MeFi Bat Signal May 5, 2013 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Is there some sort of informal way that we can self-organize into a network of volunteers that can provide local assistance to AskMefites in need? Or maybe have the option for location information on AskMe questions so that we could receive alerts to local questions a la IRL? Or something? (Apologies in advance -- this is long, half-baked, inarticulate & rambly.)

I keep thinking about Liosliath/HopperFan, and what an incredibly generous and caring person she was whenever another person needed help. And I keep thinking, too, about all the other times people have posted to AskMe in desperate circumstances and so many other nearby MeFites have generously offered a hand. It is truly inspiring!

I know many of us have the desire to help each other, and many of us have skills and resources (both personal and professional) that we would contribute to others in need. But at the same time, not all of us read AskMe consistently. I was thinking it would be nice if there were some way to get a heads-up. I don't have a concrete idea about how it could be done (esp without exposing Matt/MeFi to liability) but I wanted to toss it out there & see if we could come up with something.

I initially thought of something like a user-organized "contact me if I can help" table on the wiki where MeFites could volunteer username/city/resources (eg, "have truck" "campable yard/crashspace" "knowledge of local healthcare/social-service/legal systems" "sympathetic ear" "general help" etc), but that's very unwieldy and would mean that those in need would have to a) know about the list and b) ask rather than get an offer. I also thought of something like a self-organized phone-tree, but "activating" it could get weird.

But what if AskMe questions had the option for location tags, such that we could opt-in for IRL-style alerts and/or filter by location to see questions that are "local"? Obviously not all AskMe questions are localized, and obviously not all askers would want to divulge the location, but it would be useful for all sorts of city-specific recommendation requests (not just the travel ones, which I know can be filtered). And for things where MeFites could use RL help (like this anonymous dentistry question, this head injury one, or the human trafficking crisis), it might help some of us take notice of questions that we'd otherwise miss and help us help each other in the same inspiringly helpful spirit that HopperFan, ottereroticist, Pollomacho, IFDSSN9, and so many others have shown.
posted by Westringia F. to MetaFilter-Related at 3:44 PM (88 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

If it goes on the wiki, it could be a supplement to the There is Help page.

Some form of IRL notification might work based on location. There's always My AskMe.
posted by arcticseal at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2013


I'm not convinced that things aren't working well enough now.

(like this anonymous dentistry question, this head injury one, or the human trafficking crisis),

In the case of the dentistry one, the asker got the care they needed; the human trafficking one attracted the efforts of Herculean folks. In the case of the head injury one, there's no guarantee someone experiencing delusions would reach out in the way you're suggesting.
posted by liketitanic at 3:57 PM on May 5, 2013


See also this earlier Meta, in which an official "there is help" feature is debated at length.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:01 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


...same inspiringly helpful spirit that HopperFan, ottereroticist, Pollomacho, IFDSSN9, and so many others have shown.

Wait ... back up ... there's someone on here with the username ... ottereroticist?
posted by Wordshore at 4:05 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe turn it around: make a NeedMeHelp page, where posters could request it, and possible-helpers could only respond to the entries that appeal to them. This would, I know, miss the people who --- although they NEED help --- are too shy/uncertain/unwilling to admit they need it to ask for it, but it would keep the helpers privacy more secure.
posted by easily confused at 4:10 PM on May 5, 2013


Yeah, I thought about My AskMe, but it seems it'll only match on tags; if someone mentions a location in the text (like this recent one), it won't show up. If the location-tagging used for the Travel & Transportation category were extended to the other categories, readers would have a way to filter on questions that they have some local knowledge about....
posted by Westringia F. at 4:17 PM on May 5, 2013


ottereroticist is awesome!
posted by desjardins at 4:40 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I suspect the answer from Matt's lawyers would be no freaking way.
posted by spitbull at 6:36 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is to say there are so many ways this could go wrong, but then do-gooders never see the shit coming.
posted by spitbull at 6:42 PM on May 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Reddit does this and is just seems like a constant flurry of asks and rebuffs and drama. Surely we can help people out there in our actual neighborhood, social circle and city.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:53 PM on May 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wait ... back up ... there's someone on here with the username ... ottereroticist?

How does that not seem natural to you? How do you not find otters, with their limpid eyes and lustrous, silky fur, deeply and inalienably erotic? What next? Ostriches: not the pinnacle of humanitarian scholasticism?
posted by Nomyte at 6:56 PM on May 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ostriches and their fiendish kin emus are huge smelly monstrous demons.
posted by elizardbits at 7:21 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


hideous godforsaken demons
posted by elizardbits at 7:22 PM on May 5, 2013


next sock puppet "OstrichRaptor"
posted by HuronBob at 7:26 PM on May 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


(stepping back from the funny for a second)
The There is Help MeTa has lots of info on why this has gone down in flames in the not too distant past. But in another previous MeTa, my personal decision about this was to add a line in my profile offering to listen to anyone who MeMail/emails me and needs a willing ear. I mean it, too. I can't offer professional help (librarian: we don't give legal/medical advice but we'll show you what you need to do to access it) but I can offer to listen. So that might be something you could consider, Westringia F.?
posted by librarylis at 7:28 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


elizardbits: "Ostriches and their fiendish kin emus are huge smelly monstrous demons."

elizardbits, YOU HAVE TO COME VISIT ME, my zoo has an open-wandering emu exhibit where the people stay on the path and the emus can come right up to them and peck them and whatnot and I AM FRIENDS WITH THE EMU KEEPER AND I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO EMUS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:46 PM on May 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


"....peck them and whatnot"

You do NOT want to know what "whatnot" consists of.
posted by HuronBob at 7:50 PM on May 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


See also this earlier Meta, in which an official "there is help" feature is debated at length.

Definitely read that thread. When it was brought up before the idea was shot down by some members of the community, who raised many concerns.

When I have personal time, I put a note on my profile page similar to the one mentioned by librarylis.
posted by zarq at 8:16 PM on May 5, 2013


When I have personal time, I put a note on my profile page similar to the one mentioned by librarylis.

Has anyone taken advantage of the offer and written back? Just curious.
posted by Nomyte at 8:21 PM on May 5, 2013


I think this would be really wonderful, and I also think it would be excellent to have a list of resources pop up if someone posts an AskMe with certain keywords (ie depressed, depression, help, etc).
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:36 PM on May 5, 2013


I think this is a compassionate and wonderful idea that, in this day and age, presents liability issues that are beyond the scope of a community such as MetaFilter. It would be nice if it could work without that liability, but, I can't imagine a way to structure it that doesn't put Matt and participating users at risk.
posted by HuronBob at 8:42 PM on May 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


These Birds of a Feather: "I also think it would be excellent to have a list of resources pop up if someone posts an AskMe with certain keywords"

This sort of shotgun approach seems like it would be both counter productive and hard/time consuming to maintain.
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 PM on May 5, 2013


Eyebrows McGee: "I AM FRIENDS WITH THE EMU KEEPER AND I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO EMUS."

The last time I got an invitation like that it ended in facial tattoo removal and cult de-programming.

Anyway, something tells me liz has been previously introduced.

I dunno about the bat signal. Maybe we should try an ostrich outreach. Let people know that it's not their fault that ostriches are serious assholes.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:38 PM on May 5, 2013


Has anyone taken advantage of the offer and written back? Just curious.

Not on my end, but I'm like a billion times less MetaFilter-famous than zarq so no idea how many people would've seen my profile. I still consider it a worthwhile gesture.
posted by librarylis at 9:50 PM on May 5, 2013


I LOVE the spirit of this request.

I love that an auto-notification of AskMe questions local to me might turn me on to restaurants, nature activities, events, and the like. Cool.

Sadly, this would really change the function of the site so much, it would ultimately suck all of the spontaneity out of participating here.

I can go in ten different ways to finish this comment, mostly involving the differences between what I aspire for the world to be vs. how it is right now.

Anyway, I think the right people find each other naturally enough, given how the site works.

I would be keen to know about AskMe's that involved my area, generally, but not for the specific purpose of being on an "online volunteer list" that anyone with $5 could petition for help.

That said, MeMail me if I can help.
posted by jbenben at 10:17 PM on May 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not on my end, but I'm like a billion times less MetaFilter-famous than zarq so no idea how many people would've seen my profile. I still consider it a worthwhile gesture.

FWIW, I applaud your gesture, but I have a possibly unfair hunch that zarq has had an analogous experience. I've posted a few emotional questions to AskMeta and have had people write to me and offer me emotional support. Even so, I haven't really taken them up on it. I'm not sure what that would even look like.

The kind of case I think Westringia F. is getting at is material offers of help. If memory serves me, just in the last couple of years we've had AskMe questions that resulted in Mefites getting rides to the ER and favors of similar magnitude getting offered.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but a post on AskMe that's to the effect of "I need to get to the ER, but I'm too impaired to drive" or whatever is a violation of the spirit of AskMeta as it stands. It's not even a question. And trying to post a question with the ulterior motive of getting offers of aid is pretty underhanded and not something many users are willing to do.

This doesn't negate the fact that many Mefites have tons of goodwill for each other and would be willing to do small, important, one-time favors with no expectation of getting compensated. I consider most Mefites a step or two better than strangers. This kind of favor isn't even the kind of thing you can do with total strangers. I can't volunteer this kind of help for a non-profit or something.

Yes, there is potential for abuse and liability. But there's potential liability in most of Mefi subsites, and they came into existence somehow. I'm not denying that these proposals are complicated, but sometimes it feels that there is a strange, defeatist consensus forming to the effect of "there are some cons in addition to pros, this can never be done."

But I could follow some advice on AskMeta, poison myself, and die. I could post a fraudulent job to Mefi Jobs and use it to collect people's real names and addresses for some nefarious purpose. I could bring a butcher knife to an IRL meetup and stab people. (Speaking of, where are all the Bay Area meetups I've been looking forward to?) However unlikely, these are all possible scenarios, and yet there's no consensus to the effect of "good grief, we have to take these subsites down immediately!"

And to reiterate, I'm not saying that there's a concrete, detailed proposal on the table which is getting ignored. But to preemptively say that no such proposal could be successful is, I think, a little silly.
posted by Nomyte at 10:36 PM on May 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But what if AskMe questions had the option for location tags, such that we could opt-in for IRL-style alerts and/or filter by location to see questions that are "local"?

This exists: RSS feeds for AskMe posts tagged Philadelphia, Columbus, etc., and how to create an RSS-based trigger at ifttt.com.

Incidentally, it also works to just answer questions thoroughly and in a way that invites further questions. I've gotten several web development questions via MeMail, including one "please, this is an emergency--please, please come comment in this thread about a technology you've commented on before that we're using in a site we're launching tomorrow morning" inquiry.

I'm OK with that up to a point: I usually just link to better documentation than they've found previously.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:03 AM on May 6, 2013


(Well, that particular inquiry got a heck of a complete answer, but you know, it may not scalable.)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:10 AM on May 6, 2013


But what if an arch-villan got ahold of the signal and decided to use it for evil?
posted by three blind mice at 12:24 AM on May 6, 2013


I think what makes me the saddest reading this old threads, some as new as 2 years old, and seeing nothing but posters I never see nowadays.
posted by emptythought at 1:03 AM on May 6, 2013


Ostriches and their fiendish kin emus are huge smelly monstrous demons.

Proof.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:34 AM on May 6, 2013


The idea that this is an enlightened community of kind souls who would reach out to help each other in bad times is just freaking hilarious even if you do believe the official version of certain MeFi myths like the supposed human trafficking intervention (which, lol).

You know why so many people think MeFi is a snobby place? Because we often sound like a bunch of super-privileged prep school kids suggesting that we all go volunteer in a Peruvian orphanage for two weeks to pad out out resume so we can get into Yale.

Help your actual community.
posted by spitbull at 4:08 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The idea that this is an enlightened community of kind souls who would reach out to help each other in bad times is just freaking hilarious even if you do believe the official version of certain MeFi myths like the supposed human trafficking intervention (which, lol)."

Well bless your heart.
posted by HuronBob at 4:24 AM on May 6, 2013 [34 favorites]


I can't imagine a way to structure it that doesn't put Matt and participating users at risk.

Exactly. Both the people asking for and giving the help, as was covered in the previous thread.
posted by winna at 4:55 AM on May 6, 2013


"...who would reach out to help each other in bad times is just freaking hilarious..."

The continued existence and use of AskMe is a data point antithetical to your thesis.

And "actual community" is broader than simply my physical location, if I understand your intent.
posted by Gorgik at 4:59 AM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it works ad hoc and organically just fine. There was a sock-puppet "should I leave my boyfriend" thread in December or January, to which many answers were not only "HELLS YES," but "I will be there to help you pack in an hour, if you call." it was some spontaneous righteousness.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:12 AM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know many of us have the desire to help each other, and many of us have skills and resources (both personal and professional) that we would contribute to others in need. But at the same time, not all of us read AskMe consistently. I was thinking it would be nice if there were some way to get a heads-up.

If you see an askme that just begs for the attention of a certain helpful user, you could always mefi mail that user. And there must be some other tools out there that already do this. I don't use them, but I guess there are already things for ride sharing and couch surfing and so on, right?

People here could link to those tools from their MetaFilter profile pages if they wanted to make general offers of help to others here, and askme readers could use mefi mail to nudge needy people into contact with helpful people directly or through those tools. "I'm sorry to hear about your problems. If I were you, I would contact [...] at [link to other site that handles this stuff] to see if she can put you up for a couple of nights. She was a big help to me back when I had similar trouble." or "Hi, [...]. There's a person asking a question at [askme link] who sure could use some help like the help you gave me last year."
posted by pracowity at 5:35 AM on May 6, 2013


I AM FRIENDS WITH THE EMU KEEPER AND I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO EMUS.

Well, if anyone is friends with someone that owns a real live and lifesized donkey within 100 miles of Ames or Des Moines I would love to hook up. I want a photo of me with a donkey like this for promotional uses. Been trying for years. Had a line on a donkey once, but when I got there they were these mini-donkeys, these atrocities against nature that came only to my knee and were impossible to get good photos with or ride.

I'd be willing to compensate for this.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:22 AM on May 6, 2013


cjorgensen, if you happen to travel to southern Ontario (e.g. Toronto etc), The Donkey Sanctuary welcomes your visit on Wednesdays and Sundays from May to October.

Just putting that out there.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:48 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nomyte: " Has anyone taken advantage of the offer and written back? Just curious."

Yes. After I offered a shoulder to anyone who needed one in the Bill Zeller thread, a handful of people reached out. A few have since then. I've connected about a quarter of them with other mefites or professional resources.

pracowity: ""Hi, [...]. There's a person asking a question at [askme link] who sure could use some help"

If a greasemonkey tool (or something similar) exists, I'd love to use it. Every once in a blue moon I'll get a memail from someone saying "Hey, there's an askme Q looks right up your alley." Rarely. I don't spend a lot of time on Ask, but do try to do the same if I see something that fits someone's expertise.
posted by zarq at 6:54 AM on May 6, 2013


Although I admire the idea, I'm always hesitant to put my name down on a here-to-help-anyone list. I like helping people, but I can't help all the time, and honestly I'm not very good at it. The last thing I want to do is list myself as a resource-in-waiting when in practice I can only help out a small fraction of the time. I know how it feels to screw up the courage to reach out for help only to get ignored or turned away, and that's not something I want to do to other people.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ideefixe: "Reddit does this and is just seems like a constant flurry of asks and rebuffs and drama. Surely we can help people out there in our actual neighborhood, social circle and city."

Yeah, I've heard of cases where hundreds or thousands of dollars are milked from well-meaning online members. It's just this thing where it's trivially easy to fake things online but harder to do so in person. Not to mention that there are probably so many needy people already where you live.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:16 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


seanmpuckett, That's one of my charities. For reals. I don't give much, but I have. Someday I plan to visit Canada.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:32 AM on May 6, 2013


To me, there are two separate issues here.

1. Opt In alerts for local tags in AskMe. I live in a smaller town that's destination spot and occasionally people ask about what to do or where to eat in town. Sometimes I see these, sometimes I have to do search to see if there's been any recent mentions of the city. Getting an a MeMail message would make this so much easier

2. Is there some sort of informal way that we can self-organize into a network of volunteers that can provide local assistance to AskMefites in need?

Help is already provided on an ad hoc basis, as people see fit for their personal lives. I haven't heard of this not working or being an issue, so I'm not sure it needs to be taken to another level, as numerous issues are involved in forming even an informal help group.

I understand that this was partially inspired by the death of a Mefite, Liosliath/HopperFan, but what is being suggested wouldn't have helped her. At best, we can follow her example to be kind and give help when we can.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's also IRL, by which anyone who feels like they would like to give or get help can get involved in a local community of Mefites to be prepared when the time comes.
posted by bleep at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2013


spitbull: " Help your actual community."

