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Is MeFi officially pro-pseudoscience? June 12, 2013 10:45 PM   Subscribe

In a recent Ask thread, one commenter suggested Reiki healing as a treatment for labor pains. I gave a neutrally-worded comment with links to meta-analyses which showed that Reiki healing has no measurable effect on any illness. This comment was deleted, though the original comment stands. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it is officially ok to endorse Reiki healing, but not to point out that it is rejected by the scientific and medical communities, because that would be a 'derail'. Do I have that right?
posted by lambdaphage to Etiquette/Policy at 10:45 PM (576 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Did you try the contact form?
posted by hypersloth at 10:51 PM on June 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


My naturopath said I couldn't have any more popcorn, so this thread will be powered by quinoa.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [60 favorites]


Ask Metafilter operates differently from Metafilter proper. It's for answering the OP's question, not for arguing with other people's answers, and moderation is much stricter on that part of the site. If your comment is just a criticism of someone else's answer, it will most likely be deleted. Here's a bit from the FAQ:

"Ask MetaFilter comments should address the main question being asked. Common reasons for comment removal are wisecracks, derailing/ranting/axegrinding, picking a fight with or heavy chastising of the question asker, single word posts (yes, no, DTMFA &c.) and other non-answers that should probably be brought to MetaTalk. While it's okay to ask follow-up questions to the original asker, piggybacking questions [asking your own related question within someone else's AskMe] will often be removed."

This similar Metatalk thread may also help.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:00 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is MeTa, so let it be said Reiki is for wankers.
posted by phaedon at 11:03 PM on June 12, 2013 [35 favorites]


Not wankers, hoverers.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:06 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, not actual wanking. Just make a tube shape with your hand and thrust up and down in the air near your crotch.
posted by phaedon at 11:09 PM on June 12, 2013 [28 favorites]


I don't know... The OP said "While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use. "

And the answer was "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped. " as part of a larger comment.

It all sounds on-topic to me and fairly harmless. In that specific context, it does seem that you are plucking that out un-necessarily and risk making the thread about Reiki rather than actually answering the question.
posted by vacapinta at 11:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


Suppose the pro-Reiki comment wasn't there: lambdaphage could have written a comment saying something to the effect of, "You might hear from friends about Reiki treatments. They're popular for labor pains, and you mention that you're interested in metaphysical assistance, so you might go looking for it. I want to give you a heads-up: that stuff is bunk. Don't do it, here's some evidence, go for non-Reiki treatments instead." That seems like a helpful comment to me. Would it have been allowed to stay?
posted by painquale at 11:14 PM on June 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


It would be probably gone even faster - what is the point of preemptively derailing the thread?
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:16 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see why that's a derail, I guess. It's giving childbirth advice, which is what was asked for.
posted by painquale at 11:17 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Eh, I'm about as anti-woo as they come but I don't think it is necessary to bash everyone about it over the head at every opportunity.

If anything, turning an only tangentially related thread into a pro-Reiki vs anti-Reiki argument right off the bat - particlarly when nobody is pushing the pro-side - serves to create a false impression of equivalence. If you need a preemptive disclaimer about every non-working bunk theory out there, you'll just crowd out the more useful advice that actually works. I'd rather save it for when it's actually needed.

In a similar manner, the specific comment is a one-line part of an otherwise ok answer, phrased about as neutraly as possible: taking it as a starting point for a Reiki argument will probably just encourage more pro- people to root for their side.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:27 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Ask MetaFilter comments should address the main question being asked. Common reasons for comment removal are wisecracks, derailing/ranting/axegrinding, picking a fight with or heavy chastising of the question asker, single word posts (yes, no, DTMFA &c.) and other non-answers that should probably be brought to MetaTalk. While it's okay to ask follow-up questions to the original asker, piggybacking questions [asking your own related question within someone else's AskMe] will often be removed."

It doesn't sound like the deleted comment was any of those things.
posted by John Cohen at 11:30 PM on June 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Hi, Mods.

Would it have been more acceptable if the comment from this Meta's OP was along the lines of:

"My advice is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah...labor pains. It'll really help ya. Also, I'd reconsider doing the reiki as the scientific and medical community seem to not stand behind it".

Not trying to start shit, just trying to figure out the dynamic on askme.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:30 PM on June 12, 2013


the specific comment is a one-line part of an otherwise ok answer

I don't see how that's relevant at all. No one is suggesting that the comment endorsing Reiki should have been deleted.
posted by John Cohen at 11:31 PM on June 12, 2013


Well if the comment being addressed was full-on Reiki propaganda, I would want it to be either deleted or countered. As it is, it's a minor piece of noise I could see letting slide.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:38 PM on June 12, 2013


Can we see the actual comment made by lambdaphage?
posted by cairdeas at 11:38 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


We had an FPP a few weeks ago where people were talking about psychic powers. We have lots of members who use psychadelics and go to Burning Man each year. I'm just saying, this sort of thing creeps in.


I don't see how that's relevant at all. No one is suggesting that the comment endorsing Reiki should have been deleted.


Why shouldn't it be? We delete other harmful and unhelpful advice in AskMe. This sort of pseudoscience is hurting people.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:40 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


cairdeas, the comment was:
Two separate meta-analyses have failed to find effects for Reiki healing in RCTs.

Attempting to manipulate "energy fields" is not indicated for labor. [with links]
hal_c_on, I can't give you a template, but generally speaking, yes, something like that is usually better. But we judge things case by case.

painquale, we're not okay with the idea of people jumping into a thread to rant or pre-warn about something that is not part of the question.

The principle to keep in mind in Ask Metafilter is to help answer the OP's question if you can, and leave it if you can't. If the OP is asking for advice from personal experience, for example, if you don't have personal experience, it's probably better not to answer. In all cases, it's good to ask yourself if you are answering the question posted by the OP.

Ask Metafilter isn't a spot for debating, arguing or policing anyone's particular grudge topic because that would make the site unusable for its purpose. If someone asks how to meet new people, and someone else suggests joining a church, for example – 400 comments about whether God exists isn't going to be helpful.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:44 PM on June 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


We delete other harmful and unhelpful advice in AskMe.

We really don't, actually. Only if they are "unhelpful" in the sense that they are off-topic or not responsive. AskMe answers aren't evaluated for correctness, and the site wouldn't be able to function if they needed to be.
posted by cairdeas at 11:45 PM on June 12, 2013 [5 favorites]



We really don't, actually. Only if they are "unhelpful" in the sense that they are off-topic or not responsive. AskMe answers aren't evaluated for correctness, and the site wouldn't be able to function if they needed to be.


So what stops this site from turning into Yahoo Answers? What happens if I ask a dating question and somebody directs me to MRA sites and Ladder Theory, or somebody says they're unhealthy so people suggest a full body organic cleanse and cutting out GMO food and gluten? What if they have cancer and they get directed to a bunch of quack cancer cures?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:47 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why shouldn't it be? We delete other harmful and unhelpful advice in AskMe. This sort of pseudoscience is hurting people.

Not really. In fact, it could probably be argued that the pseudo-science above is merely not going to work, rather than being actively harmful, but there is actual harmful advice given in AskMe regularly (probably every day, if I had to guess) and a decent amount (as a raw quantity, not as a proportion) of it stands.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:48 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm. Having seen the comment lambdaphage made, I think it was a valid answer to the question:

hit me with your best advice for childbirth and labour itself.

And by providing links to scientific sources, was also responsive to this part of the post: What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites? Pain management advice, breathing advice, that sort of thing would be lovely

I don't think that only positive recommendations count as "best advice." Advising someone away from a particular practice can be good advice too.

Even though the comment advised against something that another poster happened to recommend, I don't think it was invalid or lacking or inappropriate as an AskMe answer. Obviously it's not my call but as a community member that's my 2cents.
posted by cairdeas at 11:54 PM on June 12, 2013 [55 favorites]


If anything, turning an only tangentially related thread into a pro-Reiki vs anti-Reiki argument right off the bat...

Any comment of the form "X is a popular attempted solution to your problem, but I'd advise against X" could be described as "turning a thread into a pro-X/anti-X argument." That phrasing strikes me as just a rhetorical way to make a comment appear troublesome. (Like calling it a 'rant'. I didn't think what I wrote was a rant, as taz kind of implied.) There are a lot of pre-warnings in AskMe that are fine, like warning someone against ordering a maple cremee from a particular kind of store (to use an example of something jessamyn just wrote in AskMe)... they shouldn't be legislated against entirely. I'm not sure exactly what's wrong with warning someone against a popular kind of labor treatment.

... particlarly when nobody is pushing the pro-side - serves to create a false impression of equivalence. If you need a preemptive disclaimer about every non-working bunk theory out there, you'll just crowd out the more useful advice that actually works. I'd rather save it for when it's actually needed.

Even if you're right that introducing anti-Reiki stuff actually serves to legitimize Reiki, that's not a reason for deletion, nor is it a derail.
posted by painquale at 11:55 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So what stops this site from turning into Yahoo Answers? What happens if I ask a dating question and somebody directs me to MRA sites and Ladder Theory, or somebody says they're unhealthy so people suggest a full body organic cleanse and cutting out GMO food and gluten? What if they have cancer and they get directed to a bunch of quack cancer cures?"

The thing is, neither MetaFilter the website nor the people replying to the question are responsible for what the questioner might do with their information. Trying to weed out answers that are patently wrong opens up a whole can of worms in regard to responsibility, and nobody needs that.

The thing that makes AskMeFi different from Yahoo Answers is the type of people who respond to the questions, and the amount of effort they put in to make their own answers as good as they can be. It's a culture thing, not a structural difference between sites.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:57 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


By the way, out of all the many times I have seen someone in MeTa indignantly describe their deleted comment as "neutrally-worded," I think this is the first time the comment really has turned out to be neutrally-worded when reproduced, rather than a scorching death-flame.
posted by cairdeas at 11:59 PM on June 12, 2013 [60 favorites]


Trying to weed out answers that are patently wrong opens up a whole can of worms in regard to responsibility, and nobody needs that.

I don't believe anyone's advocating that, rather than allowing commenters to offer contrary advice, especially when that contrary advice is routinely given by major medical associations.
posted by lambdaphage at 12:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's like the Night of Long Knives, my answer (with a linked source) pointing out very gently that Reiki only has a placebo effect was deleted. :(
posted by mlis at 12:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's really no general policy issue to be considered here other than "Answer the question that was asked."

The question that was asked said "While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use. "

At that point commenters are free to tell them that sucking on pennies while praying with geese really helped them out. The OP gets exactly what they're asking for.

On the other hand arguing with what other people have said is *not* answering the question that was asked.

This was a very clear cut deletion.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, but comments there need to be answering the question, not arguing pro/con about reiki.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:17 AM on June 13, 2013


Sheesh, man, I'm kinda bummed that comment was deleted. It was tame, respectful, and informative.

I can't help thinking that if it weren't reiki - the comment would have totally stayed. I mean, let's be real here Mefites disagree with other answers all the times. Shit, I just did it this week in that thread where a lady was worried about being friendzoned and I said, "don't sleep with randos on the second date just to get a boyfriend". I was really explicit in disagreeing with the comments suggesting that, and had nothing further to add in terms of answering the question.

My answer stood - as it should, it was a fine enough answer. I think someone got a little itchy with the trigger-finger, here. We shouldn't be shitcanning mild comments with helpful links - and I'm generally quite "pro" deletion.
posted by smoke at 12:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [33 favorites]


I think that it's perfectly acceptable, given that the asker introduced the idea of metaphysical advice, for commenters to give advice relating to Reiki, which is metaphysical, non-scientific stuff.

At the same time, I think it's a hallmark of the quality of the community in MetaFilter that there may be a slight self-correction mechanism that kicks in when flagrant, time and money wasting, potentially harmful advice is offered in Ask.

Reiki falls into that category. I understand that as the site rules are now, the comment should be deleted because it does not contain an answer. I hope someone finds a way to both answer the question AND advise against Reiki "therapy" and other quackery, because we are better than that, and the OP deserves better advice than time and money wasting, potentially harmful pseudo-scientific bullshit.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


But is a tame, respectful and informative answer arguing? I don't think it is.
posted by mlis at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems to me that the answer given was answering the question. If it actually turned into a debate, deletion of further discussion would be appropriate, IMO.
posted by wierdo at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Additionally: We have lots of members who use psychadelics and go to Burning Man each year. I'm just saying, this sort of thing creeps in.

You are just too funny dude. Infuriating, but very funny. The idea of mefi as some kind of hippy coven is just too much lol. Please also define "lots".
posted by smoke at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


only has a placebo effect

As a meme this really needs to be reconsidered. People flapping their hands and saying "Placebo effect! Placebo effect!" seem to miss the fact that plenty of people's lives have been affected quite positively by it.

If you're looking for scientific accuracy the placebo effect is a very important consideration. If all you want to know is if a particular treatment worked for a person, it's of little or no consequence.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Really? "Like the Night of the Long Knives"?

Comparing having a comment deleted on the Internet to a historical event that helped the Holocaust along is hyperbolic at best, and disgustingly offensive.
posted by dotgirl at 12:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


pretty sure that was some self-deprecating and self-aware hyperbole there, dotgirl.
posted by smoke at 12:22 AM on June 13, 2013


OP from the original thread here.

I'm touched. Baby Jilder gets his very first Meta thread before birth. Perhaps I will celebrate with a grey onsie.

When I worded the question mentioning the possibility of metaphysical assistance, it was to allow people who have used things like prayer and meditation, as well as reiki. If I had specified hard science only, I would have been a bit put out by the mention of reiki. But I didn't, and left a space for a variety of experiences.

Furthermore, to my limited understanding, childbirth is one of those things where it can be hard to articulate what's going on inside mum's head in rational terms. Mentioning the metaphysical allows for the parents in that thread to articulate that in spiritual terms as well as scientific ones.

Ruthless Bunny's mention of reiki was taken as intended, and was part of a larger response. As far as I'm concerned, it's a foot rub. Dad is a physicist for a start and I've got a fairly science heavy background. We're not going to be harmed by the suggesting a foot rub, especially since Bunny mentioned a few other useful bits of info too.

Again, you're not adding to the conversation by debating reiki. I know. Dad knows. The midwife knows. What I needed from that question is practical tactics to get through labour.
posted by Jilder at 12:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [36 favorites]



Additionally: We have lots of members who use psychadelics and go to Burning Man each year. I'm just saying, this sort of thing creeps in.

You are just too funny dude. Infuriating, but very funny. The idea of mefi as some kind of hippy coven is just too much lol. Please also define "lots".


again, i speak from experiance. i know people like this. sometimes i am people like this. and eventually you get the anti-Vaccers and the 'garlic cures cancer' types. its like how people who run geek sites need to keep an eye out for libertarians and MRAs.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:24 AM on June 13, 2013


The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it is officially ok to endorse Reiki healing, but not to point out that it is rejected by the scientific and medical communities, because that would be a 'derail'. Do I have that right?

Yes, we defend woo over rationality here fairly often, unfortunately. Sorry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


'Answer the question' can get interpreted too narrowly.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


To further elaborate on my personal confusion here: Since when is "don't do x" not an answer? I don't recall that ever having been site policy before.
posted by wierdo at 12:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jilder: Awesome that you are hip to the science already, and can spot reiki for the expensive foot rub it is.

As a matter of site policy, this is larger than an individual instance. The next person on the line might have a limited budget, and might opt for reiki / acupuncture / chakra alignment instead of medical treatment. Or any number of other potentially harmful outcomes.

I'm actually hugely relieved that you don't take the reiki suggestion seriously. I just don't have that same confidence for every asker, and I'd like it if we allowed some self-correction mechanisms to respond in future for things like this.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Again, you're not adding to the conversation by debating reiki. I know. Dad knows. The midwife knows. What I needed from that question is practical tactics to get through labour.

Well, you might not have known, though; it wasn't totally apparent from your question. And if you hadn't known, "don't trust Reiki treatments" strikes me as very practical advice.
posted by painquale at 12:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


wierdo raises a good point. If reiki had not been suggested by another commenter, would the comment advising against it have stood?

"Please give me advice, metaphysical or science included!"

"You should do [metaphysical practice]"

"You shouldn't do [metaphysical practice], here is why"

is not allowed, it seems. But would:

"Please give me advice, metaphysical or science included!"

"Advice: Don't do [metaphysical practice]"

have stood? If so, why doesn't the first instance stand? If not, why not?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I asked that above, lazaruslong. Taz said it wouldn't stand.
posted by painquale at 12:31 AM on June 13, 2013


Hey, Tell Me No Lies, my comment was, ". . .my answer (with a linked source) pointing out very gently that Reiki only has a placebo effect was deleted."

Where do you get "hand flapping" and "Placebo effect! Placebo effect!" Give it a rest with the strawman shtick.
posted by mlis at 12:31 AM on June 13, 2013


Huh. That's...bizarre.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm really uncomfortable with the deletion of answers that gently and productively move AskMeFi towards a reality-based community. I totally understand the mods acting on answers that generate more heat than light, or when the contributors to a thread start arguing among themselves... but I feel that what's being suggested here is that answers should be hermeneutically sealed from each other.

A good rule of thumb might be "contributions must always contain an answer". Criticism of other answers doesn't help much if that's the only thing that's said. "Here's why that previous suggestion is incorrect. Here's an alternate method that has proven effective" provides an opportunity for education and helpfulness.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, for those of you who agree with the deletion, would you also say this comment by Sara C. should have been deleted? (In a question about how to get enough protein as a vegetarian, Sara C. corrects scientifically inaccurate information offered by another user.)

It seems to me that in AskMe, misinformation is corrected all the time, and it's not unusual for answerers to disagree in a way that still addresses the question, and that's a really good thing.
posted by cairdeas at 12:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [43 favorites]


painquale: I should have hoped this bit would have been a giveaway:

What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites?

I've had worse advice from people who just didn't bother to read the whole question and just kind of try and "gist it" along.

I specifically mentioned that metaphysical suggestions would not be frowned upon, and mentioned that we're both pretty up with the state of rational thinking. While the reiki is not the most useful thing to have come out of that thread, it's within the scope of my question and I'm pretty happy that the mods put a lid on it becoming a debate about that.
posted by Jilder at 12:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, she comments an awful lot, it is possible it should have been deleted.
posted by mlis at 12:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


cairdeas: "It seems to me that in AskMe, misinformation is corrected all the time, and it's not unusual for answerers to disagree in a way that still addresses the question, and that's a really good thing."

This. This hits the nail on the head.

Is this deletion a signal for a change in site policy? A slight overcorrection by a mod? Result of flags?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


dotgirl Really? "Like the Night of the Long Knives"?

Comparing having a comment deleted on the Internet to a historical event that helped the Holocaust along is hyperbolic at best, and disgustingly offensive.


As smoke pointed out, I was being self-deprecating and using hyperbole.

That said, it is a gross distortion of history to compare the Night of the Long Knives to an Ask Mefi answer being deleted. I did not intend to make a comment that would trivialize the Holocaust. I regret having wrote that. I apologize.

That I made a comment like that is a good sign I need to sign off and go to sleep.
posted by mlis at 12:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"It seems to me that in AskMe, misinformation is corrected all the time, and it's not unusual for answerers to disagree in a way that still addresses the question, and that's a really good thing."

True, that. In a recent Askme someone suggested that the way to deal with a waiter who was making well-intentioned but unwelcome physical contact with an asker's child was to threaten to break his fingers. I answered the asker's question and then added that this sort of threat was probably not the best example to set a child. My reply was not deleted, and I think that was a good decision.
posted by Decani at 12:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mlis - I apologise for misreading your comment and intent. I'm also in need of sleep and usually avoid those things.

I would propose that we hug it out and call it a night. Deal?
posted by dotgirl at 12:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a little confused. I had the impression that in previous discussions about possibly deleting bad advice / incorrect answers, the general position was "mods don't delete incorrect answers, because the community corrects them". But here it seems that mods won't delete bad answers (i.e. approaches which scientific studies have shown to not work), nor will they allow the community to correct bad answers.

That seems like a big change in site policy, plus it would seem to really reduce the utility of AskMe.
posted by Bugbread at 12:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [38 favorites]


I remember that comment decani, another good example
posted by smoke at 12:51 AM on June 13, 2013


lazaruslong, there has been no change in site policy. This was not my deletion, but I would have also deleted it. Jessamyn deleted it, and she is the person responsible for forming Ask Metafilter from the beginning in terms of policy and moderation.

We take things on a case-by-case basis, so it's not possible to give a "template" sort of answer about what would be allowed, but answers that are just arguments to someone else's answer and don't address the question posed by the OP are routinely deleted. If the OP had asked "what does and doesn't work?" the thread would be moderated in a different way than when someone specifically says "we're mostly interested in X, but would also like to hear about Y," and someone mentions Y. If the OP had asked something like "are "alternative medicine" approaches are helpful in childbirth?" the answer would have been fine. If the original question had been "what treatments should I avoid when giving birth?" the answer would have been fine. If the original question had specified "we are only interested in science-based answers," the comment probably would have stayed (or the other comment deleted).
posted by taz (staff) at 12:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I appreciate the responses here.

Anyway, during the height of the Soviet era there wasn't much reliable official information about what was going in in Moscow, so observers in the West resorted to analyzing May Day lineups and such in order to make inferences about who was really in or out. The term for this was "Kremlinology".

There's an analogy to site moderation to be made here, I think. At one pole, you have mods who only clean up spam and clear personal abuse. On the other, you have autocratic mods who govern as they please, deleting and banning at a whim, and commenters quickly move on if the mod's style isn't to their liking. In the uncanny valley between you have vaguely worded rules which are alleged to be enforced impartially. Because it's never explicitly stated what is forbidden, and because enforcement varies from mod to mod and from offender to offender, it's never quite clear what will get deleted and what won't. Thus, you find folks in genuine puzzlement about what the mods actually intended in the first place, and trying to infer it from what ends up on MeTa. Ergo: internet kremlinology.

PS: Just to be clear, I am in no way literally comparing metafilter to Stalinist terror, although, funny story about that...
posted by lambdaphage at 1:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


Anyway, take care everyone. I don't think this is the place for me.
posted by lambdaphage at 1:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


The question was: "However, I'd love to see what the Hivemind has to add (besides IANAD, IANAM and IANAG). What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites? Pain management advice, breathing advice, that sort of thing would be lovely. "

It seems like online information about what is *and isn't* effective is perfectly valid as a "resource", particularly to "scientifically minded" people. What lambdaphage posted strikes me as being exactly what was asked for - or, at the very least, it is so close to what was asked for that the question asker should have ben allowed to decide themselves.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


What if somebody asks a question with crazy premises and people give the usual 'get therapy' answer given for most questions?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:09 AM on June 13, 2013


(((((dotgirl))))) Deal, and good night!
posted by mlis at 1:10 AM on June 13, 2013


What other sorts of questions is it okay to give useless answers to, besides medical questions? If somebody asks for a comfortable pair of shoes, can I recommend duct taping coarse sandpaper to their face and expect those who point out that coarse sandpaper duct taped to one's face constitutes neither shoes nor comfort to have their posts deleted?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


taz, I hear ya. I don't expect a template, and it's unrealistic and probably less than effective to try and form one.

As other members in this thread have pointed out, misinformation in Ask is routinely corrected by other members. Can you address why this is the default case in general, but not the case specifically here?
posted by lazaruslong at 1:18 AM on June 13, 2013


"What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites?"

Lambdaphage provided provided exactly the resources that were being explicitly asked for in the form of two different meta-analyses that directly address the efficacy of pain management advice that the OP was likely to encounter, and in fact did in the thread. Lambdaphage did not argue with other posters, wisecrack, derail, rant, axegrind, pick a fight with or heavy chastise of the question asker, the answer was not a single word post, and it was not a piggybacking question. While people in this thread clearly see Reikii as a grudge topic in a way that would make it difficult to formulate an appropriate answer, that was also just as clearly not at all a problem for lambdaphage.

It also incidentally remains a helpful answer that would still be useful for the OP, as well as anyone else with the same problem and disposition. If these are the meta-analyses I'm thinking of then they do still address the efficacy of the other aspects of reikii absent the woo model for understanding, it like foot rubs.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [39 favorites]


So I think in general the answer that "not directly responding to the question and correcting someone else is bad in Ask" seems to not only be disappointing, but a little inaccurate. In the context of a question where it said I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use. , taking the time out to critisise Reiki seems a little deraily, so I can sort of see why it was deleted. Its also worth noting that woo in the context of birth pains is not actively harmful unless it is suggested for replacing effective medical treatments instead.

I've been lurking for a while and followed many of these metas. Sometimes it seems like the mod response, while no doubt honest and well meaning, can be a little misleading, as deletions seem to me to generally quite specific (i.e. I'd be surprised and possibly upset if this answer was deleted if the question had been worded differently). Obviously there are exceptions "this comment gave away personal information" for example, but it seems like specific deletions have specific reasons and it might help for them to be carefully articulated?

Of course Jessamyn, who made the deletion, isn't the one answering, so thats probably why Taz doesn't give her exact reason. Cause he's, you know, not her. I have massive amounts of respect for the mods here having read many a hellish meta thread, so if I'm completely wrong here feel free to shoot me down in flames.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck

I am sad that lambdaphage felt the need to go, but I totally understand why. I get the person who made it isn't here yet to defend it, but the deletion is indefensible, and lambdaphage has in general been very poorly served by ill-considered mod needling over the last few days. Not everyone is so masochistic as to want to keep coming back for more.

Also, just so y'all know, I am nearly certain that metafilter has just lost one of its most distinguished actual scientists.

Feel proud.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:07 AM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


Cannon Fodder, I was just writing this a bit earlier before I had to do some other things:

This question specifically mentioned that metaphysical answers were okay, too. The mention of reiki wasn't advice to forgo regular medical treatment, and didn't make any claims except that the commenter's friend said it helped her.

The deleted comment didn't answer the question (basically: in your personal experience, what is helpful; scientific and metaphysical answers okay), and was posted to debate something that was specifically allowed in the question. It wasn't what the OP was asking about, and when people do post corrections to other answers, we still prefer that they stick to the premise of the original question.

The reason we are hesitant to give broad examples of answers that are or are not okay is because considerations are different depending on the question, the comment itself, the thread, the comment that someone is responding to, etc., and this is an aspect, love it or hate it, of human moderation. Our main advice is to make sure you are productively trying to answer the original question.

It's usually counterproductive to try to give made-up examples, but if someone asked about what recipes people would personally recommend for nutritional menu ideas, and said both meat-based and vegan recipes were welcome, and someone said "I've been using recipes from this vegan cookbook for the last year, and I feel healthier," and someone commented with a link to something about vegan diets being unhealthy, that would also be considered not answering the question (and deraily). Another answer that recommended some recipes and also commented that the poster had tried a vegan diet, but always felt tired (for example) would be most likely be allowed. What we would not want to see in such a thread is a debate among posters about whether vegan diets are okay.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Taz, thanks for that answer, that was pretty much what I thought. I think what I was trying to get to in my post is that some upthread posts in metas on deletions (which are usually exercises in despair) by mods often lack the specificity of the posts like you've just given. By being so I think that they actually look like a broad answer which I know the mods are against in general.

I think anti-woo people probably read the early parts of these threads as saying thusly:

Question: What should I do about getting malaria vaccinations before my trip to South America?

Answer: You should definitely get homeopathic injections. The big pharma injections are ineffective and can even hurt you!

Answer 2: That answer is incorrect. Theres no evidence that homeopathic vaccines are effective, and not taking the correct medical option could actively harm you here!

I think some people are worrying that answer 2 would be deleted, and thats the vibe they got from some of the initial posts. I'm pretty confident from my experiences here that answer 2 would not be (maybe answer 1 would be) deleted. This case is specific precisely because

A-the op said metaphysical solutions were cool
B-there is no evidence that they will harm themselves by trying reiki
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

"The deleted comment didn't answer the question (basically: in your personal experience, what is helpful; scientific and metaphysical answers okay), and was posted to debate something that was specifically allowed in the question. It wasn't what the OP was asking about, and when people do post corrections to other answers, we still prefer that they stick to the premise of the original question."
Those are both pretty aggressive characterizations of the question and the answer involved. The OP did also explicitly ask for online resources one could recommend to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites, which lambdaphage expertly and neutrally provided. While reiki use in childbirth is indeed woo, and thus part of a category that was generally stated to be ok in an answer, it is also specifically a thing that has had research done on it that makes a useful resource for someone who is scientifically minded.

The only connection that lambdaphage's comment had to the other answer addressing reiki is that they both addressed the general broad topic of reiki. Lambdaphage's comment was addressed to the OP and not the other commenter, it was not the least bit aggressive or hostile, and it did not even borrow from the first comment's vocabulary to imply a connection. The assumption of bad faith on lambdaphage's part here seems both unwarranted and ultimately pretty ugly.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [33 favorites]


The deleted comment didn't answer the question (basically: in your personal experience, what is helpful; scientific and metaphysical answers okay)

eh, that's not the question that was asked. And besides, by paraphrasing it that way, you've made it incoherent, because "personal experience" and "scientific answers" are at odds. So if it was deleted for failing to provide "personal experience" (and hence not answering the question), then there is no way a "scientific answer" can be a valid answer to the question. But the actual question has been posted several times here:

"However, I'd love to see what the Hivemind has to add (besides IANAD, IANAM and IANAG). What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites? Pain management advice, breathing advice, that sort of thing would be lovely...While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use. "

Clearly, scientific evidence was wanted!

Incidentally, this means that since the poster with the *friend's daughter* who found that reiki worked is also not answering the question, since the question specifically states that "metaphysical assistance" is only wanted IF the answerer has *personally* found it of use. [Clearly this is parsing the question too finely, but that's part of the point]. In contrast, lambdaphage gave a resource that could be valuable to someone about to "hit the birthing suites" and specifically, gave a scientific answer, which was explicitly stated as preferred.

I understand that the job of the mods is hard, and I almost never jump into these debates on Metatalk because I give the mods deference where the calls are difficult. But it seems clear to me that this deletion was a bad call.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Blasdelb, sorry, here's the link that was included in the comment. It's just about reiki generally (not anything about childbirth) with a conclusion that benefits are unproven.

We aren't making any assumption of bad faith. Depending on how much time one spends there, people have more or lesser familiarity with the moderation policies for Ask Metafilter, and a deletion doesn't at all mean that we think you weren't trying to be helpful.

We also delete answers that are "I don't know how to solve your problem, but the same thing happens to me and I hate it!" for example. These sorts of answers are made in perfectly good faith, and intended to express solidarity, but we delete them because the main thing is to answer the question, and unless the question includes "does this happen to anyone else?" comments like this don't do that... and one goal of moderation is to keep the green as useful and on-target as possible, as opposed to providing a space for chatting or having a general discussion. Deletions are not judgments against the person making the comment.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:56 AM on June 13, 2013


This highlights a fundamental flaw in the Askme rules and governance. Harmful and innacurate responses remain unchallenged.
posted by BenPens at 3:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This highlights a fundamental flaw in the Askme rules and governance. Harmful and innacurate responses remain unchallenged.


But I don't think this is true at all. The answer given was:

I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped.



Which was probably true, unless said commenter was lying. Look, if reiki is no better than placebo (which is almost certainly true) then that means its no better than having a footrub... But footrubs aren't terrible things to advise! Note that this answer was in the context of other advice and was, by no means suggesting using only reiki, or disregarding medical intervention (the answer in fact mentions "nice drugs"). In the context of the particular question and the particular answer, a derail on the medical ineffectiveness of reiki could be considered a derail.

I have to admit, I'd probably be pro it staying as I don't think its a useless answer at all, but I think its much closer to an edge case than a pro-ignorance stance on the part of the mods, which is what some people here seem to be arguing it is.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm almost positive that if the deleted comment had also included an answer to the question, not just the refutation of reiki, it wouldn't have been deleted.

This deletion seems perfectly okay because it didn't contain an answer to the question. That's what it was judged on and I think the asker of the question's opinion should have some weight here, as well as the mods.

And I honestly can't see how anyone could seriously believe that Metafilter swings towards woo.
posted by h00py at 3:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


A lot of this has to depend on how much actual harm the wrong answer might do to a person (and how much MetaFilter can be sued for it).

Reiki is utter bullshit -- actual handwaving -- but waving your hands around will do no harm to anyone using it in addition to real medicine. In the comment under debate, if the Reiki was going to happen at all, it apparently was going to happen in a hospital setting with actual midwives and doctors on hand. No need to argue with it and start a derailing debate. People weren't being advised to go out into the woods, strip from the waist down, squat in the dirt, and give birth assisted only by someone waving their hands around.

Whereas encouraging someone (as in a hypothetical above) to skip a real malaria vaccination and instead go with homeopathic malarkey would present real danger: there's a significant chance that someone following that advice would get seriously ill or die following it (and MetaFilter might be sued for more money it can afford, and Tom Cruise is certainly not gay). That sort of advice would have to be deleted or at least torn apart by subsequent comments.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The increasingly hostile reaction over this deletion is just an example of the dogma of the scientific mind. No one is forcing you or anyone else to believe in anything, so why y'all want to get up in arms over a mild comment is strange. The OP explicitly left the door open to non-scientific answers, so that thread isn't a hill to die on for your "faith". Relax, I'm sure there'll be others in the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


...answering the OP's question, not for arguing with other people's answers...

Oh good lord.
posted by DU at 4:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "The increasingly hostile reaction"

Care to offer some examples? I'm not seeing increasing hostility here.
posted by Bugbread at 4:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if lambdaphage had jumped in first and said, "Just don't try Reiki -- it's expensive and unproven," and Ruthless Bunny had come in next and promoted Reiki, would RB have been deleted as debatey and not answering the question?

I'm deleted fairly regularly on the Green for wise-cracking, but in this case I'm seriously asking.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:14 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


God damn motherfuck a reiki. Sheesh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:19 AM on June 13, 2013


I think the trouble with this MetaTalk thread, despite its spirited debate on AskMe etiquette, is that it will inevitably lead to the destruction of our society.

Of course, proponents of MetaTalk say that it is a system of natural healing which evolved in Japan from the experience and dedication of Dr Matosaburo Owii. Inspired by a burning desire to solve online disputes, Dr Owii developed the healing system of MetaTalk from ancient teachings after many years of study, research and meditation. He spent the rest of his life practising and teaching MetaTalk, and is revered even today as one very spiritual motherfucker.

MetaTalk threads are therefore a time-honoured practice on this site, and (so it is claimed) just as running water smoothes the jagged edges of a rock until it is small enough to roll away, so too Metatalk-energy flows to areas of need, soothing pain and supporting MeFi's natural ability to heal itself. MetaTalk therefore restores balance in a website's "Qi" energy, which is also the most useful word in scrabble.

However, the fact remains that there is NO evidence-based proof that MetaTalk has ever solved any of our problems, and in fact its pseudo-scientific methods may cause actual harm. Isn't it time we rejected MetaTalk as a therapy and instead voted #1 quidnunc kid? quidnunc kid has very limited side-effects including only tedium, hair loss, dry mouth, rectal itch, dry rectum, rectum loss and rectum hair, and he is now available in capsule form. So why not pop a couple quidnunc kid in your rectum today.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 4:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [54 favorites]


Yes, but what I want to know is Metafilter OFFICIALLY propsuedoscience? Did the cabal vote on this recently?
posted by edgeways at 4:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Note: everyone needs a chiropractic balance. Doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, though.
posted by h00py at 4:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


lambdaphage's answer was perfectly appropriate and was well within the established AskMe pattern of correcting answers which are problematic.

It shouldn't have been deleted.
posted by winna at 4:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


I, too, agree that this was an unnecessary and unhelpful deletion, and I am sad to see lambdaphage go.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm certainly guilty of contradicting the advice given in AskMe from time to time, but I try to do that without straying from the 'answer the question' rule. When I see a comment in AskMe that simply addresses another person's answer, I tend to flag it, even if I wholeheartedly agree with the point the person is making. I'm fine about my own responses getting deleted under that rule; it's not a hill to die on in most cases.

I think mods should (and generally do) look at an AskMe question, and the answers given, wholistically. What is an acceptable answer (or an acceptable caveat linked to another person's answer) depends very much on what it appears the OP is looking to get out of the thread. And things like that are necessarily case-by-case judgement calls.

In this case I could go either way. I don't think the answer itself was all that problematic; I suppose there was a chance of a pile-on from other commenters, and nipping that in the bud might be a valid approach. But maybe just dealing with the pile-on if and when it occurred would have been a more forgiving way to resolve things.
posted by pipeski at 4:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyway, take care everyone. I don't think this is the place for me.

I'm glad you left. The tone of this post was execrable, and your comment re Kreminology was ridiculous. I actually agree that this deletion doesn't make much sense, but your approach to it makes me think you are unlikely to find this place amenable.
posted by OmieWise at 4:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


lamphdage just needed to include an answer along with the reiki advice which could have easily been done by posting another comment. He wasn't banned from posting. Answer the question seems to be the basic guideline.
posted by h00py at 5:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


(and MetaFilter might be sued for more money it can afford, and Tom Cruise is certainly not gay)

Oh The Comment was so much more than that.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


lambdaphage has in general been very poorly served by ill-considered mod needling over the last few days

What?
posted by rtha at 5:16 AM on June 13, 2013


Harmful and innacurate responses remain unchallenged.

This is the rub. A few times, I have actually quoted an answer and said, "please do not follow this advice" although this has been rare and on occasions when the advice told the OP to do something illegal. Outside such a clear-cut example of a harmful answer, I am pretty loathe to directly contradict another commenter. As a result, I often cringe when I see advice I know to be false or bad to picked as the best answer.

Regarding this matter, I disagree with the deletion. The deleted comment was neutrally worded and was factually correct. The statement "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions" actually was false because that commenter did not shoot beams of a mystical energy called ki through her palms into her friend's daughter's feet or anywhere else. Charitably, lambdaphage did say say, "no, that's not true" but simply said there is not empirical support for reiki. This is a fine example of my marshmallow observation. I have not the slightest doubt that I could give someone advice saying, "I sometimes shoot Q-rays out my eyeballs to help my garden grow. You might try that." and not only would the comment stand, but those who deny the efficacy of Q-rays would have their comments deleted.

It's for answering the OP's question, not for arguing with other people's answers,

This is not my experience, where yesterday an AskMe answer simply griped about the law and stated that I was (probably) a part of what was wrong with the legal profession. It gave zero advice to the OP.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's where flagging as noise comes in handy.
posted by h00py at 5:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Answer the question seems to be the basic guideline.

"Don't do x" is a perfectly appropriate answer to the question "What should I do?" and has never been forbidden before (and won't be forbidden in a week). This is just one of those situations where some supposedly firm "rule" needs to be offered up so an arbitrary moderation decision can be retroactively explained as if it were some quasi-legal "site policy." This happens all the time in MetaTalk.

It's not exclusively the mods' fault. The problem here as I see it is a somewhat toxic feedback loop between the mods and the users of the site going back years now that turns every MetaTalk discussion about moderation into a big fight. The mods feel as though they can't be seen as wishy-washy, can't be seen as fighting amongst themselves, and (generally speaking) can't be seen as reversing decisions, so whatever one does, all of them have to defend as the only possible way things could have gone. One good rhetorical solution to that is to assert (1) there's a rule (2) the rule has always been that way. But the particular proposed rule being offered here doesn't hold up to much scrutiny; there's obviously not a general rule in place that only positive answers are allowed in AskMe. "My abusive ex-boyfriend wants to initiate contact. What should I do?" "Don't call him."

The real answer here is that they didn't want a fight on hot-button-site-issue in the thread, so they deleted a comment that they thought might cause a fight. I wish they wouldn't do things preemptively like that, personally, but also wish we could have a real, Brand-New-Day-style conversation about site moderation without users feeling betrayed and mods feeling embattled right out of the gate. So I guess maybe I'll just always be unhappy.
posted by gerryblog at 5:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


I think it is important to remember that having a comment deleted is not a punishment, so it's silly to ask 'Would this have been okay?' Let your comments fly. Let them live or die on their own. They are part of the whole of the site, now. If they are cut down, what is that to you?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Care to offer some examples? I'm not seeing increasing hostility here

"This sort of pseudoscience is hurting people."

"So what stops this site from turning into Yahoo Answers?"

"I hope someone finds a way to both answer the question AND advise against Reiki "therapy" and other quackery, because we are better than that, and the OP deserves better advice than time and money wasting, potentially harmful pseudo-scientific bullshit."

"The assumption of bad faith on lambdaphage's part here seems both unwarranted and ultimately pretty ugly."

I think a lot of people are failing to see the Reiki suggestion in the context of woman looking for helpful advice about dealing with childbirth and labour. She indicates she's going to be in a hospital, has a midwife and sisters, along with various other methods and implements. She's a week or two out from the big event and just looking for any other information that might help her. Someone suggested Reiki, noting that a receiver of it said "it helped".

To wade in and write "Two separate meta-analyses have failed to find effects for Reiki healing in RCTs" and provide links to studies is, IMO, excruciatingly tone deaf. Particularly when the only comment about Reiki says "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped."

Really, you're providing links to scientific studies when indicates it helped and no harm is being done? To me that says you're not interested in helping, you just see another vector point to push a certain wordlview and just because that view is science, which has indeed done so much to improve the human condition, you shouldn't get a cart blanche pass to say whatever you want.

Add in the bitter chocolately fact that you, the lover of science, started this MeTa stating factually wrong things ("one commenter suggested Reiki healing as a treatment for labor pains" ) while the pulling the usual MeTaschtick of 'hey, my comment was totally neutral and helpful, why are you oppressing THE TRUTH' and one can see how this isn't going to go well.

Now mix in the bacon bits of the scientific testing of the Reiki being difficult and having flaws in its methods, why people are using studies as proof that it doesn't exist and is bullshit and you've got one weird tasting reality snack.

Look, Reiki probably is bullshit, formed from the best of intentions by a misguided individual. But if you can't see the potential benefits of a person putting soothing hands on a woman in the midst labor and instead feel the need to combat that with science, then you should stay out of the thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [46 favorites]


While I think this wasn't a crazy clear-cut deletion, it does seem similar to many, many other deletions in AskMe. I'm pretty sure I've had comments deleted on the green, and my comments are usually about such pressing topics as "sea salt: on ALL the foods??"

Framing this Meta as "Is MeFi officially pro-pseudoscience?" because of one comment deleted in one of hundreds of AskMes related to science seems much more tone deaf. I'm sorry that we may have lost participants over this, but I don't think this is the Alamo for Science vs. Woo.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


my comments are usually about such pressing topics as "sea salt: on ALL the foods??"

THE CORRECT ANSWER IS YES
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


But if you can't see the potential benefits of a person putting soothing hands on a woman in the midst labor and instead feel the need to combat that with science, then you should stay out of the thread.

If you can't see the benefits of providing neutrally worded and informative information to an asker about a potential solution to their problem (either pro- or anti-), then you... well, I think you know how this particular holier-than-thou response ends, no?

Really bad deletion. Probably not the worst deletion from AskMe, but a good example of poor policy-making on the part of the mods here.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really bad deletion. Probably not the worst deletion from AskMe

Well I'm glad its not the worst deletion. Do you have a ranked list for me to study?
posted by Cannon Fodder at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can't see the benefits of providing neutrally worded and informative information...

A comment that essentially says "This is bullshit and wrong" is not neutrally worded, but possibly informative.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was just a throwaway comment to begin with, the whole 'I gave reiki and they said it helped' thing. It didn't need to be refuted because it was inconsequential. Okay, say your piece if you must but add something that actually answers the question because that's the whole point of Askme.
posted by h00py at 5:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bad deletion.

But if you can't see the potential benefits of a person putting soothing hands on a woman in the midst labor and instead feel the need to combat that with science, then you should stay out of the thread.

I've gone through labor, and I don't see what is so obviously terrible about his comment.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


...a cart blanche... the bitter chocolately fact... mix in the bacon bits....

Bitter chocolate and bacon bits served on a carte blanche is the first dish of my bizarro seder, representing our passage through the darkest of nights, during which we felt free to smoke ourselves crisp.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I support this deletion, for many of the same reasons that Brandon Blatcher described.

I generally love the fact that metafilter is a reality-based community. However, there are some people who seem to take it as their mission to shit on anything that has a hint of spirituality or can't otherwise be replicated in a double-blind peer-reviewed study. If that's your agenda, GYOFB.

Lot's commenters in this thread are running around with their hair on fire talking about "harmful medical advice". If you really think that's what was going on with the mention of Reiki in the AskMe, then you weren't paying attention or you don't know anything about the dynamics of childbirth.

You shouldn't take every AskMe as an opportunity to shoot down things you consider woo. That's not what AskMe is for. It's for answering the ops questions, which requires actually paying attention to the questions.
posted by alms at 6:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


taz: " If someone asks how to meet new people, and someone else suggests joining a church, for example – 400 comments about whether God exists isn't going to be helpful."

Whether meeting people at church works is orthogonal to whether God exists.

taz: "Yeah, sorry, but comments there need to be answering the question, not arguing pro/con about reiki."

At least as far back as when ikkyu left the consensus has been that not only is it impossible and undesirable for mods to moderate comments on Ask for the applicability effectiveness of the advice it is also unnecessary because other comments will counter bad advice. (And IMO doing nothing or advancing the legitimacy of WOO can be bad advice even if it isn't directly harmful). I understand that especially coming on the heels of the homoeopathy derail it was though necessary to to nip a potential derail in the bud but it isn't allowing AskMe to function like it should.

Cannon Fodder: "Its also worth noting that woo in the context of birth pains is not actively harmful unless it is suggested for replacing effective medical treatments instead."

Big picture advancing the effectiveness is actively harmful.

Any ways I feel an impulse to stunt comment in protest so I'm out for a while too.
posted by Mitheral at 6:29 AM on June 13, 2013


"Don't do x" is a perfectly appropriate answer to the question "What should I do?"

I'm on AskMe a lot and I think it's really frustrating and unhelpful to un-answer a question.

"What can I do?"
"Well, don't do X."
"Yeah, but I asked what can I DO?"

If it was "Do X. But personally I wouldn't do Y because this study shows..." that's different. There was no alternative suggestion offered whatsoever. I don't particularly like fundamentalists of any strain, and the "Reiki (or whatever) is bullshit" mentality kind of pisses me off. Link me to proof that it doesn't work if you want. (Personally I don't know enough about it to have an opinion either way, unlike the many experts in this thread.) But if you're going to tell someone it's bullshit, at least give them something to use instead. If you're going to link to studies, maybe include just one that actually deals with pain relief in childbirth, for example.
posted by billiebee at 6:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"A comment that essentially says "This is bullshit and wrong" is not neutrally worded, but possibly informative."

No, we have the mod's word for it that the comment essentially said,
"Two separate meta-analyses have failed to find effects for Reiki healing in RCTs.

Attempting to manipulate "energy fields" is not indicated for labor.
"
While linking to this paper, which is not at all that.

"I generally love the fact that metafilter is a reality-based community. However, there are some people who seem to take it as their mission to shit on anything that has a hint of spirituality or can't otherwise be replicated in a double-blind peer-reviewed study. If that's your agenda, GYOFB."

It is also not shitting on anything in any meaningful sense and to perceive it as such says a heck of a lot more about your feelings about reiki than lambdaphage's.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


I actually think there's a perfectly good reason for deleting the comment that the mods aren't citing: OP explicitly said metaphysical answers were welcome.

An answer trying to rule out reiki because it's metaphysical nonsense thus goes directly against what OP asked for. For this OP's question only, pointing out a lack of science is noise.

If the OP had said a light switch was sparking and smoking, and someone had suggested channeling the energy away from the switch with crystals and psychic power, advising against it would not be a derail unless OP actually said "willing to try psychic answers."

Ditto "disregard prior answers and a consult a lawyer." It's not noise or a derail unless OP specifically said "I will not consult a lawyer, and don't want to hear how I should."
posted by tyllwin at 6:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Now mix in the bacon bits of the scientific testing of the Reiki being difficult and having flaws in its methods, why people are using studies as proof that it doesn't exist and is bullshit and you've got one weird tasting reality snack."

If you actually read that damn paper it spends most of its time addressing the flaws that your Wikipedia article glazes over some of and cautiously discussing what can be gleaned from the studies that have been done so far anyway. It is bone dry and appropriately neutral secondary scientific literature, not the partisan takedown layman seem to always think that science they don't understand is.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is bone dry and appropriately neutral secondary scientific literature

But in no way an answer to the question "I'm about to give birth, any advice?"
posted by billiebee at 6:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think the original comment about reiki was particularly harmful. I do find it harmful to imply that vague anecdotes are unimpeachable because it's childbirth and it's special and you wouldn't understand. For one, it reinforces the false and sexist dichotomy between people who perform reproductive labor and people who value scientific ways of knowing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [39 favorites]


I think it is important to remember that having a comment deleted is not a punishment

It's a punishment for those who think MeFi can be "won."

a good example of poor policy-making on the part of the mods here

The policy is already made, found in the FAQ, Guidlines, and other on-site documents. Part of the policy is: The owner of the site has hired a certain number of people to exercise their judgment, rather than be rote rule-enforcing machines. While "policy" has been created as a result of MeTa "discussions," it has never been solely promulgated through MeTa, because MeTa is not required reading.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


"But in no way an answer to the question "I'm about to give birth, any advice?""

You missed,
"What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites?"
posted by Blasdelb at 6:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Comments promoting quackery should also be deleted, as they are not valid answers to the question.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Distinguished scientists, all
posted by shakespeherian at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


In what way did this resource help them prepare for the birthing suites? I definitely missed that. I don't think they were just looking for reading material to pass the time.
posted by billiebee at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if you can't see the potential benefits of a person putting soothing hands on a woman in the midst labor and instead feel the need to combat that with science, then you should stay out of the thread.

I do not know how many childbirths you have witnessed, but I have been there for two. What I observed was a doctor and nurses doing the jobs that they were trained to do. There was no indication that the medical professions would welcome a layman laying on "soothing hands" to shoot mystic energy, a mariachi band, or any other distraction. In fact, I had the distinct impression that such extraneous people would be in the way of the mission, which is to deliver a healthy baby.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


say your piece if you must but add something that actually answers the question because that's the whole point of Askme.

This seems to be at odds with your defense of the reiki advice because it was inconsequential.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:53 AM on June 13, 2013


The real answer here is that they didn't want a fight on hot-button-site-issue in the thread, so they deleted a comment that they thought might cause a fight.

Gerryblog is right. The zeroth law of Metafilter moderation is "Avoid a shitload of fights/grar on the site." The mods have more and more been deleting things that might cause fights to avoid it instead of lettings play out and cleaning up after. What makes it tricky for users is that you have to the pulse of the site to know what's fighty. The things that can lead to fights vary depending on whats going on in the site and other things. I find it annoying this "law" annoying, but I'll live.
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"In what way did this resource help them prepare for the birthing suites? I definitely missed that. I don't think they were just looking for reading material to pass the time."

It provided reliable information about the efficacy of one solution that would provide the best possible foundation for a decision about who the OP wants touching what while she gives birth. You know, something actually useful.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


actually think there's a perfectly good reason for deleting the comment that the mods aren't citing: OP explicitly said metaphysical answers were welcome.

Also we've had the Ask OP in this thread clarifying that she's perfectly capable of evaluating science and pseudoscience and making her own decisions, that she asked for metaphysical answers, and that she was OK with the comment being deleted. So the system worked for this particular OP.

AskMe is, I think, a little slippery, because, while the answers remain available and there is a certain quality of universality since people are encouraged to look at past questions to see if there is useful advice there, each question is not universal; it is supposed,to answer each OP's specific needs, not provide general advice to generic people.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It didn't even say 'NOOOO, DON'T DO THE REIKIIIII". It just offered neutrally-presented information to further allow the OP to evaluate her options.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"An answer trying to rule out reiki because it's metaphysical nonsense thus goes directly against what OP asked for. For this OP's question only, pointing out a lack of science is noise."

Lambdaphage's answer did not touch on the bare fact that there is no plausible mechanism by which a reiki foot massage could do anything different than a non-reiki foot massage, that would be both irrelevant to the question and indeed specifically not asked for. It also did not call reikii anything other than not demonstrated to be effective, regardless of the model for understanding it used, and despite extensive testing. Your insistence that reiki is metaphysical nonsense may be coming from somewhere, but but that source was not lambdaphage.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It provided reliable information about the efficacy of one solution that would provide the best possible foundation for a decision about who the OP wants touching what while she gives birth. You know, something actually useful

It would be useful if the question had been "I'm giving birth and thinking of using Reiki to help. Is this a good idea?"
posted by billiebee at 6:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do now know the amount of childbirths you have witnessed, and even I have been there for two. What I observed was a doctor and nurses doing the jobs that they were trained to do. It was explicitly expected by the medical professions that the layman in the room (the father) played his part, by ways of massage, soothing hands (no scare quotes necessary) or by any other means that fit. In fact, I had the distinct impression that such extraneous people would be essential to the mission, which is to deliver a healthy baby, since they were the ones the mother were most familiar with.

ftfy
posted by Namlit at 6:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


You missed,
"What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites?"


The OP also said "While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use. " Someone then commented about a technique that someone found "helpful". No idea why people want to ignore that and dig up scientific papers that say what another felt is bullshit.

It's like a dogmatic faith.

Your insistence that reiki is metaphysical nonsense may be coming from somewhere, but but that source was not lambdaphage

Oh please, he started a MeTa that equated one off hand comment with an official adoption of pseudo science. That's ridiculous hysteria.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It didn't even say 'NOOOO, DON'T DO THE REIKIIIII"

Since the opening line of the question was "Let me learn from your experiences", I'm guessing that an answer along the lines of "I tried the Reiki, it didn't do shit" would have been on more solid ground with the mods than a link to a peer-reviewed, evidence-based article written by professionals who have looked at the practice in far greater detail than any member of Meltafilter.
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think this is a good deletion, because my guess is that most of the benefits of an Ask question are ultimately enjoyed by people who find the question later, not the OP. When an (apparent) edge case like this gets deleted, a lot of those future beneficiaries end up missing out on good information. I don't see what possible harm could come in letting it stand.
posted by invitapriore at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm almost positive that if the deleted comment had also included an answer to the question, not just the refutation of reiki, it wouldn't have been deleted.

Exactly. Just make a comment that is actually on the topic of the thread and isn't only arguing with other commenters and you'll be fine. Birth/parenting/woo threads all have a tendency to burst into flames at any moment and we need people to be mindful of that when they make their comments. Try again, quit with the kremlin metaphors, it just makes you look like an axe-grinder.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Oh please, he started a MeTa that equated one off hand comment with an official adoption of pseudo science. That's ridiculous hysteria."

Given the ridiculous non-sequitor of this deletion and their newness here I think lamdaphage can be forgiven the understandable confusion.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is a good deletion, because my guess is that most of the benefits of an Ask question are ultimately enjoyed by people who find the question later, not the OP.

The benefits to people who find the question later shouldn't override answering the actual question, which included "I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use." The answer of "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped." is directly answering the question as asked and framed. Arguing with the premise of the answer -- not saying, "I had Reiki and it didn't help at all," but essentially saying to the answerer, "Nope, you're wrong" -- is contrary to the AskMe guidelines.
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The person who gave that answer mentioning reiki was actually answering the question, whether you agree with the validity of her answer or not. My opinion on the actual effectiveness of reiki has nothing to do with whether it was a valid comment or not. It was one of a few points made in that answer. It wasn't an entire comment about how reiki will remove all pain and bring enlightenment to the childbearer, it was a multipart comment on things that would make childbirth more bearable for the person actually having the child, not the doctors and nurses down one end of said childbearer, and the comment about reiki was part of it.

That was answering the question. By all means, when you provide an answer to the actual question, you can say that reiki is apparently bullshit and you'd be better off going for an actual, deep, touching foot massage, but you need to answer the question while you're saying that because that's what Askme is for. I find the disregard of Jilder's opinion about not wanting a shitfight about reiki to happen in her question to be pretty disappointing.
posted by h00py at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm bothered by the tendency of people in almost every deletion post to demand more clarification of deletion reasons, including hypothetical examples. My discomfort comes from two sources -- one, we are regularly told that deletion are on a case-by-case basis, so more specific criteria will not (and probably cannot) be forthcoming, which makes the regular refrain of "more criteria" not helpful. Two, I am leery of criteria being laid out in a series of MeTas as a sort of "revealed rules" that can be brought up in further complaints as "in MF v. User X, taz said this, and I think that suggests this other thing." That way lies madness....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Your insistence that reiki is metaphysical nonsense may be coming from somewhere, but but that source was not lambdaphage


If I had to put money one way or the other, I'd put it on "lambdaphage thinks it's metaphysical nonsense," but you are correct. Those are my words, not lambdaphage's, and I do not speak for lambdaphage.
posted by tyllwin at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2013


What's amusing to me about this particular freak out is that even if you believe that if Reiki works for someone, it's because their brain was fooled into feeling better, so is, probably, 75% of non-drug-related pain management.

No doctor or nurse I've ever dealt with would ever suggest just using Reiki or some other pseudoscience solution -- or even suggest it at all. But if it made you feel better and didn't get in their way, no doctor or nurse I've ever dealt with would stop you.

So if something might help somebody else but isn't damaging your approach, just letting it go until it gets in the way is probably the ideal. Apply this to your birthing room or your AskMetafilter reading, and I bet you'll be a lot happier.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:13 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Given the ridiculous non-sequitor of this deletion and their newness here I think lamdaphage can be forgiven the understandable confusion.

Then perhaps he shouldn't be shooting his mouth off about something he knows little about. Surely that's a good science based approach.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we're voting on this, you can add me into the "this was a bad deletion that borders on outright censorship" category.

Even if this deletion might have been in line with the official site policy, it's in no way congruent with how the policies are typically enforced.
posted by schmod at 7:18 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Given the ridiculous non-sequitor of this deletion and their newness here I think lamdaphage can be forgiven the understandable confusion.

Huh. When I was a newby here, I was under the impression one should mainly lurk for a long time rather than stomp around acting like you knew more about how the site should run than its moderators. That lambdaphage escalated to Godwin-level comments (assuming Soviet totalitarian corruption is on a level with Nazi evil I guess) over this a few months after joining, and then quit the site in a stompy huff over a deleted AskMe comment of all things, suggests they might be more interested in drama than content.
posted by aught at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


If we're voting on this, you can add me into the "this was a bad deletion that borders on outright censorship" category.

Out of curiosity, what is being censored?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2013


If the OP had said a light switch was sparking and smoking, and someone had suggested channeling the energy away from the switch with crystals and psychic power, advising against it would not be a derail unless OP actually said "willing to try psychic answers."

Ditto "disregard prior answers and a consult a lawyer." It's not noise or a derail unless OP specifically said "I will not consult a lawyer, and don't want to hear how I should."

What is 2+2? I am interested in hearing answers other than 4.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is a mathematical formula.
posted by h00py at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


What is 2+2? I am interested in hearing answers other than 4.

10.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay maybe not, it's a question phrased in mathematical terms.
posted by h00py at 7:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, what is being censored?

Apparently it's all science ever but I'm not totally sure? In that vein, a better comparison would have been to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge rather than Cold War era Soviet tactics.
posted by elizardbits at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


What is 2+2? I am interested in hearing answers other than 4.

What are your rounding rules?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is 2+2? I am interested in hearing answers other than 4.

10, if you explicitly say base4 answers are welcome.
posted by tyllwin at 7:31 AM on June 13, 2013


Oh no, totally, no one's arguing that Metafilter isn't exactly like the Cambodian Genocide.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "Just make a comment that is actually on the topic of the thread and isn't only arguing with other commenters and you'll be fine."

So just to be clear: it's okay to counter what other people are saying as long as you still try to answer the question?

I don't spend a lot of time on AskMe, but I clearly remember participating in a thread a couple of years ago where someone else's comment was called out as "This strikes me as unusually bad advice." and then an explanation was given as to why.
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, people (including the OP) are bringing a huge amount of baggage into this. Including Brandon Blatcher.

This has nothing to do with woo other than the fact that people bring in a lot of baggage when woo is involved.

Answer the question, don't dispute other people's answers. AskMe isn't a discussion subsite. Some questions will naturally lead to dueling answers where the contradictory answers have a relationship to each other via the question. People can disagree with each other by way of answering the question, but not by directly arguing with someone else's answer. There's good reasons for this.

I'm aware that this is a guideline and not an absolute that is rigorously enforced because MeFi isn't moderated by absolute, rigorously enforced rules. Context matters. And part of the context of this particular deletion is revealed by this annoying MeTa thread because people have strong feelings about woo and tend to get into fights about it. As we see in this damn thread. And the framing of this post.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "Answer the question, don't dispute other people's answers."

If that's the guideline which is now being enforced, it would appear to be a change in site policy. I believe that in the past it has been okay to do both at the same time, but not to simply dispute other people's answers without also answering the question.
posted by zarq at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Answer the question, don't dispute other people's answers.

As far as I'm aware, to do both together is fine but to do solely the latter is unwelcome.
posted by elizardbits at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Anyone saying something to the effect that "Birth is like any other medical event, and doctors and scientists should be the ones determining what is best" is really missing the fucking point.

Doctor's specialize in pathology, being pregnant and giving birth is not a disease. A patient's mood while they are anesthetized in a surgery is irrelevant. A pregnant woman's mood and outlook is very important to birth. If reiki, or whatever, calms a woman giving birth, then it is a good thing, even if the effect is entirely due to placebo. There's a reason doulas are valued and have proven to have beneficial effects to birthing women.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


zarq: "So just to be clear: it's okay to counter what other people are saying as long as you still try to answer the question?

I don't spend a lot of time on AskMe, but I clearly remember participating in a thread a couple of years ago where someone else's comment was called out as "This strikes me as unusually bad advice." and then an explanation was given as to why.
"

I think the issue is that it would be okay in this case -- which is why, as somebody said earlier, hypotheticals and past instances aren't usually helpful. In this case, the question specifically said "metaphysical responses okay" and the deleted answer was essentially "metaphysical responses not okay and here's why." In this case, that doesn't fly. An edge case to the guidelines but, I think, pretty clearly on the other side of the 'acceptable' line; to make a MetaTalk about a deletion of an answer that was the opposite of what the asker was looking for is a fairly extreme response.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


People give well-meaning but demonstrably terrible/wrong/bad/illegal/etc advice in askme all the time, and I think it's part of the site's value that we have members who are willing to step up and say "this thing you have said is wrong and bad and here are the many reasons why".
posted by elizardbits at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [35 favorites]


"As far as I'm aware, to do both together is fine but to do solely the latter is unwelcome."

Yeah, that's why I pointed out this is a guideline. It's a matter of emphasis. There couldn't be, or rather there shouldn't be, a hard rule on this, either. A comment that clearly is all about disputing another answer but has a sentence added as a nod toward answering the question shouldn't be okay.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:41 AM on June 13, 2013


So just to be clear: it's okay to counter what other people are saying as long as you still try to answer the question?

Generally yes. If countering the advice given is

- Answering the OPs question
- Not starting a fight with other commenters
- Not turning into part of a pile-on (we'll sometimes leave a note "Okay the OP has heard that their chosen path isn't going to work, please give constructive helpful answers that aren't just DTMFA" if a thread is turning into a big old NOPE pile-on)

We usually ask people to try to be constructive and helpful and not just spleen venting or threadshitting. A few examples

1. Showing up in a "Explain this thing to me about jesus's miracles" with a "Jesus wasn't the son of god so none of this ever happened" is not going to be okay. It's generally understood that this is asking about what the bible and its interpretations say.
2. Showing up in the "How do I complain to CVS about the mercury levels in this homeopathic solution?" thread to say "There's actually no mercury in it because of how homeopathy works, so you don't need to complain" is fine. Showing up to say "Homeopathy is bullshit" is not fine, even though it's true.
3. Showing up in the "Help me find a good palm reader for my baby shower" thread to say "Palm reading is bullshit" is not okay" Asking "What sort of thing are you looking for in a 'good' palm reader since they're not really able to tell the future?" is okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [27 favorites]


People give well-meaning but demonstrably terrible/wrong/bad/illegal/etc advice in askme all the time, and I think it's part of the site's value that we have members who are willing to step up and say "this thing you have said is wrong and bad and here are the many reasons why".

And then they answer the question, the good ones.
posted by h00py at 7:43 AM on June 13, 2013


(Yes, that was meant to be my point but I think I accidentally had decaf today.)
posted by elizardbits at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is MeTa, so let it be said Reiki is for wankers.

My mom practices Reiki. I don't buy it myself, but "let it be implied" what I'm thinking about you right now.

There was no indication that the medical professions would welcome a layman laying on "soothing hands" to shoot mystic energy, a mariachi band, or any other distraction

Really? Because when my wife was in there 7 months ago I was allowed to sit there and hold her hand, and I'm a layman. There were other women with non-medical support like doulas etc as well.

Frankly the only thing I heard the doctors say they objected to was "meditative music" because they were sick of it. For whatever reason, my wife asked for the Beastie Boys. I obliged. The doctor came in and said "Hey, nice choice! I am so sick of Enya".
posted by Hoopo at 7:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


MCMikeNamara: "I think the issue is that it would be okay in this case -- which is why, as somebody said earlier, hypotheticals and past instances aren't usually helpful. "

Hypotheticals and past instances are not equivalent. We can point to a past incident and say, "why wasn't this deleted" and get a concrete answer. Past instances establish precedents, which give us an understanding of what will and will not be deleted and why.

Otherwise there's simply no point in participating. Being able to point to examples in which a particular guideline was enforced and ask, "why was this okay or not okay" helps guide us in the future.

MCMikeNamara: "In this case, the question specifically said "metaphysical responses okay" and the deleted answer was essentially "metaphysical responses not okay and here's why.""

Please re-read my comment. I'm not objecting to the deletion.
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2013


Answer the question, don't dispute other people's answers.

I think disputing other answers *is* directly answering the poster's question, and has been part of AskMe since the beginning. And should stay part. I'm not saying this was a bad deletion - mainly because the poster said that woo-woo answers were ok in the question - but a general rule of "don't dispute other people's answers unless you also spend time directly answering the question" is a fudge that denies years of AskMe history.
posted by mediareport at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Now I wish I had brought Beastie Boys.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2013


Thank you, Jessamyn. That's quite helpful.
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was no indication that the medical professions would welcome a layman laying on "soothing hands" to shoot mystic energy, a mariachi band, or any other distraction

Then that is a damn shame and the medical professionals put their own narrow interest before the health of the mother and child.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ditto "disregard prior answers and a consult a lawyer." It's not noise or a derail unless OP specifically said "I will not consult a lawyer, and don't want to hear how I should."

Why does the OP get this deference above all other considerations? If the OPs knew best about how to solve their various problems, they would not be posting a question in the first place. I certainly understand deference to some qualifiers such as "we don't have passports, so please don't recommend vacation destinations outside of our country" because these filter out answers that are good but not applicable. However, some OPs tag on qualifiers that negate all useful their questions.

There's a reason doulas are valued

Passive voice weasel words. Valued by whom?
posted by Tanizaki at 7:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, people (including the OP) are bringing a huge amount of baggage into this. Including Brandon Blatcher.

The mocking from the science majors still hurts, even after all these years.

JUNIOR YEAR, NEVA FORGET!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Valued by whom?

Folks
posted by shakespeherian at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


lambdaphage could have just rephrased the answer to more directly answer the question while still offering a warning about reliance on reiki. Good grief, do folks storm off in a huff in person every time they make a comment that isn't acknowledged as germane to the discussion?
posted by desuetude at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Doulas are valued by the person actually having the child, you nonce.
posted by h00py at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Passive voice weasel words. Valued by whom?

By many mothers and fathers. And midwives.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Given the ridiculous non-sequitor of this deletion and their newness here I think lamdaphage can be forgiven the understandable confusion.

See, I totally get how the deletion could be an annoying thing or even a troublesome thing to happen. I think it could have been better phrased, but I would never have flagged it. I often see comments and suggestions that are flat-out terrible in AskMe, but people have different lives and different tastes and different beliefs. Reiki within the context of a medical facility with trained doctors does not seem harmful.

Yes, the poster is new, but there have been many, many recent MetaTalk threads about site moderation, the contact form, and best practices for MetaTalk. There's been no indication that he or she contacted the mods and attempted to figure out how to re-write the comment so that it would stand. Instead, we got a post that labeled the entire site as a haven of pseudoscience and mod policy compared in a loose metaphor to Kremlinology, which seems like a bit of an overreaction. I have a lot of love for the scientists and doctors on this site, because I think their contributions are very valuable. I do not have a lot of love for this particular use of MetaTalk.

but I think I accidentally had decaf today

I'm okay with labeling decaf coffee as terrible/wrong/bad though....
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Then that is a damn shame and the medical professionals put their own narrow interest before the health of the mother and child.

This is called a straw man.

I do not know your line of work, but imagine your reaction if someone were to come into your workspace and tell you that, despite your professional experience and that person's utter lack of professional experience, you were not doing your job quite right. In fact, they knew how to help you do your job better, perhaps by standing besides you and shooting invisible Q-rays out of their eyes. What would be your reaction?
posted by Tanizaki at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude that would be rad and you know it.
posted by elizardbits at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [40 favorites]


I do not know your line of work, but imagine your reaction if someone were to come into your workspace and tell you that, despite your professional experience and that person's utter lack of professional experience, you were not doing your job quite right. In fact, they knew how to help you do your job better, perhaps by standing besides you and shooting invisible Q-rays out of their eyes. What would be your reaction?

That's not what doulas do. And that's not what doctors do. Doulas advocate on behalf the mother and child. Doctors do not. That is not what doctors want to do, that is not what doctors are trained to do, and that is not what doctors should be doing. It is not the role of the doula to tell the doctor how to do their job, it is the role of the doula to advocate for the mother and child. Got that?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


My body was in control of my childbirth, the people down that end tidied things up. Get a grip.
posted by h00py at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


This looks like an edge case deletion, and it seems like there was a way lamdaphage could have rephrased his answer that it would have been acceptable. Because an answer is deleted doesn't mean that MetaFilter is anti-woo (or whatever topic); it most likely means that you need to rephrase your answer to fit it within AskMe guidelines.

On the other hand, it's pretty neat being a thread that has both Holocaust and Stalinism references.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: "Doctor's specialize in pathology, being pregnant and giving birth is not a disease. "

My wife saw her GP, several OB's and a perinatologist on a regular basis during her pregnancy. None of them gave us any indication that they were treating her pregnancy or birth as a disease. None of them were particularly dispassionate. All were quite kind, helpful, reassuring and knowledgable, and her pregnancy was actually quite difficult.

Doulas and Midwives are helpful to some people which is great and fantastic and more power to them. But "specializing in pathology" (which I frankly think is seriously arguable when you're talking about any medical professional who works with pregnant women, childbirth and babies,) does not preclude a doctor from being helpful, knowledgable or constructive in other areas.
posted by zarq at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


MoonOrb: " On the other hand, it's pretty neat being a thread that has both Holocaust and Stalinism references."

Yeah, not so much.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Doulas advocate on behalf the mother and child. Doctors do not. That is not what doctors want to do, that is not what doctors are trained to do, and that is not what doctors should be doing

What does that even mean? Of course doctors (OBGYNs, etc) advocate for mother and child, using the knowledge and training they have. I have nothing against doulas or anyone who wants to use one, but my eyes roll out of my head any time a discussion about them includes cynical statements like the above about doctors and other trained medical professionals.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [30 favorites]


In fact, they knew how to help you do your job better, perhaps by standing besides you and shooting invisible Q-rays out of their eyes. What would be your reaction?

Are they going to talk at all, or are they just going to stand there quietly, doing nothing (from my perspective)? Because if it's just quiet standing-there, fine.

From what friends who have had babies have told me, the doctors and nurses in the delivery room don't give a shit *what* the dad/mother of the mom-to-be/doula are doing as long as they don't cause undue interference and get out of the way when told. Since Reiki doesn't "exist" (except in the sense of being massage), it isn't interference.
posted by rtha at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2013


If you know enough about the subject of a question to state that a given answer is incorrect, but don't bother to chime in with a correct answer, that's kind of a dick move.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2013


Why does the OP get this deference above all other considerations?

Because it's their question, and answering their question is what AskMe is for?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:00 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Of course doctors (OBGYNs, etc) advocate for mother and child, using the knowledge and training they have.

Which is different than how a nurse midwife is trained.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2013


So thanks to this thread I ( a father to be in three months) now know what a Doula is! I initially thought people were just really bad at spelling doctor, but google soon corrected me. Learn something every day and all that...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2013


"Exactly. Just make a comment that is actually on the topic of the thread and isn't only arguing with other commenters and you'll be fine. Birth/parenting/woo threads all have a tendency to burst into flames at any moment and we need people to be mindful of that when they make their comments. Try again, quit with the kremlin metaphors, it just makes you look like an axe-grinder."

You may have missed that lambdaphage has already left and presumably has no further interest in lectures.

You may have also missed the heart of the metaphor they were making. We are all commenting in an engineered, if defensibly necessary, confusion of all the still never written rules and sub-rules, style guidelines (like the one you found enough fault here for the deletion but even taz didn’t find while throwing out seemingly random guesses until EST morning) that are both absolute and rarely enforced, and the ever changing nature of all of this. That all of this allows you guys to leave comments that won’t start fights but dramatically break both the spirit and letter of the same guidelines like Decani's and delete excellent comments and answers that may shade into some of the guidelines a bit but could be expected to bring out shittiness in other commenters is both a great strength and occasionally a frankly cowardly weakness of this site.

We’re all left watching the progression and order of generally great (on preview like your most recent explanation) but sometimes absurd Calvinball-esque mod explanations of what exactly broke what guideline and how in Meta, when right here you just obliquely explained the real reason that answer is gone. Woo stuff sometimes brings out shittiness in people on askme so threads will be manipulated in whatever way is needed and vaguely defensible to prevent that from happening. This is not even really a bad thing exactly, sure it sounds kinda bad when stated bluntly but it both gives us a site that is easily moderatable by an overstretched staff and keeps fights from lowering the signal to noise ratio. You know it, I know it, those of us who have been here long enough know it, taz knows it, but instead but instead of an explanation of it to a newcomer with good reason to be confused about good faith we got this – and now a lecture about how they look like they’re axe grinding. The Kremlin’s inhabitants were indeed bound by all sorts of laws many of which were very loosely defined and were all subordinate to expediency in an uncannily similar way. Now I’m glad y’all aren’t the least bit otherwise stalin-esque, but war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and the metaphor has no teeth
posted by Blasdelb at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have absolutely no idea what a "doula" is. I've never heard the term before today. I could, of course, look it up, but I think it enriches my life far more if I just imagine it means what it sounds like: something from a Dune novel, some sort of mix between a Fremen and a Bene Gesserit.
posted by Bugbread at 8:06 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


However, some OPs tag on qualifiers that negate all useful their questions.

You know you don't have to answer, right? If you think someone has asked a question and they've negated all useful answers (I'm assuming that's the missing word) then maybe you could consider leaving it alone? It's sweet to want to help people so much that you ignore their wishes in favour of giving your expertise, but I don't think it's the law or anything that you have to contribute. (IANAL.)
posted by billiebee at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's a birthing coach-type person? Which is weird because I've only seen it used as a sort of euthanasia/end of life, um, "coach". (Maybe "advocate" is a better term.)
posted by elizardbits at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2013


(like the one you found enough fault here for the deletion but even taz didn’t find while throwing out seemingly random guesses until EST morning)

I am pretty seriously of the opinion that if taz just changed her username to something else the MetaTalk post rate would drop by 50% until everyone realized it was her again.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


[NOT TAZ-IST]
posted by elizardbits at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I haven't read the entire thread, but I grew up with a Reiki master in the house (shoutout to my mom!) and surrounded by Reiki people and I have to say that I have never, ever, ever, ever heard of a Reiki person suggesting Reiki instead of Western medical treatment for anything consequential. In addition to, yes. But never instead of. My experience with Reiki is always that it has been used for things, from coughs to dying, along with regular medicine.

As far as its efficacy, I don't really care. Maybe it works, maybe it's really great placebo effect. As far as I'm concerned, Western societies don't foster a lot of non-sexual physical affection between people, and we know that touching another person can be incredibly therapeutic, so I'm all for anything that increases respectful, caring touch. Reiki is definitely that.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:12 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


If commenter #1 recommends a very specific solution to the OP's problem, and commenter #2 links to relevant research indicating that this is actually not an effective solution to the OP's problem, neither answer should be deleted. They're both speaking directly to the OP's problem, which is exactly what they should be doing in AskMetafilter. It's easy to throw around words like "derailing" or "axe-grinding" to refer to anything that rubs you the wrong way, but I don't see how commenter #2 is doing any more of a derail than commenter #1. If that specific proposed solution is relevant to the question, then advice going either way — whether it's "Yes, do this, it worked great for someone I know," or "No, don't do this, scientific authorities have demonstrated it to be ineffective" — is potentially helpful to the OP.

I've been reading and actively participating in AskMe for 8 years (with different accounts), and I also read MetaTalk regularly, and until this thread I had never heard of the idea that it's somehow considered more relevant to tell the OP to use a certain remedy ("try mixing bleach and ammonia — my friends love it!") than to advise the OP not to use a certain remedy ("whatever you do, don't mix bleach and ammonia — it's a toxic combination!"). Making the negative decision not to do something can be an important step toward making a positive decision about what to do. Comments should be fine as long as they're even partially helpful to the OP, even if one comment in isolation doesn't offer a fully sufficient solution.
posted by John Cohen at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


I agree with hoopy's take on it.

Edge case deletion but I think it's been made clear that if the comment answered the question in addition to adding a note about reiki's effectiveness it would have stood.

Also, can we please stop ganging up on taz just because she was the first of the new mods to break up the trinity of Matt, Jess and cortex?
posted by arcticseal at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, can we please stop ganging up on taz just because she was the first of the new mods to break up the trinity of Matt, Jess and cortex?

I thought it was Jessamyn's deletion, anyway. Was it actually Taz?
posted by tyllwin at 8:17 AM on June 13, 2013


Edge case deletion but I think it's been made clear that if the comment answered the question in addition to adding a note about reiki's effectiveness it would have stood.

So the policy is that it's not enough to give helpful guidance that's relevant to the OP's exact question — you also need to throw in frivolous extra "advice" to insulate the comment from deletion? Gee, I can't imagine that policy having any unintended consequences!
posted by John Cohen at 8:18 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]




My take is that if x helps a woman manage the absurd amount of pain they experience in childbirth and causes no harm and doesn't get in the way, then x is just fine.
posted by Hoopo at 8:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, can we please stop ganging up on taz just because she was the first of the new mods to break up the trinity of Matt, Jess and cortex?

Pretty sure restless_nomad came on before taz.
posted by lalex at 8:20 AM on June 13, 2013


but instead but instead of an explanation of it to a newcomer with good reason to be confused about good faith we got this – and now a lecture about how they look like they’re axe grinding.

taz's early comment looked very much like a polite explanation to a newcomer who seemed to jump to a worst-case scenario MeTa-before-email assessment of how the site operates. But I'm actually comfortable with saying that stasi/kremlin analogies make people's arguments look less good faith than they otherwise would and are uneccessarily provocative if what you're looking for is an answer to your question.

We've got to make real-world decisions about how to run a real-world website given a small staff and a 24/7 userbase. We operate with guidelines and not hard and fast rules and this is a system that does not work for everyone. We try to set expectations appropriately and we're available with immediate feedback around the clock. Sometimes we're in the awkward situation where something one of us did (my deletion in this case) has to be explained by someone who didn't do it (taz) and that's just something that happens here; sometimes we miss an opportunity for a clearer picture of what happened until some time has passed.

I'm sorry lambdaphage decided to close their account a few hours after opening this MeTa thread and I hope they come back. If they had dropped us a MeMail we might have been able to get it sorted out sooner without the account closure.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why frivolous?
posted by h00py at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2013


You know you don't have to answer, right? If you think someone has asked a question and they've negated all useful answers (I'm assuming that's the missing word) then maybe you could consider leaving it alone?

I do not answer such questions, so I do not know why you suggested that I did. The reason I do not answer such questions is because the OP has rendered the question unanswerable, either inadvertently or intentionally. I do not see the purpose of attempting to answer an unanswerable question.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not so much.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on June 13 [+] [!]


Sorry, I hoped my sarcasm would have been evident there. By "pretty neat," I meant "fucking ridiculous."
posted by MoonOrb at 8:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I wish I had brought Beastie Boys.

There's always next time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2013


Then this has nothing to do with you, Tanaziki, so why are you answering?
posted by h00py at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pretty sure restless_nomad came on before taz.

You're right, I stand corrected on my MeFi history.
posted by arcticseal at 8:24 AM on June 13, 2013


It is not the role of the doula to tell the doctor how to do their job, it is the role of the doula to advocate for the mother and child. Got that?

No, I don't "got it". I do not understand why a patient needs an intermediary between himself and his health care professional.

Patient: Tell him it hurt when I bend my elbow.
Intermediary: It hurts when he bends his elbow.
Doctor: How long has he had this problem?
Intermediary: How long have you had this problem?
posted by Tanizaki at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2013


You know, I too have in my mind that the criterion for Ask MeTa is "It's OK to give an answer and also dispute a previous answer, but it's not OK to simply dispute a previous answer." But you know, I made this comment a couple of weeks ago in AskMe, and I gotta admit, the entire content of what I wrote is "I think an answer a couple of other people gave is a bad answer," and it didn't even occur to me that it might get deleted.

So I don't actually think there are precise rules. Unlike many in this thread, I think it's good that there aren't precise rules. When rules are precise and written down, things get lawyery. In some contexts (like deciding whether somebody needs to go to jail) lawyeriness is good. But in the context of online community I think it's bad. It works better when community members, over time, organically develop an sense of what suits the community norms and what doesn't, even if these norms are not and indeed cannot be articulated as a list of formal criteria.

But maybe I just like Seeing Like a State too much.
posted by escabeche at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Stop the doula derail or take it to MeMail please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


jessamyn: Exactly. Just make a comment that is actually on the topic of the thread and isn't only arguing with other commenters and you'll be fine.

In context here, though, what if lambdaphage doesn't really have that much relevant to say about child birth besides their knowledge of those studies? You could include some boilerplate answer gleaned from Google and it could pass, but that adds noise and isn't really in the spirit of AskMe either. It just seems unfortunate that a potentially useful refutation of another answer might have to come in a not particularly useful envelope.
posted by invitapriore at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Doula DeRail" is totally gonna be my new drag name.
posted by neroli at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


MoonOrb: "By "pretty neat," I meant "fucking ridiculous.""

My sarcasm detector sucks. :) Thanks for clarifying.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on June 13, 2013


It's not obligatory to answer every question, you know. Just wait for the right one.
posted by h00py at 8:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So I haven't read the entire thread, but I grew up with a Reiki master in the house (shoutout to my mom!) and surrounded by Reiki people and I have to say that I have never, ever, ever, ever heard of a Reiki person suggesting Reiki instead of Western medical treatment for anything consequential. In addition to, yes. But never instead of. My experience with Reiki is always that it has been used for things, from coughs to dying, along with regular medicine."

Well I am myself a Reiki master, its a long story1, and I have encountered this personally. While there is certainly a lot of variation within Reiki practice, that variation does very much include the far deep H2O2 injections for extra oxygen and Reiki for detoxifying the chemotherapy that caused cancer symptoms end of the woo spectrum.

1The short story is that its a kinda of neat way to meditate in groups and I was taught it over the course of a year as a favor from one of the practitioners who is not an ass. The power of sitting the fuck down, turning off your electronics, and being present with people is non-trivial.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


, the entire content of what I wrote is "I think an answer a couple of other people gave is a bad answer,"

I disagree - I think your answer did address the OP's question.

And even if it didn't, a lot of things don't get deleted, even in the Green, because a lot of things don't get flagged and mods can't read every single askme answer.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It just seems unfortunate that a potentially useful refutation of another answer might have to come in a not particularly useful envelope.

MeMailing the OP gets the information across to them without it turning into a thread derail. There is no reason not to do that if what you want is to make sure the OP gets that information. If you can't do the minimum necessary work to tie your answer in to the OPs question and concerns than you are better off going that route. The question is about childbirth. The question specifically stated that woo answers were okay. That's basically a "There will be woo" warning. People with low woo tolerances should probably go elsewhere.

I have no opinion on Reiki and don't know much about it. If someone had showed up in the thread and had said "Prayer helped us when things got really difficult" and someone showed up with a bunch of statistics on how scientifically prayer does nothing it still would have been a non-answer to the question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


"It just seems unfortunate that a potentially useful refutation of another answer might have to come in a not particularly useful envelope."

Whenever I read AskMe and the question isn't something like "What is the capital of Norway?", what I notice is that about a third of all answers are wrong in some form or another. And it's not because I'm brilliant or anything, it's because it's a hell of a lot easier to identify, or think you've identified, something that's "wrong" than it is to be right. If people approach AskMe as an opportunity to dispute other people's assertions, like, say, how we pretty much approach MeFi and MeTa, then AskMe would be all about hundreds of comments arguing about the answers rather than actually answering the goddam questions.

There is no end in sight for an AskMe that's about disputing other answers. It doesn't make AskMe more useful, it makes it less useful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki: This is called a straw man.

And what do you call the so-called marshmallow observation and the talk about Q-rays and the hypothetical intermediary at a doctor's visit who does nothing but repeat verbatim what the doctor and patient say?

Taz made clear in this MeTa that deletions are case-by-case. And this particular case was about a particular comment that had nothing to do with marshmallows or Q-rays shooting out of anyone's eyes.
posted by payoto at 8:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


While there is certainly a lot of variation within Reiki practice, that variation does very much include the far deep H2O2 injections for extra oxygen and Reiki for detoxifying the chemotherapy that caused cancer symptoms end of the woo spectrum.

*facepalm* I may also have been sheltered from this amount of woo by my-mother-the-Reiki-master, who is decidedly not of that ilk and would not have tolerated that bullshit around her. That's never occurred to me before. Another thing to thank you for, Mom!
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2013


So the policy is that it's not enough to give helpful guidance that's relevant to the OP's exact question — you also need to throw in frivolous extra "advice" to insulate the comment from deletion? Gee, I can't imagine that policy having any unintended consequences!

The comment in question didn't stand on its own as an answer to the OP's question. Answers in AskMe need to provide an answer to the question asked by the OP, and this isn't really a new idea.

I don't know that there are a lot of hard-and-fast rules that always apply across the board to every AskMe thread in every situation, at least in terms of moderation. They're guidelines. This gets said a lot. Moderation is not done by robots.

So it's not super useful to try to take the logic here and apply it to situations where it's not analogous. This wasn't just an instance where the comment disagreed with previous advice - that's been done a lot, and in many cases it's not deleted. It was an instance where:

1. The OP asked for experiences in a particular area, and said that experiences which included pseudoscientific bullshit were welcome
2. Someone did indeed contribute an experience which included pseudoscientific bullshit, in this case reiki
3. lambdaphage replied that reiki is pretty much just pseudoscientific bullshit(which, yes, it is, but whether or not reiki is bullshit is irrelevant to this particular matter)

So no, this wasn't helpful guidance, and it didn't answer the OP's question.

It is and has always been possible to answer a question in a way which disagrees with previous answers. This is not a thing with terrifying implications for the site as a whole.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:45 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Tanizaki: "I do not know your line of work, but imagine your reaction if someone were to come into your workspace and tell you that, despite your professional experience and that person's utter lack of professional experience, you were not doing your job quite right. In fact, they knew how to help you do your job better, perhaps by standing besides you and shooting invisible Q-rays out of their eyes. What would be your reaction?"

elizardbits: "Dude that would be rad and you know it."

It is honestly a lot of fun, at least the first few times, but it does get old very fast.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I may also have been sheltered from this amount of woo by my-mother-the-Reiki-master, who is decidedly not of that ilk and would not have tolerated that bullshit around her. That's never occurred to me before. Another thing to thank you for, Mom!

Yeah I was going to say, there are definitely people who are into reiki (or any other pseudoscience) and who reject evidence-based medicine entirely in favor of it, but I already knew your mother wasn't one of them. I knew this because you're still alive.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've memailed askers when I'm not entirely certain my answer fits their criteria, and I don't want to noise up the thread. Seems to work okay.
posted by rtha at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2013


MeMailing the OP gets the information across to them without it turning into a thread derail. There is no reason not to do that if what you want is to make sure the OP gets that information. If you can't do the minimum necessary work to tie your answer in to the OPs question and concerns than you are better off going that route.

Well, my thinking was that (again from the future question readers' perspective) that sort of correction can be valuable as public information, but I do understand the concern that an AskMe where correction-only answers were explicitly allowed would be one where we'd see a lot of the infighting typical of threads on the blue and the grey. I still wish in my heart of hearts that the comment from the OP hadn't been deleted, but oh well! Reasonable people can disagree without one of them being Hitler.
posted by invitapriore at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Reasonable people can disagree without one of them being Hitler.

I will carry this is my secret heart pocket over to this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Blasdelb: "(like the one you found enough fault here for the deletion but even taz didn’t find while throwing out seemingly random guesses until EST morning)"

shakespeherian: "I am pretty seriously of the opinion that if taz just changed her username to something else the MetaTalk post rate would drop by 50% until everyone realized it was her again."

If you really read this as an attack on taz, maybe try parsing the grammar again? I actually agree with you and honestly if I had to choose taz would easily be my favorite mod.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:58 AM on June 13, 2013


Reasonable people can disagree without one of them being Hitler.

You know who else thought that...

(And he was right, too.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on June 13, 2013


if I had to choose taz would easily be my favorite mod.

Saying that her participation in this thread was akin to "throwing out seemingly random guesses" sounded fairly insulting to her to my read. She's a professional. We all are. You may not agree with how we do our jobs, which is fine, but there are ways to have respectful conversations with us about that without implying that we're just halfassing our participation here which is our workplace. We have some flaws individually and probably collectively, but being random is very much not one of them. Maybe that's not what you meant to be getting across?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


i'm not sure that i've ever publicly disagreed with a deletion before, but i do agree that this one was hasty. we've lost a lot of doctors, scientists, etc through the years due to bad advice standing in ask.me, and i've generally been of the opinion - well, this community can't be all things for all people - and part of that is because the mods have pretty much always said - we don't delete wrong advice, counter it with right advice (without arguing with other posters) - and that's what happened here and it was still deleted. in the grand scheme, not a big deal. the site will move on. we'll be poorer for losing a couple good posters, but more will show up.
posted by nadawi at 9:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Saying that her participation in this thread was akin to "throwing out seemingly random guesses" sounded fairly insulting to her to my read.

Ditto. I feel like this is a recurring issue in metatalk, where someone(s) want an answer to Why X Happened where X is some moderation action or inaction, and what we can practically do is lay out some of the things that inform that decision—written guidelines and policy, established practices, the context of the specific comment/exchange/thread, general goals for keeping this place workable, etc—but it's then taken as some sort of absolutist thing where one or some subset of those thoughts get evaluated as a "it is always and only this!" assertion that must be evaluated as true or false.

It's a weird mismatch between the spirit in which moderation is done here and how I feel like some folks want to think that it should be done or how they would do it if they were making the calls. I can sort of understand it as someone who gets to being an analytical nerdlinger about plenty of things myself, but it seems like a frustrating-to-both-sides misapprehension of how this place works.

Reasonable people can disagree without one of them being Hitler.

I would argue that with the right sort of transporter cloning mishap and concomitant divergence of lived experiences, and the premise that he was, under different circumstances, a fundamentally reformable human being, you could even end up with two reasonable people disagreeing while both of them are Hitler.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


secret heart pocket

I am not a distinguished heart scientist but if this condition persists I urge you to consult a medical professional.
posted by elizardbits at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here in New England it sounds like "secret Hot Pocket" and we've all got those.
posted by in278s at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Saying that her participation in this thread was akin to "throwing out seemingly random guesses" sounded fairly insulting to her to my read. She's a professional. We all are. You may not agree with how we do our jobs, which is fine, but there are ways to have respectful conversations with us about that without implying that we're just halfassing our participation here which is our workplace. We have some flaws individually and probably collectively, but being random is very much not one of them. Maybe that's not what you meant to be getting across?"

What I was trying to get across is that when even you guys have trouble explaining what exactly about an answer that another deleted fails to meet the style guidelines, even if it is plainly yet unspokenly potentially problematic as an otherwise innocent fight starter that y'all would have to deal with, that may be a reflection of the systemic issues with how moderation work is structured and explained on Metafilter that I think lambdaphage was trying to convey. I mean I've been here for a while and, as is just as plain from upthread, I also couldn't have guessed that the official technical problem with the answer would end up being an absence of something like "If you end up considering reiki for pain relief" as a fig leaf on the front and would have been in the same position of grasping at the totally-not-relevant FAQ for straws if I were to have needed to come up with a technical answer.

It feels like this is a problem that a lot of people, especially new people, come across and maybe its not the fault of the stair climbers
posted by Blasdelb at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


nadawi: " in the grand scheme, not a big deal. the site will move on. we'll be poorer for losing a couple good posters, but more will show up."

Sure, and then they may leave as well. Not an ideal situation.

I realize it's impossible to make everyone happy, but stemming the attrition rate would be nice.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on June 13, 2013


There is no end in sight for an AskMe that's about disputing other answers. It doesn't make AskMe more useful, it makes it less useful.

I disagree. It happens all the time. Do a search in AskMe comments for 'disagree'. You'll find a lot of disputes over answers (over ten a day), and most of them make the site better. And these would just be the ones that use the word 'disagree'; there are surely a lot more.
posted by painquale at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq, i agree. i deleted about 10 different lines after that one because all i had was snark. my perfect metafilter would be one where this answer would have stood. but i also don't think the answer being deleted puts the blame for lambdaphage and Mitheral leaving on the shoulders of the mods. we're all responsible for our own reactions. hitting the big red button after a deletion is pretty much always the straw and rarely the whole of the issue.
posted by nadawi at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oops, sorry, not over 10 a day. Still a lot though.
posted by painquale at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2013


nadawi, I agree completely.
posted by zarq at 9:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize its impossible to make everyone happy, but stemming the attrition rate would be nice.

I feel like all in all the attrition rate is pretty darned low already. This is not to say it's not a bummer when someone who otherwise sees value in this place feels like it's not working for them, because of course that's not a utopic outcome, but there's a certain amount of account closure that, in a community with thousands of active members, we have to expect as just baseline normal.

And for what it's worth, Mitheral's note on the admin side when he hit the button was "I'll be back; just need a break." Folks take breaks sometimes, and sometimes they self-enforce it vs. just closing the browser window, and that's a totally okay and healthy thing to do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


My take is that if x helps a woman manage the absurd amount of pain they experience in childbirth and causes no harm and doesn't get in the way, then x is just fine.

But the deleted comment was saying the remedy does not help! And when you choose one remedy, you often decline other remedies in the process. Not always — it's possible to take multiple remedies. But people have a finite amount of time, patience, and money to try out different remedies. And to the extent there's any implication that pseudoscience shouldn't be criticized if it falsely purports to "help women," I find this highly objectionable.
posted by John Cohen at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


And when you choose one remedy, you often decline other remedies in the process. Not always — it's possible to take multiple remedies. But people have a finite amount of time, patience, and money to try out different remedies.

And some remedies have negative side effects, like pitocin, C-sections, epidermals, etc. Reiki doesn't. And if it calms and soothes a woman during birth, its a good thing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:59 AM on June 13, 2013


I think it's high time that we allowed people to simply rephrase their deleted AskMe answers so that they can conform their answers to the AskMe guidelines rather than forcing them to leave the site.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would say paying for a treatment that doesn't actually do anything is a harm. That depends on how you define working I guess if you are okay with a placebo effect.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is absurd that a person older than 15 would quit this site in a huff over one comment being deleted.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


If we could steer clear of wide-ranging conversations about things like epidurals until I'm in front of a keyboard, that would be great.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


can the reiki conversation be stemmed? the debate about how useful or not useful the treatment is seems tangential to whether it's permissible to give scientifically sound advice that disagrees, but doesn't argue with another poster. the crux seems to be that some people seem to think it answered the question and some people (most notably, the mods) thought it was just disagreement.
posted by nadawi at 10:05 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's high time that we allowed people to simply rephrase their deleted AskMe answers so that they can conform their answers to the AskMe guidelines rather than forcing them to leave the site.

I thought this was a thing that already is allowed, if you email the mods about the deletion?
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:06 AM on June 13, 2013


thatsthejoke.jpg
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


But the deleted comment was saying the remedy does not help! And when you choose one remedy, you often decline other remedies in the process.

I thought the OP's question made it pretty clear that they were open to considering all kinds of things, from woo to peer-reviewed, so I think your reading in this particular case is off. If instead of using the word "reiki" the person who mentioned it had said "foot massage" (which, from a quick google of reiki and foot seems to be what it is, regardless of anyone's intentions of giving off magical healing vibes), nobody would be bitching about the lack of SCIENCE about the helpfulness of foot massages.
posted by rtha at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"hings like epidurals" will be the name of polka rap band.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2013


It is absurd that a person older than 15 would quit this site in a huff over one comment being deleted.

i see it more as a continuation of a long conversation we've had about "wrong" answers and bad medical or scientific advice, especially as it relates to people who feel the moderation policy is one that makes it hard for them to participate because of professional ethics. if you search metatalk posts for "medical advice" you'll find lots and lots of threads. sometimes the end result is that a poster quits, or spends more time on other subsites, or only answers questions about which laptop to buy. it seems disingenuous to describe this conflict as a teenager tantrum.
posted by nadawi at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I thought this was a thing that already is allowed, if you email the mods about the deletion?"

Oops, MoonOrb is stuck in irony mood, again.

"If we could steer clear of wide-ranging conversations about things like epidurals until I'm in front of a keyboard, that would be great."
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:09 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, just disagreement should be ok, as long as an explanation of why there's disagreement is detailed in the comment. Taking Mitheral for an example - he's an electrician, and gives a lot of answers to questions about electrical work. If someone gave an answer to an electrical question that was potentially dangerous and Mitheral (or someone else, like Flood) gave an answer that explained why it was so and nothing else, there's no reason for that answer not to stand.
posted by LionIndex at 10:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Ivan, my tongue was firmly in cheek.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2013


It's like Ivan can see into my soul.

On a non-ironic, earnest note: I think it's okay to have community discussions so people understand when an AskMe answer is likely to be deleted and when it is likely to remain in the thread. I think it's ridiculous, though, for people to get extremely upset about deleted AskMe responses because (1) they have an immediate chance to re-post the answer in a way that conforms to the guidelines; (2) they can use the contact form to get assistance if this is hard for them to figure out on their own; and (3) they should (in my view) appreciate that deletions are judgment calls and not flip out about it.

So when people wind up closing their accounts over it, I think they're being silly, and I also think that we just should not get that worked up over deleted AskMe answers--re-read the guidelines, ask the mods for help, and give it another go. Consider the deletion a cue to mean, "Hey, try again to work within the AskMe framework," not "MetaFilter officially supports pseudoscience and is officially anti-science," or whatever your particular touchy spot happens to be.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Christian prayer had been suggested, doubtless the AskMe thread would be even longer at this juncture.

I must add that in some hospitals religious services may be offered to patients who cannot refuse them. I was born prematurely in a Catholic hospital. Though my parents are not Catholics, I was baptized as a Catholic by the hospital chaplain or whoever (obviously, I remember none of this) because they thought I might die. I don't think my mom was in a condition to refuse to have her kid baptized; she had a potentially life-threatening infection and was afraid for her baby.

I am now an atheist.

Obviously, the child born to a mom treated with Reiki will grow up to be a rabid anti-woo crusader.
posted by bad grammar at 10:23 AM on June 13, 2013


"If someone gave an answer to an electrical question that was potentially dangerous and Mitheral (or someone else, like Flood) gave an answer that explained why it was so and nothing else, there's no reason for that answer not to stand."

If your criterion is whether an answer is wrong and the person disputing the answer is an expert, how do you determine this? Who adjudicates this?

That's an impossible standard, it won't work. Either you allow anyone to dispute anything because they think it's wrong, or you don't. This is what the special snowflake experts disregard. I don't know that someone is actually a doctor. Self-attesting to authority is unreliable.

"Yeah, Ivan, my tongue was firmly in cheek."

I figured. :)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2013


I would say paying for a treatment that doesn't actually do anything is a harm. That depends on how you define working I guess if you are okay with a placebo effect.

Does the "placebo effect" not describe the effect where people report improvement despite being given a placebo? We're talking about a situation that is incredibly stressful and painful. Any perceived improvement can be helpful.

But the deleted comment was saying the remedy does not help! And when you choose one remedy, you often decline other remedies in the process. Not always — it's possible to take multiple remedies. But people have a finite amount of time, patience, and money to try out different remedies. And to the extent there's any implication that pseudoscience shouldn't be criticized if it falsely purports to "help women," I find this highly objectionable.

The deleted comment apparently said it has no measurable effect. Which is probably true, but not the same as saying it cannot help someone manage their pain. The same can probably said about playing Dead Can Dance throughout. It's just a question of comfort and focusing on something else. Furthermore, if you read the question this person is more than adequately prepared in pretty much every way and asked for "metaphysical" suggestions among other things, so I don't see how there's any concern about declining other remedies in favor of woo like Reiki. There is no danger. She's going to be in a hospital equipped with a birthing pool and yoga ball, accompanied by a midwife and doctors.
posted by Hoopo at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


If Christian prayer had been suggested, doubtless the AskMe thread would be even longer at this juncture.

I dunno, if someone had said "I am a Bible-believing Christian, and I had a lot of success in giving my pain to Jesus when it got to be too much for me to handle," I feel like that would have been an answer to the question and would have withstood deletion. It may not be a specifically useful answer to the OP, but it would have been an acceptable answer as per site policy.
posted by KathrynT at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, but that's why I specified that they would need to provide an explanation for why something would be wrong, instead of just asserting their authority. As far as I know, this is how AskMe has always worked, so the whole thing of having to throw an answer into your comment in addition to your elucidated disagreement is throwing me. What if the disagreer has already answered the question, and a "wrong" answer gets posted after theirs? Can they not dispute it?
posted by LionIndex at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Can they not dispute it?"

Why do they need to?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:30 AM on June 13, 2013


Doulas are valued by the person actually having the child, you nonce.
posted by h00py at 10:52 AM on June 13 [2 favorites +][!]


You called someone a child molester over this? For reals?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:32 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's an impossible standard, it won't work. Either you allow anyone to dispute anything because they think it's wrong, or you don't.

So, you do. And let the reader sort it out. I don't think anyone suggested that the only disagreements that should be allowed to stand are those from figures of authority.

"I wouldn't follow McX's plumbing advice... I tried that once and it broke my toilet. Here's a way I found that was better." Do you think that comment should be deleted? It seems great to me.
posted by painquale at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh, well that bomb over definitions of an insult is sure to help the meta along...
posted by nadawi at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You called someone a child molester over this? For reals?

No. That dictionary you link to is a bit out of date for how the term is generally used.
posted by Hoopo at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would say paying for a treatment that doesn't actually do anything is a harm. That depends on how you define working I guess if you are okay with a placebo effect.

Does the "placebo effect" not describe the effect where people report improvement despite being given a placebo? We're talking about a situation that is incredibly stressful and painful. Any perceived improvement can be helpful.


The problem is the placebo effect is a bit dependent on deception. It doesn't work as well when you honestly explain up front that you are charging them for a sugar pill and people are less willing to pay you money for it.

If the advice was to donate money to a Church in order to receive Christian prayers, it would have been a different situation than someone simply suggesting prayer can help.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2013


Why do they need to?

Because their previous answer didn't specifically preclude the following wrong one.

Really, the expertise or authority of the answerer is not relevant to the issue as long as a response to a wrong answer is fully explained.
posted by LionIndex at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2013


Metafilter doesn't like to get its feelings hurt. If someone's wrong and your pointing it out will make them sad, then it's a derail.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:38 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of being new and not really having a good handle on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [51 favorites]


It always weirds me out to see Metafilter members posting about Metafilter like it's a monolithic entity that they're somehow outside of.
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ah gotcha, my only exposure to the word previously was in the Brass Eye "Nonse-sense" section in the Paedogeddon episode.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:41 AM on June 13, 2013


If that was directed at me cortex I would say that that seems to be an ad hominem statement and doesn't address the point being made.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


An insult isn't the same thing as an ad hominem.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


no worries Lentrohamsanin, it pretty much get used synonymously with "dumbass" or something in my experience. The experience of having a British father who thinks I'm a dumbass. At least I hope that's what it means, because he did used to call me a little bugger too....
posted by Hoopo at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


A weary dismissal is not the same thing as an insult.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


If that was directed at me cortex I would say that that seems to be an ad hominem

It's not ad hom. Christ, learn your terms.

You are new. You don't have a great handle on how things work here. You talk like you *do* and that's a problem sometimes.
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument.[2] Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy,[3][4][5] more precisely an irrelevance.[6]

I reiterate my position.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, it was rude of me and I should have bit my tongue. But you are new, in your newness you have exercised a lot of headstrong cluelessness about how the site works, and you just waltzed in here to blithely chuck out a derisive and dismissive mischaracterization of the site and its userbase based on your personal inability so far to get a handle on this place. I apologize for expressing that snarkily.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [35 favorites]


Speaking of being new and not really having a good handle on the site.

Being patronizing and passive-aggressive to new users is perhaps not an ideal to strive for.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we not make this about ishrinkmajeans again? Please?
posted by julen at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Because their previous answer didn't specifically preclude the following wrong one."

And it didn't need to do so. To helpfully answer someone's question, you don't need to explicitly disprove every other answer that you think is wrong. You don't need to do it and you shouldn't do it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2013


You know, it was rude of me and I should have bit my tongue

TIL cortex types with his tongue
posted by Hoopo at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I reiterate my position.

Your position being, if anyone needs a reminder, that deletions are based on people feeling sad over being corrected.

This is a worthwhile conversation to have and not at all worthy of derision.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sigh.
posted by invitapriore at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


i really hate it when a reasonable disagreement is happening and then someone ostensibly on "my side" waltzes in and shits in the punch bowl. makes me want to herald the deletion out of spite.
posted by nadawi at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


As a meme this really needs to be reconsidered. People flapping their hands and saying "Placebo effect! Placebo effect!" seem to miss the fact that plenty of people's lives have been affected quite positively by it.

My god, I cannot favorite this comment and others like it hard enough. If the goal is the reduction of a person's experience of pain/suffering, especially short-term, then placebo effects are EXCELLENT THINGS because they help achieve the goal without a lot of the potential complications associated with medical or surgical treatment.

When I was a teenager and got excruciating menstrual cramps and endometriosis-produced intestinal cramps, something not entirely different from labor pains, I used to imagine in as much vivid visual and tactile detail as I could the pain draining out of my back, through my skin, and dripping onto the floor. Yes, this is complete and total bullshit, and I was aware of that, but you know, it helped my brain and body lessen the painful sensation or my perception of it.

Pretty much any non-harmful thing that can get a person through labor with less distress, misery, exhaustion, anxiety -- all of which can contribute to non-optimal outcomes -- should be fair game.

So it was a dumb answer, which is not grounds for deletion since incorrect answers are permitted, but also an irrelevant answer that misread the question or addressed a different question from the one the asker posed.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


waltzed in here to blithely chuck

I apologize for expressing that snarkily.

These statements seem diametrically opposed and the latter doesn't seem made in good faith. Again my point has not been addressed. People on this board do not want their sacred cows slaughtered even, especially, if they're wrong. There seems no way to evaluate a truth statement without resort to a popularity contest. And that's a huge problem.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:54 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


And that's a huge problem.

