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A KISS Reminder for RelationshipFilter on the Ask Mefi Question Page?
January 10, 2010 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Ask Metafilter relationship questions that are 25+ paragraphs long, which is a more and more frequently seen problem, never go well. How about putting wording to that effect on the Ask Mefi posting page?

Where it says:
Please try to include all relevant details such as your location, operating system, gender or contact information. If you would like people to give you recommendations, include a bit about your preferences.
How about adding something there to this effect:
If your post is especially long, try taking a look at whether there's anything you can remove and yet still leave just what's needed to properly answer your question. The more succinct your question is, the more input you're likely to receive.
posted by MikeHarris to Feature Requests at 12:19 PM (32 comments total)

People already don't read what we've put there. We've been chatting about revamping that page for a while now and I think adding something about questions not being too short or too long might help a little, but let's be honest, probably not much.

The site is growing to the size where any presentation choice people make is going to make a small subsection of the site twitchy. While I sympathize, as a twitchy person myself, we have to look at more guidelines with an eye towards "Does this solve a site problem?" and I don't think shorter questions solve any site problem, though they solve a twitch problem. That is, I don't think it's true that you get more input necessarily when you ask more concise questions (cortex or FishBike could maybe examine this)

Some people prefer longer questions (though I'm sure there's an upper limit) because they don't have to harangue the OP for more details. There is always the "don't read it" option, I don't think longer relationshipfilter types of questions ever suffer for lack of answers.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


tl;dr
posted by special-k at 12:28 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, I'm not so sure this is best, because plenty of them can be skimmed easily enough. Unless I missed some really crazy ones, I don't think it's all that much an issue.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2010


Yeah, that is SO not going to work, although I understand where you are coming from because I have seen the incredibly long question which I am reasonably certain inspired this post.

We all feel like special snowflakes, and when someone writes a long question, it really comes from, "My situation is unique!" perspective. So putting down a warning to keep it short won't work, because in that person's mind only the relevant history is being included as it is.

But I do sympathize with your frustration.
posted by misha at 12:31 PM on January 10, 2010


Ugh, in my mind the bigger problem is people commenting with, "OMG THIS POST IS SOOOOOO LONG" when they answer.
posted by Nattie at 12:40 PM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]


I get upset about people using Metatalk to complain about things members are perfectly alright to do. Just as I have the power to use the 'back' button in your browser OR comment in the thread without reading the post, you have that same right. I paid $5 to be here and write rants: angry, angst-ridden, F you I'm mad, I am breaking up with so and so because they are a lying sack of carrots who can't say no to anybody rants. Deal with it! It's fair!
posted by parmanparman at 12:43 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh and I realize I am also guilty about posting to Metatalk about Ask posts I hate. But for the record, I also have passionate feelings about modern art.
posted by parmanparman at 12:44 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's true that you get more input necessarily when you ask more concise questions (cortex or FishBike could maybe examine this)

Including my own occasional (hopefully early-on) missteps in that area, I can't think of a single super-multiparagraph post that's done well on Ask Mefi. (Just as a function of me saying this, I'm sure people will dig something up. But whatever is dug up, I think it's an outlier and not the norm.)

As you suggest, I'd love to see some statistics on the correlation between Ask Mefi question length and number of responses, if Cortex or FishBike is up for it; in different life circumstances, I'm so sure about this correlation that I'd lay down serious cash money.

Because of that, I do think the correlation makes it a site problem and not just something that makes people twitchy.

Not to mention, I think some of the "I EFFIN' HATE RELATIONSHIPFILTER!!!!!" sentiment comes from the melodrama that spins out of control when someone doesn't feel that reminder that they need to keep it actually readable.

So it's possible that any movement on the getting-people-to-make-it-briefer front might also produce side benefits on the hate-all-the-relationshipfilter front.
posted by MikeHarris at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2010


People in crisis are often unable to get perspective on their situation. That's what an over-long question often signals to me. I think such posters benefit from other community members boiling it down for them and saying, here are the three important points from the 5,000 story you wrote. They don't just need help getting an answer to their question, they need help figuring out what the question really is and separating the important issues from the details. I see this happening all the time, and I think it's valuable.
posted by prefpara at 12:45 PM on January 10, 2010 [47 favorites]


I think these things sort themselves out.

The poster warns that it's long, or "long, long", or "super long", and if it's longer that, the responders will say "Okay, that's waaaayyyy tooooooo long", and the people who consider reading through the question tantamount to climbing K2 will either skip it all together, or go straight to the answers section and see if the intrepid first responders who answered gave answers that are compelling enough to go back to read the question.

Or wait, am I just talking about myself?
posted by anitanita at 12:47 PM on January 10, 2010


How about different suggestions based on the category they choose for the question? Some little fancy javascript widget that changes when they choose something from the drop down.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2010


when someone doesn't feel that reminder that they need to keep it actually readable.

This then becomes the "we told you to keep it 'readable' and you didn't and now we're really peeved...!"

In other words, putting a guideline there only gives people a more righteous sense of indignation when someone else doesn't follow the guidelines. We're not going to, in nearly every case, remove an AskMe question for being too long. We feel that sort of problem sorts itself out by people who don't want to read it not answering it. People either learn to ask shorter questions or they settle for fewer answers. Put another way, we see that AskMe exists pretty much for the asker, so we ask less of them than the answerers generally.