I'm a member of several communities. Metafilter is one.

Anything I do as a (hopefully) productive member of this community, is no less valuable to me than work I might do in another community.

Brandon Blatcher: "I haven't heard of this not working or being an issue, so I'm not sure it needs to be taken to another level, as numerous issues are involved in forming even an informal help group. "

There are a few drawbacks to the current status quo. Some of which were discussed at length in the Meta thread. The previously proposed system would have helped to establish an informal network of volunteers which would have itself been searchable on three (four?) general topics. Without that, people looking for help may not find a good person to speak with. Or even know that help is available, or where to start.

Two people have asked me via memail over the last few months if I knew of a woman mefite who might be willing to speak with them on "X" topic. A couple of people have asked if I know of a MeFite with professional expertise in a particular area. In all cases I was happy to ask around and try and connect them but it would have been unnecessary with an actual, searchable system in place. They might have been able to find that info, and a willing volunteer without me.

When someone has been through a traumatic experience, particularly some sort of physical abuse, it can be a challenge to gather enough courage and trust to reach out to a single stranger -- even privately. I know this from personal experience. It seems like an unnecessary hurdle to have a more complicated connection process. It's also less efficient. The person they reach out to might not know of another mefite better suited to help.

I would have liked to see the ThereIsHelp system enacted and expanded. That does not appear to be possible and that's okay. But what we have now is, yes, ad hoc and not what I would consider an ideal arrangement.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perhaps bullet point 1 at the top of the Ask Metafilter "new question" page could be something like

"Are you in danger or do you urgently need in-person help? This list of resources may compliment your question."

Just something simple to point people at opportunities they may not know exist at a time when their mental faculties may not be operating at full strength.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a brisk turn around WarriorEliHoax.com is helpful.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2013


Seanmpucket, the link goes to a user's recent activity page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2013


You know why so many people think MeFi is a snobby place?

I actually didn't know people thought that.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who wants to go to Yale?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:16 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The idea that this is an enlightened community of kind souls who would reach out to help each other in bad times is just freaking hilarious even if you do believe the official version of certain MeFi myths like the supposed human trafficking intervention (which, lol).


I think it is hilarious that this is followed by an accusation of snobbery! I know you're going to get piled-onto for this particular comment, but I had to jump in to say that I am sorry that you don't feel like you gain a sense of community from this site. I do, very much so, but that might be the luck of my location and, well, just luck in general.

Anyway, I'm curious about what insider knowledge you have about these "supposed MeFi myths" but perhaps that is far afield from this post...
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:23 AM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, the "list of resources" link was intended to be a sample link. It should point to the wiki.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:30 AM on May 6, 2013


Anyway, I'm curious about what insider knowledge you have about these "supposed MeFi myths

What, you didn't hear the one about the mod who's really 110 years old? DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING THE MAN TRIES TO SELL YOU!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2013


Quick! Fix the typo!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:54 AM on May 6, 2013


WHAT TYPO

SEE, AGAIN WITH THE LIES
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2013


Now my comment won't make sense to future generations!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:56 AM on May 6, 2013


I went to visit the emus TODAY and one of them has to stay behind a fence now because apparently he heard elizardbits was coming and started practicing attacking people. WE'RE READY FOR YOU!

But no, it was a totally gorgeous day at the zoo and the emus were lovin' the weather
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2013


hisssss
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2013


The idea that this is an enlightened community of kind souls who would reach out to help each other in bad times is just freaking hilarious even if you do believe the official version of certain MeFi myths like the supposed human trafficking intervention (which, lol).

- Enlightened
- Kind
- Would Reach Out To Help Each Other In Bad Times

I'd say 95% of the folks here are at least two of the three, and most of those wish they could be all three. It's not usually a lack of kindness or willingness to help, I find; it's fear that either a) the offer of help will be rejected, or b) that the offer will be accepted, and they won't be able to give as much help as is needed.

I disagree that the idea of MeFi as an enlightened community is hilarious, though; I think it's a possibility, and every time someone stands up and helps out, it gets a little closer to being real.
posted by Mooski at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm curious about what insider knowledge you have about these "supposed MeFi myths".