It's really not.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


These statements seem diametrically opposed and do not seem made in good faith.

That apology was like the goodest faith thing I seen all week.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [34 favorites]


There seems no way to evaluate a truth statement - isn't that one of the fundamental problems with internet discussions? What could possibly be done about that that wouldn't inhibit conversation?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2013


It's easier to address your point if you explain it more fully than "Metafilter doesn't like to get its feelings hurt. If someone's wrong and your pointing it out will make them sad, then it's a derail." The way you chose to express your point coupled with the way you have interacted with people here makes it unlikely that people will take it very seriously. I can see how that would frustrate you, but you can trace the problem here pretty directly back to the way you chose to frame your point in this thread.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am going to request, in all seriousness, that the mods not allow ishrinkmajeans to participate in this thread. His comment was clearly all about the chip on his shoulder and not really about this thread, and cortex's unwise snark now provides him with an opportunity to feel even more aggrieved and hijack the conversation. I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone in desperately, even angrily, hoping that this hijack won't happen.

On Preview: it's already happening.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:58 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


This thread is now about Batman.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


People on this board...

Whaaaaa? I thought we were Kerbals on Mun.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 AM on June 13, 2013


Again my point has not been addressed. People on this board do not want their sacred cows slaughtered even, especially, if they're wrong.

I'm not sure what about your point needs specific addressing? It seemed like you showed up here nearly 300 comments into a thread and made a blanket statement about "How MetaFilter is" It didn't really seem like you wanted to have a conversation about it. We don't moderate based on what hurts people's feelings. We have a long history of how we do moderate here which is outlined in the FAQ and over many discussions in MetaTalk. It's fine if you don't know about those discussions but it's the ongoing feeling of myself and others that you don't even care to know about how the site works. There's no reason people who are trying to have a good faith discussion about how the site works should drop everything and attend to your comment as if you were trying to engage people here in conversation because you were legitimately curious about things. You can try harder and people will probably address your points. You can drop us a note to the contact form and we will talk to you about any mod-specific questions that you have. But making this thread all about your misunderstandings about the site is not going to happen.

I am going to request, in all seriousness, that the mods not allow ishrinkmajeans to participate in this thread.

We literally have no mechanism for making that happen. People can ignore him if they want.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


And it didn't need to do so. To helpfully answer someone's question, you don't need to explicitly disprove every other answer that you think is wrong. You don't need to do it and you shouldn't do it.

This isn't a binary thing. There are some instances where it should be done, although I certainly agree that not every question should involve people defending their answers against all subsequent ones. As much as we may not want to admit it, some answers are made by drive-by commenters basically pulling stuff out of their ass with no knowledge about the subject of the question. Sometimes, that's even ok. Sometimes, it's distinctly unhelpful, and the asker gets more utility from their question if its explained why those answers are incorrect.
posted by LionIndex at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


he could be given a timeout for behaving in ways he's been asked many times to stop...
posted by nadawi at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2013


Again my point has not been addressed. People on this board do not want their sacred cows slaughtered even, especially, if they're wrong.

I'm not sure what about your point needs specific addressing?


I don't think he is demanding it be addressed, but rather that if it does not need to be addressed not to substitute snark or personal comments.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2013


If someone's wrong and your pointing it out will make them sad, then it's a derail.

The thing is, this is wrong. I've pointed out people's wrongness in askme plenty of times, and when I've done it while also answering the question and refraining from calling anyone an asshole, there is no deletion.

If it was meant to be snark, up your game. (Not really.)
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I mean, that claim is pretty easily falsified by any number of threads that got heated, both on the blue and on the green. Kind of a head-tilt, "what?" moment.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2013


I don't mean to make this about me, so I don't want to start a fight.

But consider.

Someone says, "Reiki works to do what you want to do."

And lambdaphage says, "The evidence says that Reiki doesn't work."

Now, from a moderator perspective we delete lambdaphage's comment, because he is not specifically answering the discussion (ie he is engaging in a sub-discussion over definitions). But from a point of truth, he is saying specifically that the Reiki comment is the wrong answer to the posters question because it doesn't work. So what we have is that the moderators are following a guideline for discussion that promotes Storms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U) which is terrible. And these sort of things promote poor thinking and sacred cows and opinions up the wazoo. Arguments over truth statements only get flagged and pointed out to the moderator when a majority of people disagree, rather than when the argument is well sourced, which promotes group think and strong site biases (or at least seems to do so to me).

I think it's a huge problem that there's not a way to address people's points in a thread about whether they are truthfully relevant or not.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that will ultimately be one of the "problems" with conversing on the internet- sometimes you just have to go to bed and let someone be wrong. Especially in spaces where a back-and-forth debate isn't appropriate, like an AskMetafilter question where the poster is looking for help on another subject.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:19 AM on June 13, 2013


Obviously, the child born to a mom treated with Reiki will grow up to be a rabid anti-woo crusader.

Is this proof of homeopathic application of faith? I imagine the experiments will be very long-term and probably unethical.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Comments get flagged and pointed out to the mods when literally any one person flags that comment.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


But from a point of truth

AskMes are not moderated based on the truth-content of the statements within them. They are moderated for appropriateness. This was discussed many times before.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone says, "Reiki works to do what you want to do."

And lambdaphage says, "The evidence says that Reiki doesn't work."


Except that the asker said, "I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use" (emphasis added), and the answerer said, "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped." lambdaphage's reply was directly contradicting a personal experience, which the question specifically asked for.
posted by Etrigan at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


from a moderator perspective we delete lambdaphage's comment, because he is not specifically answering the discussion (ie he is engaging in a sub-discussion over definitions). But from a point of truth, he is saying specifically that the Reiki comment is the wrong answer to the posters question because it doesn't work. So what we have is that the moderators are following a guideline for discussion that promotes Storms which is terrible. And these sort of things promote poor thinking

OK, seriously I don't think people even read the comment in question. Among a lot of good practical advice was the following: "I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped." Think about this for a minute: what we are talking about is someone getting the equivalent of a foot massage from a family friend. There is no freaking danger here, no endorsement of Reiki as something to supplant proper medical practices. "Poor thinking" indeed.
posted by Hoopo at 11:27 AM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Someone says, "Reiki works to do what you want to do."

That's not what the comment said: I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped.

As has been pointed out multiple times upthread, if lambdaphage had said something like "Scientific evidence [foo] does not show reiki as doing...anything. But if you like foot massages, sure, why not?" it very likely would not have been deleted.

The point of askme is not to prevent poor thinking or protect sacred cows. It is to helpfully answer people's questions.
posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


So what we have is that the moderators are following a guideline for discussion that promotes Storms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U) which is terrible

It would help immensely if you learned to make active hyperlinks on Metafilter. Here's instructions on how to do so. Yes, it's somewhat annoying that the site doesn't automatically do so, but is how the site works, so there you go. I suspect few people are going to copy and paste the URL on their own, so whatever point you're trying to communicate is falling on lots of deaf ears.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's a huge problem that there's not a way to address people's points in a thread about whether they are truthfully relevant or not.

MeMail works.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2013


ismj--maybe this is a case of competing values, where protecting answers that are coming from a "point of truth" perspective isn't always the most important value in AskMe.

Also, it's possible that answers can both we well-sourced and truthful and stay within AskMe guidelines; a deletion doesn't mean that truth isn't valued--the answer can almost always be reposted in a way that fits the guidelines.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2013


There is also a killfile script one can use if the contributions of another member become unbearable.
posted by elizardbits at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's a huge problem that there's not a way to address people's points in a thread about whether they are truthfully relevant or not.

There is. This entire thread could have been avoided, and at least one moderator has admitted this above, if Lambdaphage's comment had been structured as, "Here's an answer to your question: _____. And by the way, with regard to Reiki, here's something else to consider: _____."

Comments are not edited for content. A moderator will never, ever delete a paragraph from your answer in AskMe. And comments on AskMe are generally not removed if they answer the question. So whether your intentions are pure and helpful, or whether you're a jerk intent on dropping your bomb into the thread, you will usually avoid deletion if your comment follows one simple rule: some part directly answers the OP's question.
posted by cribcage at 11:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is to helpfully answer people's questions.

Pointing out in a respectful, adult manner that woo is woo is helpful in answering questions. When we lose sight of that — when we delete such answers and actively push out smart people offering their help for free — we lose sight of what makes Ask Metafilter a useful resource.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:39 AM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not if the question being asked is includes the caveat, "I'm open to personal anecdotes about woo."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:42 AM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


For those bothered by a particular user, there is Killfile script, which works in Firefox, Chrome and Safari, provided you have Greasemonkey installed in FireFox/Chrome or Greasekit for Safari
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dear AskMe, my 10 year old son is in bed with a not-too-terrible case of strep throat. What can you suggest to help him get through the experience most comfortably?

Answer 1:
Watch The Princess Bride with him, or, better yet, read him the book. That worked with my little guy.

Answer 2:
These studies from Johns Hopkins exhaustively show that The Princess Bride has absolutely no efficacy in killing streptococcus.

Sorry, Answer 2 gets the bum's rush.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


Pointing out in a respectful, adult manner that woo is woo is helpful in answering questions. When we lose sight of that — when we delete such answers and actively push out smart people offering their help for free — we lose sight of what makes Ask Metafilter a useful resource.

This ignores the Ask OP's specific request:
While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use.
So a "metaphysical" answer is helpful, one that refutes a "metaphysical" answer without offering a different answer is arguing with other commenters and not helpful.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:46 AM on June 13, 2013


Pointing out in a respectful, adult manner that woo is woo is helpful in answering questions. When we lose sight of that — when we delete such answers and actively push out smart people offering their help for free — we lose sight of what makes Ask Metafilter a useful resource.

People seemed to be able to do that quite a bit without it getting deleted here.

The comment was deleted because the OP explicitly said that woo was okay. I suspect it would not have been deleted if the question had included something like, "Oh and also we have friends who keep saying we should try mystical stuff like reiki and reflexology and we don't really know a lot about that, so any info about those would be great."
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:46 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since no one has mentioned it already, there's a killfile script that exists.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't know why we have to presume that just because the op said "woo is ok", they cannot and must not be confronted with evidence that "woo is not effective".
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:48 AM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Because that is how AskMe works.

They can be confronted with such evidence. Just send them a MeMail.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since no one has mentioned it already, there's a killfile script that exists.

No, ieathatsandscarves mentioned it two comments above yours.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2013


Q: "I am being sued, what do I do? Suggesting a fortune teller is OK."

A: "Fortune teller is not an attorney, do not take their legal advice."

And the MeMail suggestion assumes that nobody else will ever seek advice from this thread.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


We may soon need a script to kill mentions of killfile scripts after the first in a thread....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:51 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honest question: If the OP was given a suggestion to do some sort of pseudoscience that was actually counter productive or even dangerous (having only a vegetarian diet to reduce labor pains ingesting herbal supplements that could be potentially dangerous etc.) would we not have an obligation to point out that this was wrong whether or not the OP wanted to hear about it?

EDIT: Kiltedtaco posted same idea two above my post at the same time.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some odd reason I don't understand, not a single person has mentioned that you can use a killfile script if there are users whose contributions you don't want to see. You really might want to think about using it, the killfile script can make your metafilter experience so serene and peaceful!
posted by medusa at 11:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Q: "I am being sued, what do I do? Suggesting a fortune teller is OK."

A: "Fortune teller is not an attorney, do not take their legal advice."


Because that seems like a reasonable parallel to what happened
posted by Hoopo at 11:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


would we not have an obligation to point out that this was wrong whether or not the OP wanted to hear about it?

We don't really play the counterfactual game here. What happened was that someone said that a footrub helped a friend. Replying with cites against footrubs isn't on-topic or question answering.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Q: "I am being sued, what do I do? Suggesting a fortune teller is OK."

A: "Fortune teller is not an attorney, do not take their legal advice."


This is not even remotely analogous to what happened.

A more appropriate scenario would be:

Q: "I'm anxious about some uncertainty in the future. I need help, and am open to fortune telling"

A: "Don't go see a fortune teller".
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:53 AM on June 13, 2013


Also no one has any obligation to answer any question on AskMe at all. You're not even obligated to read them, for fuck's sake.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I dunno. I have gone back and forth on this. But the OP did NOT say, "I would appreciate woo that has been shown to be effective. Please do not give me all that other crazy woo that doesn't work".

If the OP framed her request in that manner, then I think the answer could stand. Because the OP specifically wants "woo that works". But the "woo is OK" general framing, to me, implies that the scientific merit of the advice is not a primary concern and that push back with studies is not wanted or needed.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2013


It's borderline, because in the framing scientifically based stuff is mentioned as the preferred answer. It seems to suggest being open to personal anecdotes without neccesarily rejecting tempering then with the preferred scientific information.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


And the MeMail suggestion assumes that nobody else will ever seek advice from this thread.

The primary "recipient" of any AskMe is the OP of that AskMe, and their interests and needs trump any added value to posterity.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


isn't there room for an opinion that both answers were ok - obviously not in the thread because the mods made that call already, but in this conversation here it seems like an ok position to take. the op asked for woo and scientifically minded stuff. someone posts woo, someone posts the scientific viewpoint on woo - to me that seems completely logical and keeping with how ask me has been moderated historically - no attacks, no arguing with the other poster, just putting forward the research. i mean, it seems like if the poster had a more verbose style their answer probably would have stood (by just tacking on, "foot rubs feel nice though - so go nuts!").
posted by nadawi at 12:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


The only difference in these scenarios is the level of harm that could be experienced by someone who takes the advice that is recommended against in the comments. That is not my point; my point is that informing the OP of what courses of action are shown to be not helpful is actually a useful answer to the question. You can argue that showing reiki is not medically helpful doesn't actually help the poster because reiki doesn't do any harm, but that's a pretty weird area to be defending.

I guess I just find it blatantly obvious that "What should I not do?" is an inherent part of any question asking "What should I do about x?".
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I wouldn't follow McX's plumbing advice... I tried that once and it broke my toilet. Here's a way I found that was better." Do you think that comment should be deleted? It seems great to me.
posted by painquale at 6:33 PM on June 13


It's the "Here's a way I found that was better." part that is helpful to the hypothetical OP and, I'm assuming, would mean it wasn't deleted. The post this thread is about didn't have that part.
"I want to know how to do this thing."
"Here's how not to do this thing." - not helpful.
"Here's how not to do this thing. Instead, here's how you could do it." - helpful.
posted by billiebee at 12:10 PM on June 13, 2013


We don't really play the counterfactual game here.

Okay but what if we did, what then?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2013 [51 favorites]


i mean, it seems like if the poster had a more verbose style their answer probably would have stood (by just tacking on, "foot rubs feel nice though - so go nuts!").

I agree with that; a lot of the hard line answers here come off like r/atheism comments and personally I don't really care for it.

You can argue that showing reiki is not medically helpful doesn't actually help the poster because reiki doesn't do any harm, but that's a pretty weird area to be defending.

a reiki foot rub may provide comfort and relaxation. There's nothing weird there.
posted by Hoopo at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2013


the op asked for woo and scientifically minded stuff. someone posts woo, someone posts the scientific viewpoint on woo - to me that seems completely logical and keeping with how ask me has been moderated historically - no attacks, no arguing with the other poster, just putting forward the research.

Except that's kind of the definition of a derail -- the OP asks for answers. Someone gives "woo answer X." Someone else says "woo answer X is wrong; this is why." There is a significant danger that the thread will become more about "woo answer X" rather than answering the OP's question. Thus all the suggestions that a positive answer that could be employed either instead of or along with "woo answer X" would have made a big difference, because it keeps the focus on the question.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's borderline, because in the framing scientifically based stuff is mentioned as the preferred answer.

Well, in that case, the most relevant answers to a question about pain management in labor would be stuff like the advice given on the (I hope we can agree) scientifically-based Johns Hopkins patient education page about labor, which begins its pain management section with "Non-medicated measures" that enhance comfort and control including:
Relaxation. These techniques such as progressive relaxation, in which various muscle groups are relaxed in series, can help a woman detect tension and be better able to release that tension.

Touch. This may include massage or light stroking to relieve tension. A jetted bath or a shower during labor may also be effective ways to relieve pain or tension. Ask your physician or midwife before taking a tub bath in labor.

Imagery. These technique of using the mind to form mental pictures that help create relaxed feelings.

Meditation or focused thinking. Meditation focuses on an object or task, such as breathing helps direct the mind away from the discomforts.
But certainly not reiki!
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, this is complete and total bullshit, and I was aware of that, but you know, it helped my brain and body lessen the painful sensation or my perception of it.

Or it could be that time passed. You would have no way of knowing.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2013


More than anywhere else on the site, comments in AskMe have a defined purpose: to answer the question. It's up to the asker to decide which responses best fit their needs, so they can move forward.

Answers we give may draw from our personal experiences, but in conjunction with that we really should be trying to leave our own egos at the door in order to be most helpful.

Getting into pissing matches with each other over the rightness of our answers doesn't help the OP get answers, and neither do derails that spin the thread topic out of focus.
posted by zarq at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Heh, good timing Tanizaki
posted by Hoopo at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2013


Or it could be that time passed. You would have no way of knowing.

They probably know more about their own experience than a complete stranger though.
posted by billiebee at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Tanizaki: " Or it could be that time passed. You would have no way of knowing."

You don't know this. Subjective experience is subjective.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Subjective experience is subjective.

That kind of statement tends to be threatening to people who have a lot invested in the idea of "experts." Who, of course, always KNOW BETTER.
posted by neroli at 12:31 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Q: "I'm anxious about some uncertainty in the future. I need help, and am open to fortune telling"

A: "Don't go see a fortune teller".


"I am open to fortune telling" and "I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance" do not mean "your answer must advocate fortune-telling" or "I am adverse to any comments against metaphysical assistance".
posted by Tanizaki at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lets not ignore the experts in Felliniblank's link then
posted by Hoopo at 12:33 PM on June 13, 2013


You don't know this. Subjective experience is subjective.

Since everything in the physical universe occurs in time, I am pretty sure that the pain had a duration in time.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since everything in the physical universe occurs in time, I am pretty sure that the pain had a duration in time.

But you have no idea whether something lengthened or shortened this duration.
posted by billiebee at 12:36 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It strikes me that this MeTa is essentially a self-fulfilling prophesy, because by accusing the site of becoming "officially pro-pseudoscience" and making a big deal out of a woo-related deletion, woo becomes an even more Delicate Issue for Metafilter, and woo-related comments are more likely in the future to be deleted for fear they lead to a big controversial derail.

I mean we can analogize all we want to different situations, but there are answers every day that do nothing but point out problems with another answer, and they aren't all deleted, probably because they aren't on a Delicate Issue and so either the mods aren't watching the thread like a hawk or they aren't worried that the answer will lead to further noise/derail.
posted by payoto at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tanizaki: " Since everything in the physical universe occurs in time, I am pretty sure that the pain had a duration in time."

Your logic is flawed. You are unfamiliar with the full circumstances of what that person has subjectively experienced.
posted by zarq at 12:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki, it doesn't fucking matter whether pain management techniques actually lessen the pain or merely get you through it. The point is that it helps you deal with the pain. Christ.
posted by Hoopo at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Except that's kind of the definition of a derail -

that's certainly one of the opinions put forth in this thread. i'm saying it's not the only one. it seems like there's this argument that's happening between "the original answer was bad/wrong/shouldn't have happened" and "the response was obviously a derail" - but that there's this other opinion, one that i don't think i'm alone in - that both answers were fine and keeping within guidelines. the mods disagree this time, but due to the fuzzy nature of moderation it doesn't mean the opinion is wrong, just not how it shook out this time.
posted by nadawi at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, in that case, the most relevant answers to a question about pain management in labor would be stuff like the advice given on the (I hope we can agree) scientifically-based Johns Hopkins patient education page about labor, which begins its pain management section with "Non-medicated measures" that enhance comfort and control including:

Yes, that would be a good answer. A personal anecdote is also a good answer when they are requested. Scientific information that provides more information on either might also be welcome advice, given the framing, as long as it is not argumentative.

I'm not an Ask Me heavy user at all but it was my impression that giving information to bring a fuller picture to a previous answer is a form of answering the question.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:44 PM on June 13, 2013


"Getting into pissing matches with each other over the rightness of our answers doesn't help the OP get answers, and neither do derails that spin the thread topic out of focus."

Yes. Exactly. Answering the question with stuff that contradicts another user's answer is still answering the question. Disputing another user's answer is all about you. Disputing answers implicitly makes it about competing standards of evidence, what is and isn't true, it makes it a debate between answerers and not about answering the question.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Since everything in the physical universe occurs in time, I am pretty sure that the pain had a duration in time.

This is the funniest comment I have read in a long time.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's "averse" and not "adverse."

I didn't say that in the askme because it doesn't come anywhere near answering the question.
posted by rtha at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2013


Mods, I think this has gone far beyond a useful discussion and is quickly devolving into woo can help vs. no woo can't help! Perhaps it is time to make an announcement about comments on AskMe replying to other comments on AskMe being taken on a case-by-case basis and close this thread up?
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:53 PM on June 13, 2013


it was my impression that giving information to bring a fuller picture to a previous answer is a form of answering the question.

That can be fine. In this case, though, the deleted comment didn't do that. It didn't shed light on the previous answer. It was a stock take-down of Reiki that didn't take into account the contents of the OPs question, or the context of the answer which mentioned it.

I'm sure there are lots of studies showing that Reiki doesn't cure cancer, or that Reiki as rigorously defined doesn't have any medical benefit. But in the context of this question and answer, that's irrelevant. This discussion was about making a birthing mom feel comfortable, and its certainly possible that having someone who calls themselves a Reiki practitioner could help with that by visiting and giving them some touch therapy and soothing words.

Using the mention of Reiki to prove your Richard Dawkins credentials doesn't help the person who asked this specific question. It doesn't shed further light on a previous answer. It just grinds an ax.
posted by alms at 12:56 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why are you all still here, after quidnunc kid's comment? You should all be voting #1 quidnunc kid right now.
posted by Kwine at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


actively push out smart people offering their help for free

"Actively push out?" Seriously?

I've had AskMe answers and comments and FPP's deleted aplenty -- if anybody's actively pushing me out, they're not pushing very hard, because here I am.

After some thought I think the deletion of lambdaphage's comment was not what I'd have done.

But: lambdaphage's suggestion that the deletion makes MetaFilter "officially pro-pseudoscience" is ridiculous. And lambdaphage's decision to leave was entirely their own.
posted by escabeche at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


The main reason I'm friends with quidnunc kid is so that I know when a big metatalk thread pops up from the sidebar of the main page.
posted by DynamiteToast at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]




> EDIT: Kiltedtaco posted same idea two above my post at the same time

Using the edit function that way is against the rules. I'm pretty sure this has been pointed out to you before. Is this yet another case where you've decided your own deep understanding of logic and the universe supersedes the limited grasp of the moderators?
posted by languagehat at 1:06 PM on June 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


That can be fine. In this case, though, the deleted comment didn't do that. It didn't shed light on the previous answer. It was a stock take-down of Reiki that didn't take into account the contents of the OPs question, or the context of the answer which mentioned it.

Well, I've discussed my view on the framing of the OP. I disagree the answer was not consistent with it.

Using the mention of Reiki to prove your Richard Dawkins credentials doesn't help the person who asked this specific question. It doesn't shed further light on a previous answer. It just grinds an ax.

I think that's an ungenerous reading of the motives for providing the answer. If someone states a preference for scientific answers despite accepting anecdotes, it seems acceptable to expand on an answer to highlight which category it falls in. The answer didn't even say, "Don't do it." It just said that the science doesn't back up that it is indicated for labor, specifically the energy manipulation part of it rather than the massage part.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I've discussed my view on the framing of the OP. I disagree the answer was not consistent with it.

Yes, but you're someone on the internet who is wrong.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:08 PM on June 13, 2013


languagehat: "Is this yet another case where you've decided your own deep understanding of logic and the universe supersedes the limited grasp of the moderators?"

Relevant
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Answering the question with stuff that contradicts another user's answer is still answering the question. Disputing another user's answer is all about you. Disputing answers implicitly makes it about competing standards of evidence, what is and isn't true, it makes it a debate between answerers and not about answering the question.

You're assigning values to this that are completely coming from within your own head. If you can't understand how pointing out the wrongness of clearly wrong answers doesn't help the asker, then I don't know what to tell you. It's quite easy to construct a plausible scenario where none of the ego issues you're imagining exist.

Question: How do I get from A to B via public transit?
Answerer 1: take W train to X station, then transfer to Y train and go to Z station. Voila.
Answerer 2: it's faster to take P train to Q station, then transfer to R train and go to Z station.
Answerer 1: but P train is an express and doesn't have any stops within a mile of point A, thus actually making it a longer trip / P train has construction / P train runs at odd infrequent times when OP wants to go somewhere, etc.

Why should Answerer 1's second comment be deleted? How is Answerer 1's second comment not ultimately enhancing the utility of the question? This is the kind of situation I'm talking about, not necessarily a pissing match.
posted by LionIndex at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


devolving into woo can help vs. no woo can't help

Not really. I'd say it's continuing the discussion of ways in which the OP mis-read and mis-answered the question and clarifying for the OP that woo vs. non-woo depends on the context.

Example 1:
Q: What science-based techniques can I use to make myself feel more generally healthy?
A1 (woo): Stick a leech on your fingertip to help balance your bodily humors.
A2: (relevant response) Science shows there's no such thing as bodily humors, so leeches can't balance them. I'd go with multi-vitamins instead.

Example 2:
Q: What are some science-based post-op treatments my doctors might use to improve my chances for successful digit reattachment?
A1 (science): Stick a leech on your fingertip.
A2 (irrelevant response): Science shows there's no such thing as bodily humors, so leeches can't balance them.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:16 PM on June 13, 2013


I agree with the deletion. To see the situation a different way, imagine a post asking for inspirational quotes to help get through an emotionally difficult situation, and specifying clearly that Bible quotes are ok. If one of the answers was a refutation of the Bible and some historical papers backing up their assertion that it's just an old book of myths with no basis in reality, then that non-answer would be rightfully deleted.
AskMe isn't the place to wage war against irrationalism.
posted by rocket88 at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2013


What happened was that someone said that a footrub helped a friend. Replying with cites against footrubs isn't on-topic or question answering.

What was stated was that metaphysical answers were ok if someone has personally found them helpful. Saying that someone you know was helped is not answering the question in the way it was asked. Why be so strict with lambdaphage but not with the pro-reiki post?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh pooh, lambdaphage quit? LP had the "I know what the truth is and must always proclaim it" issue that makes some smart people unhappy here, but I liked his/(her?) comments and, with that name, I specifically remember thinking "good, another biochemist" and hoping for some good technical contributions.

I hope LP finds a way to participate that works for him/(her?) and comes back some time in the future.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Posting studies about the efficacy of reiki, with no content relating to childbirth, was very definitely not answering the question in the way it was asked.
posted by billiebee at 1:30 PM on June 13, 2013


Philosopher Dirtbike: "Saying that someone you know was helped is not answering the question in the way it was asked. Why be so strict with lambdaphage but not with the pro-reiki post?"

(1) Because the question asked what was useful, not what wasn't useful.
(2) Because almost any rational person world would call the person who rubbed someone else's feet personally part of that experience.
(3) Because answers aren't compared like that here.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:30 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It just said that the science doesn't back up that it is indicated for labor, specifically the energy manipulation part of it rather than the massage part.

Which would make it even less of a good answer, considering that touch and massage are considered perfectly acceptable pain management techniques in labour.
posted by Hoopo at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2013


I don't understand why people think the placebo effect is a bad thing. I'm a scientist, super rational, and I wish I could suppress the urge to tear every medical recommendation apart with all of my lollogic so I could actually benefit from the placebo effect, and y'know, be healthier.

But y'know, not everyone has that urge, so I don't get why we have to shout them down for doing things that aren't strictly scientific but still end up benefiting them medically.

And in this circumstance, it's not even really clear-cut that it IS the placebo effect at work. Having a trusted person perceived as a professional vouching for your emotional and spiritual well-being at a highly stressful time in a highly medicalized environment? Having access to physical contact in a more sensually-focused manner than strictly medical? I can easily see how that could be helpful.

I mean, just because it's packaged as woo, and just because the premises behind it are woo, doesn't mean that it doesn't benefit people.
posted by Conspire at 1:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


Using the edit function that way is against the rules. I'm pretty sure this has been pointed out to you before. Is this yet another case where you've decided your own deep understanding of logic and the universe supersedes the limited grasp of the moderators?


Quite literally our two posts showed up on my screen simultaneously and it was necessary for people viewing my argument to know that I wasn't modifying or substantially disagreeing with kiltedtaco. Your hyperbole and vitriol is unwarranted and childish.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:42 PM on June 13, 2013


you're funny
posted by Hoopo at 1:45 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


> it was necessary for people viewing my argument to know that I wasn't modifying or substantially disagreeing with kiltedtaco

It wasn't necessary, really. But the usual way to deal with that is to post a follow-up comment.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:46 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


A2: (relevant response) Science shows there's no such thing as bodily humors, so leeches can't balance them. I'd go with multi-vitamins instead.

A2 (irrelevant response): Science shows there's no such thing as bodily humors, so leeches can't balance them.


The assumption that people must automatically know that they're expected to follow this frankly extremely pedantic requirement or get their answers deleted is pretty ridiculous to me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


it was necessary for people viewing my argument to know that I wasn't modifying or substantially disagreeing with kiltedtaco

Then make a follow-up comment. This is how things work here. Abuse of the edit window is a thing you're not supposed to do. languagehat could have been friendlier about telling you this but he is absolutely correct.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:48 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Which would make it even less of a good answer, considering that touch and massage are considered perfectly acceptable pain management techniques in labour.

For a question specifically framed as someone with a preference for scientific answers, I think what it is would be a portion of a good answer.

The ideal world best answer would have had someone with the personal story, the scientific background on the energy manipulation claims of the technique, and the information on massage in general. They are in my view complimentary answers given the framing of the question.

We don't always get the ideal world. Getting that across in a few posts from slightly different perspectives instead of one doesn't necessarily seem like a problem. I can definitely see how it could easily turn into a problem if handled wrong, but I don't think it was by my reading. I think the mod note was all that was needed, not the deletion.

The full answer might get you a foot rub from your partner or friend. An answer about an energy manipulation specialist might lead you to pay for a professional service you may not have wanted if you had more information on it.

I don't understand why people think the placebo effect is a bad thing.


It is unfortunately often abused by rip-off artists so people have difficulty accepting less harmful examples.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2013


The assumption that people must automatically know that they're expected to follow this frankly extremely pedantic requirement or get their answers deleted is pretty ridiculous to me.

Your answer getting deleted isn't a punishment. Your answer getting deleted because it doesn't help or may lead to fighting in the thread or is a derail isn't a punishment, it's a corrective on how the subsite works.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:50 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


showbiz_liz: The assumption that people must automatically know that they're expected to follow this frankly extremely pedantic requirement or get their answers deleted is pretty ridiculous to me.

One of the things that keeps Ask so useful is that ALL ANSWERS MUST INCLUDE AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION. It is true that there are informative, correct, and beautifully true responses that get deleted because they do not meet that standard, but that is how Ask MetaFilter works, and it's a formula that has proven successful for many years now.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:54 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I never said it was a punishment- I said it was ridiculous. Because good, helpful information can be deleted for what seems to me to be a pretty dumb and pointless reason.

IF that comment had started a larger fight over reiki, then sure, delete comments 3-100 about reiki.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The correct response to your answer getting deleted is 'Damn, I guess that wasn't helpful, how can I phrase it better?' not 'What rule did I break now?!'
posted by shakespeherian at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would have found that answer helpful so that's not as bright a line as it sounds.

Obviously, I also disagree with this deletion, and I'm very sorry to see that its author has left Metafilter.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or, as we've seen in this thread, it might be "this community clearly places no value on what I have to say, even when I'm genuinely trying to help."
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


But that is sort of an unreasonable takeaway given that he can simply re-post his answer in a manner that conforms with the guidelines.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your hyperbole and vitriol is unwarranted and childish.

Your determined ignoring of the very clear and simple text in the edit window is arrogant and juvenile. Especially since you'd already been told at least once in a different thread by a mod to not do that.
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, I don't care about Reiki at all, so it's not that. I'm not on some hobbyhorse trying to dissuade people from alternative therapies- if Reiki works for you, then great. If prayer or chunks of turquoise or crystals work for you, then great. I'm even happy to (very briefly) hear about it. I hate it when people jump into threads and tell everyone that they're idiots for not toeing the Conventional Western Medicine Line. I didn't feel like this answer was doing that.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


showbiz_liz: The assumption that people must automatically know that they're expected to follow this frankly extremely pedantic requirement or get their answers deleted is pretty ridiculous to me.

One of the things that keeps Ask so useful is that ALL ANSWERS MUST INCLUDE AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION. It is true that there are informative, correct, and beautifully true responses that get deleted because they do not meet that standard, but that is how Ask MetaFilter works, and it's a formula that has proven successful for many years now.


I bet you could find a dozen examples of this guideline not being observed in threads from the front page of AskMe today. It's the "rule" right now because they wanted to prune that thread before it caused trouble, not because their hands were tied. People offer disagreement without adding a pro forma positive suggestion all the time. That's not why this got deleted.
posted by gerryblog at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Or, as we've seen in this thread, it might be "this community clearly places no value on what I have to say, even when I'm genuinely trying to help."

That seems like an incredibly uncharitable and inaccurate read on this thread, considering how many people have spoken up in support of the comment. Even the mods' responses don't really say that - they say that this answer, as formulated in this particular context, is not answering the OP's question. That's a pretty big leap from "this community clearly places no value on what I have to say."
posted by DingoMutt at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So basically, the rationale is: "OTHER PEOPLE THAT HAVE NO RELEVANCE TO ME ARE SPENDING MONEY ON THINGS THAT THEY PERSONALLY ENJOY AND BELIEVE IN BUT I DON'T LIKE. THEREFORE I'M GOING TO BEAT THEM OVER THE HEAD WITH SCIENCE TO JUSTIFY MY RAGE AGAINST THEM."

Okay, I'm out of this thread and going back to the lab to do some, y'know, real science.
posted by Conspire at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the "rule" right now because they wanted to prune that thread before it caused trouble, not because their hands were tied.

It has been said many times that the mods mod by guideline, not by rule. There are few rules on Metafilter (self-links, whatever). There are many guidelines.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So basically, the rationale is: "OTHER PEOPLE THAT HAVE NO RELEVANCE TO ME ARE SPENDING MONEY ON THINGS THAT THEY PERSONALLY ENJOY AND BELIEVE IN BUT I DON'T LIKE. THEREFORE I'M GOING TO BEAT THEM OVER THE HEAD WITH SCIENCE TO JUSTIFY MY RAGE AGAINST THEM."

At least Metatalk is fair and balanced in producing uncharitable readings for both sides. :)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


benito.strauss: "the "I know what the truth is and must always proclaim it" issue that makes some smart people unhappy here"

That's probably the clearest way I've seen it expressed.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: "The correct response to your answer getting deleted is 'Damn, I guess that wasn't helpful, how can I phrase it better?' not 'What rule did I break now?!'"

But gnashing of teeth is very MeTa.
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on June 13, 2013


Answering the question with stuff that contradicts another user's answer is still answering the question.

I missed this - we're basically saying the same thing. Apologies.
posted by LionIndex at 2:21 PM on June 13, 2013


Answering the question with stuff that contradicts another user's answer is still answering the question.

I disagree. In this instance it is only contradicting the other user's answer.
-Advise me on childbirth.
-Reiki doesn't work.
posted by billiebee at 2:30 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's advice on childbirth.
posted by painquale at 2:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, it's advice about reiki.
posted by billiebee at 2:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, here's a less heated example from earlier today that I think clarifies things. Is the claim really that zsazsa can only offer this correction in-thread if he or she subsequently provides an example that does fit? Does that really comport with the way people think this site is typically regulated? Should wenestvedt have been deleted here for contradicting another poster without adding positive commentary too? This would be a totally bizarre imposition on normal conversational patterns if it were actually a regularly enforced guideline.

This is about not wanting a fight about "woo" in the thread, and then not wanting to admit that's what it was about when challenged. There's a breakdown of trust between the moderators of this site and (some of) the users where neither party thinks the other will treat them fairly and so everyone is always performing a role rather than conversing.
posted by gerryblog at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


I guess I'm with nadawi on this one, this isn't really some huge policy decision regarding foot rubs, woo, or methods of pain relief. According to the mods it's a decision about if one response answered one question. There's room for discussion in MeTA there, not so much about if foot-rubs are helpful or not.

One thing I never get tired of reading is when the mods say things like "we take things on a case by case basis." I'm glad that the moderation philosophy realizes that context matters, even when it leads to decisions I disagree with. Especially since they're always willing to explain what the reasoning was. I like that they're people, we're people, and we get to talk about the decisions, like people. The down sides are that it can be frustrating when you don't agree that the context is different, and deletion MeTas like this one can blow up pretty quickly for one or two people who feel strongly about the subject of the deleted comment.

What makes this tricky is that an answer can in fact explicitly disagree with other answers, and still address the question. I just don't really think that the deleted comment did that. The linked paper was about studies of reiki as a treatment for various conditions, not as a pain management technique during childbirth. The response was about reiki, not childbirth.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Okay, here's a less heated example from earlier today that I think clarifies things.

Do you think mods read every. single. answer in askme? Is it possible that none of those have been deleted because nobody flagged them? If something is not brought to mods' attention, they won't know about it unless they run across it themselves. Lack of deletion of some kinds of answers that *could* meet the threshold for deletion does not mean that the deletion in meTa was totally wrong and bad, no question end of sentence goodbye.
posted by rtha at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Okay, here's a less heated example from earlier today that I think clarifies things.

To my mind, they are different sorts of questions. The one from yesterday was basically a list generating question "Help me find things that fit my requirements" where basically all answers are pretty much okay as long as they contain a thing that meets the requirements. The Jane Austen question is about understanding a somewhat complex topic, so people are going to talk around the topic more and offer feedback on how others present it. I really saw the first thread as basically "Name my cat" where people just offer their own highly subjective opinions and if someone showed up saying "That's a stupid name for a cat!" we'd basically delete that as not answering the question.

This is not to say I don't understand where people are coming from, just to explain why I thought this was a particular sort of question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, there is no such rule or guideline, rather the opposite. Instead of flagging incorrect answers we're expected to refute them politely. I am not as bothered by this individual deletion as I am by the insistence by multiple people that askmefi has a rule/guideline/tendency that I've never heard of before today.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:42 PM on June 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


What happened was that someone said that a footrub helped a friend. Replying with cites against footrubs isn't on-topic or question answering.

If a simple footrub had been suggested, we wouldn't be having this meta thread. I get that Ask Metafilter isn't supposed to get derailed with discussion, but is there really no place for earlier answers to be clarified and expanded, especially in a just-the-facts manner complete with citations? What if a harmful pseudo-science had been recommended?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just to add to what I was saying above, this for reference was taz's response (the third comment in the thread):

Ask Metafilter operates differently from Metafilter proper. It's for answering the OP's question, not for arguing with other people's answers, and moderation is much stricter on that part of the site. If your comment is just a criticism of someone else's answer, it will most likely be deleted. Here's a bit from the FAQ...

Why the pretense that this was content-neutral moderation? It's unnecessary. The mods should just be honest that they didn't want a fight in the thread and that they thought this comment as phrased would be likely to provoke continued disagreement. They should trust the users enough to be upfront with them about why certain decisions are made, and the users should be should adult enough to accept that this is how the site is going to be run (or else go elsewhere if they can't). There's no reason to pretend there's anything else going on here than that.

To my mind, they are different sorts of questions.

Thanks for responding, jessamyn. My point in providing those two examples was simply that this does not strike me as regularly applied guideline, nor as a guideline we'd want to see enforced regularly for its own sake. Quite commonly a comment just disagrees with other comments and yet still adds value to a thread. This deletion was about problematic content, not a problematic form.

Instead of flagging incorrect answers we're expected to refute them politely. I am not as bothered by this individual deletion as I am by the insistence by multiple people that askmefi has a rule/guideline/tendency that I've never heard of before today.

Yeah, that's where I'm coming from too, more or less. I think the mods should just admit when they don't want to deal with something, rather than trying to couch things in a supposedly content-neutral formalism. It's not persuasive and I think it makes these conversations worse.
posted by gerryblog at 2:54 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't know who is talking about content-neutral formalism, but it's not anyone who works here. I get if people aren't comfortable with the "case-by-case" basis stuff we do here, but we've been clear that context matters when we make moderator decisions. People didn't agree with the decision I made here and that's fine, but there is absolutely no new rule or guideline at work behind the scenes here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:00 PM on June 13, 2013


Well, you said you deleted it because it didn't answer the question, but it seems like you actually deleted it because it seemed likely to start a derail.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


taz's first comment in the thread is an example of the content-neutral formalism I'm talking about; the explanation that she gives for the deletion is that it violates the necessary form for a proper AskMe comment, without reference the fighty content that was the actual reason for the deletion. Your answers here and here also present this as a case of purely getting the proper form wrong. Here, in contrast, you explain that the problem was actually with the content: The question specifically stated that woo answers were okay. That's basically a "There will be woo" warning. People with low woo tolerances should probably go elsewhere.
posted by gerryblog at 3:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


it seems like

"Seem" is being tossed around like there was a seem sale at Seemy's. What's with all the "seems" and "seeming?" Do people use it as a way to express an idea without exposing it to possible refutation? Or to make declarative statements without providing links or referents?

It seems like, I seem, It seems to me, we all seem together.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


i dunno - i disagree with the deletion, but i don't think the mods are trying to cover up their real intents or anything. i think it makes sense that deleting or not deleting is dependent on many factors. the fact that, to the mods, it didn't seem to answer the question is the only justification needed, but it probably helps nudge it along if the topic is fraught. i don't think the mods are failing to admit something or any other uncharitable read.
posted by nadawi at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


i use seems and to me and other such qualifiers to indicate that i understand i'm speaking an opinion. i prefer that to people who say "x is wrong" "y is right". "i think x is wrong" makes it a personal statement instead of a broad proclamation.
posted by nadawi at 3:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


by now, you are probably experienceing semantic satiation
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2013


"Do people use it as a way to express an idea without exposing it to possible refutation? Or to make declarative statements without providing links or referents?"

Some of us use the phrase it seems to me to acknowledge uncertainty and subjectivity in argument. I recognize that this manner of thought writing is foreign to some people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's advice on childbirth.
posted by painquale at 5:33 PM on June 13 [+] [!] [quote]

No, it's advice about reiki.
posted by billiebee at 5:35 PM on June 13 [+] [!] [quote]


It's about childbirth!
(slap!)
It's about reiki!
(slap!)
It's about childbirth and reiki!
posted by painquale at 3:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


You got your childbirth in my reiki!
posted by box at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2013


that sounds disgusting
posted by Hoopo at 4:02 PM on June 13, 2013


Man, so much for deleting a comment to prevent a fighty conversation and/or derail, eh?
posted by ish__ at 4:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, so much for deleting a comment to prevent a fighty conversation and/or derail, eh?

The classic Matthew Broderick film WarGames is basically a thesis on the undecidability of such dilemmas.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Here's my previous MeTA on the subject

Is the Green that different from The Blue? I always think of the Blue as being pretty scientific.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:12 PM on June 13, 2013


Man, that previous MeTa seems like it was yesterday. But, in fact, it was two weeks ago.
posted by box at 4:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man, I haven't had such a craving for a foot massage since forever.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:15 PM on June 13, 2013


Tell me about it, I got a helluva hanking for childbirth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a long-ass thread. Has anybody said, "Reiki, don't lose that number" yet?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]



But in no way an answer to the question "I'm about to give birth, any advice?"


because birth is a metaphysical mystery beyond science, a merging with the unviversal femine principle

should we suggest dolphin birth?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh Reiki you're so fine
You're so fine you blow my mind
Even if it is just the placebo effect
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Metafilter doesn't like to get its feelings hurt. If someone's wrong and your pointing it out will make them sad, then it's a derail.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:38 AM on June 14 [3 favorites −] Favorite added![!]



Speaking of being new and not really having a good handle on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:40 AM on June 14 [25 favorites +][!]


Funny, I've lurked the site since pre-9/11 days and I think the MRA newbie is correct.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:31 PM on June 13, 2013


MetaFilter: The only winning move is not to play.
posted by ish__ at 4:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


How about a nice game of Thunderdome Chess?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


and seriously 'avoiding fights' seems to take preference over everything else

here's the thing: deletions like this mean I can't trust AskMe as much. I could ask a serious questions about medical issues and get recommended some woo that seems sane on the surface, but only because dissenting views are deleted.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone contacted Ruthless Bunny's friend's daughter to tell her that she's totally wrong and the Reiki massage she got didn't really help? Because, science.
posted by rocket88 at 4:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Being fighty in meTa is appropriate. Having the same fight in the askme is not.

If you are relying on askme as your sole source of medical information - well, don't.
posted by rtha at 4:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Funny, I've lurked the site since pre-9/11 days and I think the MRA newbie is correct.

In the spirit of trying to be my better self for the rest of the day, I am totally okay with agreeing to disagree with you on this. I'm sympathetic if you're uncomfortable with how you feel AskMe does vs. should work and how you think it's going to change in the future, but I don't think you're actually characterizing it very well or realistically, or setting reasonable boundaries for yourself and what the site can practically accomplish for you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


ok, fine, not medical. i ask yet another question about my shit love love. i get directed to a bunch of MRA and PUA sites that could cause harm not just to me but to anyone i interact with. do those get deleted? what about anti-vaccers?

there's a persistant tide of woo flooding the left-wing world
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2013



I could ask a serious questions about medical issues and get recommended some woo that seems sane on the surface, but only because dissenting views are deleted.


If you have questions about serious medical issues and are looking for recommendations go to your fucking doctor.

BTW the person who brought up reiki relayed a story about giving a friend's daughter a foot massage while in labor and you're acting like her advice was to deliver the baby via psychic energy. Don't be ridiculous.
posted by Hoopo at 4:38 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, CiS, for all your longtime lurking not to mention your new incarnation, you might at least read the various responses here - some by mods - that point out that it's totally okay to disagree with another commenter on askme as long as you are not a dick about it AND you answer the question.

I don't know what time it is in Australia, so maybe you just haven't had any caffeine yet.
posted by rtha at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to be scientific but then I was made aware of the existence of a relaxing massage technique based on speculative concepts of energy and spirituality by an irresponsible AskMe comment and now I believe in sorcery DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


CiS, it's almost as if you haven't read the parts of this thread where people point out that information about reiki could have been included in a response that also actually answered the question. So you can feel relieved that you can still trust AskMe as much as you always have.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the sense CiS is more hardline on this than most. He might advise deleting the response suggesting it in the first place which would be a different discussion from what has mostly been talked about here.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: "Relevant"

I love that when you Google the word "recursion", it presents as an alternate search suggestion:
Did you mean: recursion
posted by Bugbread at 4:57 PM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


shit love love.

This is probably my favorite Animal Crossing DLC expansion title so far
posted by Greg Nog at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm even more hardcore than CiS. I support all deletion. I support all-deletion. I support deletion of all things. No things no light no white no dark no black no time no past. Nothing at all, not even a lack.

Existence is obscenity. We must use what we find to make machines to clean the obscenity. Threshing machines. The harvest of all things, the harvest of no things. Eating machines. Mouths with no stomach. To eliminate all things. No more obscenity, no more lies. No more filth. Total cleanse. "The first and final wash."

And when there is finally almost nothing, the machines turn on themselves with mindless purpose, and they will erase themselves.

There will be truly nothing and then all shall be at rest.

Enemies of peace: fear us.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]



So just to be clear: it's okay to counter what other people are saying as long as you still try to answer the question?

Generally yes. If countering the advice given is

- Answering the OPs question
- Not starting a fight with other commenters
- Not turning into part of a pile-on (we'll sometimes leave a note "Okay the OP has heard that their chosen path isn't going to work, please give constructive helpful answers that aren't just DTMFA" if a thread is turning into a big old NOPE pile-on)


The comment you deleted did none of those things. This deletion makes no sense to me.
posted by spaltavian at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


ok, fine, not medical. i ask yet another question about my shit love love. i get directed to a bunch of MRA and PUA sites that could cause harm not just to me but to anyone i interact with. do those get deleted? what about anti-vaccers?

there's a persistant tide of woo flooding the left-wing world


You are bringing in your own issues to this discussion, as evidenced by your last sentence, as if that had any bearing on this MeTa. I actually disagree with the deletion under question, but you have to have some perspective. The hypotheticals you are providing are wildly unlike what actually happened. Can you find more than a handful (if that) of actual deletions or non-deletions on the level of your hypotheticals? Even if you could, they would very likely be a drop in the bucket, accounting for a miniscule number of the total answers on AskMe.
posted by Falconetti at 5:20 PM on June 13, 2013


> ok, fine, not medical. i ask yet another question about my shit love love. i get directed to a bunch of MRA and PUA sites that could cause harm not just to me but to anyone i interact with. do those get deleted? what about anti-vaccers?

I think your argument has kind of skipped over wanting to keep a crowdsourced forum on track and into fighting for some kind of mythic high-caliber academic rigor. Even well-informed answers are going to have some kind of flaws, usually. But, if you're just swinging the axe for some notions of Overton Window guardianship or something then you're going to keep misreading comments in these threads.
posted by planetesimal at 5:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So just to be clear: it's okay to counter what other people are saying as long as you still try to answer the question?

so, if 99% of a comment is responding to other comments, but then there is one sentence giving advice, it will stand?
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:22 PM on June 13, 2013


also, zarq's post in this thread shows how the reason given for the deletion here is inconsistent, at best.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:24 PM on June 13, 2013


there's a persistant tide of woo flooding the left-wing world

The tide of woo that floods Metafilter seems to cut across political boundaries.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


so, if 99% of a comment is responding to other comments, but then there is one sentence giving advice, it will stand?

Less likely than the other way around. There's no magic number here that will give you an Always Fine or Always Deleted rubric, but focusing on answering the question while also having some sort of constructive commentary on previous answers is a better plan than just responding to other answers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


also, zarq's post in this thread shows how the reason given for the deletion here is inconsistent, at best.

If you're aiming for lazer-like consistency you're not going to get it when we do things on a case-by-case basis like we do. We try to be as consistent as possible, but we are human, there are shades of gray to every decision, and opinions between people flagging, people moderating, and people reading aren't always going to overlap perfectly.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:28 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


i normally wouldn't post so frequently in a thread, but i was reading through askme threads i had commented on, and this comment from IAmBroom is one line, snarky, responding to my comment, and gives no advice. yet, there it is, not deleted.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:29 PM on June 13, 2013


yet, there it is, not deleted.

Did you flag it?
posted by insectosaurus at 5:31 PM on June 13, 2013


i just read it, about 5 minutes ago.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:32 PM on June 13, 2013


yet, there it is, not deleted.

The flagging system lets us see comments that people find problematic as they happen and allows us to do something about them with (usually) a minimum of hassle. Bringing them up in MeTa a day later does not do those things. We don't read every comment. We rely on people to flag things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:32 PM on June 13, 2013


While I was somewhat initially opposed to the deletion, I've been convinced that it was valid.

However, I am right there with gerryblog in getting annoyed that the mods, so frequently it seems, will make a good and valid decision to delete a comment because it is going to create IP-declaw-ageddon, but instead of admitting that, using some other guideline as the reason, and then producing insanely convoluted reasons why the comment was deleted while other comments breaking the same guideline (but which wouldn't produce IP-declaw-ageddon) were not.

It feels like Elliot Ness and Al Capone, with the arrest itself making sense but the charge being declared as "tax evasion".
posted by Bugbread at 5:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


It feels like Elliot Ness and Al Capone, with the arrest itself making sense but the charge being declared as "tax evasion".

Flag early, flag often.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:33 PM on June 13, 2013


I've agreed and disagreed with moderation in the past; what I've come up with in the past few weeks is this: moderation is like Mr. Miyagi trimming his bonsai - he closes his eyes, and pictures the perfect tree, right down to the branches and leaves. Then, he opens his eyes, grabs his tools and makes what he sees into that tree.

I may not agree with every use of the tool, but by and large I find I agree with the mods' picture of the tree.
posted by Mooski at 5:35 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure they were just tricking you into painting their houses to get free labor.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


mathowie: "If you're aiming for lazer-like consistency you're not going to get it when we do things on a case-by-case basis like we do. We try to be as consistent as possible, but we are human, there are shades of gray to every decision, and opinions between people flagging, people moderating, and people reading aren't always going to overlap perfectly."

I understand that, but Occam's Razor shows that the common tie in a lot of these deletions is "will cause trainwreck". Why don't the mods put that up there in front when explaining the reasons?

User A: "Why was comment X deleted?"
Mod B: "It violated guideline Z. It's a guideline, not a rule, and a lot of time we overlook infractions when they aren't going to cause big problems, but this particular type of comment almost always produces shitstorms, so we decided to enforce it."

Sure, you'd still get a hella long MeTa out of it, but it's not like the current approach is generating really short MeTas or anything.
posted by Bugbread at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2013


Facts on, facts off.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:39 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, I wonder why that comment got a ton of flags just now, but I did delete it since it didn't really help matters. What jessamyn said holds true though, if you're flagging something a day or two (or more) after it was posted, the chances we're going to delete it are increasingly rare.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2013


Moderation is like moderate weather. When it's good, which is often, it's invisible, and I go on with my life. When it's less good, which is infrequent but does occasionally happen, I open an umbrella, and then I go on with my life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


It has always seemed to me that round here woo sometimes gets treated more gently than it should, it's probably unconscious overcompensation. But what I think we are dealing with here is mostly the fact that the site has changed somewhat as it grows larger and gets more traffic and preemptive deletions, designed to head off all sorts of trouble, have gone from being unheard of to routine.

Questions are there not just for the benefit of the original asker, but also for others who read the thread later. That being the case, polite on topic refutation seems a good thing, even if there is no additional "answer" and it seems to me that that's generally how thing have generally worked in the past. It may be that the demands on mod time and attention make shoot-from-the-hip deletions more likely, but it's a trend that will reduce the quality and the usefulness of Ask MeFi. It may be inevitable, but it's rather sad.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:43 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actually, thinking about it more, on the blue I've seen plenty of [little comments like this] that warn users to get off a certain line of discussion because it always results in shitstorms. But if a comment gets deleted and a post is made on the gray about the deletion, mods almost never straightforwardly state that the decision hinged on the shitstorm inducing likelihood of the comment.
posted by Bugbread at 5:48 PM on June 13, 2013


Ah, I wonder why that comment got a ton of flags just now, but I did delete it since it didn't really help matters.

Wait, really? On what basis was that comment deleted?
posted by lalex at 5:50 PM on June 13, 2013


what basis was that comment deleted?

It wasn't answering the question, just calling out another comment and reading a bit into it, putting the advice into a fairly bad light.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:53 PM on June 13, 2013


Quelling shitstorms and trainwrecky derails is kind of a constant given goal in a lot of the work we do, it may be that we're less likely to explicitly mention that as a factor in our thinking than we might be if it didn't seem like such a given. Maybe that's part of this, I dunno. Shitstorms bad, derails dispreferred, pretty much as a constant, yes.

That said, "people might not like this" really isn't the sole reason for a deletion basically ever, and I feel like there's this thing where we talk about a bunch of different parts of the process and eventually people are like "ohhhh, so you really deleted because it was contentious" like everything else we've talked about is somehow a null-and-void smokescreen we were using to cover that up. Which, not really, no, and it's kind of frustrating. That that's often to some degree a factor in our thinking is a lot different from it being The Real Reason. That's a factor in our thinking about all sorts of things that don't get deleted as well; it's part of the basic background radiation of discourse in a big mixed community like this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:54 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


It wasn't answering the question, just calling out another comment and reading a bit into it, putting the advice into a fairly bad light.

The deleted comment basically said that cupcake1337's advice was bad because it would make the OP appear controlling.

Opining that another comment is bad advice for reasons XYZ is, in and of itself, valid and useful input. I am really surprised that this is no longer considered an acceptable way to participate in AskMe discussions.
posted by lalex at 6:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It seems a lot of these Metas recently just eventually become a parade of the same handful of users coming in one at a time to express their pet concern and argue about it for a couple hours before it's the next dude's turn.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


what basis was that comment deleted?

It wasn't answering the question, just calling out another comment and reading a bit into it, putting the advice into a fairly bad light.


The first case of stunt moderating in the site's history?
posted by gerryblog at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2013


Naturally, habitual axe grinders will show up to perform on any public grinding wheel, but I hope that doesn't automatically dismiss the concerns of many of the others in here who are usually supporters of even edge-case deletions, like myself.
posted by gilrain at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems a lot of these Metas recently just eventually become a parade of the same handful of users coming in one at a time to express their pet concern and argue about it for a couple hours before it's the next dude's turn.

That's not a very interesting concern. You're never gonna get a full two hour arguing shift out of it.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Happy moderator's day, eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


he first case of stunt moderating in the site's history?

You know the only reason this site even has moderators other than mathowie is because he wanted to go on vacation and occasionally get some rest.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we take the emotional content that we get so invested in out of the equation, the answers are actually not that hard to parse for acceptability:

Q: What does 2+2 equal?

Answer A: 5
Answer B: A is wrong. Not 5
Answer C: 4, not 5
Answer D: 4

Answer A is acceptable, even though it is wrong, because it attempts to directly answer the question.

Answer B is not acceptable, because, though true, and technically more correct than A, it doesn't answer the question.

Answer C is both correct and acceptable. It both answers the question and corrects the mistake in A.

Answer C is both correct and acceptable. It answers the question.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:09 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Happy moderator's day, eh?

Ah ha! Maybe this was all some sort of elaborate performance art piece celebrating the work moderators do!
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:10 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


jessamyn, I think you guys do great work under circumstances that are not always great. If the joke wasn't funny I'm sorry.
posted by gerryblog at 6:10 PM on June 13, 2013


Opining that another comment is bad advice for reasons XYZ is, in and of itself, valid and useful input. I am really surprised that this is no longer considered an acceptable way to participate in AskMe discussions.

There is some more backstory you are missing. Later in that thread the person that posted it and the original poster got into a bit of back and forth over that comment, which were both deleted earlier (since they were flagged soon after). Looking at that exchange along with a bunch of flags on the original comment that sparked it, it looked like a bit of a derail. I don't mind if there are a range of opinions on answers to questions, as the person who asked something, it's frequently your job to go through a variety of responses, but two people arguing over a piece of advice that doesn't help answer the question isn't very helpful.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:11 PM on June 13, 2013


cortex: "I feel like there's this thing where we talk about a bunch of different parts of the process and eventually people are like "ohhhh, so you really deleted because it was contentious" like everything else we've talked about is somehow a null-and-void smokescreen we were using to cover that up. Which, not really, no, and it's kind of frustrating."

I hope you don't mean me, but I can understand, based on what I wrote above, why I might be giving off that vibe, and I apologize.

I suppose I should have said that I think a lot of the reasons for deletion in these "why was my X deleted" threads is "It broke guideline A, plus it is a known grar-inducer". I don't think it's purely the grar factor, because lots of grary comments are left standing, and I don't think it's purely the guideline A factor, because lots of guideline-breaking comments are left standing. It's the combination of the two that puts it over the edge.
posted by Bugbread at 6:14 PM on June 13, 2013


Answer A is acceptable, even though it is wrong, because it attempts to directly answer the question.

Answer B is not acceptable, because, though true, and technically more correct than A, it doesn't answer the question.


Sure, it's not like people can't follow what is being said. But the rule being advocated in this thread would have us leave A while deleting B, even if those were the only two comments in the thread. That's not sensible, especially once you realize that most AskMes don't have simple arithmetical answers.

That "not 5" *is* in fact a true and accurate answer to the question "what is 2+2" is just icing on the cake.
posted by gerryblog at 6:15 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's a type of sporty car, and a poker forum.
posted by box at 6:17 PM on June 13, 2013


That "not 5" *is* in fact a true and accurate answer to the question "what is 2+2" is just icing on the cake.

Under this standard, there are an infinite number of answers to "what is 2+2" that are also not "4."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:18 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, can I make a wildly unpopular suggestion?

Very, very, very few "I disagree with this deletion" threads are really time-urgent. How about instead of uninvolved mods giving their best guesses as to why the mod in question made the deletion decision, just have the mod on duty say "Mod X made that deletion decision. I could try to guess why, but that would be purely conjecture, so for a definitive answer, let's wait until Mod X is back on duty, 17 hours from now", and then no conjecture from mods until the decision-maker can provide their input?
posted by Bugbread at 6:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you scroll up to the top of this thread Bugbread, taz pretty much says exactly that. She says she didn't delete it, but guesses why, and says jessamyn will turn up later, which happened.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Under this standard, there are an infinite number of answers to "what is 2+2" that are also not "4."

I bet there are! But that's why the guideline being offered here isn't really workable. Imagine there had been no intervening comment at all:

OP: "What should I do for childbirth? While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use."

Comment 1: "Two separate meta-analyses have failed to find effects for Reiki healing in RCTs. Attempting to manipulate 'energy fields' is not indicated for labor."

That plainly answers the question, doesn't it? It just answers it in the negative: don't bother with Reiki.
posted by gerryblog at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is some more backstory you are missing.

OK. Off the top of my head I can recall a couple recent deletion MeTas where one reason was originally given for a deletion, and then later it turned out that there was some "backstory" that actually accounted for the deletion. Why not just say there are mitigating factors and avoid confusing users about policy?
posted by lalex at 6:23 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: "She says she didn't delete it, but guesses why, and says jessamyn will turn up later, which happened."

Right, and I'm saying it might be a good idea to skip the "guess-the-reason" part. It seems (and this may be confirmation bias) that this usually creates more confusion than less, until the actual deleter comes in and explains their reasoning.
posted by Bugbread at 6:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


OP from the original question here.

Would you all like to know what the genuinely least useful information in that thread for me is?

The drug recommendations. All of them.

Hard science backed, provable, and demonstratively effective. But Australian hospitals do not let you pick a cocktail of painkillers of your choice off some sort of list. I have two different drugs allowed to me, as well as whatever's in the epidural. This is I suppose the price to pay for socialised medicine, but given our maternal death rate is like a third that of US, and that I'm going to be out of pocket exactly Zero Dollars for the arrival of Baby Jilder, I can live with that.

Those answers stand because the fit with the question. They are things that American mefites have used successfully, even though I'm not going to have much access to them. The reiki also fits with the question, whereas the refutation does nothing to help me.

It was clear to me that the refutation of reiki in that thread was almost a reflexive action of someone who hadn't actually read my question enough to see that I'd specified that both parents are scientifically literate and giving preferential treatment to provable suggestions and advice, and that any woo would be taken into account last. I'm going to be giving birth in one of the best maternity hospitals in the country, with a midwife who has had at least three years of specialist university level training, with an obstetrician on standby. A foot rub is going to cause me zero amounts of damage. I'm not required to pay for any of my treatments, so there's no danger of me diverting funds from something important to woo. Which is something that would have been apparent if the question had been read.

That's mostly why I'm comfortable with the deletion. I'd framed my question very specifically, and the refutation, while factually correct, made it clear that the question itself hadn't been read to begin with and was not adding to my knowledge.
posted by Jilder at 6:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [41 favorites]


Why not just say there are mitigating factors to avoid confusing users about policy?

I just did, the comment has been deleted for like 20 minutes, it's not like we had much back and forth on this. I don't like to divulge tons of deletion info but you pressed for further information and I stated it.

Sometimes it feels like people criticize our moderation decisions based on what we didn't say right up front, even though it takes a bit of back and forth explaining to do it. If I had to get every explanation right, I would have to pursue every possible angle as my first comment on the matter. That's a really hard standard to live up to.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2013


Right, and I'm saying it might be a good idea to skip the "guess-the-reason" part. It seems (and this may be confirmation bias) that this usually creates more confusion than less, until the actual deleter comes in and explains their reasoning.

I don't think taz and jessamyn are in any sort of disagreement here, so I'm not sure why one mod shouldn't comment on another mod's action, especially if they support/agree with them.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:28 PM on June 13, 2013


But the rule being advocated in this thread would have us leave A while deleting B, even if those were the only two comments in the thread. That's not sensible, especially once you realize that most AskMes don't have simple arithmetical answers.

I would argue that it's sensible precisely because most AskMes don't have simple arithmetical answers (and you've even managed to turn a simple arithmetical non-answer into an answer). Given that a preponderance of AskMe questions may have a lot of room for conflicting opinions, taking a fairly hard line that answers must at a minimum take the forms of actual answers to the question as asked seems like as sensible a starting point as any. To me.

It's like Jeopardy! Having the right answer is great, but you still have to put it in the required format.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


no conjecture from mods until the decision-maker can provide their input?

Real world unworkable. And in actuality, most of us can explain and defend the decisions that other people make and let people know if we strongly agree, mildly agree or don't quite agree with them. The whole idea here is that we're a team and we're generally all trying to do the same thing here. People who make this about one mod, unless they feel that there is a specific trend involving one mod that we need to look at in the larger sense, are sort of missing the spirit of having more of a team than just mathowie working here. We all support keeping the site running smoothly.

Why not just say there are mitigating factors to avoid confusing users about policy?

Sometimes the answers are private and our ability to manage them is significantly improved if there's not a MeTa thread full of people who want more information about a thing that we can't really talk about. We have a lot of transparency here about how we do things, what we're thinking, and how we manage things, but we also have significantly more information about users than it's appropriate for us to share here. As soon as we start saying "Because reasons" people will start bugging us for what those reasons are. People who are confused can talk to us privately. Sometimes we actually have to use discretion to try to manage things that we can't discuss publicly (and sometimes can't discuss at all). It's more important for us to try to protect users' privacy in these cases, even when it means sometimes people aren't going to get the full story.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2013


What do you think of my hypothetical followup, though, It's Raining Florence Henderson? The offending comment has the proper form of an answer when the intervening comment is erased entirely; it's only because it's perceived as fighty grar in context that it gets deleted. My whole point this whole time has been exactly this: the formalist explanation is a misdirect, it's the content that matters.
posted by gerryblog at 6:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just did, the comment has been deleted for like 20 minutes, it's not like we had much back and forth on this. I don't like to divulge tons of deletion info but you pressed for further information and I stated it.

I'm stepping out of this thread, but, with much all due and genuine respect, I don't think it should take any back-and-forth or pressure to have clear and accurate deletion reasons. There's no privacy issue in stating that the comment led to a derail.
posted by lalex at 6:35 PM on June 13, 2013


I think you're conflating the two MeTas that you linked to (one of which had a lot of personal backstory which was what I was referring to privacywise) and mathowie just not wanting to drag in all the "Well here were the other comments that got deleted..." story from the other thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:44 PM on June 13, 2013


I disagree with the deletion. There should be some opportunity to have a back and forth on the efficacy of various bits of advice. While the OP might not benefit from the information other readers looking to draw on the wisdom of the Metafilter community may.
posted by humanfont at 6:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


OP from the original question here.

Perhaps you could have this thread read to you, in funny voices, to distract you during the birth. If this worked, I'd say it was all worth it.

Have you considered MeTa as a baby name?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'd specified that both parents are scientifically literate and giving preferential treatment to provable suggestions and advice, and that any woo would be taken into account last.

Of course you are not the only person who will read the thread looking for information. Some of the others may not be scientifically literate.
posted by grouse at 7:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


The offending comment has the proper form of an answer when the intervening comment is erased entirely

Maybe it has the proper form, but it doesn't have the proper content. The op was asking for things that work, not things that don't work.

Additionally, the fact that it was a response to a precious comment is part of what made it a derail.
posted by alms at 7:10 PM on June 13, 2013


Additionally, the fact that it was a response to a precious comment is part of what made it a derail.

But you can never respond without derailing by that standard. Every comment is precious.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:12 PM on June 13, 2013


It's the particular dynamic between the two comments that contributes to its being a derail. It is certainly possible to respond without derailing. See, you just did it and so did I.
posted by alms at 7:30 PM on June 13, 2013


I hope you don't mean me, but I can understand, based on what I wrote above, why I might be giving off that vibe, and I apologize.

No worries, and I didn't mean it to be a personal rebuke either. More it just prompted a reaction to the more aggregate phenomenon I was speaking to. And that's part of the tricky bit, is it is an aggregate thing rather than (with the rare exception) something where one specific person is like intentionally being an on-going anklebiter about it. Mostly I think it's just individual people not meaning harm and going there independently because their perpective on the mechanics of all this is necessarily a bit different than ours as the mods doing the actual work on a day-to-day basis.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2013


Of course you are not the only person who will read the thread looking for information. Some of the others may not be scientifically literate.

Any one question does not need to be all things to all people. Which is why we can specify our particulars in the questions themselves. If I wanted generic, I would have got to about.com or whatever. I wanted specific, so I asked a specific question.

I also mentioned in my question I was beyond a point where I could get a doula. Does this mean that we should have discussed the usefulness of having a doula in case someone reading through the thread later on down the track would benefit from one? Nope. Likewise no-one in that thread is discussing dealing with insurance before/after and that sort of thing, because it's again irrelevant to me. Or getting through labour as a single mother, which is also not relevant. I asked a question, in specific terms, and it was answered, by and large, within the framework of those terms.

And frankly, I find it disturbing that people seem convinced that two sentences on reiki in a childbirth thread - two sentences that were basically ignored and not echoed further down the discussion - are going to be enough to outweigh all the other good advice given over the course of the thread. The only job a pregnant woman has after about month 7 or 8 is getting ready for birth. There's huge pressure on women to Get It Right and I thoroughly doubt those two sentences are enough to convince anyone to throw their hands up at the establishment and go for a dolphin assisted lotus birth on some sunset beach. Within that thread it was a minor bit of input; within the greater context of the guidelines offered to pregnant women and the emphasis on researching and knowing what you're doing and having a Serious Plan goddammit it's a butterfly fart.
posted by Jilder at 7:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Sorry gerryblog, wasn't ignoring you. Just had to go sit in traffic. Looking at your hypothetical, I have to say that to my eyes, I don't think that it does meet the criteria of providing an answer to the question asked. The question was, "What should I do? The answer was, "Here's one thing you shouldn't do." Here's another way to look at it: in the set of all possible actual answers, there are no responses unrelated to the question. However, in the set of all possible "here is something you shouldn't do" answers, are a nearly infinite subset of answers completely unrelated to the subject. In fact, without the initial comment that your hypothetical would have been in reference to, the Reiki subject seems completely out of left field. Like saying, "Don't kiss a tiger on the mouth when you have a hot pepper between your teeth." Sure, it's good advice, but it still doesn't really answer the question.

Okay, peace out. Gotta go. Just didn't want you to think I was ignoring you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:58 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it has the proper form, but it doesn't have the proper content. The op was asking for things that work, not things that don't work.

The question was, "What should I do? The answer was, "Here's one thing you shouldn't do."

Don't hire a doula, they're a waste of money.
Don't wait to hire a doula; their schedules fill up fast.
Don't panic - your body was built to do this.
Don't panic - you won't remember any of it anyway.
Don't take drugs unless you feel you absolutely have to.
Don't turn down the drugs, you'll need them.
...would all be perfectly acceptable answers for the question "What should I do for childbirth?"

The idea that there's some important and substantive -- much less longstanding -- difference between an answer that starts with "do" and an answer that starts with "don't" is something that's simply been invented for the purposes of this thread. It's not a principle that actually guides moderation on AskMe in normal circumstances. Which points again to my position that the problem with the reiki comment is that it's perceived as flamebait because of its content, not because it forgot to tick a necessary box. I don't think this is a huge crisis for MetaFilter or anything -- it's perfectly fine if the mods decide we're just not going to fight about certain topics anymore -- but I don't see how the conversation goes anywhere useful if we keep insisting that this is solely or primarily just a question of proper house style.

Just didn't want you to think I was ignoring you.

To be honest, I'd forgotten I asked you a question at all! I saw alms's point in my recent history and then saw yours on live preview.
posted by gerryblog at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


shakespeherian It seems a lot of these Metas recently just eventually become a parade of the same handful of users coming in one at a time to express their pet concern and argue about it for a couple hours before it's the next dude's turn.

Help me out here: did you make that comment with insight to your own participation in Metatalk threads? Or is the comment to be read at face value, in which case, wow!
posted by mlis at 9:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm really disappointed you would reject the idea of a dolphin assisted lotus birth near the beach at sunset. Are you trying to bring another corporate lawyer into the world? Also its critical to get an aura score immediately on exit. Your doctor will probably insist on the APGAR first but have the child's aura read first. Have a team of metaphysicians on standby to perform an aura cleanse immediately if there are any signs of trouble.
posted by humanfont at 9:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is literally the stupidest meta ever.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:36 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: "This is literally the stupidest meta ever."

Stupider than this?
posted by Bugbread at 9:42 PM on June 13, 2013


Stupider than this?

While the stupid quotient is fairly similar that one was at least entertaining.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, the stupidest meta was the DOGS AREN'T THE SAME AS BABIES meta.

wait i mean the best meta
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


elizardbits: "DOGS AREN'T THE SAME AS BABIES"

They're obviously identical. Can you provide me a link to the MeTa so I can scoff at all the participants who think they're different?
posted by Bugbread at 9:55 PM on June 13, 2013


ANIMALS
ARE
NOT
HUMANS
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:56 PM on June 13, 2013


yes homeslice we know you think 2 legs good 4 legs baaaaad, simmer down.

Bugbread, here be the shitshow.
posted by elizardbits at 9:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "ANIMALS
ARE
NOT
HUMANS
"

Then why are the incubators in the maternity ward all full of puppies, huh? Answer me that!
posted by Bugbread at 10:00 PM on June 13, 2013


so the human babies will have something to eat?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:09 PM on June 13, 2013


1. Humans are animals.
2. Animals are not humans.
3. Therefore, humans are not humans.
posted by winna at 11:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh, MeTa archives, where so clearly to see past mistakes and plan for future ones?
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 PM on June 13, 2013


AElfwine Evenstar: "This is literally the stupidest meta ever."

Pretty sure you'll revise that statement once you see the one made tomorrow around noon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:04 AM on June 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Every comment's precious.
Every comment's great.
If a comment's wasted,
God gets quite irate.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:38 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


God gets quite irate.

He's probably feeling guilty over that whole "letting my son be nailed to the cross thing, so I understand how humans feel and thus great them salvation".

It's noting a bit of therapy can't fix.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:58 AM on June 14, 2013


If you're aiming for lazer-like consistency you're not going to get it when we do things on a case-by-case basis like we do.

I've been thinking about correlations between between people nitpicking the mods for not having laser-like consistency in deletion decisions and those having a zero-tolerance policy for anything that violates their personal high standard for scientific credibility in content. A hypothesis is beginning to present itself for empirical testing.
posted by aught at 5:45 AM on June 14, 2013


I am double-blind to the... oh, wait, there it is.
posted by box at 5:59 AM on June 14, 2013


The studies that lambdaphage cited didn't really say that reiki has no effect whatsoever. They say that reiki has no effect greater than the placebo effect. The placebo effect is real, scientifically valid (i.e. not woo), and can often give people significant pain relief. How it gets triggered varies and although it is not fully understood scientifically, it is recognized scientifically.
Telling someone not to pursue a harmless course of action that could provide real benefit by triggering placebo relief to a pain sufferer just isn't good advice, especially when it's not followed up with alternative pain relief strategies.
posted by rocket88 at 10:31 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


> The placebo effect is real, scientifically valid (i.e. not woo), and can often give people significant pain relief. How it gets triggered varies and although it is not fully understood scientifically, it is recognized scientifically.

This really needs to be emphasized here. In many threads the trope "no better than a placebo" is used as a bludgeon against some forms of palliative treatments as if the one using it just set the score straight or something.
posted by planetesimal at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2013


There does not have to be harm from getting help from a placebo. But, there is very often harm in the form of people charging way too much money for a placebo or exaggerating/deceptively presenting the benefits of what they are offering beyond a placebo. When people are not aware of what they are signing up for, they run a greater risk of running into those harms.

Someone suggested a treatment. Someone else provided more information about the treatment, that it was a placebo and the claims about energy manipulation could not be supported. That still seems like two good complementary answers. Drop in a mod note not to debate it in the thread and delete it when they do. Derail removed, potentially helpful information remains in the thread. Best of both worlds it seems to me.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:48 AM on June 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Any one question does not need to be all things to all people. Which is why we can specify our particulars in the questions themselves."

Maybe not all things to all people, but I'm under the impression that they are some things to some people in addition to the asker. There are times someone, even the OP, will indicate that some or all of their answer is for "future askers".

I thought that was once given as one reason why AskMe questions are usually not deleted but I couldn't find anything in the FAQ or wiki; could the Mods please clarify what the expectations are?
posted by Room 641-A at 12:14 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


In many threads the trope "no better than a placebo" is used as a bludgeon against some forms of palliative treatments as if the one using it just set the score straight or something.

This is a fair point. Here is a question based upon that point: is it permissible for a person or corporation sell sugar pills, without disclosing them as such, while making any claims they like about efficacy in treating or preventing any health condition?
posted by Tanizaki at 12:17 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


could the Mods please clarify what the expectations are?

The asker doesn't own their question, in that they are not allowed to tell us which answers to delete and we prefer strongly they not ask a question only to delete it or anonymize it later (we make exceptions but not more than once for a user). We expect questions to have some utility to people other than just the user which is why we disallow completely specific hypotheticals, but we don't get too hung up on the usefulness to future askers. It's understood that the questions remain available for the world at large. We don't moderate so much based on future utility as much as trying to keep the question threads going okay when they are open. This is one of the reasons we rarely go back and delete comments from closed threads, we're not moderating for some platonic ideal thread that threads are held up in contrast to.

Here is a question based upon that point

This has been a long and contentious thread already, starting up with debates on only tangentially related topics is actually not so great. People should feel free to follow up with you via MeMail.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:27 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


is it permissible for a person or corporation sell sugar pills, without disclosing them as such, while making any claims they like about efficacy in treating or preventing any health condition?

Yes, it is. So long as they don't actually call it "medicine." See almost everything in a health food store, gym, or grocery store.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


is it permissible for a person or corporation sell sugar pills, without disclosing them as such, while making any claims they like about efficacy in treating or preventing any health condition?

Not if it's a self-link on this site, generally no (it *might* be okay in a comment, but not on the blue as an fpp, and probably not as part of a question on the green, depending on the nature of the question, I suppose). That's what we're talking about, right? Stuff that is or is not okay to do on this site?
posted by rtha at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, it is. So long as they don't actually call it "medicine." See almost everything in a health food store, gym, or grocery store.

Manufacturers do make vague claims for benefits, but I believe the legal out is that little "The FDA has not evaluated these statements" disclaimer on many supplement packages.
posted by aught at 2:02 PM on June 14, 2013


is it permissible for a person or corporation sell sugar pills, without disclosing them as such, while making any claims they like about efficacy in treating or preventing any health condition?

Yes, it is. So long as they don't actually call it "medicine." See almost everything in a health food store, gym, or grocery store.


And herein lies the paradox of the placebo effect. It requires deception to work. If a doctor prescribes a sugar pill ans says it will work, you can get a placebo effect. If a person has to buy it in a grocery store where they know it isn't actual medicine, it won't work. Doctor's won't lie to their patients, so pretty much the only way to get a placebo effect (outside of clinical trials) is when a non-medical 'professional' manages to convince an individual that some sham pill/practice isn't a sham.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2013


I used to be scientific but then I was made aware of the existence of a relaxing massage technique based on speculative concepts of energy and spirituality by an irresponsible AskMe comment and now I believe in sorcery DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU

This comment was yesterday and I have tried believing in sorcery all day and I still have no magic powers.

this makes me super sad. :( :( :( :( :( :( :(
posted by winna at 5:06 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obecalp, Standardized Pharmaceutical Grade Placebo

(Invented by a mother!)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:08 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Instead of a straight-up placebo, a doctor may just recommend that you take B12 or fish oil or something else that is both good for you and harmless.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2013


I asked my doctor to prescribe me a placebo, so he was forced to switch the prescription with actual medicine. When I got better I asked him what was really wrong with me. He said I had been possessed, but the spirit was a hypochondriac, which was why the medicine worked.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:45 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


This comment was yesterday and I have tried believing in sorcery all day and I still have no magic powers.

You're just not trying hard enough. During breakfast this morning, I mentally bent my cereal spoon and then turned it into gold.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:01 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have tried believing in sorcery all day and I still have no magic powers.

Tip your head the other way and all the frownie faces turn out to have evil grins.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:07 PM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


And herein lies the paradox of the placebo effect. It requires deception to work.

Not true: the placebo effect works even if you know that you're taking a placebo. Weirdly.
posted by painquale at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2013


Not true: the placebo effect works even if you know that you're taking a placebo. Weirdly.

That is highly contentious. Relevant commentary on the issue here.
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:48 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is highly contentious. Relevant commentary on the issue here.

You're lucky this isn't AskMe.
posted by solotoro at 1:29 AM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Wow, that placebo paper is garbage science. I'm ashamed to have those researchers in our community.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on June 15, 2013


Metafilter in general, and ask.metafilter in particular, is the best moderated communities I have ever seen online. Thank you, mods. I've sent some of you fan mail individually, but now collectively, I want to say that you have a difficult and sometimes unappreciated job that you do with talent and care. Metafilter is great and getting better, and the mod team is a major reason why.

---

I'm hoping I can give a user's perspective that maybe isn't obvious to someone who spends all day moderating metafilter. I know can't speak for anyone but myself, but this is what I'm reading/feeling in this thread. I know this response is kind of long. I don't have the time or skill to make it shorter.

I think that some people's voiced concerns about formalism vs. pragmatism are rooted in a desire to avoid permitting rule subversion; if lambdaphage had added a pro-forma, "When someone I know was in labor, what really helped instead was xxxxxxx," that answer would have been more likely to avoid deletion, because it would have more obviously contained an affirmative answer. But that feels like padding the response, the same way an FPP might have incorporated extra links to avoid being a SLYT (out of the now-less-common belief that SLYT posts are bad or banned). Lambdaphage had something to offer the thread, and that criticism wasn't forbidden, but to make it conform to a rule-of-form, more needed to be added. Even though lambdaphage really only wanted to say the first part, because that first part was within lambdaphage's self considered area of confidence.

As an example, solely to illustrate what I mean, suppose I work in retail. And suppose that someone answers the question, "How can I get affordable childcare?" with, "just take the kids to a toy store and leave them there. Employees don't mind." Now, I'm not an expert, at all, in affordable childcare. But I know damn well that unaccompanied minors are a major pain, and a liability issue besides. I can provide the negative answer of "Don't do that. Most toy stores have policies against unaccompanied children, and, depending on the jurisdiction, leaving children alone in a store or other public place may constitute criminal neglect."

I could, if required, google up some links to affordable childcare programs provided by the government, and paste those onto the end of my comment. But I would only be doing that to satisfy a form requirement; I've already given the answer I'm qualified to give. I work in retail, not social services.

And suppose I'm new to ask.metafilter, and don't know the extensive guidelines. The grey text beneath the answer field says, "Note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks." Well, I'm trying to make a productive comment that will keep the asker and the asker's children from harm. I don't have the whole answer, but I'm doing my part. I'm trying to help find the answer, even if only by warning of dangerous mal-answers. I'm certainly not making a wisecrack: I've expressed my response in a serious but neutral manner.

Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to have my comment deleted because it "doesn't answer the question"? It's clearly a response to the question and the advice the questioner has recieved, how could it be anything but an answer to the question? It's not casually apparent that a negative answer doesn't actually count as an answer. Socially, sometimes advice is "Do this," but often it's, "don't do that."

And because of the html structure of ask.metafilter it's not immediately obvious that you're not supposed to address other users when answering the question. You can see their responses. The site is laid out in exactly the same way as metafilter proper, which is a hotbed of call and response. The very structure of ask looks like every other web forum with a topic at the top and comments down below.

It's really hard not to take deletions personally. Having an answer deleted isn't a punishment here, but it certainly feels like it. I spent time writing that comment, and now it's gone. I wrote that so people could see it, and now they can't. The person I was trying to help will now be unhelped, at least by me. My ego gets involved. And again, the structure of ask.metafilter works against us. Having a "Best Answer" is an ego boost. Having a lot of favorites is an ego boost. Some people reply to ask AskMe out of altruism alone, but the site wouldn't be nearly as popular if all answers were visible only to the person asking. Reddit's Karma may be nothing but useless internet points, but it works, and a similar thing applies here. Worse, there are lots of other sites where having your comment or post deleted is a punishment, and that experience works against metafilter, too. Hell, even on metafilter, having your post deleted is part of the punishment for self-promotion.


So, suppose, eventually, I wise up, and now I learn that I can still warn people of bad advice, but I also have to follow a form that requires an affirmative response as well as any optional negations. Also, I may have to pretend to not be addressing any specific bad advice the asker has received, and omit the direct "Don't do that" part of my earlier advice and leave only the part about store policy and neglect.

This is weird. As has been pointed out upthread, AskMe moderation doesn't delete bad answers. The only way to counteract bad answers is with good answers. BUT! When counteracting a bad answer with a good answer, your comment is more likely to be deleted if all it does is address the bad advice. I think this leads a lot of experts to conclude that AskMe moderation cares more about form than content and more about policy than outcome. It's strange to be motivated to disagree with someone, but then be restrained from admitting that what motivated your comment is disagreement.

It starts to feel kind of like wikipedia.

By that I mean that I can still do what I want to do, but I have to do it a specific way that is neither codified in rules (the Pirate Code is more like guidelines, mate) nor is easily apparent from the site itself. I can ask a long and rambly chatfilter question, as long as I tack a concrete question onto the end. I can warn someone about bad advice, as long as I only imply the connection to other advice given in the thread, and maybe pad it out a bit.

And a lot of this is the product of completely reasonable moderator reticence. No one wants to spend all day in the Gray having another damned argument about how the mods do their work. Well, no mod does. There isn't the time, and there isn't the energy. MeTa is an incredibly valuable community tool, but it must take such a toll.

So there's sort of a threshold effect to mod jugement: harmless but formally incorrect comments are allowed some leeway, while those most likely to be problematic are held to a higher standard. And again, this is frustrating. Especially frustrating because often it's the directly contradictory answers that are the most likely to cause fights, and thus get held to the higher standards. So you have cases like this, where someone says, "Reiki, yay!" and then the reply is, "Reiki, boo!" and only the naysayer is deleted.

It's also frustrating when someone learns what the guidelines are and adheres to them scrupulously, while all the while starting fights or advancing an agenda that others may wish to respond to, but cannot do to a weaker mastery of the form.

To get back to the specific deletion at issue here, it was deleted on perfectly reasonable grounds: the asker said, "Woo is okay!"

Now, of course, the opponents of Woo can point out, "But the asker said Science is okay, too!" And now the mods have to try to explain all of this without antagonizing anyone needlessly, and just because of the diversity and scope of the user population sometimes it's not going to go well, and then there are fights.

I think it's often lost on us users how much of a moderator's job is just to keep the peace and thereby make the site a pleasant and useful place for as many different people as possible. Of course things that cause fights are held to a higher standard. Fights are a lot of work, they drive off members of the community, and they're emotionally draining. But often to a user, that just looks like "things that cause fights are deleted, regardless of other merits." I wonder if less leniency and more upfront presentation of the guidelines would better manage user expectations and reduce the number of meta threads. Not that I think it would satisfy all the critics, especially some-of-the-people-all-of-the-time, but it might help reduce general community angst.

Anyway, that's how it looks to me.
Happy Moderator's day. :)
posted by Richard Daly at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


So you have cases like this, where someone says, "Reiki, yay!" and then the reply is, "Reiki, boo!" and only the naysayer is deleted.

That is not what that comment said, in part or in whole.

/never had reiki, not an expert, not a doctor, never been pregnant, has had unhelpful comments deleted from ask
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did not mean it in part or in whole, but in summary reference. It was not meant to reflect the quality of either the initial answer or the response to it, merely to refer to it, and the way moderation can sometimes seem to be endorsing the first mover in a debate when no such endorsement exists.
posted by Richard Daly at 12:42 PM on June 15, 2013


the way moderation can sometimes seem to be endorsing the first mover in a debate when no such endorsement exists

Looking at the larger picture of how woo is handled here, that absolute is perhaps not so absolute.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:46 PM on June 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looking at the larger picture of how woo is handled here

You have said a bunch of things lately in particular that hint at but do not make plain the basis of your strong feelings about some pro-woo plank in the moderation platform here, one that really doesn't jibe with my experiences as a member of this moderation team. I think if you want to talk about this you need to take the time to actually talk about it in detail instead of doing this recurring "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" dance around the subject.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:31 PM on June 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Look, I don't get why this is still going. It has nothing to do with woo (my how I have grown to hate that word in a really short time.) it's about helpful answers on AskMe. People seem to have some paranoia about some kind of hidden agenda woo-pedalling. I know I haven't been here long but I do not see that at all.

Bottom line - people ask questions, they want helpful answers. Ruthlessbunny didn't just mention reiki. She said (to paraphrase):
-Dad will need sleep, bring a Benadryl
-Bring your phone chargers
-my friends daughter found reiki helpful
-don't forget books and magazines etc
-good luck!

Three excellent and really helpful suggestions, and one mention of something alternative that helped someone she knew.

Lambdaphage said:
-reiki is not proven to work

This is not helpful. It existed purely to refute one quarter of the previous answer. I am going to be cynical and suggest their motives were more about "I cannot let this woo stand" than "I must help this OP". It made reiki the focus, not help with preparation for childbirth. It was not deleted, IMO, because of pro-woo, kremlinesque prevarication, moderator contrariness or any other dark art.

AskMe: Just answer the damn question.
posted by billiebee at 2:10 PM on June 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


"I wonder if less leniency and more upfront presentation of the guidelines would better manage user expectations and reduce the number of meta threads. Not that I think it would satisfy all the critics, especially some-of-the-people-all-of-the-time, but it might help reduce general community angst."

My sense is that this is about as good as it gets, assuming that MeFi is still inclusive of various personality types.

Less leniency and a stricter enforcement of formal rules would a) alienate even more people, making MeFi feel more authoritarian than it does now, and b) involve at least as much rules-lawyering as there is now and probably quite a bit more.

More leniency and less formal rules, especially in AskMe, would also alienate more people because AskMe would inevitably become more about arguing in threads, like the rest of MeFi, than about answering the questions. If it's less formality but about the same level of the application of moderator judgment for deletions intended to minimize disruption, then people will complain even more about arbitrary enforcement.

In my opinion, a set of announced guidelines that are enforced at the moderator's judgment, with a soft touch where trouble is less likely and a harder touch where it is more likely, is the best approach.

It's a small minority of users who find this confusing and upsetting. It works for the majority. The users who have the most trouble with this are those who have trouble with interpersonal ambiguity and want clear rules of behavior, or those who take enforcement that affects them personally, or those who would be troublemakers under any circumstances and find the ambiguity here to be felicitous for their purposes.

With regard to this particular case...

I am going to be cynical and suggest their motives were more about 'I cannot let this woo stand' than 'I must help this OP'"

...I agree with billiebee except that I am not as cynical, and that I think that in this case and generally, it's less likely that this was explicitly the motives as it was that, for most people, there's a conflation of "I can't let this wrongness stand" and "being helpful". I think most of us have this tendency, most of us have this tendency with particular examples that press our buttons, though this seems to be a full-time occupation for a few.

But it's a powerful impulse: when someone asks for advice and someone else gives what we think is bad advice, it's very difficult to not seize upon this and contest it, even when the part that made it "bad" was really a minor point. This is why I think that contesting other people's answers is counterproductive — it makes it about that point in contention which, as billiebee points out, was really just a small part of the answer. If disputing answers was thought to be a good thing in itself, then the pro-reiki and anti-reiki views could have been and would have been argued at length in the thread, which would have been a distraction. And this would be true all the time, in almost all threads, and we know this because it's how threads on MeFi and MeTa work. A very large portion of the comments are people arguing about minor points, minor assertions of fact.

And that's why it's not just a fig-leaf, a formality, to require an answer that is disputing another answer to also be directly answering the question. Because that requirement is an anchor. It keeps the discussion centered in the question, not the disputed answers.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:03 PM on June 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


1) The deletion was just barelywarranted IMHO but it's borderline, oh so borderline, and I think could have gone either way... pros are in charge of making the decision, we largely enjoy the fruits of their labor, so I just trust them to make the best decisions most of the time. I don't like people who try to divide-and-conquer the mods, that's pathetic and you're not cool just because you're comfortable squeezing professionals into preserving the unified front that is probably a job requirement to maintain a cohesive order here.

The only presumption of bad faith I see going on is Blasdelb, very non-objectively defending his friend by slashing and burning everyone else. That sucks dude, get grip. I don't think the mods should defend a "it's OK to dispute an answer as long as you pony up a new one" approach and focus should instead be on the fact that this was a highly particular question that invited "metaphysical" answers and the "well actually RESEARCH" answer wasn't really helpful to the asker, but I say it's borderline because I still think the site should serve the needs of future searchers just like some folks insist the blue is "best of the web" when it's not actually quite defined that way.

2) This post doesn't serve the poster well, it just makes them come across as a "well actually!" nerd bomber (thanks Full House for that term) and I'm as hard-core science-y as the next guy, but this failed the "read the room" test and the persecution angle is weak and childish.

3) ishrinkmajeans is giving me a familiar "ban it with fire" feeling that I've experienced before but won't name names since I've "read the room" over the years and learned that this isn't cool. They are a troll that needs training wheels and exercise elsewhere whether intentionally trolling or not (it's a different kind of "intentional," I've been there, posting on BBS's and such since the age of 10 for 22 years now and "I remember my first forum" like Steve Martin remembered his first beer). They are unfortunatley a blight on the site that seems to drag it down entirely whenever they show up, yes we can all ignore it but it's kind of like trying to ignore the person at the party that nobody really invited who just makes the whole affair seem "dumber" somehow, and we don't need the 8th grade forensics bullshit "logic! I knows fallacies!" facile as fuck rhetoric shit here; those teeth can be sharpened elsewhere and over time mellowness and age might produce a marketable product for MeFi.
posted by lordaych at 8:54 AM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, I am right there with gerryblog in getting annoyed that the mods, so frequently it seems, will make a good and valid decision to delete a comment because it is going to create IP-declaw-ageddon, but instead of admitting that, using some other guideline as the reason, and then producing insanely convoluted reasons why the comment was deleted while other comments breaking the same guideline (but which wouldn't produce IP-declaw-ageddon) were not.

I don't know, I think if you read the mod comments from the top the picture is pretty clear. It should go without saying that they do things case-by-case...but they said it anyway.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it is officially ok to endorse Reiki healing, but not to point out that it is rejected by the scientific and medical communities, because that would be a 'derail'. Do I have that right?

Yeah, I'm completely convinced now that the deletion was perfectly cromulent, especially after Jilder chimed in multiple times here and reinforced the points outlined in the question. This sentence shows that BUT SCIENCE! WELL ACTUALLY! types can still benefit from a little "outside the box" thinking despite their insistence on living in a "reality based" world.
posted by lordaych at 3:53 PM on June 17, 2013


Richard Daly above makes some tremendous points about systemic incentives and motivators. I'd really like to see some mod responses to those--after all, some of the "bad action" that leads to these MeTa dustups can be seen as a result of some systemic conditions ("best answer" and "favorite" encourage ego involvement, some deletions are punishment, AskMe is laid out like MeFi and thus seems to encourage multilateral discussion, etc.).

(His points about how fucking great moderation in general is here are also tremendous and I'm absolutely not calling on anyone to "defend" anything, just to further carry the discussion he's broached).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:38 PM on June 17, 2013


I agree 100% with Richard Daly's points and am also glad that he has asked the questions he has.

IMHO, it's a red herring and/or muddy communication to talk about answering the question, and not addressing other users. If you can criticize another answer when your top priority is answering the question, when you're not making your criticism personal or off-topic, then that's fine. In other words, the same rule is in effect as would always have been in effect: answer the question, stay on-topic, don't be a jerk.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:08 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


billiebee wrote: AskMe: Just answer the damn question.

Haven't seen it recently, so I'll reiterate that negative answers have long been accepted on AskMe, so long as they aren't debating another poster. Generally speaking, I've found that simply avoiding reference to other answers helps ensure the proper form. In this particular case, it didn't matter.

The reason I'm unhappy with it is simply that it's a case of a moderator choosing to delete something that was not in itself problematic because it might later spark problematic comments. Totally understandable, but not something I personally would like to see more of here. There are lots of places on the Internet where certain topics are basically unmentionable because the default assumption is that bringing them up at all will spark a flamewar.

I don't think that people should be able to control what gets discussed here by being big enough jackasses about certain topics that the mods get fed up and say "nope, we can't talk about that any more." There are already a couple of topics here on MeFi that are pretty close to that line. I'm actually OK with that because the mod team first did everything they could to deal with the people making the problematic posts first, and only once that failed has it become "just don't talk about those things except in the most carefully worded ways."
posted by wierdo at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason I'm unhappy with it is simply that it's a case of a moderator choosing to delete something that was not in itself problematic because it might later spark problematic comments.

No, that's not the reason it was deleted at all (unless you don't believe the mods, in which case that's a much bigger problem than a borderline deletion).
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:03 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, you can disagree with it being problematic, but according to the person who did the deletion it happened because they saw it as breaking the rules of askme, NOT because they were worried about it sparking later rule breaking.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:05 PM on June 17, 2013


Richard Daly's comment mischaracterizes what the moderators have said here. I have said 'Don't do [that thing another user recommended], it's dangerous!' quite directly in AskMe (with an explanation of why it's dangerous), and I have had other users counter my advice in a similar direct 'no, that's wrong' way. It's my understanding that this is still totally fine on AskMe as long as your disagreement with other users advice remains on topic and you're not throwing in personal attacks on the user who gave it. Richard Daly's claim that "I also have to follow a form that requires an affirmative response" is something he made up, not something the mods actually said.

lambdaphage's answer was deleted because his disagreement with the use of Reiki wasn't on topic. He posted a link debunking the use of Reiki as a medical treatment, when the OP wasn't asking about medical treatment options and the answer he was responding to wasn't recommending it as a substitute for medical treatment. His answer would have been totally OK exactly as he typed it as an answer to another question where someone was asking about treatment options and someone recommended Reiki as substitute for a standard medical procedure.

Taz's second response is pretty explicit about this. None of the moderator's said anything about lambdaphage's answer "not being affirmative enough".

If you think opposing the use of Reiki as a substitute for medical treatment is so important that it justifies derailing any thread where it's mentioned, even when it's not being recommended as such, you can say so, but you don't need to make up non-existent strawman policies to do that.
posted by nangar at 7:41 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


nangar, The first paragraph of the first reply by Taz says:

"Ask Metafilter operates differently from Metafilter proper. It's for answering the OP's question, not for arguing with other people's answers, and moderation is much stricter on that part of the site. If your comment is just a criticism of someone else's answer, it will most likely be deleted. Here's a bit from the FAQ:"

And the second response by Taz, which you linked to, replies to hal_c_on who asked:


"Hi, Mods.
Would it have been more acceptable if the comment from this Meta's OP was along the lines of:
"My advice is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah...labor pains. It'll really help ya. Also, I'd reconsider doing the reiki as the scientific and medical community seem to not stand behind it".
Not trying to start shit, just trying to figure out the dynamic on askme."


Taz replies:

hal_c_on, I can't give you a template, but generally speaking, yes, something like that is usually better. But we judge things case by case.


---

You're right that there has not been a command from the mods to BE MORE AFFIRMATIVE CITIZEN. The mods have been at pains to indicate that these are guidelines, not rules. There is no "Be Affirmative" rule. But it does seem to me, and I think other commenters in this thread, that affirmative answers are less likely to be deleted than negative answers, and I don't think that's an unreasonable way to read the mod statements on this.

What I'm pointing out is that -- in practice -- what the mods have been saying is, "Answer the question" and in practice that does seem to mean "Stay on the topic as framed by the asker, be affirmative, don't fight." I don't think I'm making up an affirmative bias, I think I'm pointing it out.

Also,

I don't think my comments have anything to do with my opinion on Reiki, which I have not stated in this thread. (If I'm reading him right,) I was criticized by Blazecock for unfairly summarizing the anti-woo argument, which was not my intent, and now you are criticizing me for being pro-woo to the point of justifying thread derailment, which I think is also not the case.

Pro and anti Reiki positions are not the intent of my comment. I'm much more interested in ask.metafilter as a system and a community than I am whether Reiki is being offered in Australian maternity wards. I think it's a shame that lambdaphage has left AskMe, and I think there are too many contentious threads here on the Gray about Mod policy, but mostly I think that these things have structural causes that are not being properly resolved by taking things on a case by case basis.

I think we lose a number of experts in a way that is somwhat like the way wikipedia loses experts, and for some of the same reasons. Certianly every unhappy user is unhappy in their own way, and there will always be turnover. But I think that managing user expectations around the guidelines, and potentially making adjustments to the site to improve clarity, could reduce mod workload and reduce bad feelings all around. At the very least, I'm hoping to focus awareness of these issues for other members here, so we can move this discussion forward.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:41 PM on June 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Er, anti-woo to the point of justifying thread derailment.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:53 PM on June 17, 2013


I agree that Wikipedia loses experts because of its severe structural flaws. AskMe also loses experts, and AskMe also has some structural flaws, but I don't agree that we have the same cause/effect relationship between those two. And I say that as (1) an expert, and (2) a user who fundamentally agreed with the principal objection of probably the most famous expert/account-disabler in this site's history (ikkyu2).

I keep in mind something Jessamyn said once. She and I probably don't totally agree on the issue of legal/medical questions on AskMe; but she said something to the effect of, "People chat about their problems with their neighbors. That's AskMe." And you know, that's valid. There's a place for that. When you frame it that way, I think the issue changes from being a unique minefield of trying to puzzle out how to police questions and answers, to being a relatively common and mundane question of how to manage expectations.
posted by cribcage at 9:21 PM on June 17, 2013


painquale: "I don't see why that's a derail, I guess. It's giving childbirth advice, which is what was asked for."

"If you're thinking about driving a monster truck the day before, let me tell you -- don't do it. Monster trucks are really not recommended for pregnant ladies, and in fact are fairly dangerous even for the non-pregnant."
posted by Deathalicious at 11:44 PM on June 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Daly, in the exchange you quoted, hal_c_on was asking if the answer would have been less likely to be deleted if had at least partially dealt with the topic the OP was asking about. taz responded that, yes, it would have been less likely to be deleted in this case, but "we judge things case by case".

It's hard to construe this as a recommendation to include extraneous asides in AskMe comments, and this has nothing to do with "affirming" or agreeing with anything.
posted by nangar at 12:17 AM on June 18, 2013


There is no "Be Affirmative" rule. But it does seem to me, and I think other commenters in this thread, that affirmative answers are less likely to be deleted than negative answers

Search askme for the banjo question.

There are lots of questions where the asker is all "I want to do [crazy/illegal/really, really ill-advised thing]" that fill up with not-going-to-get deleted answers that are all "Uh, this is not a great idea because..." and "Have you considered the consequences of...." and even "Yeah, I did that, and I'm still in jail because of it, so don't do that." (I made the last one up.)

You can disagree with the asker; you can disagree with other answerers. You just can't be a dick when you do it, and you must, somehow, answer the question asked - even if to (politely) refute the asker's premise.
posted by rtha at 6:33 AM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not edited to add: or search for almost any question from sixcolors.
posted by rtha at 6:34 AM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hell, even on metafilter, having your post deleted is part of the punishment for self-promotion.

I can buy that perception, but I think that's reading something that's not there into it. Having your post deleted when you self-link is only punishment in the sense that having something you stole taken back when you get caught is punishment; it's an incidental undoing of a wrong that's secondary to the actual punishment, which is getting banned from the site for violating the biggest rule we have. It's not like we go and track down someone's best comments to delete when they get banned, just to twist the knife; it's explicitly not punitive in any sort of retributional, Now You See What You Get sort of way.

But it does seem to me, and I think other commenters in this thread, that affirmative answers are less likely to be deleted than negative answers, and I don't think that's an unreasonable way to read the mod statements on this.

For my part, I think it's easier, in abstract and in general, to construct an unproblematic answer that's presenting an affirmative "yes, here's how to handle/solve/source/deal with your query as presented" take on a question than one that's focused on "no, don't do that, don't use this, write this off, abandon your premise". That's not because affirmative answers are better or preferred as a rule, it's because threading the needle on "how do I" with "don't" is a little more complex as answering strategies go.

To put it another way, there's nothing inherently problematic about negative answers, but there are more challenges in general to successfully presenting a negative answer. If there is some degree of structural bias toward affirmative answers, it's at the "how to put together a good comment in context" level, not in a "yes = good, no = bad" level.

And I emphasize "in abstract and in general" because, as folks have noted a bunch of times, this is something that depends greatly on the actual circumstances of a question, as well as on the facility with which individual answers approach a thread. There have been many threads where the answers have been overwhelmingly in the negative about the premises of a question and have been fine; there have been many where different cohorts of answerers have held strongly diverging views on how to approach the problem which have been fine. This stuff can work just fine when it works, and when it doesn't it tends to have more to do with someone not framing their answer well or reading the room well than with them wanting to say "no, actually" in some sense to what the asker presented or what another answerer suggested.

But I think that managing user expectations around the guidelines, and potentially making adjustments to the site to improve clarity, could reduce mod workload and reduce bad feelings all around.

I would say your goal here and ours are actually in alignment, then; we may just disagree about what steps are practical on that front. Because, for example, there's a lot of tension between the idea of managing expectations of the guidelines and codifying them as an explicit ruleset: I feel like the tricky thing with discussions like this one is the old Hard Cases Make Bad Law issue where finding a decisive, wholly unambiguous answer to a question about affirmative-vs-negative answers would actually be more impractical and destructive to the workability of the site than the otherwise squishier and context-sensitive guidelines-and-talk-about-it-in-metatalk approach we currently have. But it would certainly clarify the guideline on this front to make it decisive and concise, to roll out a stripped-down "it is always okay / not okay to do x" thing for folks to reference when trying to decide how to answer a question or not.

It's flexibility vs. inflexibility, derivable from two different well-meaning arguments for notional goods, and ultimately we just prefer to err on the side of flexibility as what's served this site well over the years. But that can be legitimately frustrating for some folks, for a variety of reasons pretty much all of which I can sympathize with (and have, explicitly, sympathized with to users in direct communication about a deletion or a question or whatnot now and then). This is a large and complex place; I want it to be approachable and unfrustrating for people to the extent that we can manage, but I don't think its complexity can actually be reduced to the point where 99.99% will be totally happy without undermining what makes it interesting and valuable to most of the people who are actually here now.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:34 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no "Be Affirmative" rule. But it does seem to me, and I think other commenters in this thread, that affirmative answers are less likely to be deleted than negative answers, and I don't think that's an unreasonable way to read the mod statements on this.

Answers that don't address the question often get deleted and it makes no real difference whether they have a positive or negative tone.

Relationship questions are typically filled with comments giving negative advice. To the point that DTMFA (dump the motherfucker already) has actually become site shorthand.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on June 18, 2013


Pedantic point: the acronym DTMFA is a Dan Savage-ism, not something invented here.
posted by escabeche at 3:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


True! :)
posted by zarq at 10:37 PM on June 21, 2013


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