A lot of the AskMes I read seem very very long to me and again, my confirmation-bias-aware perspective is that they go fine with the exception of the "tl;dr GRAR!" brigade.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


That is, I don't think it's true that you get more input necessarily when you ask more concise questions (cortex or FishBike could maybe examine this)

Unfortunately, the Infodump only has length data for comments, not for the text of the actual post/question itself. Not that this issue being raised is primarily an Infodump kind of thing, but it would maybe be useful to see if RelationshipFilter questions do tend to be longer, and what the correlation is between question length and number of comments. Is post/comment length a field we could consider adding to the dump?
posted by FishBike at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2010


Most of those interminable posts seem to be by people who really just want to vent or "share" or talk things out with themselves anyway, so how many and what quality of answers they get is often sort of beside the point.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really can't stand it when there's an anonymous question where they've clearly tried to keep it concise but managed to forget to add in one incredibly important detail that we seriously need to know in order to answer the question appropriately.

Because any sort of gentle pressure on people to keep questions short would make this sort of scenario all the more common, I'm against it.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:05 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could this be solved by instituting a three-tiered, instead of a two-tiered, question formatting system? Something like 1. the question in brief (above the line), 2. the substance of the question (below the line) and 3. any additional details (in tiny-size font, and last of all)? That would give posters the opportunity to include all the minute details they feel are necessary, but still encourage them to develop an executive-summary version for the tl;dr-ers.

Just spitballing, here.
posted by Bardolph at 1:07 PM on January 10, 2010


AskMefi doesn't exist for the readers, it exists for the person who is making the post and has the problem to be solved. That being said, yeah maybe someone would get more answers to their question if they didn't go on and on but a long post is still going to get answers, period. Anything after comment 15 in a relationshipfilter post is usually just going to be people agreeing and repeating what others have already said anyway. So I don't think more answers necessarily mean that the problem is going to be solved in a better fashion.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:10 PM on January 10, 2010


Wow that is long. Even the summary was long.
posted by fixedgear at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2010


Bardolph: Could this be solved by instituting a three-tiered, instead of a two-tiered, question formatting system? Something like 1. the question in brief (above the line), 2. the substance of the question (below the line) and 3. any additional details (in tiny-size font, and last of all)? That would give posters the opportunity to include all the minute details they feel are necessary, but still encourage them to develop an executive-summary version for the tl;dr-ers. Just spitballing, here

It wasn't a well-received idea a year ago.
posted by MikeHarris at 1:11 PM on January 10, 2010


Ask Metafilter relationship questions that are 25+ paragraphs long, which is a more and more frequently seen problem,

Define problem. Is it more than 5 a week, when there have usually been 2? What specific problems are occurring that didn't occur before?

never go well.

Explain please. What never goes well and are you speaking as a reader or one who asked a question who didn't go well?

Me thinks you're drinking from an especially fresh cup of confirmation bias, with a dash GRAR, all topped with a dollop of fury.

Stick to whisky and yelling at Fox News, it'll save everyone else the heartache.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


Anybody who posts the big multi-paragraph 'does that boy like me, why didn't he call' questions will be sure that their particular relationshipfilter question is special, and the guidelines don't apply to them just now.

Also, what FelliniBlank said.
posted by pompomtom at 1:20 PM on January 10, 2010


Brandon Blatcher: Me thinks you're drinking from an especially fresh cup of confirmation bias, with a dash GRAR, all topped with a dollop of fury.

Not sure where you're seeing the dollop of fury, Brandon.
posted by MikeHarris at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2010


I'm so sure about this correlation that I'd lay down serious cash money.

How much?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2010


Brandon Blatcher: How much?

It's an academic question; the infodump doesn't contain the necessary correlative information, and, as I said, it would require a different set of life circumstances than my current ones.
posted by MikeHarris at 1:26 PM on January 10, 2010


Then can you define what the problem these longer AskMe relationship questions cause? I'm not seeing the issue, other than readers, myself included, being annoyed by it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:35 PM on January 10, 2010


I'm not sure what the problem is. You don't have to read the overly long questions. I certainly don't. There are enough people here who probably enjoy, or at least tolerate, those long-winded questions to distill them and provide an answer.

Leave it well enough alone. No one reads the posting page guidelines anyway.
posted by purephase at 1:40 PM on January 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


you can ask, but people will never improve their quality on a website that has passed critical mass.
posted by the aloha at 1:53 PM on January 10, 2010


I'm pretty much in agreement with the notion that this is more of a problem-for-the-asker type of thing than it is a problem-for-the-site, where problems do arise, and that it seems to be a self-stabilizing situation: the site is not hurt by someone's question being prolix, and though whether the asker is on average hurt in terms of quality or quantity of response is an open and interesting question, it's kind of a tough break for the asker if it is and that's the end of it.

There are all kinds of presentational aspects of a question that can nudge a question's answerability up and down, and I think at the end of the day the best we can hope for is to keep the posting process itself as simple as we can manage—which means a minimum of widgets and a minimum of disclaimers—and hope folks manage to do a pretty good job of presenting their query to the world.

Is post/comment length a field we could consider adding to the dump?

It totally is. I don't know why I didn't do that when I added the comment length stuff. I'll put it on the TODO list right now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's pretty clear that the idea won't go forward and isn't agreed with; when it's this universal a reaction, and when I'm not going to defend the position further, I don't think further discussion would be fruitful. Assuming they don't object, could a mod close the thread at his or her convenience?
posted by MikeHarris at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2010


I don't think further discussion would be fruitful

Well, what kind of sushi do you like?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:56 PM on January 10, 2010


I'm not sure there's a hard and fast rule about relationship questions, but if your question is running 25+ paragraphs, you're probably not asking a question on Ask Metafilter, so much as putting all your frustrations down somewhere onto electrons. Getting answers is perhaps secondary, at that point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uni with quail egg for me, please.
posted by fixedgear at 1:59 PM on January 10, 2010


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