The reports had been on the Blue all day, though she hadn't paid much attention to them. Some sock puppet had escaped from the banhammer. They were calling him Hook Man since that's the name he registered with. He was a troll, and everyone in the region was warned to keep watch and report anything suspicious. But this didn't interest her. She was more worried about what to wear on her date.

After several consultation calls with friends and her therapist, she chose a grey outfit in the very latest style and was ready and waiting on the porch when her boyfriend came to pick her up in his car. They went to a drive-in movie with another couple, then dropped them off and went parking in the local lover's lane. The grey outfit was a hit, and she cuddled close to her boyfriend as they kissed to the sound of romantic music on the radio.

Then the announcer came on and repeated the warning she had heard that afternoon. An insane troll named Hook Man was loose in the area. Suddenly, the dark, moonless night didn't seem so romantic to her. The lover's lane was secluded and off the beaten track. A perfect spot for a deranged mad-man to lurk, she thought, pushing her amorous boyfriend away.

"Maybe we should get out of here," she said. "That Hook Man sounds like a troll."

"Awe, c'mon babe, it's nothing," her boyfriend said, trying to get in another kiss. She pushed him away again.

"No, really. We're all alone out here. I'm scared," she said.

They argued for a moment. Then the car shook a bit, as if somethingā€¦or someoneā€¦had touched it. She gave a shriek and said: "Get us out of here now!"

"Jeeze," her boyfriend said in disgust, but he turned the key and went roaring out of the lover's lane with a screeching of his tires.

They drove home in stony silence, and when they pulled into her driveway, he refused to help her out of the car. He was being so unreasonable, she fumed to herself. She opened the door indignantly and stepped into her driveway with her chin up and her lips set. Whirling around, she slammed the door as hard as she could. And then she screamed.

Her boyfriend leapt out of the car and caught her in his arms. "What is it? What's wrong?" he shouted. Then he saw it. A bloody hook hung from the handle of the passenger-side door with CORTEX carved in the side.

*blinks flashlight under chin* OOoOOooOooOOooOOooOOooOoo!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:12 AM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Help your actual community.

I've had real-life MeFites do me huge real-life favors out of kindness and concern, and I have done the same, right here in this one. This IS my actual community.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:14 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


elizardbits, YOU HAVE TO COME VISIT ME, my zoo has an open-wandering emu exhibit where the people stay on the path and the emus can come right up to them and peck them and whatnot and I AM FRIENDS WITH THE EMU KEEPER AND I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO EMUS.

Just outside of Ouagadougou, the President of Burkina Faso maintains a personal menagerie. It's not really a proper zoo, just a few fenced-in fields and cages kept on the grounds to his residence. To get in, you are supposed to register your request and pay at least 24 hours in advance, but you can negotiate with the guards at the gate to ignore that step. I once went with some friends, and the guard was so pleased with our negotiations that he showed us around himself.

After passing by some of the calmer herbivores, we came to an enclosure with a very angry tiger. Hurricane fencing, even if it is twelve feet high, is extremely unconvincing-looking when it is all that separates you and several hundred pounds of angry cat. Fortunately, tigers are unlike velociraptors in that they are not aware when the power in the electric fence is out. We were, though, and that was pretty nerve-wracking.

Next came the hyena enclosure. This wasn't even hurricane fencing, it was practically chicken wire, and only six, six and a half feet high at the most. And the hyena knew for damn sure that the enclosure wasn't electrified, because to show off how scary the beasts can really be (forget what you learned from The Lion King), our guard/escort took off a flip-flop and put his foot against the fence for the hyena to TRY TO EAT. Which it did with vigor. Especially after the guard fence-kicked its snout a few times. That was pretty scary.

After some depressing but not terribly scary monkey cages, we came to the hippo enclosure. Now, at this point I think everyone knows hippos are very dangerous, but that danger is mostly in the water, which we were not. The fact remains that their tusks are not peg-like like in the game Hungry, Hungry Hippos. They are sharp. And huge. And when a hippo bellows after you've walked away, it sounds so loud that even at 200 yards you become convinced that it is right behind you and your feet have started running before your head manages to turn around and see that the gates are in fact intact and nothing is chasing you. That was REALLY scary.

But the one time during the whole visit that I was truly terrified, frozen in panic, was the moment when I was trying to take a picture and I thought a friend was looking over my shoulder, and I turned to them ready to holler at them for distracting me. And instead I was eye to eye with an ostrich. And I realized these evisceration-loving hellbeasts were roaming free AND THEY WERE EVERYWHERE.

