A proposal for compromise on an Ask queue August 8, 2014 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I know this has been asked before but I think it's worth discussing it again. Rather than a full-fledged "queue" in which you'd enter multiple questions at once and they'd automatically post once a week ...what about just prompting by email when your week is up and you're eligible to post another question?

When anyone has asked for a queue before, they've been cheerfully mocked by almost every responder, including mods, so I realize I may be setting myself up for the same treatment. But I really don't get the hostility to the idea.

There were basically two kinds of negative replies on those posts that somewhat contradict each other: one was "any question that can wait a week / that you need to be reminded to ask was not worth asking" and the other was "set up a queue on your own with notepad / calendar alerts / etc." Which is it? Don't do this at all or do it another way? In any case I think the first reaction is mainly snobbery and the second one is applicable to almost any feature request.

But look, I get that it's probably just not worth the time to build. And it's true that the process of composing and saving the questions in advance can be handled just as easily in email or a text editor. That response is kind of missing the point. Most of us who want a queue, I think our real issue is remembering to come back in a week and post it. It's not that we'll never post the question, just that it happens three weeks or two months later instead of a week later.

Now, I already get an auto-reminder email a month after I ask a question, nudging me to mark best answers and mark it resolved. What if we could just check a box in preferences to get that email (or an additional one) at the one-week mark? Then it could also serve as an implicit reminder that the window's back open to post another question. That seems like much less extra work than building an actual queue feature and serves much the same purpose.

I know that leaves the "if you can't remember it, it's not important" objection, but as I said that just strikes me as snobbish, insidery and mean-spirited. Some of us have better memories than others, some are less organized -- that doesn't necessarily reflect the quality or importance of our questions.
posted by neat graffitist to Feature Requests at 7:06 AM (149 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I know that leaves the "if you can't remember it, it's not important" objection, but as I said that just strikes me as snobbish, insidery and mean-spirited.

I can set up a calendar reminder in about three clicks. If it isn't that important, it just isn't important, period.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 AM on August 8, 2014 [30 favorites]


I think there is some general resistance to any idea that encourages people to ask a question every week just because they can. If the question can wait three weeks or two months, why is it so important to post it right away?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:18 AM on August 8, 2014 [44 favorites]


Calendar reminder does seem to be the best solution. You could have a text note in there of the next questions in the queue to be asked.

It also saves pb having to hack something together with twine and a paper clip.
posted by arcticseal at 7:18 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's my take as a mod running the site.

- It's not in the site's best interest to help users push the limits set in place as hard as they can. We have the 1 per week limits to help keep the site from being overwhelmed with questions and to force users to think hard about which questions they choose. If someone forgot their week was up and posted 10 days or another couple weeks later, that'd be totally fine and better in an overall health of the site aspect to keep the site from being overwhelmed with questions

- Adding another checkbox to preferences is a much bigger deal than members think. Every new option on the page makes the site more customizable yes, but also more confusing for users. We push hard against everything that appears on that page for a reason -- to keep it from becoming unwieldy, but I would say the current state of the preferences page is about at the limit and things like these very specific tiny options are things I would hate to clutter up the prefs page further with.

- The one month later MeFi Mail/email is to help improve the site by asking users to mark things as best answers and resolved for other members to see and for future searchers stumbling upon it. Pushing reminders to people to post more questions doesn't necessarily work in the same way.

Hopefully that gives you the admin/mod perspective and doesn't sound negative/snobbish/insidery.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:19 AM on August 8, 2014 [50 favorites]


It also saves pb having to hack something together with twine and a paper clip.

Great, now I have this image in my head that the question reminder notification would be something like this.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Now, I already get an auto-reminder email a month after I ask a question, nudging me to mark best answers and mark it resolved.

