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Such a thing as too many? March 19, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

How many AskMe posts about the same issue are too many?

Here are two examples of users posting three very similar questions. Is three too many? Would five be too many? Is there no such thing as too many? I've noticed this with relationshipfilter especially.

I don't really mean to single out the linked posts; they're just examples.
posted by insectosaurus to Etiquette/Policy at 9:36 PM (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I'm inclined to think that there's a big difference between three posts in as many weeks versus over several years. There have been deletions along the lines of, "What are you hoping to accomplish with this question that you didn't get out of your last one?" so it seems to me like the community and the mods keep repetition in check.
posted by supercres at 9:44 PM on March 19, 2012


About the same issue? Why in the world would that be limited?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:49 PM on March 19, 2012


We sometimes axe posts under the "You are not getting this and it's unclear why you keep asking basically the same question" heading occasionally but usually it's after someone's clearly doing it a LOT which to me is more-than-three times, but it varies, I guess. The cat question you refer to is three questions over three years. The other one--and I'd prefer to not turn this into a referendum on that set of questions--we're feeling a little more like it's the same question asked a few different ways and maybe a little more problematic. I've been sort of thinking about both of them on and off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:52 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This makes AskMe much more enjoyable to me, when I can follow a serialized story over several posts, but I am super-nosy about other people's lives.

Other things I like for the same reason include novels, advice columns, and public will disputes. I will also take loud breakups in restaurants.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:52 PM on March 19, 2012 [98 favorites]


I second Eyebrows McGee. But I am probably a bad person.

I especially like it when the poster refers back to the old posts, though, and tells us what he/she tried and why it didn't work. That way it feels like the next episode of a story rather than a repeat broadcast because the writers are on holiday.

(What do you mean AskMe isn't scripted?)
posted by lollusc at 9:55 PM on March 19, 2012 [16 favorites]


Sometimes you just need the frying pan to the face.

My brain automatically appends "at best" to every one of supercres' comments. Which is like, totally crescent fresh.
posted by carsonb at 9:59 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ironically, this question has been posted to Metatalk several times.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:14 PM on March 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


Is 'several' too many times for this question, then?
posted by dg at 10:59 PM on March 19, 2012


Metafilter: Other things I like for the same reason include novels, advice columns, and public will disputes.
posted by mannequito at 11:00 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Ironically, this question has been posted to Metatalk several times."

But not by the same user, which is what I think insectosaurus was on about.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:06 PM on March 19, 2012


Thanks for asking this. It allows me to ask:

How many Meta Talks asking about the number of AskMes are too many?
posted by Splunge at 11:08 PM on March 19, 2012


I agree that this is annoying. Those aren't the only two recent examples, either- there are quite a few people who really only post the same question over and over. I don't know- I don't want to be grumpy mcgrumpsalot here, and I understand when people sometimes have a complicated situation that changes over time, but in a perfect world people would think more before doing this.

It's only really egregious though when people know they're doing it, and are actually fishing for certain answers they didn't get last time, or trying to direct the responses a certain way.
posted by quincunx at 11:18 PM on March 19, 2012


How many Meta Talks asking about the number of AskMes are too many?

3.14159265358979 posts is the answer, weirdly enough.

True story!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:19 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think either of these are good examples, the cat one was over 3 years, and in the third relationship question, the OP actually said "Really, I hate to keep harping on this" and is aware that they have been asking similar questions.

I'm a little worried about call-outs of this type as it draws attention to personal details of the OP they may not want displayed to the general readership.
posted by arcticseal at 1:06 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we're barely scratching the surface here - how many jokey comments about the number of Meta posts on the number of AskMe questions are too many?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:51 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we're barely scratching the surface here - how many jokey comments about the number of Meta posts on the number of AskMe questions are too many?

Would you believe 3.14159265358979?
posted by scalefree at 3:32 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for commenting. It allows me to ask:

How many comments about how many MeTas asking about the number of AskMes are too many?
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:28 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Keep going everyone!)
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:28 AM on March 20, 2012


How many AskMe posts about the same issue are too many? -- Three.
posted by crunchland at 4:47 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It bugs me when other people remember my posting history better than I do. The question sets in the memory as a longing, and when the answer comes it isn't memorable, so the switch isn't triggered. It's like Leonard in Memento burning his wife's stuff.

Every time that I am reminded that James Brown is dead, and given the link to the Rolling Stone article in which he is proven to be infinite and timeless I get caught in this loop where of course, I always knew this, and I also always need to be told again, the question has to be renewed so the truth can be continually revealed. The sedation isn't working, I need more expensive and more powerful drugs.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be clear, you just mean posts by the same user, right?
posted by John Cohen at 7:38 AM on March 20, 2012


Yes, I mean posts by the same user.

And I didn't realize the litterbox posts were so many years apart; I agree that they're a bad example of what I'm talking about.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2012


Motion Denied!
posted by Sweetmag at 8:10 AM on March 20, 2012


I don't remember enough of the details to link to them, nor do I want to be in the position of pointing and laughing at a person with obvious issues, but there was one AskMe poster within the last year, I think, who would ask the same question, with very little variation, over and over, at least a half dozen times, if not a dozen times or more. He even resorted to asking the question anonymously one or two times. It was clear that the guy had problems too profound for Ask Metafilter to even begin to solve. I don't even recall what the outcome was, but I think he ultimately went away.
posted by crunchland at 8:14 AM on March 20, 2012


He wound up getting a few sympathetic MeFites to work with him outside of the site interface who helped him with some of the things he was dealing with. We had to put our foot down on that one and basically told him he needed to stop asking variants of the same questions over and over again, and basically the urge for constant reassurance was part of the problem he was grappling with.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


These "can't learn" askers are the only remaining source of anger in my life. Please don't take this from me
posted by MangyCarface at 8:20 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now I want a Tootsie Pop.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:16 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Mr. Owl, I bought this shirt for around $4 at Target and wore it multiple times and didn't, at all, even for a second, think of the possible* double entendre until some guy (sorta) tried to use it as a pick up line in a bar. For the first time in a long time, I felt very naive.

This is only relevant to the original topic of the question because... and this is a stretch of a connection but it IS the point I was going to make, even before the Tootsie Roll** derail... we all view the world a bit differently, and a lot of people, especially in relationship filter questions, have blinders on and don't realize that the new information they are adding does not make the answer to the question any different; new information/update or not, it's still the same damn problem. But I think pointing that out to people, like the super obvious DTMFA, is a valuable function for these types of question, and though it may drive people crazy, it's the type of crazy that problem means you (or in this case, we, since I'm pretty much with you in some instances) should probably just avoid relationship-filter questions if that's going to get your goat.

But to really answer your question, like Mr. Owl said, the correct number really is 3, no more. One for the original question, one to say 'your problem is still the same despite you thinking otherwise - here's why", and two to say, "no, really, we mean it -- here's why we weren't wrong last time despite your rephrasing." After that, it's probably too much.***


* Only "possible" because it's pretty much a single.

** Cotton candy, sweet and low, let me see that tootsie roll.

*** As much as I like my hard and fast rules and am pretty much sure I'm right, I'm still glad this place doesn't follow them.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:50 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If someone asks the same question twice and you answered it the first time, just quote yourself as an answer to the second one. "As I recommended the first time you asked this question [with a link to that answer], 'the best way to litter-train a cat is to show it by example: with the cat watching, drop your pants and take a dump in the litter box. Cats have a natural herding instinct, even when it comes to defecation, and you are your cat's alpha litter-box herd member.'"
posted by pracowity at 10:21 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's not true, is it?
posted by Grangousier at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite uses for AskMe is searching for posts inquiring after interesting places to visit in whatever destination I'm headed to next. This is a type of question that does see a tremendous amount of recurrence, often very frequent for the major cities. It's also one that appears to benefit from said recurrence, since lots of posts about 'what to do in NYC' etc provide some assurance of freshness for the answers given in the most recent post, as well as a deep store of answers over time. No one array of AskMe answers is going to be perfect -- the quality seems to vary quite a lot, depending on the subject and how many members happen to notice a given post and contribute informative replies. So for that type of question, it's certainly nice to be able to put together a picture from a large number of responses.
For my favorite use case, then, the current structure works OK. I have to bear in mind that the older the results are, the more likely it is that they'll contain outdated info and/or bad links, but I don't mind doing some footwork once a have a bunch of leads. Rebuilding AskMe with a taxonomic system (as opposed to simple tags) might seem desirable, but from my experience that's expensive in both the near and long term, and runs counter to the tried & true minimalism of MeFi architecture. (No one above has asked specifically for that, but an attempt to enforce rules like 'no more than X questions of a given type' seems to imply the use of such a system, or else a willingness to saddle the mods with much greater curatorial workloads.) When I wish for more structured info than what this site provides, I tend not to hope for added features here so much as I wish that Wikipedia would institute the nominal-cost-of-entry concept.
TL;DR - I think the current structure of AskMe is fine. Just my two cents. Bearing in mind that I'm a casual user/lurker here.

posted by $0up at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clearly my cat is the cause of too many AskMe threads. I will therefore have him put down

Here is a picture of him. You bastards.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Three. Three is too many. Two deserves a raised eyebrow and a tutting sound. Three deserves a good slapping.

I have spoken.
posted by Decani at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw, I just spent almost $800 on my two cats at the vet.

For WELL CAT visits.

Granted, that included booster rabies shots, bloodwork and six months worth of heartworm treatments, but that's a lot of money for two happy, healthy, spoiled rotten cats.

And they WANTED me to spend over $200 more to get the tartar cleaned off of one of my cat's teeth, but I put my foot down over that because they look just fine to me, she's eating well and clearly they aren't bothering her and anyway why the hell should my cat have better teeth then I do?

Now, you may be asking me what all that has to do with your kitty.

The tl;dr answer (sorry, Meatbomb!): If my cats are pulling me down into the depths of poverty, I am NOT going down alone. Every last one of you MetaCatOwners are coming right down with me.

So you are hereby FORBIDDEN from putting that kitteh down, you hear me?!
posted by misha at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I think three posts on the same exact issue starts to get to be too many, especially if they are really close together.

If it's been less than, I dunno, 3 months or so, and if it's the only subject they ever ask about? It seems like maybe they aren't really interested in listening or trying anything new, and just want to vent.

They can probably do that better in person, with friends or a therapist, or even get their own blog. And sometimes they can reach out personally to other users who have been through similar situations, like that one user did, and get help that way. That's why Mefi is such a great community.

So that clears THAT up.

While I am at it: Meatbomb, given that you are the Astral Mod, I wanted to ask you if you could do me a favor?

Please stop issuing directives. I know you get fed up, but you've always seen like such an easy-going guy to me and I'd hate for new members to get the wrong first impression.

Hey, instead of directives, maybe you could just explain the problem and give us a worst case scenario if we don't do things your way, and maybe let us make up our own minds about what to do. That would be cool.

Plus, then your posts would be...

wait for it...

Astral Projections!

And that would be awesome.
posted by misha at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2012


Jeez, anonymous keeps asking if she should dump her boyfriend! We keep telling her DTMFA, when is she going to get it?
posted by modernserf at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


All kinds of bad things happen to anonymous, apparently all the time.

I guess that's what happens when you don't love your spouse anymore and date these really sketchy people: You get the random and embarrassing medical issues, and the workplace drama. It's karma.
posted by gauche at 12:18 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I just want to clarify that above I was making fun of my own fascination with other people's lives, not of other people's problems. I'm glad people feel like they can ask for help multiple times when they need to. But I do love it when people post follow-ups, whether those are updates or resolutions or new questions, even if it's a new-but-similar question. Other people fascinate me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:18 PM on March 20, 2012


Similar to how therapy isn't just "Stop doing that. Feel better? Give me $300." some people need consistent advice as a situation hopefully moves in the right direction. People can't post more than one question a week so it's not like they're spamming.

How can you not feel sorry for that girl... she had to refer to her boyfriend as "my stinky boyfriend" in question 2.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:28 PM on March 20, 2012


Jeez, anonymous keeps asking if she should dump her boyfriend! We keep telling her DTMFA, when is she going to get it?

Not to sound like a stalker, but I've been following that saga and if you're paying close attention, it's actually a string of dozens upon dozens of completely different boyfriends (and girlfriends), not to mention the crushes/random sex partners/one night stands/orgy buddies. Sometimes they're even in different countries! I'm honestly not sure how she manages it all. She should definitely get some sort of medal.
posted by Copronymus at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will say my favorite/least favorite thing about metafilter is how many people post random dumb questions as anonymous then someone will post HIGHLY ILLEGAL OR MORALLY QUESTIONABLE questions on their regular usernames.

anonymous: how can I tell someone to cover their nose when they sneeze and not wipe snot on me?

not anonymous: So I have all of these drugs that I got... blah blah blah.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:30 PM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh great, we killed Artw's cat. Again.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012


Whenever there's repetition here or in real life I always just think of When Harry Met Sally's Carrie Fisher character. "He's never going to leave his wife, is he?" "No, (whatever Carrie Fisher's character's name was) NO ONE thinks he's ever going to leave his wife." And so on, again and again. Sometimes it takes ages for things to sink in.

And I kind of feel like if they're only asking once a week...well, that's not really that bad, is it?
posted by bquarters at 2:35 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

And I kind of feel like if they're only asking once a week...well, that's not really that bad, is it?
That's, erm, an awfully minimal standard, considering how often you can post in AskMe.
posted by SMPA at 3:25 PM on March 20, 2012


One. If you have to ask, then you're already wrong. And bad.
posted by cmoj at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2012


If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.
posted by crunchland at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2012


One.. Two... Five!

(Three, Sir)

THREE!
posted by hippybear at 6:23 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The answer is always 3. Like Mustafah in Austin Powers.
posted by arcticseal at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2012


I will probably be forever slightly baffled by the person who has twice posted a very specific, almost identically-worded, how do I deal with this aspect of life in the UK? question.... Two years apart.

I answered the first one, as I had specific experience of dealing with that aspect of life in the UK at the location mentioned. And then forgot about it, until the second one was asked. I posted the link to the previous thread, and only afterwards realised it was the same person asking.

It's just weird to me on many levels. Mostly, why haven't you figured this out yet? Have you spent the last two years avoiding this fairly common aspect of life in the UK? Surely you've had enough practise at it by now. Maybe there's something bigger going on? Did you really think an identical AskMe two years later really would help?

But there's not yet been a third question to tip it over into one post too many, so I will just continue to be slightly baffled by it.
posted by Helga-woo at 6:40 AM on March 21, 2012


bquarters writes "Whenever there's repetition here or in real life I always just think of When Harry Met Sally's Carrie Fisher character. 'He's never going to leave his wife, is he?' 'No, (whatever Carrie Fisher's character's name was) NO ONE thinks he's ever going to leave his wife.' And so on, again and again. Sometimes it takes ages for things to sink in. "

Like in Carrie's role in the Blues Brothers.
posted by Mitheral at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Proof of the intractability of cats and romance.

I'm probably bisexual, but reading too many "DTMFA" type comment threads has turned me off hetero romance completely.
posted by bad grammar at 7:23 PM on March 21, 2012


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