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Recommended policy for the super inquisitive overthinker? December 13, 2010 1:47 AM   Subscribe

RE: Meta questions, in particular this one, and where they should go.

I feel like questions about something someone saw some time somewhere on the site should go in Ask. That's where people go to ask and answer questions. Often people aren't sure they even saw what they saw here.

Even if I'm wrong, it seems strange to delete (twice?) a question of this type that was posted on Ask instead of MetaTalk. There were 7 answers and they seemed to be doing an okay job of answering the question.
posted by doublehappy to Etiquette/Policy at 1:47 AM (32 comments total)

I thought the deletion was strange, too, especially since the poster was asking for book recommendations ("any ideas or recommendations for books of this nature?") and not necessarily trying to find that specific one. They mentioned the previous AskMe only for background and a description of the type of book they were looking for.
posted by Houstonian at 2:08 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, asking for a link to an AskMe thread is pretty much a textbook case of a meta-conversation about the site. And MetaTalk is where people go to discuss meta-issues.

(I'm a little confused by the whole thing myself: Did the poster post the same question twice? How did that happen? I thought the one week limit was still upheld even if the question got deleted...)

On preview and then a closer look at the actual question: yeah, I guess they were asking for general suggestions, and maybe the framing is why it got axed?
posted by bardophile at 2:10 AM on December 13, 2010


That was a tricky one because it really looks like s/he's asking "there was this cool thing on MetaFilter but now I can't find it", but the real question is actually "What are some good books about X?".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:11 AM on December 13, 2010


Asking questions (or posting comments) about MetaFilter is MetaTalk's raison d'être. AskMe is for questions regarding, well, life, I suppose, from the mundane to the bizarre, but it is not for questions about things that happen on MetaFilter.
posted by tzikeh at 2:18 AM on December 13, 2010


This came up awhile back for me as I was looking for a post on the blue. My Ask was deleted and Jessamyn kindly let me know that it goes in MeTa. No big deal. I remember saying something like, "lurked forever before signing up, and still I know nada". Live and learn, turns out that the blue and green is really gray in reality. This site has lots of little quirks like that, guess you just have to be around for awhile before you get them all straight.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:41 AM on December 13, 2010


Yeah, this should not have been deleted IMHO. I think the people who flagged it likely skimmed the first sentence and kind of insta-flagged, without really reading the second and third sentences and the title and thinking about what the question really was.

If the OP had made that exact post but just put the sentences in a different order (sentence 2.5, then sentence 3, then 1, then 2.0) I think it would not have been deleted.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:59 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a MetaTalk question if you're asking a question mainly about a question. The non-meta part of the question was too vague to be very useful -- what sort of book is this person looking for?

Because there's no doubles rule in AskMe, the asker should have just repeated the question afresh ("I'm looking for books about...") and waited for the usual "There was a question about this just a month ago..." responses and links.
posted by pracowity at 3:03 AM on December 13, 2010


What about questions about MetaTalk posts about deleted AskMe posts about old AskMe comments?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:41 AM on December 13, 2010


THAT's meta.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:44 AM on December 13, 2010


what sort of book is this person looking for?

They are looking for a book that is similar to David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work" but geared towards adults, as a gift for a compulsive reader who knows a whole bunch about everything, and can't wait to learn still more.
posted by Houstonian at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2010


I also don't understand the deletion. At no point in the question did the poster ask for help finding the thread, they just cited it as the impetus for the search for books on a particular topic. Finding the original thread would not necessarily help them find the books they are looking for and is beside the point.
posted by ChrisHartley at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not only confused by the deletion but also disappointed. The first hit in there is a book I meant to read but forgot to put on my list, so I was really looking forward to getting a whole bunch of good suggestions. Not that I'm short of reading material, but still.
posted by DU at 5:25 AM on December 13, 2010


Yeah, it really seemed like that question was okay. Is it really considered meta if it mentions MetaFilter at all, no matter how tangentially? It seems more like it should be if the question is specifically about MetaFilter, like "Help me find this MeFi post/comment," it goes in MeTa, but if it's "Help me find this site/product/song/article, which may have been mentioned on MetaFilter at some point," it's a normal "Help me find" question for Ask.
posted by Gator at 5:27 AM on December 13, 2010


It read more to me like the question about other books was to disguise the actual question about the MeFi thread, so I agree with the deletion. Any question about anything anywhere on MeFi belongs in MetaTalk. Everyone knows not to cross the streams, surely?
posted by dg at 5:35 AM on December 13, 2010


The problem's the introduction--it sounds enough like they're looking for the old thread that at first read I thought it was about that. The poster will be able to rephrase the question (or get it reinstated) and everyone will be happy as Larry.

But no, questions about stuff you've seen on the site? Definitely here. This is where the obsessives hang out. This is where you'll find the one person who remembers that two-word comment about Conan the Barbarian's skincare regime that appeared sometime in 2002-04.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 5:36 AM on December 13, 2010


Conan the Barbarian's skincare regime

Blood of the innocents? You're soaking in it!
posted by DU at 5:58 AM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I wondered why one of them was anonymous.
posted by rtha at 6:27 AM on December 13, 2010


"Ask again in a week" isn't a terribly great answer when Christmas is in less than 2 week and shipping deadlines exist.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh hey, I think the book they were looking for was one I mentioned in my recent question about miscellenies. FWIW. Think it was given in the question before it was closed, so ok!
posted by carsonb at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2010


The question should have been asked in a different order, as follows:
Any ideas or recommendations for books along the lines of David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work" but geared towards adults? It's a gift for a compulsive reader who knows a whole bunch about everything, and can't wait to learn still more!
-more inside-
At some time in the past 4-5 months, someone on AskMe mentioned a book they had received and couldn't put down, something along these lines. I thought I'd favorited it but can't find it now...
posted by alms at 6:32 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The question could have been worded better. Lots of questions could be. But since the people who where answering the question didn't seem to have a problem comprehending it I don't see what the real problem was.

If the poor wording of a question results in lots of off-base answers and sparks an I/P cat circumcision debate in AskMe that is one thing. This is another.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2010


So given the whole weird Christmas shipping deadlines and the fact that the asker mis-worded the question but it probably should have stayed in Ask rather than MeTa, I would suggest the best solution is to have the asker re-post (perhaps after re-phrasing it as suggested here) immediately.

It's kind of a weird thing, and I wouldn't normally suggest it, but ultimately the asker's question probably shouldn't have been deleted and time is somewhat more of the essence than usual.
posted by librarylis at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2010


Yeah, so this was kind of a weird one. I removed the earlier question following Jess's lead on nixing the slightly later, anonymous submission version of the same thing, here.

We didn't discuss it directly last night (I think we were both having Sunday evenings and were only sort of around) but it was clear to me from her deletion reason that she was nixing the anonymous one (approvers regret, that strange beast) for the better-in-metatalk reasons, so she probably just hadn't noticed the unlikely submit-then-ask-anyway double with the bad timing.

Looking back at it, I can agree with the read that there is an answerable askme question on the tail end of the asker's paragraph, but the way it frontloads the "help me find this thing from metafilter" angle pretty much dooms it for formal reasons: we've tried to be pretty clear and consistent about that stuff going in metatalk, and arbitrarily ignoring that for the sake of a buried lede potentially sends a conflicting message about what's okay where.

Options that are totally fine:

- braemar can ask the "where on the site" question over here.
- braemar can also ask a gussied up "help me find this book" question over on the green next week that leaves mefi out of it.

I'm not against editing and re-upping braemar's original question as well if we hear from them that they'd like to go that route, that if so it'd be better if that happened really promptly here because that first 24 hours is usually a pretty significant does of responsiveness for a question and re-upping it after the fact eats up a lot of that window.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:06 AM on December 13, 2010


Pony request: MetaMetaWhereDidISeeThis
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:16 AM on December 13, 2010


Wow, this is so linguistically interesting! Ok, first, the deletions...if we take an Optimality Theory approach, we can see that we have two constraints that are somewhat in opposition to each other:

PART 1.
Constraints:
MeTa - Site issues, including questions about finding things on MetaFilter, go on MetaTalk.
Ask - Questions seeking answers go on AskMetaFilter.

What you do:
Submit the input (the AskMe question(s)) into the violation tableau

Rules:
If one constraint blocks another, you can't get output. You're out (deleted).
One violation is allowed; two violations and you're also out.

I can't draw the violation tableau in HTML, but here's the thing...if you order the constraints such that the Ask constraint is higher than the MeTa constraint (the doublehappy/braemar view), and then supply the input, you may (Part 2.B) or may not (Part 2.A) get a deletion (depending on your interpretation of the question - see Part 2). If you order the constraints such that the MeTa constraint is higher than the Ask constraint (the jessamyn/partial-cortex(heh.) view), and then supply the input, the MeTa constraint blocks the Ask constraint and you're out.

PART 2.
Interpretation of the question:
At some time in the past 4-5 months, someone on AskMe mentioned a book they had received and couldn't put down, something along the lines of David Macaulay's "The Way Things Work" but it was a title geared towards adults. I thought I'd favorited it but can't find it now... any ideas or recommendations for books of this nature? It's a gift for a compulsive reader who knows a whole bunch about everything, and can't wait to learn still more!

A. A literal (narrow scope, nerdview) interpretation would ignore the presuppositions in the previous (and following) statements and focus on JUST the question, as indicated by the punctuation: "any ideas or recommendations for books of this nature?" This is the doublehappy/braemar view, as indicated by the response (next-turn proof) of the reposting anonymously (braemar) and the MeTa (doublehappy).