This is in the best interest of the site as a whole. People posting to AskMe as frequently as possible isn't necessarily.
posted by aught at 7:21 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm gonna take a chance here and ask, Is there somewhere else you can ask the question that you currently have but can't be sure you'll remember 4 days from now?
posted by themanwho at 7:22 AM on August 8, 2014


I think it boils down to the one week period period being a limit, not a goal. Setting up something that makes it easier to post every week goes against the point.
posted by smackfu at 7:22 AM on August 8, 2014 [17 favorites]


I'm not clear why the site should facilitate this. If you want to ask a question every week, why shouldn't you remember to do it?
posted by OmieWise at 7:36 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Obviously mathowie has explained this already, but just to emphasize: the point of both the limits and the reminders we get is that it's a public cost to the site to have you ask a lot of questions while it's a public benefit for you to mark best answers or resolved.

Getting to ask a lot of questions is a private benefit; you get lots of answers to your specific interests, at the cost of the answerers' time. Better that we limit those private costs and distribute the private benefits as widely as possible, while at the same time enhancing the public benefits.

It gets a little tricky because some people's questions are helpful to everyone, so it's a public benefit for those to be asked. But I suspect that the people who are most likely to ask those kinds of questions are the ones who don't need a reminder that their week is up.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:50 AM on August 8, 2014


Yeah the main reason this is a Metatalk post instead of just an email in the contact form is that I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow. What exactly does that even mean? How do you define a "low quality" question, beyond the already in-place rules like chatfilter, vagueness, etc?

Is a "bad" question one that isn't relatable to enough people, doesn't get enough answers.... what? Can you give some examples of them?

Here's a question of mine that would have admittedly been low on my "queue" if I had one -- a question about two books that aren't very widely read. I knew it was a bit of a long shot and in fact it didn't get much response.

Should I not have asked that? Is it clogging up the site?

To me as a user, oddball "minor" questions like that make the site far more interesting. They're easy to scroll past if they don't interest me and when one out of ten does, it interests me far more than the cat question with 50 answers. But maybe that's just me.

I guess what I'm saying is, you must have some objective standard for what's a low quality question. You can't just say it's "the kind you would have forgotten," that's begging the question (so to speak). So what is that standard? Or are you judging the behavior of asking frequent questions more than the actual result?
posted by neat graffitist at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel the same way about this as I do about the Previewing before 24 hours Pony. The site won't handle having more than a tiny number of people consistently using it at the pre-defined limits. Building tools to help make it possible for people to do that is not in the best interests of the site. At best, it's spending previous PB cycles on something of very limited interest and very questionable value.

I'm gonna take a chance here and ask, Is there somewhere else you can ask the question that you currently have but can't be sure you'll remember 4 days from now?

There are tons of places you can ask questions on the web that aren't Metafilter. The various StackExchange sites, Quora, even Ask Yahoo if you're willing to accept that many of the answers will be basically illiterate. Also look for subject specific forums and sites for whatever your question is about.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:54 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]




I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow.

I did a "find in page" for the word "inferior" that you quoted and there's only one mention, which is yours. I don't think anyone has said this, and you're making a bit of a leap.

I don't think pushing people to post more questions will result in low quality questions, rather I'm just concerned about the absolute number of questions posted to the site. It's possible more would make the front page overwhelming, result in less answers per question on average, and make it harder to find questions to answer for users of the site.

It's not a quality discussion at all (nor an elitism one), but a quantity discussion plain and simple, in my eyes.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:58 AM on August 8, 2014 [10 favorites]


you must have some objective standard for what's a low quality question

Nope, I have an entirely subjective standard for what constitutes a low quality question! I know that I would ask them, too, if I could queue them up, because they seem important at the time, and I partially know they are low quality because I've forgotten what most of them are OR some quick Googling has shown me the way.

If I got an email telling me I could post a question, I'd be a lot more likely to think "Now's my chance! Better post that vague musing I had about my hair!" or whatever it was; not posting would feel more like a missed opportunity. I get why this seems like it would be nice but seriously, I know that I can't be trusted with this because I would use it for boring questions that cluttered up the site unnecessarily and made AskMe a less useful resource for everyone, and I think this is probably true for people beyond me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:58 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow. What exactly does that even mean?

Are a sizable group of people in this discussion (or in previous ones) actually saying this?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:59 AM on August 8, 2014


I'm sort of saying that; I don't mean "let's keep out hoi polloi who will clutter up our beautiful pristine question-asking Shangri-La", I mean "we all have questions and some of them are better than others so let's protect us from ourselves and keep this helpful resource as valuable as possible to as many people as possible".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:05 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know that leaves the "if you can't remember it, it's not important" objection, but as I said that just strikes me as snobbish, insidery and mean-spirited.

If you have a cell phone that was made in the past 5 years, you can set a weekly reminder. Outlook allows you set weekly reminders. Memo to Me is a free service that allows you to set all sorts of regular reminders to yourself.

In short, in the time it took you to compose this MeTa, you could have found any number of sources that'll accomplish what you want. But instead, you're rather harangue someone else to do the work that you could more easily do yourself. That, for me, is the galling part about this. You could accomplish this yourself, with ease, but instead want to start name calling others and having odd side arguments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on August 8, 2014 [11 favorites]


I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow.

Where do you get this idea? No one has said that, and I'm not sure anyone thinks it. When people use the word "important" to describe a question, they are pretty obviously meaning, "important to you, the asker."
posted by OmieWise at 8:18 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I fully understand Matt's points about the total number of questions on the site, as opposed to quality, and the burden of adding even a minor feature like a reminder email.

But that's not what most people are objecting to. If you look at those two past threads (and yes some of this one already) there seems to be almost a moral judgment of the behavior of asking a question every week. I'm trying to get a clear idea of what that judgment actually is. And to the extent it has to do with what kinds of questions result, I'm trying to figure out just what kinds of questions it is that people don't want to see.

In short, in the time it took you to compose this MeTa, you could have found any number of sources that'll accomplish what you want. But instead, you're rather harangue someone else to do the work that you could more easily do yourself. That, for me, is the galling part about this. You could accomplish this yourself, with ease, but instead want to start name calling others and having odd side arguments.

Come on, are we still doing this hall monitor stuff? Comments about whether a MeTa post was actually necessary are one of the most toxic parts of the site. What you call "odd side arguments" are what a lot of people use MeTa for. No one's making you read it if it doesn't interest you.
posted by neat graffitist at 8:20 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


But that's not what most people are objecting to.

Well, it's what the mods are objecting to and we're the ones making the decision about it. It is okay if you want to just sort of try to understand where people are coming from in the sideline discussion about the thing-we're-not-going-to-implement, but I sort of get this vibe off your post and your comments here that this is partly an attempt to prove by argument that people are wrong and that it therefore should be implemented, or something like that. Maybe that's not your intent, but that's sort of how it feels.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:28 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


But that's not what most people are objecting to. If you look at those two past threads (and yes some of this one already) there seems to be almost a moral judgment of the behavior of asking a question every week. I'm trying to get a clear idea of what that judgment actually is.

I just quickly skimmed both of the previous threads you linked, and the judgment to me seems like it isn't aimed at people who want to ask a question every week, but rather, at people who want someone to change Metafilter to involve queued questions or reminders, when the tech already exists to do these things without changing Metafilter.

I think most of what people are objecting to can be summarized as "Since the things you want can already be done by setting up a queue/reminder using something else that Metafilter, there is no need to change Metafilter."
posted by 23skidoo at 8:30 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I fully understand Matt's points about the total number of questions on the site, as opposed to quality

You keep presenting this either/or, but it's not really the either/or presented by Matt or anyone else. I'm not sure why you keep wanting to have this very different conversation.
posted by OmieWise at 8:31 AM on August 8, 2014


mathowie: We have the 1 per week limits to help keep the site from being overwhelmed with questions

mathowie: I'm just concerned about the absolute number of questions posted to the site

My read of the site stats could be wrong, and I would be glad to see someone else more officially calculate this stuff so no one relies on my off-the-cuff work.

And the good news, if I'm counting correctly, is that the number of questions per month has been holding pretty steady since around February. The bad news is that those numbers are on par with the number of posts from late 2005 / early 2006 following an extended period of content shrinkage that began in roughly late 2010, and they appear to be down by about 40% from AskMe's peak. The comment numbers look similar.

First-time posters / first-time commenters are a whole other topic of possible interest, but I don't know if being overwhelmed in terms of absolute numbers of posts/comments is the most readily apparent concern here.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:32 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Come on, are we still doing this hall monitor stuff? Comments about whether a MeTa post was actually necessary are one of the most toxic parts of the site.

Wanting to add significant functionality to the site simply because you can't be bothered to come up with simple ways to manage your questions yourself is irritating.

Maybe it's just because I deal with frivolous user requests myself at work but I completely see where Brandon is coming from with his remark.
posted by winna at 8:37 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you look at those two past threads (and yes some of this one already) there seems to be almost a moral judgment of the behavior of asking a question every week. I'm trying to get a clear idea of what that judgment actually is.

The judgement is that if every one of our members asked a question every week, AskMe would be a giant clusterfuck that no one would be able to keep up with. If even 10% of our members asked a question every week, AskMe would be a giant clusterfuck that no one would be able to keep up with. If even 1% of our members asked a question every week, AskMe would be a giant clusterfuck that no one would be able to keep up with.

AskMe is a shared resource, and it works best when people use it with some self-restraint. There are built in restraints but they are by no means enough to keep the resource from being overwhelmed if even a few people start treating once-a-week as a goal, rather than a bottom line limit. AskMe gets about 60 or so posts a day, let's say 500 a week with rounding -- that's a tiny, tiny fraction of the number of users. Even a few people posting every single week would be using up a hugely disproportionate amount of a community resource.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:38 AM on August 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


If you look at those two past threads (and yes some of this one already) there seems to be almost a moral judgment of the behavior of asking a question every week. I'm trying to get a clear idea of what that judgment actually is. And to the extent it has to do with what kinds of questions result, I'm trying to figure out just what kinds of questions it is that people don't want to see.

I think many long time users view AskMe as something of a precious resource. That is, it is a place on the internet where hard, obscure, and interesting questions about extremely varied topics often receive thorough, literate, interesting, and even deep attempts at answering. Hopefully this will continue being true for a long time, but as we were reminded of earlier this year, nothing is certain. If a resource is precious to me I don't try to draw on it as much as I possibly can, even though drawing on it would increase the benefit for me individually, and I definitely don't want to automate the process of min/maxing it. In fact, drawing on that resource too much, aggregated over many people, would most likely diminish the quality substantially. I'm not sure this is really different from the quantity argument that the mods are making, if one assumes there is a quantity/quality tradeoff (which I think the mods aren't necessarily, but I am). I'm not making a moral judgment, but given all this I do find it hard to empathize with the motivations for min/maxing AskMe in this way. But then, I'm solidly on the guess-culture side of things.
posted by advil at 8:39 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jessamyn made a good comment about people posting to the front page everyday and why it's not scalable or good for the site and I think a lot of it applies here, although the OP is talking about AskMe and weekly posting there.

Basically, AskMe is a community resource and I think most people frown on others continuously or potentially using a larger share of that resource.

Come on, are we still doing this hall monitor stuff? Comments about whether a MeTa post was actually necessary are one of the most toxic parts of the site.

Yep, we're still doing this because your MeTa is coming off as axegrindy, i.e. you're using a resource for perhaps selfish reasons. That may not be your intention or what you think is happening, but it certainly seems to be that way.

You can accomplish what you want with ease, so making a MeTa about it seems odd. If you want to understand why other people feel a certain way about this issue, then ok whatever. But that strikes me as odd because there's always going to be a group of people you don't understand and in this case, if you do come to understand, what's community benefit is going to be accomplished by your particular understanding?

