Deleted Askme Post? February 23, 2014 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I was in the process of replying to an ask me post, that I don't think violated any guidelines. In the process of responding, a little notice popped up that it was deleted. I don't want to go into specifics as to what the post was about if the poster asked for it to be deleted. I'm just curious how often this happens and what the reason is. The broad strokes description was that the post was a complicated relationship/mental health question, and the poster seemed to be in a lot of distress.

I actually wondered if the last part was the reason why; it was all over the board and clear the person needed help beyond what askme could give. My own response was "get the back in therapy" with some personal anecdotes but I knew as I was writing it that it would not be adequate. On the other hand, I've seen some complicated mental health posts before. I'm more curious than anything.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Etiquette/Policy at 4:35 PM (42 comments total)

Usually we use the contact form to ask the mods questions about particulars like this.
posted by kalessin at 4:36 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I actually wondered if the last part was the reason why; it was all over the board and clear the person needed help beyond what askme could give.

I think I know what question you mean; I think "it was all over the board" is a big part of it and, as stated in the deletion reason, there wasn't really a question. The poster is clearly in a challenging situation and I hope she gets the help she needs, but what that is wasn't particularly clear from the question.

That said, OP, if you see this and you live near DC and there's anything I can do to help, send me a MeFi mail.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:37 PM on February 23, 2014


You can see the deletion reason if you see that box - just refresh the page. In this case, it was "This post was deleted for the following reason: Hey, sorry that you are going through some rough stuff. This needs to me more of a question to work here, though - contact us soon if you want to try to rework it."

It's not a particularly uncommon situation with questions that are not too far over the border - some focusing and trimming and that particular one will probably be fine.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ah, the automated reason that came up in the post just said "This post was deleted." I didn't refresh the page, so didn't realize that askme also gave a reason. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:45 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I respect that the mods have a really really tough job to do on questions like this, but I have to admit that this kind of deletion concerns me a little on behalf of the OP. If the question was the one I think it is, even though it was pretty sprawling and had, well, a ton of background detail, it was cogent and did end in a short, answerable question. When someone's going through such a hard time, pulling together the presence of mind or even the time and energy to reach out for an answer and write a question like that can be really hard and draining. I think it would feel really crappy to have such a question deleted. I know Ask isn't and shouldn't be proxy therapy, but I guess to me this case felt so not particularly egregious in terms of how it transgressed the guidelines that I wonder if a little more caution might better be taken.
posted by threeants at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


kalessin: Usually we use the contact form to ask the mods questions about particulars like this.

Since just about every one of these threads has a hall monitor so helpfully making this suggestion, it doesn't seem like this is something "we" usually do at all.
posted by spaltavian at 5:27 PM on February 23, 2014 [32 favorites]


I guess to me this case felt so not particularly egregious in terms of how it transgressed the guidelines that I wonder if a little more caution might better be taken.

I dithered over it for a while, actually, pretty much for that reason, but ultimately came down on the side of deletion because, as written, it wasn't going to get answers. And AskMe is about answering questions, not, as you say, proxy therapy. I really do sympathize for people who are in a tough spot and not able to articulate anything beyond their life story and "help!" but questions like that are not ones that AskMe does useful things with, most of the time.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


We're in touch with the OP and hopefully will be able to work something out with them. But yeah, AskMe posts need to be some sort of question where people can give you advice, answers, or other concrete suggestions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:41 PM on February 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


The only question marks in the post were ones in questions that the OP asked her mother. The only thing the OP asked of the community was, roughly, "Tell me I'm not alone!" There was just no clear direction for answerers to go in; she didn't even ask for advice. It seems like it might be counterproductive for a bunch of people to chime in with answers to unasked "Should I ____?" or "What should I do with my medical debt?" questions, which is probably what would have occurred. Or they might have been welcome answers; it's hard to say.

On not-preview, I'm glad that the mods are in touch with the OP; it seems like it wouldn't take that long of an additional paragraph to make it something that the community can really be helpful with.
posted by supercres at 5:43 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a former hall monitor, I think we can close this up...
posted by HuronBob at 5:43 PM on February 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Quick - steal his reflective sash!
posted by item at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Shows what you know, the reflective sash was for the Safety Patrol.
posted by HuronBob at 6:29 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


"I'm just curious how often this happens and what the reason is."

You can check the Ask MetaFilter Deleted Posts blog if you really want to know.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:33 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


FAQ.
posted by John Cohen at 6:58 PM on February 23, 2014


Ah, I just realized that what I read as "I just need to know how other people have survived this" was actually "I just need to know other people have survived this", which changes things a bit in terms of its questionality.
posted by threeants at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2014


I've been meaning to put all these links in one place for the next time that I have to reinstall an OS or a browser or something. Posting them here might help others, too.

You can install the Metafilter Deleted Posts script in Chrome with the Tampermonkey extension or in Firefox with the Greasemonkey add-on. It shows deleted posts and questions. Each one contains the reason why the moderator deleted it.

There are a bunch of great scripts at userscripts.org for Metafilter. I have five of them installed:

Mefi deleted posts
Mefiquote*
MeFi Navigator
MetaFilter Scroll Tag
MeFi comment numbering*

These make the site much more enjoyable for me by providing ponies that the Metafilter staff can't or won't provide (usually for good reasons.)

I also like the Metafilter Better Contrast user style. You'll need Stylish (Chrome Link. Firefox Link.)

There is also the fantastic GraphFi bookmarklet. It shows a bar graph of favorites and a visual indication of which comments are in response to others.

* - If you use these two together, comment numbering will insert the comment number into your quote. Just delete it before you post and you'll be fine. One of the others inserts a <span> tag into the quote. Don't worry about that -- metafilter strips out <span> tags and their contents when you post your comment.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:48 PM on February 23, 2014 [36 favorites]


It's frustrating when you write an answer and can't post it. AskMe has to gave a boundary; it's painful because you want to be compassionate to a person in distress, but AskMe can't provide that help. I was really relieved to read Jessamyn's comment that the mods are in touch with the asker. Part of actually being a community is looking out for each other.
posted by theora55 at 11:01 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


>>kalessin: Usually we use the contact form to ask the mods questions about particulars like this.
>
>Since just about every one of these threads has a hall monitor so helpfully
>making this suggestion, it doesn't seem like this is something "we" usually do at all.


Since there are thousands of active users and threads like this only appear about three times a week I'd say that it is something that "we" do a lot. And will do more thanks to the helpful reminders of the hall monitors.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:31 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm with threeants, I appreciate that the question didn't exactly meet guidelines, but I thought that although there wasn't a syntactically-formed question per se, in this instance the key problems, at least, were pretty clearly articulated, and it seemed pragmatics might fill in the gaps without too much of a leap. I think the likelihood is OP would have received comforting and encouraging words from survivors of similar situations about making it through; thoughtful words around making sense of having been abused and then blamed for it and then abandoned by people who are supposed to love and protect you; understanding from people born to immigrant families, whose lives have also been marked by the conflict of culture. S/he surely would have gotten (probably state-specific) information around negotiating/paying for care.

With that said, it's true that AskMetafilter is not itself therapy (always, anyway), and it's true the post wasn't technically a question. I wouldn't want to have to think about upholding this particular guideline, in situations like these. I am also glad OP has been contacted. (OP, you were heard, and I hope you are able to rest a bit tonight, and come back tomorrow, and ask the question/s you want people to help with.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:49 AM on February 24, 2014


Trust me, it's not the funnest thing to have to delete some of these posts and ask for a do-over. Like, "You know how everything in your life is super crappy right now, and you're feeling totally miserable? Well, guess what, we just deleted your post." Which is why we try really hard to work with people to edit and undelete whenever possible, or discuss with them and let them mull it over and post later, or do whatever we can to try to make it work for them – and we're always available 24 hours a day to have a look before someone submits their question to help with any possible bumpiness.

But just throwing out the guidelines for some posts when we feel like it isn't a good way to go. It puts us in the position of evaluating whose unhappiness or trouble is more deserving, for one thing. It sets up a precedent for other posts, and what do we say? "You just don't seem as desperate and sad as that other person, so no, sorry"? So that would mean dropping the guideline that there must actually be a concrete question to begin with, which would make Ask Metafilter a different sort of site entirely.

We don't have the expertise, skill, training, manpower, structure, or will to be an actual crisis / psychological support service, so we need to stick with offering practical advice for specific concrete questions, and sometimes that means moderators need to make choices that don't necessarily feel great for anyone – especially us, but we do our best to be as helpful as we possibly can to work with anyone in need to structure their question in a way that will work on this site.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:05 AM on February 24, 2014 [26 favorites]


No you're absolutely right, on all counts, sorry. It's not easy work, and it's appreciated.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:34 AM on February 24, 2014


(In this case, I did actually gloss [treat] it as a question, which raises another question, about how well I am actually attending to explicit questions vs things I'm reading into them.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:40 AM on February 24, 2014


In one or two instances in the past I've MeMailed an answer to the OP of a deleted question, where I was in the process of composing an answer when it was deleted.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:58 AM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Since just about every one of these threads has a hall monitor so helpfully making this suggestion, it doesn't seem like this is something "we" usually do at all.

There's actually a checkbox at the end of the MetaTalk submission page saying, "My request requires community input and cannot be addressed by contacting MetaFilter staff."
posted by smackfu at 7:57 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


double block and bleed: I've been meaning to put all these links in one place for the next time that I have to reinstall an OS or a browser or something.

You can also look at the MeFi wiki Bookmarklets page and the Greasemonkey Scripts and Plugins page. The Greasemonkey page could use some re-organization, as the list of scripts is in no particular order. I've added that to my to-do list, unless someone else wants to do it.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:32 AM on February 24, 2014


smackfu: There's actually a checkbox at the end of the MetaTalk submission page saying, "My request requires community input and cannot be addressed by contacting MetaFilter staff."

See also: the announcement thread for this feature.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:35 AM on February 24, 2014


> Since just about every one of these threads has a hall monitor so helpfully making this suggestion, it doesn't seem like this is something "we" usually do at all.

Since your "point" is completely meaningless (you have no idea how many people decide not to make similar posts because they realize they should use the contact form instead), I guess you just felt like insulting people who provide useful suggestions in MeTa threads.
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think there is a meaningful point to be made, though. As someone who enjoys reading MetaTalk and sometimes even learns something from it, personally I could do without the in-thread reminders to contact a mod directly. As smackfu points out, when creating a MetaTalk thread there is a checkbox that needs to be clicked indicating you want community involvement, so I'm not sure why anybody would assume that the OP did not know contacting a mod was an option. Moreover, while maybe it's me misreading the tone, sometimes the reminders do sound sort of unnecessarily sanctimonious, maybe even a little more scolding than helpful. I'm not saying that's the case in this specific thread, but overall I don't know that these reminders are all that desirable.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:06 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Actually, "Hall Monitor" is NOT an insult. I was a Hall Monitor once - I was monitoring Anthony Michael Hall, back in 1985. I'd get some Anthony Michael Hall calendars, lay them on the bed, and then I'd be all, "Oh, look who's on my bed without a 'Hall pass'. Guess someone just got themselves a snuggle detention."

My point here is: do you think my children will ever grow up to read these comments? If so, should I try to make less with the weird, slightly gross teenage confessions? I've emailed the mods already about this, BTW.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:08 AM on February 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


Is this a thread about using MeTa vs. using the Contact Form? I thought that was somewhere else.

Anyway, I see the mods' point here. People seem to be more or less in agreement that the question was borderline, and the thing about borderline questions is that sometimes they're deleted and sometimes they're not. The mods obviously try to come up with the best rationale possible for their eventual decision, but sort of by definition there are always going to be cogent arguments to be made for either course of action.

In this case the mods erred on the side of deletion; in another, slightly different case they might err on the side of leaving it up. Either way is potentially appropriate (though I favor the mods' choice in this case) and I think that deleting this question and then reaching out to the asker to work on a repost was an excellent compromise.
posted by Scientist at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2014


Suggestion to those who really want to help someone who asked an AskMe that then got deleted - Why not memail them with what you were going to say in the thread? If they posted anonymously, they may have also gotten a throwaway email you could use instead. I've actually done that a few times.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


languagehat: Since your "point" is completely meaningless (you have no idea how many people decide not to make similar posts because they realize they should use the contact form instead),

Actually, that would undermine the orginal claim that the contact form is what we usually do, since that information wouldn't be available to kalessin, either. But clearly, the people who choose to post a MeTa are not part of this "we".

These aren't helpful suggestions, it's a rules lawyering derail. And it doesn't help that they are usually come with a tone. Usually it's sort of a scolding "what did the mods say when you used the contact form", but the use of the royal "we" really takes the cake.

Scientist: Is this a thread about using MeTa vs. using the Contact Form? I thought that was somewhere else.

There was, and if I recall correctly, even a mod said they wished people would stop "helpfully" reminding people about a thing they had to check a box not to use.
posted by spaltavian at 11:35 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


If they posted anonymously, they may have also gotten a throwaway email you could use instead.

Also, it's very rare that anonymous AskMes are deleted, since they have to be pre-approved by a mod before appearing on the site.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2014


There was, and if I recall correctly, even a mod said they wished people would stop "helpfully" reminding people about a thing they had to check a box not to use.

If I recall correctly a mod also said "My primary fetish is cross-dressing Albanian midgets." I'm sure I could find the comment and link to it if I wished my recollection to bear any weight.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:15 PM on February 24, 2014


Please tell me I wasn't the only one who just did a site-wide search for the phrase "cross-dressing Albanian midgets".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:23 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mostly we'd like folks to think about what they're saying and why at the top of a thread, and yeah that does include resisting the urge to drop a "well, what did the mods say?" prod if there's not some really specific reason to think that the Metatalk post exists based on a serious misunderstanding of how Metatalk is supposed to work. Or, if there is a good reason to ask, maybe frame it more constructively in terms of talking about why you feel like it's inappropriate for Metatalk, since that sort of thing is a little more useful for sussing out evolving community expectations about the site.

That said, graring about "hall monitors" is also not exactly productive stuff and it'd be nice not to see that sort of reaction either. "I think this is fine, actually, because x, y, z" is itself a lot more constructive.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:26 PM on February 24, 2014


While I'm thinking about this, the idea that the community should abdicate its self-policing role in favor of the moderators is fairly odious. Moderators have a few extra buttons they can push, but we are all of us responsible for how the site is used and how we interact with one another.

The moderators help police the trouble spots, but they are not a Mom and Dad we can run to for authoritative warm fuzzies whenever any little thing falls out of place. If you have a problem with someone's behaviour say it, don't diminish both your self and your fellow users by pretending we're all school kids with a benevolent higher power dictating policy from above.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2014


Are you serious? The insistence on using the contact form is an example of abrogating the self policing aspect of the community and just having the mods intercede.
posted by spaltavian at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2014


I think the point of the contact form checkbox was mostly because people would post things to MeTa that were just directly questions for us and then once those questions were answered the MeTa threads would become sort of "open threads" to talk about only partly related stuff. Which is not a big deal really but we wanted to have a visual indicator that we were also contactable privately and also a bit of a nudge that this part of the site is for talking to the community, not just asking the mods a question (unless you wanted to talk to us publicly in which case this is perfect for it). We had gotten some feedback that indicated that this wasn't clear from people who felt either

1. MeTa is the only/best way to contact the mods
2. Other people annoyed that people used MeTa to do a thing that basically amounted to having a user-mod conversation that didn't need to be public.

Sometimes people are really upset about a thing and having a one-on-one talk with us first is often a useful precursor to framing a larger question for the community and we like to be helpful/available for that sort of thing as well.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2014


WOW!

Just saw this....

I'm glad the mods are in touch with the OP!!

I thought the underlying reason for deletion was that the OP expressed a lot of suicide ideation, and that's something we really really don't want to go pear-shaped in an AskMe thread.

If the response by the mods was to take it offline, but offer links to professional resources that were appropriate for the OP's situation - then well done!

It was a super sensitive admission. I have actual long-term experience being estranged from my entire family, and I felt unable to provide the OP the answers she was looking for in that Ask because they are experiential and individual to a degree that an AskMe comment could never ever cover, considering the deep level of the OP's need.

I'm not sure if I explained that correctly. I just know I'm SUPER glad to hear the AskMe was deleted, but the OP was offered help.

I know stepping in like that puts an extra responsibility/burden on the mods, and I appreciate the effort.

Thank you, mods. Thank you.
posted by jbenben at 11:46 PM on February 24, 2014


Went to the deleted posts blog, picked one at random (last one listed for Feb 24), read the deletion reason (chatfilter), then clicked the link to the original post and it is...not deleted.
posted by telstar at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2014


That's pretty guaranteed to be a deleted-reworked-amended-and-restored situation, yeah. The deleted blog's process does not apparently involve double checking after the fact, so those cases will leave ghost deletions around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:29 PM on February 25, 2014


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