. Be sure to give people a reason to care up front.
posted by Askr at 9:07 AM on December 1, 2009


that's when people get to work in the US

Do you realize how many time zones North America has?
posted by tangerine at 5:17 PM on December 1, 2009


I often get only few answers to my questions - which I assume is becaues people hate me. However, I always get at least one, if not several, very useful answers that solve my problem.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:51 PM on December 1, 2009


Do you realize how many time zones North America has?

7.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:45 PM on December 1, 2009


Oh, wait, I thought you said the United States. North America has more.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:46 PM on December 1, 2009


« Older Is it about a bike?   |   Transgender LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner dead... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments