Did you actually read the question? October 21, 2011 10:20 AM   Subscribe

It's not helpful to answer a question you haven't read. It's driving me nuts that people don't bother to understand what's being asked, what the situation is, or what the OP is actually saying.

I'm not referring to derails, or when folks give opinions that may or may not be related to the question. I'm talking about blatant "I can't be bothered to read your whole question or other people's answers so I'm just going to share with you this half-formed gem."

Here's two examples, found in my first five minutes of browsing this morning.

Yeah I flag it and I move on, but we can do better than this. Perhaps this is just a rant, and maybe the people I'm ranting about don't even read MetaTalk, but please, can you read the question before you answer?
posted by Specklet to Etiquette/Policy at 10:20 AM (115 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

You are 100% right, but why would you assume the people you are ranting about even read MetaTalk?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:24 AM on October 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Having taken this in the spirit I guess it was meant, I read the two examples you linked. Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't see how either of those answers reflect people not having read the question. What exactly are you talking about here? I guess it seems like you believe there's a shade of meaning in those questions that those answerers are missing, but because I don't see that shade of meaning myself it's hard for me to agree with you.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2011


FIAMO
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


well, a lot of people do this. It's not just the two marked in this post. It happens especially with the people who are having trouble and say, "I'm in therapy,' and then they get a ton of comments that say " therapy now!" It's funny because we just had a MeTa discussion about needing people to add MORE info to their questions, and a bunch of us were like but...people don't read the info they do get from the asker.
posted by sweetkid at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, in the first example, the fact that the friend had left was buried pretty deeply into the question. For every question, there is the meat of the issue and qualifiers. If you can't determine the meat by scanning the more inside (and, really, the meat should be in the main question) then that's a fault in the question really.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, I think the OP's criticism is that each missed the "facts" of the situation: in the first, the friend had already left; in the second, that the OP had already expressed their desire that the mother seek therapy, and was now looking for advice on how to offer support for that therapy.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2011


Hmmm. What gets me is this overuse of the word "we". You know, everyone does it all the time. In less than five minutes, I found ---

Okay you get me (I hope). Slop-sociology. Its not "we", its everyone for themselves. Luckily.
posted by Namlit at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2011


What? People answering shouldn't be skimming at all, they should read the whole question. If details are present but "buried," they're still present and should be considered.

That's the whole problem with people who do this, they're so hot to answer that they don't consider.
posted by Gator at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2011 [23 favorites]


[Except when we all need a hug [or pie [or both]]]
posted by Namlit at 10:32 AM on October 21, 2011


koeselitz, in example 1) the commenter was advising how the OP should tell her friend to move out, but the OP said in the question that the OP had already moved out. In example 2) the commenter advised how to talk to the mother about her issues, but the OP said in the question that they already had.

Also, I agree with Deathalicious about the first example. Frankly I thought that whole question was more, 'My friend sucks amirite??" because the friend had already moved out so it was like, ok...what do you need then? Problem solved right? In that case I don't really blame people for thinking the woman might still be living there, because otherwise why write the question. I think sometimes people post these things for validation and emotional catharsis and then tack on "How do I heal"? to make it a valid question for AskMe.
posted by sweetkid at 10:32 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is just one of those aspects of people you have to come to peace with. Sometimes they just don't pay attention.

It may help to think that at least they're not driving at the time. Unless they're texting their comment at the time. In which case you need to work on patience, and can still feel okay if a new AskMe question doesn't happen in the next few minutes about "Dear AskMe, I think I might have just ran over someone while texting while driving. There's some blood on my car, and a fresh corpse sticking through my windshield. I'm currently westbound on I-94 near Townton, does anybody know any good mechanics nearby?" Whereupon they won't get a good answer because the next person won't pay attention, so there's at least karmic comeuppance there.
posted by Drastic at 10:36 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You didn't mention it, Specklet, but surely people should read the whole post before commenting?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:38 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Must every MeTa thread immediately turn into "mock the poster"?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:40 AM on October 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Heh, I was just thinking that there's been a whole lot less of the blatant "didn't even finish reading your first paragraph - too much drama, DTMFA" stuff in Ask these days. (And thankfully, because it's really kind of rude.)
posted by Catseye at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think sometimes people scan-read to get the main gist and overlook critical information ("we've tried X and it doesn't work" will often get "why not try X?").

Do flag when you see this, though. The first one wasn't flagged, and on the second one I did check out the flag (because Jess, Cortex and Matt are doing podcast stuff right now, so I thought I'd have a quick look at the flag queue), but since there was a comment responding to that comment, plus also giving advice, I'd need to delete both the one that wasn't really answering, and the one that was answering but also responding to the non-answering comment.

Unless something really crazy is going on, I check out every single flag on Ask Me questions, and I think the others do as well. And like I said, sometimes the OP or someone else, or several people have made a reference to the one that would ordinarily be deleted, so it stays as an alternative to cutting all the on-topic comment that refer to it. So, do flag so that we'll notice it (and if it seems egregious but isn't deleted, it's probably because the place is shorthanded, or something else is taking up a lot of time), but if someone has responded to the bad comment, it's a lot harder to excise.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:42 AM on October 21, 2011


I don't think this is really a solvable problem. Some people will read the whole question, think critically about it, and decide if they have anything relevant and helpful to say. Other people will put various other amounts of effort into it that aren't up to that standard. There are some answers where it's clear that the person commenting has not read the "more inside" part of the post at all. Flagging the completely useless ones to be deleted is a good policy but the underlying problem is always going to be there.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:44 AM on October 21, 2011


Must every MeTa thread immediately turn into "mock the poster"?
Yes.

On topic, this is so annoying. I think it's a combination of people not reading the question and people ignoring the actual question and answering the question they wish had been asked instead.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:45 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The first comment is in reply to a very long question. I don't think it is a mortal sin to miss a few sentences in several paragraphs.

The second comment you cite says: we'd love her to see a therapist but we are afraid to tell her ... I'm impressed that you did it. The last sentence does seem a bit out of left field, but that could just because they missed a word like "keep" or "continue".
posted by soelo at 10:49 AM on October 21, 2011


This is something people do in real life too. If someone asks them for advice and they don't have anything directly relevant to say, they will often relate it to something in their real life or focus on a minor detail. Now, in real life this is often helpful as this usually will be part of a larger discussion between two people or in a small group. In AskMe this is usually just, easily ignorable and rarely leads to derails, however if someone misunderstands the question early on, other people can be influenced by that misunderstanding and the whole thing derails. This doesn't only happen with questions with unclear presentation, though those are more likely to be misread.
posted by Kattullus at 10:49 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


nooneyouknow: Yes.

No. MetaTalk is unwelcoming enough as a community, let's not actively hound people out.
posted by Kattullus at 10:51 AM on October 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Must every MeTa thread immediately turn into "mock the poster"?

No. However if the post is a self-admitted rant about human nature and includes references to the poster being personally frustrated, mocking will take place to help cut down on the meaningless noise in MetaTalk.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's harsh, but basically correct, yes.
posted by Namlit at 10:59 AM on October 21, 2011


I disagree. It's an actual issue that happens; one of the mods has acknowledged it as well (and has told us what we can do about it to help the situation).

I don't see how more awareness of how we can be better members of this community is a bad thing.
posted by flex at 11:02 AM on October 21, 2011


mocking will take place to help cut down on the meaningless noise in MetaTalk.

No, Metatalk is exactly the place to talk about problems, frustrations, questions, or anything to do with the site. This is exactly what it's here for.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:04 AM on October 21, 2011 [19 favorites]


because Jess, Cortex and Matt are doing podcast stuff right now

somebody wasn't invited? :(
posted by Think_Long at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was the first comment. And I do read MetaTalk. I got the sense from the question that the new housing situation was a fling that wouldn't last and that nasty guest would be back in their home eventually and that they'd have to deal with it again in the near future. Sorry.
posted by k8t at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2011


No, Metatalk is exactly the place to talk about problems, frustrations, questions, or anything to do with the site. This is exactly what it's here for.

Okay, but every few days someone gets all het up about how "we" should "do better" at X, where values for X = "things that are irritating but getting thousands of people to agree to common unenforceable standards of behavior is like herding cats i.e. basically impossible," how is there a conversation other than "yes, yes we should, and we probably won't"?
posted by liketitanic at 11:07 AM on October 21, 2011


Please explain how mocking cuts down on meaningless noise. In my world, mocking IS meaningless noise.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:07 AM on October 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


This feels like a double or maybe age is catching up with my short term memory.
posted by infini at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2011


From the mod side and I think generally the community side both, our aspiration, and largely our expectation, is that people will carefully read the question and reply based on a that careful reading. And lots of folks do a great job of this. Realistically that'll never be 100%, and I'm not sure there's any real fix for that, but if something is a blatant misread or non-read of the question, it's okay to flag it as such. We do remove stuff like that sometimes when we see it, depending on the nature of the question and the answer; certainly some of it is totally open-and-shut "I like movies like X" "oh, you should watch X then!" stuff, some of it is a bit stickier and takes a judgement call.

Hopefully stuff that's totally off the mark getting nixed will help a given user realize they were sloppy sometimes. That's about the best we can hope for.

Yeah I flag it and I move on

As a side note, and this is not meant as a cute jab at you or anything but looking at your second example you can see where I'm coming from: moving on partly means not responding to something you think shouldn't be in a thread.

It puts us in a position where if we think maybe something should go, we'll also look at what may need to go that responds to it, and if an otherwise helpful answer also contains a response to a problematic comment it makes for a real pickle. Either we remove the original comment and the response-that-also-had-an-answer leaving a missing answer, or we nix the original and not the response and have an orphaned response-to-nothing in there, or we leave both for coherence.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Talking about problem behaviors and things we would prefer not to see around here is part of being self-policing, I thought. It keeps standards of behavior on people's radars. Sure, it takes a long time to effect a change but that change wouldn't happen (or it would even get worse) if it wasn't brought up periodically and discussed.

How else do you think people arrive at "this is how things are done on MeFi"?
posted by flex at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


how is there a conversation other than "yes, yes we should, and we probably won't"?
I'm pretty sure there is a conversation that takes place internally in a certain number of people that goes like "Oh geez, that is kind of a bad habit, maybe I should rein that in a little. That is the point of a thread like this.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Must every MeTa thread immediately turn into "mock the poster"?

No. Less mocking is preferable and we'd prefer to not have to actually create rules that we'd then enforce. Don't be jerks to the person using MeTa for its intended purpose. Period.

how is there a conversation other than "yes, yes we should, and we probably won't"?


MeTa is partly here to talk about social norms. If someone is really irritated at something that will likely not be changing, that's useful data to get across and can be lost, with no learning happening, if people are like "wow you are an irritable pain in the ass, who pissed in your cornflakes" If someone being irritated is irritating you, then you are part of the whole little bees nest here and should be mindful that next time it could be you. We value being decent to each other at a site level and that includes here. This doesn't mean not telling someone they're wrong or misguided but it means not being a jerk when you do it, or trying.


I don't think it is a mortal sin to miss a few sentences in several paragraphs.


I'm a big fan of brevity and conciseness generally, but sometimes people write long rambly questions. If what you're planning on doing is answering the question that has been asked, it sort of behooves you to read the details so you don't walk in there with either information already given or something that was explained in the question. Definitely not a mortal sin, but I'm unclear why answering without reading all of the question is seen as something that has almost any value at all.

somebody wasn't invited? :(

We were talking to taz! And then we all did the usual podcast bla bla afterwards.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:10 AM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


somebody wasn't invited?

We'd actually been interviewing her for the first segment but then cut her loose to move on to the standard "what posts did you like" stuff. Your next podcast will indeed have some taz content.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:11 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that this is a "force of nature." Yes, people SHOULD read carefully and completely before posting, but they won't. So, ultimately, discussions like this can go one of two ways. Either, they can become debates about who has the moral upper hand or they can be constructive attempts to solve the problem. There's nothing wrong with the former, as we all need to vent. But it bores me, so I won't comment on it, other than to repeat: yup, people who read carefully and completely are right and people who don't are wrong.

There are two avenues for change:

1) Get people to read more carefully.

2) Get people to ask questions in ways that are more likely to draw attention to pertinent information.

Neither of these is easy to do, and both are impossible to do universally. There will always be lazy readers and there will alway be disorganized writers. But the second option is easier to tackle, because (a) there are fewer questioners than answerers and (b) the questioners generally have more to lose when answers aren't relevant.

"But it's not the questioners' fault! THEY'RE not the ones who should have to change. Agreed. See my first paragraph. They're not the ones who SHOULD have to change. But ... whatchagonnado?

I've been dealing with this problem at various workplaces for years (and I bet many of you have, too). I often have to send complex, technical emails, explaining how systems work and what people need to do in order to keep them working smoothly. My main finding is this: asking people to read and recall more than ONE THING is a risky.

If I say please click button A three times, people comply. If I say please click button A three times and button B twice, many will either follow the button A directors or the button B directions, but not both. Sometimes, I mitigate that by sending each direction in a separate email. That's not an option here.

The FIRST a questioner can do to solve (or lessen) the problem is to think about what details are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and CUT ALL THE REST. Each gratuitous detail distracts from the key information.

The next thing a questioner can do is to rank information by how important it is and separate the most important info from the less important info. There are many ways of doing this, including putting the really important stuff in the first paragraph and listing the less important stuff after, maybe in the "more inside" section.

If there are, unfortunately, five key pieces of information, it's likely that you can't just list them succinctly. You may need to elaborate on each one. But do something to visually set off the five pieces of info in a raw, stripped-down, simple state. You can use bullet points or bold-face type. You can list them in the first paragraph without elaborating on them until later paragraphs; whatever. If you list one and then explain it, and then don't list the next one until after a lengthy explanation of the first one, the second is likely to get lost.

Finally, paragraphs are your friends. Short paragraphs are your best friends. I've found that the longer a paragraph gets, the less likely people are going to read it. Long, unbroken blocks of text intimidate people.

AskMe's UI makes things really difficult, because there's no way to go back and edit a question after you learn that the way you wrote it confuses people. So that means it pays to really think about how you're organizing your question -- and maybe writing multiple drafts of it -- before posting.

After you've written it, read it over carefully, specifically asking yourself what's likely to be misunderstood, what's unnecessary and what you'd be tempted to gloss over it if wasn't your question. Ask yourself how much information you're asking people to retain, even if they do carefully read the whole thing. Studies show that people can hold about five-to-seven pieces of information in their heads at one time. I would tilt towards five. Or fewer if possible.
posted by grumblebee at 11:12 AM on October 21, 2011 [24 favorites]


I say cut people some slack. In one of your examples, there were 37 answers total, out of which k8t's was the only one was a little off base (but would have been really helpful if it had been on base). In the second, there were that 6 responses, and once again, beccyjoe's answer would have been commiserating-ly on base, because it was also empathetic.

Also, I think your answer to beccyjoe was fine - you noted that they were off base and then gave your answer.

So: A small percentage of responders miss a key detail in an OP's question, so they give less than useful, but still thoughtful answers? All is right with the world, as I see it.

I mean this as non-snarkily as possible, but I doubt this will come across well via the internets: I can see how this is an irritation, but perhaps it might be easier just those of us who do find it to be irritating, to focus on making our own responses as helpful as possible (which you can control), and let the OPs/mods figure out what to do with less helpful responses (which is outside of your control).

Besides, unless a responder has a consistent record of doing this - and I don't think either k8t or beccyjoe do - it's just a simple human foible, one that I imagine a lot of us might be guilty of committing once or twice in our askmefi tenure. Casting the first stone, and all that.
posted by anitanita at 11:14 AM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm totally in favor of teaching people to ask better questions at the same time. Often questions, especially about emotional issues, are full of a lot of extraneous details or ranting that answerers focus on at the expense of whatever question the OP was actually trying to get answered.

Also we have people who seem to answer a lot of AskMe questions on their phone without reading a lot of the existing answers and without capitalizing or punctuating or hyperlinking URLs that they toss in. I know that mobile stuff is the way of the future but I would like to politely ask people to consider whether a rushed answer on your phone where the mods have to fix your URLs is actually solving a problem for people.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:18 AM on October 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


....and actually, in both beccyjoe's and k8t's responses, there is a way to read them that actually doesn't assume that they blatantly ignored/half read the question.

So it doesn't help, from a community perspective, to assume bad faith.
posted by anitanita at 11:18 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Points sincerely taken about moving on, understandable foibles, first stones, etc.

I favorited grumblebee's comment; that's what my post should have been.
posted by Specklet at 11:19 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Deathalicious: “koeselitz, I think the OP's criticism is that each missed the "facts" of the situation: in the first, the friend had already left; in the second, that the OP had already expressed their desire that the mother seek therapy, and was now looking for advice on how to offer support for that therapy.”

sweetkid: “koeselitz, in example 1) the commenter was advising how the OP should tell her friend to move out, but the OP said in the question that the OP had already moved out. In example 2) the commenter advised how to talk to the mother about her issues, but the OP said in the question that they already had. Also, I agree with Deathalicious about the first example. Frankly I thought that whole question was more, 'My friend sucks amirite??" because the friend had already moved out so it was like, ok...what do you need then? Problem solved right? In that case I don't really blame people for thinking the woman might still be living there, because otherwise why write the question. I think sometimes people post these things for validation and emotional catharsis and then tack on "How do I heal"? to make it a valid question for AskMe.”

I think that's an uncharitable way to read both of the examples. Both demonstrate effective knowledge of tons of details of the questions that couldn't be gleaned from a quick skim; so it seems much more likely to me that they were answering the questions directly – as in, 'what should I have done?' which is either the implicit or explicit question in both situations. And in the second one in particular, it is not clear that they have yet expressed that this is unacceptable; it's only clear that they told her they can "no longer bite our tongues." So it's good advice, and completely in line with the question.
posted by koeselitz at 11:22 AM on October 21, 2011


I don’t think this kind of answering is going to stop happening; as someone mentioned in this thread already, it’s a characteristic of human interaction. It’s been frustrating for me, as an asker, in the past, but I guess my way of dealing with it has been 50% “I’ll try to structure my questions so as to avoid this” and 50% “I’m going to get these kinds of answers, may as well expect them and try to ignore them in favor of the truly helpful, considered ones”.
posted by smilingtiger at 11:23 AM on October 21, 2011


jessamyn: "Also we have people who seem to answer a lot of AskMe questions on their phone without reading a lot of the existing answers and without capitalizing or punctuating or hyperlinking URLs that they toss in."

Complete tangent, but I bet it would make an interesting graph to track comments-source (phone, tablet, computer) compared to what comments are malformed in that way. My general impression is that while mobile posting isn't ideal, it gets a worse rep than it strictly deserves, and that folks mangle comment formatting at pretty much a constant rate, but I'm supporting that on nothing more than my posterior, so.
posted by Drastic at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2011


Interesting to bring up the mobile issue. In my current life/work situation, I can only read MetaFilter on my phone. If an answer is something that I can't answer on my phone, I try to star it for later. But later is sometimes days.

Which gets me to thinking about the qualitative differences in writing on a phone (I have a keyboard phone, but...) versus a keyboard versus a pen.

Is this level of patadata in the infodump? It'd be great to do an analysis of differences in length, spelling errors, and then using favorites as a proxy for quality...
posted by k8t at 11:25 AM on October 21, 2011


Chrysostom: "Must every MeTa thread immediately turn into "mock the poster"?"

Was there mocking removed from this thread before I got to it? Or has my Mock-U-Meter (oatent pending) gotten so out of whack that I don't see mocking where other people do?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:29 AM on October 21, 2011


Complete tangent, but I bet it would make an interesting graph to track comments-source (phone, tablet, computer) compared to what comments are malformed in that way. My general impression is that while mobile posting isn't ideal, it gets a worse rep than it strictly deserves, and that folks mangle comment formatting at pretty much a constant rate, but I'm supporting that on nothing more than my posterior, so.

Yeah, and it would be interesting to see actual numbers if we had a good easy way to collect them. I'm also only rump-speculatin' but my feeling from the actually-sees-all-the-flagged-comments mod perspective is that while we've always had people failing to e.g. create actual links to some extent, it really has been ticking up a lot over the last couple years in particular. It's very slightly a pain to make a link on a phone compared to on a normal desktop/laptop, and it seems like very slighty is enough to make some people say fuck it and just paste what they know will not be a functioning link into a thread.

Sometimes they do so while still taking the time to explicitly note that they are on a phone and in a hurry and ergo here's a plaintext url. Which is a little maddening, but is also memorable enough that it may color my impression of the rate a bit.

Is this level of patadata in the infodump? It'd be great to do an analysis of differences in length, spelling errors, and then using favorites as a proxy for quality...

We don't have any sort of client/browser info in the db and hence none in the Infodump, no. It's the sort of thing that Matt or pb could maybe (as in I don't know how much of a pain or how feasible it'd be, really) set up as an extra data collection sideproject some time that tracked the useragent submitting a comment or something like that, for later analysis. We probably wouldn't make that kind of raw data available for public analysis (useragent doesn't strike me as a bright-line privacy issue but it might bother someone), but an aggregate look at the data wouldn't be impossible. Might happen if I get really excited about it at some point, we'll see.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on October 21, 2011


It's driving me nuts that people don't bother to understand what's being asked, what the situation is, or what the OP is actually saying.

this sounds like a problem that wouldnt exist if u held mefites to the same standard that u hold the rest of the internet to.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:36 AM on October 21, 2011


It's driving me nuts --- It may be time to take a vacation from AskMe.
posted by crunchland at 11:42 AM on October 21, 2011


And this is like the fifth metatalk post in a row that either implies or outright states that "clearly we can do better." What I want to know is, since we're not, why is it so clear?
posted by crunchland at 11:43 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's an entry in the FAQ about how to write a good post, but no entry on how to write a good question.
posted by desjardins at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


MCMikeNamara: "Was there mocking removed from this thread before I got to it? Or has my Mock-U-Meter (oatent pending) gotten so out of whack that I don't see mocking where other people do?"

Maybe the latter? Or maybe I have the reverse? I just feel like there have been a good number of MeTas in the past few weeks where the responses seemed to bypass any kind of constructive response and go straight to mockery. When people ask reasonable questions in good faith, it would be nice to see some effort to just answer them, rather than immediately reach for Ye Olde Bag of Sarcasm.

That's not to say that there's never a place for tomfoolery in MeTa or that every earnest question has any kind of basis in reality or easy solution ("Are there more single link posts lately?") But I feel, per taz's answer above, we're edging into hounding people out territory. And I don't like the feel of that.

Sorry, maybe I'm getting grumpy and too sensitive. Just a vibe I've had of late.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's driving me nuts

REMOVE CAPTAIN'S WHEEL
posted by heyho at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


The ones who drive me nuts (and there's one mefite in particular that does this ALL THE TIME and I've been getting pretty flag-happy) are those who see a medical-sounding question and immediately knee-jerk respond: "the internet can't help you with your medical problems, go see a doctor."

It's like, yeah, obviously they should see a doctor for real medical issues. But nine times out of ten the OP has said something like "I know I need to see a doctor, I'm just interested in hearing your experience" or is asking a broad enough "what worked for you in this situation" question that shutting it down immediately is obnoxious noise.

YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. PLEASE STOP. YOU MAKE ME GRARRY. AND IT'S TOO COLD RIGHT NOW TO GO OUTSIDE.
posted by phunniemee at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


taz: "because Jess, Cortex and Matt are doing podcast stuff right now,"

YAY!

I'm hoping they talk about this. :D
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2011


no entry on how to write a good question.

I'll get on that. And yes, zarq, we did.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:52 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


ee! I posted that!
posted by sweetkid at 11:53 AM on October 21, 2011


Awesome! :)

I loved the Steinman post, but hands down that was my favorite post of the past month. SCIENCE!
posted by zarq at 11:55 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


phunniemee: " YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. PLEASE STOP. YOU MAKE ME GRARRY. AND IT'S TOO COLD RIGHT NOW TO GO OUTSIDE."

The internet can't help you with the weather. Go see a meteorologist. ;)
posted by zarq at 11:55 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


>no entry on how to write a good question.

I'll get on that. And yes, zarq, we did.


Excellent!

A "tl;dr" summary at the end of the question is valuable to me (plus, I imagine that it would help the OP home in on the most pertinent information to impart).
posted by virago at 11:56 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chrysotom: I don't think you're off that this has happened in other threads lately. I just didn't see it in this one, which is why I asked. I'd hate to see people hounded off either -- though the tone of MetaTalk is really something that I wouldn't want to change that much because I think that eventually people realize that some of what may initially seem like harshness (and would certainly seem that way if the same language was used on other parts of the site) is actually just a friendly punch in the arm.

But I realize the friendly punch in the arm might not always be what some people are in the mood for, especially if you pop a sore spot. And that some people don't know the kind of rough housing that may be allowed around here and get hurt. And some people don't know their own strength and may ruin it for everybody, just like some people don't know when to end a metaphor before they've worn it out.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:57 AM on October 21, 2011


P.S. to Grumblebee: I've not only favorited this comment, but I've also bookmarked it on my home computer and emailed it to myself at work with the subject line: "How to write a useful email." So, muchas nachos.
posted by virago at 11:58 AM on October 21, 2011


SCIENCE!

Oh wait god no, we talked about a different Nobel prize post. Ha! Sorry.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:00 PM on October 21, 2011


DOH!
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on October 21, 2011


So much for fuckin' science.
posted by crunchland at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2011


Here's an interesting statistic on reading comprehension: 50% of surveyed Americans were unable to understand instructions for taking medicine on an empty stomach.

If half the population is unable to understand "TAKE ON EMPTY STOMACH," what hope do our AskMe questions have?

It's a miracle that AskMe works as well as it does. And I mean that literally: it is miraculous. The fact that it's 95% high quality questions and answers is due to our outstanding community, judicious use of flagging, and the tireless efforts of the mods.

This isn't to minimize anyone's frustrations. (I get pretty frustrated with AskMe stuff, too.) Just putting it in perspective.
posted by ErikaB at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


OH NOES. I take back my ee!
posted by sweetkid at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2011


(Sorry: 41.6%. Guess I just flunked my own test!)
posted by ErikaB at 12:10 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be fair, the Nobel prize post we discussed did involve Parking Nazis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:11 PM on October 21, 2011


P.S. to Grumblebee: I've not only favorited this comment, but I've also bookmarked it on my home computer and emailed it to myself at work with the subject line: "How to write a useful email." So, muchas nachos.


I hope it turnes out to be helpful. It has been for me. Let me know if you find that the responses you get from your emails are more on target!
posted by grumblebee at 12:11 PM on October 21, 2011


I should have said it's not a mortal sin to forget a single detail in a very long question. I can read several paragraphs and several answers and then forget a detail when I am writing a response, especially if my answer has more than two sentences. If I realize I forgot a detail (how old is the poster again?), I can go back and look, but if I forgot they tried X or Y has already moved out, I won't know to go back and look. Grumblebee's examples are all evidence that I am not alone.

Granted, it's awkward if that makes your whole answer moot. But in both examples, that is an uncharitable read. These are not bad answers. They may be incomplete or a little late, but they are not bad, or in bad faith at all (see k8t's explanation). I agree with crunchland that it is not clear that everyone agrees that these are problems, and the tone of most the recent metatalk "social norm" posts has come off very bossy/ranty to me and not very discussy. Knee-jerk sarcasm at the poster's expense does not help, obviously.

Re: the replies that both correct the incorrect answer and give further advice (thus making deletion more awkward), would it be better if people made those two separate answers? Then you would have the option of deleting the correction but keeping the advice. I know consecutive replies are sometimes frowned upon elsewhere, but I don't think that is the case here.
posted by soelo at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2011


What Grumblebee said.

A lot of people duck into MetaFilter on the quick, see something they have some experience in, read through a question that has not been professionally edited and then try to dash off an answer which will also not be professionally edited. I have noticed significant details on a second or third reading of a question, well into composing my answer, that weren't at all clear on the first read through.

Throw in a person A who works for company D and a couple similar events with different initiating causes and suddenly I'm telling you that it's probably safe to eat your mother-in-law if you cook her thoroughly or that you should take your neighbor to the vet right away.

In addition to terse paragraphs of the subject / verb variety (which Grumblebee mentions) bullet points might help and apparently the MetaFilter interface supports 'em!:
  • I have written the salient points
  • About the question I'm asking
  • And posted them on MetaFilter
  • For you to answer for me
Unfortunately, if you don't happen to think in HTML and are just trying to crank out a quick question you're probably not going to go to the trouble (or even know it's possible). I wouldn't go so far to call it a pony request, but maybe a little "list" button down next to B, I and link? Adding a truncated version of Grumblebee's How To might help people think their question through a bit more (or it may get the same treatment as every EULA ever).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:47 PM on October 21, 2011


I just feel like there have been a good number of MeTas in the past few weeks where the responses seemed to bypass any kind of constructive response and go straight to mockery. When people ask reasonable questions in good faith, it would be nice to see some effort to just answer them, rather than immediately reach for Ye Olde Bag of Sarcasm.

How long have you been hanging out in Metatalk? When I first joined Metafilter, Metatalk was much worse in mocking the poster. Any question would be meet with brutal mockery and maybe 15 or 20 responses in someone would take pity and actually answer the question. But a few years ago the mods decided Metatalk should be actually be kind of nice and they started discouraging that. So there is significantly less mockery than there used to be. But in order to get to no mockery, you'd have to have askme levels of moderation and that's not likely to happen.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:09 PM on October 21, 2011


Adding a truncated version of Grumblebee's How To might help people think their question through a bit more

You know what would be even better? A pause between posting and the question showing up. It wouldn't have to be long, just -- say -- an hour. You post the question and an hour later you get an email, asking to to proofread it and okay it. And maybe, along with that email, you also get the truncated version of my how-to (or someone else's better version).

Taking a pause and then re-reading what you've written often vanquishes a multitude or sins, because your time away allows you to see it with an approximation of how other people see it.

I wish I'd added that advice to my earlier post.

Assuming The Powers That Be don't add this feature, one can voluntarily do it: just type your question into a text editor, wait an hour, read and edit it, and then paste it into AskMe.
posted by grumblebee at 1:09 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. PLEASE STOP. YOU MAKE ME GRARRY. AND IT'S TOO COLD RIGHT NOW TO GO OUTSIDE.

It is never too cold to go outside. When I was a young lad, we occasionally took off our shoes and socks and tried to see who could run the furthest on the show-covered sidewalks before turning around and running back in to avoid hypothermia.

So it's more about being too stupid not to stay inside.
posted by davejay at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My understanding is that there's generally more latitude in MeTa, but it often enough seems like more than one or two people take that latitude as license to be as obnoxious as possible, spew snark like their life depends on it (and that those approaches feed on themselves).
posted by ambient2 at 1:13 PM on October 21, 2011


I still remember a test we were given in the 6th grade: we were given a test booklet that had about a page and a half of instructions, and a couple dozen question. The first instruction was to read *all* of the instructions.

The kids who did (I was not one of them!) discovered that the last instruction said to only answer the first two questions. The rest of us (the majority of the class) wondered how they finished so fast.
posted by rtha at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Back to the original post here: I know there are plenty of other examples that could have been linked to, so this is a bit of a picky point, but I think beccyjoe (second example) DID read and answer the question. She clearly says "I'm impressed that you did it," referring to confronting the mother, and then says there's no need to soften the blow ("the blow" being telling her she needs therapy). I interpreted that to mean there's no need to coddle the mother in encouraging her to continue therapy, they should just keep telling her she needs it because they're not putting up with her behavior anymore.
posted by janerica at 1:17 PM on October 21, 2011


  • I have written the salient points
  • that were in your comment
  • and which you were
  • probably saving for AskMe
  • forgive me
  • they were apt
  • so pithy and so pertinent
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:18 PM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, I don't feel particularly mocked. Or, at least, I feel that the mocking didn't make *too* much noise in the thread. I even favorited Horace Rumpole's comment because I thought it was funny.

And rtha, in fifth grade I had a similar experience, even more embarrassing: we were given a list of instructions (the first being to read the instructions all the way through before beginning), which included things like "moo like a cow" and "briefly stand up". When you got to the end of the page, it said "don't do anything, just sit quietly". Of course I'd already mooed and stood up.
posted by Specklet at 1:24 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


nooneyouknow: "How long have you been hanging out in Metatalk? "

2001-ish, although I didn't pay that much attention until 2005 or 2006.

I'm not really comparing 2011 MeTa to the site of 5 or ten years ago. I'm talking about (what seems to me to be) a noticeable uptick in nastiness on fairly non-tense questions just in the past few weeks. So now versus like two months ago. And understood that a question about sexism or religion will tend to disintegrate into a shitshow; I mean in pretty straightforward posts.

Again, could be me. But things have just felt more hostile of late.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:27 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The easy fix for this is for people to stop posting questions that can't possibly be answered on the internet.

For some reason people think that askme is an alternative to seeking professional help... that and common sense.
posted by TheBones at 2:02 PM on October 21, 2011


YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. PLEASE STOP. YOU MAKE ME GRARRY. AND IT'S TOO COLD RIGHT NOW TO GO OUTSIDE.

Maybe you should go see a doctor about that then.

Or get off the internet.
posted by TheBones at 2:09 PM on October 21, 2011


Hiya, ol' buddy! Fancy seeing you here.
posted by phunniemee at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2011


It makes me a little sad to see those two answers singled out as examples of "can't be bothered." They seemed pretty thoughtful to me. I know I sometimes answer a question because it resonates with me on a personal level, and wind up saying things that really apply more to me than to the OP. Not that I do this deliberately or that I think it's just great, but more like-- well, why would anyone answer this type of question about a personal dilemma unless it struck a chord with them somehow? And isn't it natural for the answer to be about that part of the question that did strike a chord, or even for the answer to wander off because the writer gets carried away with their own stuff? I think it's good that people point out when someone's not answering the actual question, but not that people assume the worst about why they're doing it.
posted by BibiRose at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But a few years ago the mods decided Metatalk should be actually be kind of nice and they started discouraging that.

It's funny, because in part I'd say that yes, we've tried to nudge folks more toward making metatalk decent and useful than like thunderdome, but I'd bet part of this is just that it eventually occurred to us to have the site send us all an email whenever there was a new Metatalk post up, which meant we could get on the scene quicklike a lot of the time in a way that would preempt some of that YOUR POST SUCKS AND YOU SUCK FOR POSTING IT type stuff by just being in the room and trying to engage right off the bat.

But, yes, Metatalk should be a community place that is useful despite its occasional bumpiness, not an awful place that you have to suffer diving into if you want to talk about the community. Coming here with care and thoughtfulness is a good thing to do on both sides of the dynamic: post with care, comment generously, and try to be understanding and not part of the escalation of badness in those situations where someone else fails on one or both counts.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm talking about (what seems to me to be) a noticeable uptick in nastiness on fairly non-tense questions just in the past few weeks. So now versus like two months ago.


I see your point now. I don't know if I have noticed the same because I always expect Metatalk to be dickish so I'm never surprised when it is.
posted by nooneyouknow at 2:31 PM on October 21, 2011


But a few years ago the mods decided Metatalk should be actually be kind of nice

We decided that the absolutely no rules MeTa wasn't actually serving its purpose. For Meta to work it needs to be an actual viable option for people to use on the site. Too often in the past we've gotten really valid complaints from people about something [another user, a trainwreck of a thread, what they felt was a bad trend, whatever] and while we sympathized with them, we couldn't just do something about it on our own in most cases. So we'd say "Yeah that seems to be a problem, maybe you should bring it up in MetaTalk?" and they'd be like "That pit of vipers, forgetaboutit..."

So, people were deciding that the tone of conversations here were so toxic that they'd rather just not use it (and it wasn't just users who I'd describe as "touchy" either, it was a wide swath of different sorts of users) which is a problem when it's supposed to be the preferred path for working out issues. What we don't want is a top down thing where we-as-mods decide everything based on how we personally feel. So we have the flag queue and the contact form and MeTa which is is the strongest tool the community has. If people refuse to use it because some people take advantage of the mostly-absent moderation to be assholes to each other, we sort of decided that was 1) sort of in violation of the general sidewide "don't be assholes" request that we have of everyone and 2) defeating the purpose of having this part of the site set up in the first place. So really, truly, there is no "be nice" dictum, there is a "don't be assholes anywhere on the site including MetaTalk please" For people for whom these two things are saying the same thing, I'm not sure what to tell them. In my universe, there are a wide range of options between "be nice" and "don't be an asshole" and most snark falls into that area.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:44 PM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm fairly new to AskMe (lurked for a bit before creating an account)...sorry if this is really dumb/I've missed something, but there seems to be no way to edit and/or delete a post in AskMe once you post it.

I've posted before and then re-read the question, found something I initially missed, and then...there was no way to either change or take down the post I initially made, at least that I could find.
posted by Angus Jung at 2:45 PM on October 21, 2011


I'm fairly new to AskMe (lurked for a bit before creating an account)...sorry if this is really dumb/I've missed something, but there seems to be no way to edit and/or delete a post in AskMe once you post it.

There's no user-facing edit feature for posts or comments; if you realize you need to amend something, your options are to post a followup comment clarifying the issue or to drop us mods a line at the contact form and ask us if we can fix the error in place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:48 PM on October 21, 2011


This is going to sound like a stupid question, but what's the right flag to use for comments where the question hasn't been read? Is it 'noise'? Or 'breaks the guidelines'? Or 'other'? I've wanted to flag things on a number of occasions and resisted doing so because I wasn't sure I was doing it the right way.

I apologise once again for my slowness/overthinking here. I am the kind of person that stands for ten minutes by the bins in the shopping centre because technically the rubbish I am holding is neither 'food waste' nor 'dry recycling'.
posted by Acheman at 2:51 PM on October 21, 2011


Other is totally fine. If it's one of those "suggest a book" questions and the book the commenters listed was in the question, we might delete it. If it's more subtle than that, you're welcome to flag it but we might or might not do anything about it but we're happy to check it out.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:55 PM on October 21, 2011


I understand the frustration, but I cut people slack for making an effort. People are trying to be helpful, and that gives them something of a pass in my head, at least to tone down my own annoyance. Besides, I've missed a pertinent detail even after reading questions thoroughly- I usually catch it as soon as I post, for whatever reason. (There's probably some I haven't caught, or are inarticulate enough to look like I didn't... anyway...) Yes, people should carefully read the question, and when they don't the poster will notice and disregard their answer, no biggie.

What makes me much more annoyed is people who never show up to say "thanks" or respond to questions or acknowledge in any way they read or appreciated people taking time to try to answer their question. It's annoyed me since I joined- I remember Languagehat being pretty vocal about it years ago. C'mon dudes, no one wants to feel like they put some effort into answering your six numbered questions only to have you never show up in your own thread again. And why even post a question, and then ignore requests for more information so it can be answered more effectively? That is just weird.

On the other hand, people are getting much better overall at posting pictures of their beasties in pet related questions. Community policing works!
posted by oneirodynia at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


phunnieme, I've noticed the same noise and find it obnoxious, especially since the commenter in question has asked MULTIPLE medical questions, but has a lot of attitude about it. Really?
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:55 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I see that I missed an e in your name, sorry!)
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2011


especially since the commenter in question has asked MULTIPLE medical questions, but has a lot of attitude about it.

Oh wow, I didn't even realize. That is...just wow. I officially reclassify this from "thing I find obnoxious don't do it" to "thing I find completely hilarious, please keep doing it, dance, puppet, dance." So fantastic.
posted by phunniemee at 4:08 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's the FAQ update. Look okay?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:23 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about questions like: Can you think of any songs where the singer includes his full name in the lyrics?

And then a huge whack of people answered "song doesn't have the full name, but..."

That kind of behaviour happens a lot. Right or wrong? You ask, I decide!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:29 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ones who drive me nuts (and there's one mefite in particular that does this ALL THE TIME and I've been getting pretty flag-happy) are those who see a medical-sounding question and immediately knee-jerk respond: "the internet can't help you with your medical problems, go see a doctor."

hey mefite whose comments i find funny and relevent. I gotta disagree with you here.
If someone asks about how to get rid of a hangnail, i will never tell them to go to a doctor. But those arent the questions that we are discussing...we are discussing things which "may" need professional help.

It's like, yeah, obviously they should see a doctor for real medical issues. But nine times out of ten the OP has said something like "I know I need to see a doctor, I'm just interested in hearing your experience" or is asking a broad enough "what worked for you in this situation" question that shutting it down immediately is obnoxious noise.

im not gonna ask for a cite or stats, but this is the exact opposite of what i see. Usually, im seeing questions from people who are thinking that they arent going to go to the doctor because of finances or because they think it isnt serious. I show up to say "no...this is doctor-worthy".

Now, if someone talked about their health situation and then said "i will be seeing a doctor, so anything u will tell me wont take the place of proper medical advice" then id be all "u want to make a doll out of straw and attach your hair to its head..."

But if i feel that someone is using askme as a replacement for a doctor...ill be all "dude, you need professional medical intervention" because nobody here is willing to take the responsibility of another person's fragile life in their hands by answering an askme.

Just go to a doctor, and then we can talk about whether what the nurse showed you while u were coming off the anesthesia was actually your infected tonsils in a glass vial or just a wet peanut.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:41 PM on October 21, 2011


Here's the FAQ update. Look okay?

Looks great.

I especially like this:

"Try to differentiate between what is just venting and upset feelings and what is important..."

And

"4. Stay calm. You will get a better response to your question if you do not seem angry, irritable, ranting or otherwise unreliable as a narrator. If you can't ask your question with some level of objectivity, it might be better to wait until you can."

This reminds me of "note". What im wondering is whether changing the "Note: everyone needs a hug " on a regular basis to another phrase will accomplish what "note" accomplished when it was newly implemented.

Im on meta a lot, and because of that, im used to that note. But if tomorrow i saw "be nice to your fellow human", i'd be all..."maybe i should say this in a nicer way".
posted by hal_c_on at 5:54 PM on October 21, 2011


Lots of people are awful writers who don't make their question explicit. It's not always responders' fault; often fault lies with the asker.
posted by dfriedman at 6:09 PM on October 21, 2011


jessamyn, I like your FAQ a lot, too!

I think I would include something like, "Be as specific as you can. Relevant details make for more helpful responses. For example, legal rights can vary widely dependent on location."

That's probably not the best wording, but you get the idea.
posted by misha at 6:46 PM on October 21, 2011


Good point. I added a version of what you said.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:55 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another factor I think is that people need an answer from AskMe because their own thoughts aren't clear on the issue. The muddled thoughts lead to unclear questions, but if their thoughts weren't muddled, the answer might be more obvious. How often do you see answers emerge almost organically from the "wait what the heck?" / "oh OK let me clarify" back and forth?
posted by KathrynT at 7:00 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's fantastic, Jessamyn! Thanks!

I'm glad something useful came of my rant.
posted by Specklet at 7:18 PM on October 21, 2011


Gator: "What? People answering shouldn't be skimming at all, they should read the whole question. If details are present but "buried," they're still present and should be considered.

That's the whole problem with people who do this, they're so hot to answer that they don't consider.
"

Sorry, I disagree. If you give people a huge wall of text, expect one of two scenarios:
  1. very few answers, or
  2. people who have skimmed the question
If world crises can be summed up in a 250 word memo, then so can your tragedy with your in-laws or whatever. If you go way longer than that, expect people to skim.

If you don't make your question scannable, that's like you didn't go through the effort of making it easy to answer your question. And so then why on earth should the answerers put more energy into the whole thing than you did?

Keep it short or make it scannable or expect people to skim.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:20 AM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it happens to the best of us, regardless of the readability of the post. I mean, I consider myself a professional-grade reader but I once totally gave a recipe for red beans and rice as an answer when the parameters of the question ruled it out. But red beans and rice are so good, man. So good. So, perhaps understandably, I got over-excited to share the goodness and only realized when I hit "post" that it was not a great answer. When I memailed the poster to apologize, she was really gracious, and someone else used the recipe somewhere else to make the best New Year's feast ever, so I quit beating myself up about it and resolved going forward to read the question one last time before hitting post.
posted by *s at 6:22 AM on October 22, 2011


One little data point: my posts are even worse, and much much worse because of my iPhone. Also, I never answer anything requiring a link even when I know a great link- the perfect link.

But maybe I'll start making more comment when people don't answer a question - especially when the answer is effectively, "Your question includes nouns and qn adjective that would also fit a story about my life so here's a story about my life that doesn't even come close to being relevant to your question and by the way let me also point out that a couple of answers suck!" That bugs me. But so do repeated calls from people who need to inform me that my automobile warranty is about to expire. Those calls bug me, but no so much that I'm giving up my phone.

And you know what tears me up? When people ask a question about someone who is dead-set on making time miserable, and everyone gives thoughtful, helpful, insightful answers explaining the evil intent of that someone, and the OP pops back in to say oh-no-it's-not-that-bad and gives examples that show the situation is even worse for the OP than we had realized from the original question. How can we stop that?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2011


And you know what tears me up? When people ask a question about someone who is dead-set on making time miserable, and everyone gives thoughtful, helpful, insightful answers explaining the evil intent of that someone, and the OP pops back in to say oh-no-it's-not-that-bad and gives examples that show the situation is even worse for the OP than we had realized from the original question. How can we stop that?

Stop it? that's one of the world's unstoppable things, like the tide. Those folks need to listen to the "get out and get therapy" answers that will fill the thread. I hope some of them do.
posted by longsleeves at 1:00 PM on October 22, 2011


If the post is longer than you want to read, fine, don't read it. Don't reply to it either. I don't want somebody with the attention span of a gnat answering my questions, anyway.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


You get what you pay for with free advice.
posted by crunchland at 2:48 PM on October 22, 2011


But what if it's $5 worth of advice?
posted by Kattullus at 2:49 PM on October 22, 2011


Who is getting paid?
posted by crunchland at 4:35 PM on October 22, 2011


Is a $5 t-shirt worth any less if is not bought?
posted by Kattullus at 4:50 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crabby Appleton: "108If the post is longer than you want to read, fine, don't read it. Don't reply to it either. I don't want somebody with the attention span of a gnat answering my questions, anyway."

Yeah, but sometimes even people with short atten-
posted by zarq at 12:07 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The blame lies squarely with the askers. Quite clearly, there are only three or four (at most) answers, and the addition of all sorts of extraneous detail in the pretence that you are somehow a unique individual caught in a dilemma with its own particular dynamics is patently delusional.
We need to reduce all questions to one or two key words and automate the answers to immediately suggest dumping them, therapy, a doctor's visit or that it was likely due to the influence of the Polish Film School on Italian neorealism. What else could there possibly be to say?
posted by Abiezer at 1:32 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only have I seen no improvement in the hostility and mockery of MetaTalk threads in recent months or years, but to me it has unquestionably gotten worse. I know many Mefites who see things they find egregious or at least worthy of policy discussion but don't post about it here because they are correctly afraid they'll be mocked and piled on for giving a shit, not getting the joke (what, you don't find outright classism hilarious if it means mocking obese people?) etc.

Thunderdome is still with us. MeTa is full of hatefulness for hatefulness' sake.
posted by spitbull at 8:34 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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