Fortunately, they quickly lost interest in us, but man, FUCK OSTRICHES.
posted by solotoro at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: “elizardbits, YOU HAVE TO COME VISIT ME, my zoo has an open-wandering emu exhibit where the people stay on the path and the emus can come right up to them and peck them and whatnot and I AM FRIENDS WITH THE EMU KEEPER AND I WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO EMUS.”

I wish we could all just discuss these things without resorting to threats like this.
posted by koeselitz at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2013


Emus are assholes.
posted by Solomon at 12:45 PM on May 6, 2013


And the hyena knew for damn sure that the enclosure wasn't electrified, because to show off how scary the beasts can really be (forget what you learned from The Lion King)

Speaking as someone who has fed them from his bare hands...yes. Yes they are.

I still wish I had fed them from my mouth like the hyena man did, but I was too scared.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:20 PM on May 6, 2013


I keep telling you people, I like otters, but not that way.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:23 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This whole discussion has helped me refine some pretty half-baked thoughts.... I think that Brandon nails it (and I could have done better by not conflating the two issues *sigh*).

I definitely appreciate the liability concerns (which is why I said informal/self-organized); what I had in mind was something to make the sort of networking that zarq describes a little easier, not an official Cabal EndorsedTM samaritan list. But having read the ThereIsHelp thread, I can certainly see how even that is a minefield. So: scratch that.

The IRL-like location tags and alerts for AskMe could be pretty useful, though, because it would give users a way to filter Ask to local questions that they might be more able to answer (and, if they were so inclined, to offer material help). Right now, one can filter by category and by tags (which may also be location-related), but the usability is totally different...:

First, there seems to be no way to filter both by category and by tag. Once I'm looking at the questions tagged for a specific city as Monsieur Caution suggested, I get everything for that city, which can be noisy in other ways.

Second, the tags aren't really a good way to determine location. A comparison to the geo-tagged Travel & Transportation category, which DOES have true location info, is useful. As far as I can tell, it's the only category that supports location search. If I put in MA, it matches to "Massachusetts" and gives me a link to Travel & Transportation Questions About Massachusetts, complete with a google map. I can also ask for just Boston, MA, or zoom out to the whole US. I can't do this using the tags because the tag "Boston" doesn't contain the information that Boston is in Massachusetts. The location search is also much more forgiving than the tag-matching wrt spelling; for instance "Beantown" still gets you Boston, and you can even put in a zip-code (although the matching will still occur at the city level).

Given that this is already implemented for the T&T questions, it doesn't seem like it would be too hard to extend to the other categories, and it could be quite useful. In fact, it would be useful not only for answerers who want to provide local expertise/help, but also for answer-readers who have local questions. For instance, I'm looking for a dentist in Chicago right now, and recently there were two separate questions asking for Chicago dentist recs. Because one of them is tagged Chicagoland instead of Chicago, it doesn't appear in the (unweildy) list of all Chicago-tagged questions, and I also can't zoom out to see all Illinois questions (which might include a dentists in a burb I'd be willing to drive to). It would be nice to browse the Health & Fitness category based on location the way one can with T&T... and I might also pick up recs for docs & gyms along with the dentist.

All of which is to say that I think I'm gestating a pony.
posted by Westringia F. at 4:22 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know why so many people think MeFi is a snobby place?

Because they're a bunch of judgmental pricks?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What, you didn't hear the one about the mod who's really 110 years old?

I am just very well-rested!

But yeah people have outlined reasons above why something like this won't work as an automated sort of thing. I would like to get faceted searching to be a Real Thing but I've kicked it up the chain of command a lot and it does not gain traction and there are other things that have been grabbing our attention. As much as it feels like there are a lot of people working here, there really aren't. Something like this would be an interesting member-motivated thing but is unlikely going to be something where we can build a thing for it.

I know the ThereIsHelp page has been helpful to a large number of people. I also know that we've had past and present users who have had needs that were more than this site could really deal with and, to be mercenary for a moment, created real site problems as a result. So we're very very skittish about setting up some sort of helper program that is more than the informal one that we have now.

Help your actual community.

Many of us belong to multiple communities including this one. You don't want to come to meetups or share your real-life information, that's totally AOK. A lot of us know each other in real life and hang out together offline as well as online. There are many ways to MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:26 PM on May 6, 2013


Help your actual community.

This is one of my 'actual communities', for what it's worth. And I would help and have helped out MeFites.

Feel free to find that 'hilarious'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:37 PM on May 6, 2013


For what its worth, I think the system works as it is. I have helped some people from mefi when everything has aligned. Nothing life or death important. Sent some math books to someone who said they could nor afford them, sent a little souvenir to someone who said they'd like to have one, sent some money to someone who had a traffic accident.

I do not expect anything from them in return.

I do keep a mental list of bay area mefites who have shown that that they are kind enlightened people. I have seriously considered asking them for help in a couple of ocassions, and I seriously think they would have helped. That is just the kind of people they are. Lucky for me on both ocassions things got better, one was when I thought someone close was about to die, the second when I was in the hospital with no friends or family in the city. I even have my password and a list of usernames in the 'in case I unexpectedly die' sealed envelope that I keep for my wife.

But I don't think an automated system would be good. Like any other community, there are a bunch of people here I would not trust with the care of a rubber plant, and too many unknowns.

I do not participate a lot, but mefi is feels more real to me than many communities I belong to. I feel closer to many of you who I have never met than I feel to people I see every day. So yeah.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:47 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two people have asked me via memail over the last few months if I knew of a woman mefite who might be willing to speak with them on "X" topic.

Zarq - if anyone comes to you looking for HIV issues, eating disorders issues or sexual assault/trauma assistance, I am a kind, enlightened person (who has done a lot of work on these subjects) who would be willing to talk.

FYI.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:59 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Sophie1. That's good to know!
posted by zarq at 8:01 AM on May 7, 2013


Is this the line for the emus? I would like to meet emus. I think we have shared interests. Emumingle.com doesn't work. :-/
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:28 AM on May 7, 2013


Absolutely random thing: there was an emu egg in the fridge today at work.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:49 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


my other work, MeFi does not have a communal fridge THAT I KNOW OF
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:50 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


You have to twist the doughnut shaped finial just so and then you access the minibar.
posted by arcticseal at 5:58 PM on May 7, 2013


But even when you do, you find that it's filled to the brim with only Pepsi Blue and taters.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:16 PM on May 7, 2013


Free bananas emu eggs in the break room!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:28 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


UNSUBSCRIBE ME FROM THIS LIST!!!!!!!!1!!!
posted by Westringia F. at 1:26 AM on May 8, 2013


my other work, MeFi does not have a communal fridge THAT I KNOW OF

If MeFi does have (as rumored) a secret lair with a communal working area, kind of imagine it looks something like this. Can't see a fridge, tho.
posted by Wordshore at 3:23 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


But then who ate the bananas?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:43 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, zarq! If anyone asks you about depression, you can always direct them my way, too. I added that to my profile a while back with the other MeFi hipsters.

Trying to establish an active support network, while great in theory, is just a monumental undertaking beyond the scope of an online community of (mostly untrained but well-meaning) people to handle, really, but sometimes we can pitch in and help a bit, and that's a good thing.

Now if only we could get a Meta University up and running, then we would totally crush those Redditor cretans, right?! Librarians, scientists, authors, academicians-- we've got them all.

Best of the web, indeed!
posted by misha at 11:51 AM on May 8, 2013


misha, thanks! Good to know.

I haven't had that note in my profile for a few months. Life got too busy. Was having lots of trouble keeping up with memail. But I'm sure that when things calm down eventually I'll make myself available again.
posted by zarq at 12:01 PM on May 8, 2013


Pepsi Blue and taters.

I read that as Pepsi Blue and tears, which closely resembles a favorite cocktail of mine.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:19 PM on May 8, 2013


No, they have a separate fridge for the tears. The tears are harvested regularly from the SILENCED ALL MY LIFE MeTas, and must be kept at a specific temperature due to their special snowflake origins.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who is my neighbor?

I've never met elizardbits
but I know that she is good
I prefer my friend e-internet-bits
to those guys in my neighborhood
who let their dog bark night and day
and shit all over my walkway

my MetaFriends do talk a lot
but do so without noise
they never wake me from my sleep
unlike those next-door boys
who fill my trashcan up with crap
and who at midnight crank up their Rap
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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