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Chat-filter: explained - please?
December 7, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm a little confused on the chat-filter rule. Could someone please clarify?

I've read the rule on the FAQ, and I even had a question deleted once (asking men's opinions on women changing their name after marriage), but I'm still a bit confused because I keep seeing questions that could fall into that category. I'm not complaining about the rule, I'm just hazy about how it works and would like some clarification.

The other day there was a question on cohabitation before marriage: good question, interesting answers. But it's so subjective and survey-like that there is basically no wrong answer as to why one chose to do so.

Other examples: a question about whether people who grew up with cats dislike them as adults; a question about whether women like cum on the face.

In those cases, all answers are equally valid, and there is no problem to be solved.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Neekee to Etiquette/Policy at 7:53 AM (34 comments total)

Chat-filter is up to the discretion of the mods; there is no objective definition of it.
posted by dfriedman at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point of AskMe is to ask questions that can be solved, not to start interesting discussions on a variety of topics.
posted by elizardbits at 7:59 AM on December 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Depends if there's a problem to be solved, from what I've seen. Often the difference between chatfilter and a question that stands is just justifying an otherwise-chatty question.
posted by supercres at 7:59 AM on December 7, 2012


Just for general reference in here, here's that FAQ entry.

A couple things that may help understand the issue with chatfilter:

1. It's a rule that came together in response to early use of Ask Metafilter as the question of what works well and on the site and what's a good focus for Ask was being hashed out in practice with people trying it out. One thing that became clear over like the first year or so of Ask was that questions fell broadly into a couple groups: people trying to get a problem of some sort solved, and people having fun just shooting the shit on the green instead of doing so over on the blue. The chatfilter rule was a response to that and an attempt to keep the green a bit more focused and utilitarian.

2. "Chatfilter" is something that exists on a spectrum; we try to characterize the stuff that falls more in that area in the FAQ entry, sort of a collection of "this might be overly chatty if..." red flags that all go into the calculus for what is and isn't. But there'll always be sort of borderline stuff, and now and then something particularly chatty gets through because we miss it or people don't flag it or we're just being big softies about a question people seem to like and to be engaging with positively and productively. Beyond which, everybody's got slightly different boundaries on this stuff as far as where they think the line would be drawn on this question or that. So there's never going to be a firm and simple bright-line distinction where every question is either clearly chatfilter or clearly not.

We keep an eye on this stuff to try and hold the line at a reasonable place where people don't go crazy with the what ifs or the "I'm bored, let's talk about x" stuff, because keeping up the general level of utility of Ask has been a big part of our focus on how to maintain that part of the site. But it's a fuzzy metric and involves judgement calls on the grey area stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bad: "What do you guys think about women who don't change their names after marriage?"

Good: "I am about to get married and am debating whether or not to change my name. I would like to hear about the social advantages or disadvantages of changing it."

It's all in the framing.
posted by olinerd at 8:03 AM on December 7, 2012 [26 favorites]


My understanding of the chatfilter rule is that it's basically like the "genuine controversy" principle in law. You cannot walk into court and ask a judge or jury to rule on a hypothetical that you thought up in the shower; you must have an actual dispute between you and another party that needs resolution.

If you post an AskMe that just polls members about their opinions on name changes after marriage, it will get deleted. But if you specify, "I am getting married next month, and I'm undecided about this issue. Help me consider it from different angles," then you're good.
posted by cribcage at 8:04 AM on December 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


My general rule of thumb is "What is the problem to be solved?"

So "Did you live together before marriage? What was it like?" is chatfilter whereas "Did you live together before marriage? What was it like? I am trying to figure out how to not make the same mistakes a lot of my friends did and would appreciate hearing people's stories about what they think went wrong (or right) with their cohabitation process?"

Chat-filter is up to the discretion of the mods; there is no objective definition of it.

While it's true that there's no bright line rule, that's true for most of the guidelines on this site. However we don't just look at every question and think "Chatfilter, yes or no?" It's something that we-as-mods can usually identify with a fair degree of consistency. If this isn't clear to you, we can try to explain it more (and I'm sure we will) but it's not just something that depends on our mood or something.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


- Have you actually asked a question?
- Does your question have a defined problem/question and a defined solution/answer, regardless if it does not have an *objective* solution/answer
- Is your problem or question well enough defined?
- Have you delimited the question such that you are encouraging responses to a specific problem, rather than asking people simply to weigh in with their thoughts or opinions on a broader topic?
- Can the question actually be answered?
posted by MuffinMan at 8:08 AM on December 7, 2012


And to elaborate a little on the problem-to-be-solved thing, a lot of it is in the framing of the question. Something can seem pretty overtly chatty or pretty reasonable focused on problem-solving depending on how the asker presents it, and that's part of where the judgement call stuff comes in.

So, with one of your examples, "a question on cohabitation before marriage", that could go anywhere from this:
Should people live together before they get married?
Which would be straight-up chatfilter if that was the whole thing, because there's no context for why they're asking, no indication that they're coming to Ask having tried to establish some sense of what they've already explored or how they got to this point in inquiring, no personal details to give people something to work with, etc.

Compare that to something like this:
My long-time boyfriend has asked me to move in with him. I like the idea but I've got misgivings; I was raised to believe that cohabitation before marriage was unacceptable, and so it's not something I've experienced or know much practically about. I'm trying to understand the implications of this. What should I expect? What have your experiences been here?
Which tells us why their asking, what their stake is, where they're coming from, and in general provides a pretty specific frame for the kind of answers they're looking for. It's still a very qualitative "tell me about your experiences" question, but that's not a big problem in its own right. It's not "here's a topic, go crazy", which is the primary thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:11 AM on December 7, 2012


Looking at that FAQ entry for the first time in a while...didn't there used to be "what should I name my cat?" listed on there as a chatfilter example? Did you guys just give up on that one?
posted by phunniemee at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


cribcage: ""genuine controversy""

This is a great phrase and seems to fit the guideline's implementation pretty well.
posted by boo_radley at 8:20 AM on December 7, 2012


Looking at that FAQ entry for the first time in a while...didn't there used to be "what should I name my cat?" listed on there as a chatfilter example? Did you guys just give up on that one?

Its apparently become default to have photos in a feline related question.
posted by infini at 8:25 AM on December 7, 2012


Yeah, the 'name my ____' questions are the new 'give me song suggestions for my ____ playlist'.
posted by Think_Long at 8:34 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That question about "why do Russian tourists take pictures of their women?" got deleted as chatfilter right? Because that one really burned my skin.

"Their women", indeed.
posted by sweetkid at 8:51 AM on December 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Neekee: “The other day there was a question on cohabitation before marriage: good question, interesting answers. But it's so subjective and survey-like that there is basically no wrong answer as to why one chose to do so. Other examples: a question about whether people who grew up with cats dislike them as adults; a question about whether women like cum on the face. In those cases, all answers are equally valid, and there is no problem to be solved.”

If a question that looks like chatfilter to you has been allowed to stay, it generally means that there is a problem to be solved.

I don't know exactly what questions you're referring to, but on first glance I would guess that (for example) the problem to be solved in your first example is something like: should I cohabitate before marriage – is it a good idea?

It can seem arbitrary, but looking closely to try to find a problem to be solved is generally the best bet when trying to sort out whether a question is actually chatfilter.
posted by koeselitz at 8:53 AM on December 7, 2012


a question about whether women like cum on the face.

Well this one gets in on the titty-fucking precedent.
posted by mullacc at 9:29 AM on December 7, 2012


I'm pretty sure that in Soviet Russia, their women take pictures of you.
posted by found missing at 9:34 AM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I remember the thread 'What are some good gifts for men?'

To which the answer is always: some whisky, a flowerpot, and a new toaster.
posted by mippy at 10:10 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


To which the answer is always: some whisky, a flowerpot, and a new toaster.

We men generally drop flowerpots on toasters when we're drunk, so we really can never get enough of these.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the 'name my ____' questions are the new 'give me song suggestions for my ____ playlist'.

Hey, what's wrong with asking for music suggestions that meet specific criteria? Assuming non-duplicate threads, I don't understand how those questions are less worthwhile than the infinite questions about "should I leave this obviously doomed relationship" or whatever. Both are concrete questions with subjective answers. Is it the multiple correct answers part that is objectionable?

(I got a lot of really awesome suggestions in my one music suggestion thread, and have mined quite a lot of other suggestion-type threads with great results)
posted by randomnity at 10:43 AM on December 7, 2012


boo_radley: "cribcage: ""genuine controversy""

This is a great phrase ...
"

It's not without precedent: the Supreme Court deleted one of George Washington's questions as chatfilter.
posted by exogenous at 10:54 AM on December 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The other day there was a question on cohabitation before marriage: good question, interesting answers. But it's so subjective and survey-like that there is basically no wrong answer as to why one chose to do so.

I haven't seen that question, so I don't know if it was chatfilter. Speaking of "no wrong answer," there's no one right or wrong answer to whether "a question on cohabitation before marriage" should be deleted. It either will or won't be chatfilter depending on why the person is asking, not what they're asking about.

If the OP simply asks for anyone's personal anecdotes about cohabitating before marriage, that should be deleted. There wouldn't seem to be any purpose to that question, other than opening up a thread for anyone to tell their stories. That's not what AskMe is for. It's supposed to help the OP in particular, not help anyone with an internet connection to share their random opinions or experiences. (There's nothing wrong with that — it could be fine on MetaChat, Facebook, a blog, etc.)

In contrast, say the OP explains their own circumstances that present a problem in their own life: "My significant other and I are thinking about cohabitating after being together for a year, but I'm concerned that this might be too soon for us and could change the relationship in ways I might not have considered yet." Once that purpose is established, then it's totally fine to ask for advice about the OP should do in light of the personal experiences of whoever happens to answer. The fact that the answers will inevitably be somewhat "subjective" doesn't mean it's chatfilter. That just means that major life decisions are complicated, and different people have different perspectives, experiences, values, beliefs.

Still, you could say there's "no wrong answer" to a question like that, since people are entitled to their opinion. Perhaps no answer is inherently "wrong" as long as it's honestly based on the commenter's experience. But the answer could be wrong or right for the OP's purposes. This is essential: the answers are supposed to help the OP, who will make the final decision. The OP is free to look at one comment and think, "Aha, this is a very insightful answer that I'm going to keep in mind while making this decision in my life," while looking at another person's advice and deciding not to follow it. The latter comment might be sincere and well-intended, making it "right" for the person who commented, but "wrong" for the OP because it's out of sync with their priorities.

So there's no rule that your question has to have one objectively correct answer out there, just waiting to be written. It's fine that different people may have different opinions about what's the best answer. Objectivity vs. subjectivity is not what the chatfilter rule should be about. It should be about whether the OP is asking the question for some purpose of their own, beyond mere curiosity about whoever happens to post a comment.
posted by John Cohen at 11:20 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The question on cohabitation before marriage mentioned upthread. It seems to me that the framing is indeed a bit chatfiltery: if the poster is asking it with a problem to be solved in mind, they haven't made that explicit. I'm guessing this is one of the borderline or slipped-through-the-cracks cases cortex alluded to.
posted by beryllium at 11:40 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I missed that one but it seems kinda chatfiltery. Then again we always have those ones every so often that are like, "how did you know he/she was the one?" and there are like 85 answers of "you just know," "puppies flew out of his eyes," "she looks cute throwing up in a pink bathrobe," and BLECCCCHHH.

I hate those is what I'm saying.
posted by sweetkid at 3:18 PM on December 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree that "Name My Cat/Dog" questions are chatfilter, and have always wondered why they are left up. I wish the askers would at least come back and post what they ended up choosing as the name if they're going to use a chatfiltery question to ask for one. And it bugs me sometimes when someone in the thread comments in small text that "ooh you forgot the obligatory pics!" Not that they keep me up at night in a seething rage or anything, and yeah yeah FIAMO and all that, but it bugs me because no, it's not really obligatory and that comment itself is a derail in the light of guidelines in AskMe land. I also think most of the "why does my cat/dog do (insert weird quirk/gross habit here)" questions are just excuses to post pictures of said cat/dog.

So I can see why a new user would be confused by the chatfilter rule.
posted by misozaki at 4:53 PM on December 7, 2012


It wouldn't be too hard to to come up with a scoring system where, if you score more than 5, you're probably deep into chatfilter territory. Here's my rough stab at it, but some of these are probably redundant, I'm missing whole classes of bad questions and the scoring is a bit off relative to observed chatfilter deletions.

+4 Your question is completely open ended.
+3 Asking for a hard objective truth on a controversial topic were there is no hard objective truth
-2 You're asking for the arguments pro and con some complex issue, without trying to pre-frame the question. (e.g. You seek understanding and aren't just trying to shore up your prejudices.)
+1 Your opinion on the matter is hinted at in the question.
+3 Your opinion of the matter is blatantly obvious in the question.
+5 You are less subtle than Bill O'Rielly on massive stimulants.
-1 You are active on Metafilter and make quality contributions - thoughtful comments, quality FPPs and useful answers to AskMe questions.
+1 You are not very active on Metafilter otherwise
+2 You are very active on Metafilter but your activity is mostly chatfilter type questions
+4 I'm thinking of a number less than 7 and a set of things to which red and blue are members.
-3 Your question pertains to what your promise is a cute puppy or kitten.
-6 Your question actually includes a picture of said cute puppy or kitten
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:57 PM on December 7, 2012


Yeah it annoys me that the fascinating history or sci-fi hypotheticals gets nixed, while all those tedious variations of "help me name my cavalier king charles spaniel isn't he the cutest!" stay up.

The hypotheticals are often actual and interesting problems, too. Unlike the pet name threads which are just sort of idle morning-tea-at-the-office chitchat.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:35 PM on December 7, 2012


I think I've mentioned this before, but it's worth noting that it's basically only specifically the name my cat/dog/baby things that get grandfathered in, and not really because anyone on Team Mod really likes them but because we lack the stone cold political will to abruptly declare a scorched earth reversal of policy on something that seems mostly harmless. It's one of those odd traditions on the site, like CAPS LOCK DAY or clavdivs' halloween metatalk posts: it doesn't really make a hell of a lot of sense, but nobody really wants to be that guy who gets all up in it just to be like THIS IS NOT VIETNAM, THERE ARE RULES.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:53 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Mod Abides.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:44 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Translating cortex' comment = "Awww, whos a cute puppeh?" ..Huh...We moderators are most definitely not infant mammal killers, no sirree
posted by infini at 2:12 AM on December 8, 2012


I really wish it were a rule for the pet naming questions that the asker has to come back and tell us what they named the damn thing.
posted by Specklet at 6:38 AM on December 8, 2012


Yeah basically the fact that the pet naming questions continue to exist and flourish is the best indicator that the mods actually don't run this place.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:32 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"why does my cat/dog do (insert weird quirk/gross habit here)" questions are just excuses to post pictures of said cat/dog.

Hey man, I just asked a question like that and no puppy pics were involved!
*sorely tempted to post puppy pic now, humpf!*

Thanks for the answers, btw. General rule: frame it as a genuine controversy, unless it's naming of cats/dogs with obligatory pics involved. Got it.
posted by Neekee at 9:15 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


That question about "why do Russian tourists take pictures of their women?" got deleted as chatfilter right? Because that one really burned my skin.

"Their women", indeed.


Seriously, Russians could be taking pictures of anyone’s women, how could you know who’s they are?
posted by bongo_x at 5:21 PM on December 8, 2012


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