B. A broad-scope, contextual interpretation would take the question clause "any ideas or recommendation for books of this nature?" as a pragmatic indication of braemar's evaluative stance on the matter, something akin to "I can't find X and therefore it is unrecoverable to me. If it is unrecoverable to you as well, please offer 'any ideas or recommendations for books of this nature.'"* It presupposes a hierarchy of desired outcomes, both in the discourse framing (the ordering of the clauses, and therefore, sequence of events) and evaluation contained in them ("I thought I'd favorited it but can't find it now...").

Additional argumentation, ambiguously interpretable:
The title of the post is also a question: "Recommended books for the super inquisitive grown up?" This would suggest that the post is more about finding recommendations rather than finding an old AskMe. However, there are two things that might devalidate that stance:

1. The input space on the AskMe question submission form for the question title is at the bottom of the form...it is the last step in the process (even though it appears at the top of the question once submitted). It is likely that the AskMe has already been formulated and drafted prior to the writing of this title. Braemar very likely wrote the post, and then the title, as a last thought - logically flowing from his/her final written statements "any ideas or recommendations for books of this nature? It's a gift for a compulsive reader who knows a whole bunch about everything, and can't wait to learn still more!"

2. The marked use of the past tense "Recommended" rather than "Recommend". "Recommended" suggests a point previously where books were once recommended - it anaphorically refers to something previously stated in the discourse (explicitly OR obliquely). "Recommend" is an imperative and does not have scope over any previous propositions or temporal deixis.

There's no real point to all this. I just wanted to show that everybody's position here is justified. And neat-o.

*I have no clue where the period goes.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:07 AM on December 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah this was a case of modding-while-distracted. I hadn't seen the original AskMe question when I approved the anonymous one. I approved it and then it collected a few flags quickly and I read it more closely and thought "yeah probably needs to go in MeTa and is only dubiously anonymous and I shouldn't have approved it" Happens every so often. So I deleted it and only later saw cortex's deletion.

So yeah, people have to choose when they ask a question: is it about the site [including "I am trying to find this thing from the site"] or is it about not-the-site [including "I am looking for a gift idea"]. Questions that are both we'll muddle through as we can.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:24 AM on December 13, 2010


I still feel a little hinky about this. Braemar never asks people to find the original post, but only cites it as an inspiration. If he had remembered and linked to the original post, or had substituted "an internet forum" for "AskMe", the post would have passed without question.

Vague and poorly worded questions are usually kosher, but not if they mention any Meta site, I guess. I know that the motive is to maintain the bright line between MetaTalk and the rest of the site, but this deletion seems a little disproportionate.

The pre-post
If your question is about MetaFilter, MetaTalk, or Ask MetaFilter, please post it to MetaTalk, which is designed for questions about the site itself.
warning only works if you think your question is about a Meta site. Maybe run a pre-post text search for mentions of MetaFilter/MetaTalk/AskMe?

Also, has someone let braemar know about this thread?
posted by zamboni at 10:24 AM on December 13, 2010


Something that this and the recent Metatalk question about NASA software coding made me wonder:
In AskMe, one is discouraged from posting anything not directly related to answering the question; Metatalk posts generally allow responses that are not as on topic. When a question is asked in Metatalk, should one use the rules of green or grey?

I think a bunch of people, including myself, posted related things that weren't what nomadicink was looking for.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2010


Grey.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2010


I have no comment on this issue but have to say: Holy Crap on a Cracker there is more than a complete page of Metas in a single day (as of this comment the spill over for PST is currently two threads). I'm not sure if it's a record but I don't remember that happening before. It's like the anti a day with out meta.
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2010


Just to chime in as the original poster:

1. Not sure how or why my question ended being posted twice, once as Anonymous and once under my handle. I'm guessing I hit some button twice but that still makes no sense since I never intended to post anonymously (and don't actually even know how) and thought you couldn't post more than once a week.

2. Question was about book recommendations and referenced a previous thread so that anyone who had also read it could get the jist of what kind of book I was looking for.

3. Would be nice if the powers that be sent a message to an OP when their post is deleted, I found out because a random stranger was nice enough to clue me into what was going on.
posted by braemar at 7:53 PM on December 15, 2010


Would be nice if the powers that be sent a message to an OP when their post is deleted, I found out because a random stranger was nice enough to clue me into what was going on.

Why would anyone need to tell you? Wouldn't you go back to read the answers and see the deletion reason at that point?

That said, the mods have stated they don't auto-inform people of their stuff being deleted because it would result in an increase in "but whhhyyyyyyyy???" emails and MeTas and thus more work for them.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:47 AM on December 16, 2010


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