To put it simply, is there something more productive or fun that you could be doing instead arguing with people on the Metafilter tubes?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


there seems to be almost a moral judgment of the behavior of asking a question every week.

Indeed. St. Paul addressed this very topic in his letterMeFi Mail to the Corinthian MeFites:
"I have the right to do anything," you say--but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"--but not everything is constructive.

1 Corinthians 10:23

Apologies in advance for posting private messages in a comment, but ever since that Council of Nicaea the cat's been out of the bag, you know?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:46 AM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have never posted a question, so this is not necessarily applicable to me, but the simple answer is that regardless of user logic, the site operator and mod logic is that it is not value added to the site so no. While we all know this as a community site, at the end of the day, what the folks who own and operate the site think is best will prevail.
posted by 724A at 8:52 AM on August 8, 2014


Most of us who want a queue, I think our real issue is remembering to come back in a week and post it.

This is a problem that you can solve on your own without the site's help.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:55 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


People who are forgetful would certainly like to be able to queue up questions.

Unfortunately, those same people would forget that they queued up the question. They'd forget to come back and look at the answers. They would forget to cancel the question if they found the answer elsewhere before the question got posted.

I don't want to see AskMe peppered with questions that have several thoughtful answers followed by, "Oh, thanks anyway but I actually figured this out a week ago. Sorry for taking your time!"

We know that would be a regular occurrence.
posted by alms at 9:00 AM on August 8, 2014 [37 favorites]


If you need the experience of what this feels like, I'll walk you through it. I used an online calendar for this for the early part of this year, when it was still Winter.

I set question reminders in my online calendar for Mondays and Tuesdays. Late nights and weekends never felt like the best time for my questions so I was setting those days as the times I'd ask. So you can see that I asked a question in early March of this year, then followed about a week later, then another a week after that. Then I've had two questions between then and today, as fall approaches next month.

It's because subsequently the questions were there, but I thought about asking them and indeed I felt like I'd post them some other time because they weren't postworthy at that moment, or I otherwise thought that I wouldn't get the answer I was looking for. The more questions you ask around here the more you see that aside from certain questions the community is good for, it isn't any big deal to not post it. And if you have a series of questions important enough that you want to make sure you post them, then set yourself a reminder email. Or write down 10 questions and put it by your desk.

I don't think we need to change the site to prompt us to make new content. If you want to do it, set it up and do it. You may realize it isn't that big of a deal, your questions would go unanswered anyway, or you'll figure it out yourself in the meantime. I've posted 99 questions and this aint one.
posted by cashman at 9:10 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think alms point is pretty valid.
As it stands people take their individual time to answer question weather from being a good Samaritan or just because they have compulsive question-answer syndrome, but either way they are making a good faith effort to answer a question that someone knowingly just wrote and posted, and so there is a high degree of probability a person is actually around and receiving the feedback in real time and receiving benefit (hopefully --- DON'T EAT IT!)
Setting up a queue, means the asker may/may not be around, may/may not remember that 'hey this week I have X question I better go check it out'... even may/may not even still be coming to Metafilter. So there becomes the not insignificant chance the people answering the question may be wasting their time and effort, which kind of fundamentally means a certain ongoing low level of site and user abuse of time and resources will occur which would provide downward pressure for people to engage in answering questions, why bother? Is this person even around anymore, will they be around before the question scrolls off the screen...?
I think anything that automates a process where a certain level of social engagement and mindfulness is required needs to clear an awful high hurdle.

(still wish there was a in-site composing/save feature for posts-in-progress, but that pony also has been taken out, shot and turned to glue, so we move on)
posted by edgeways at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


jacquilynne: AskMe gets about 60 or so posts a day, let's say 500 a week with rounding -- that's a tiny, tiny fraction of the number of users. Even a few people posting every single week would be using up a hugely disproportionate amount of a community resource.

Monsieur Caution: And the good news, if I'm counting correctly, is that the number of questions per month has been holding pretty steady since around February. The bad news is that those numbers are on par with the number of posts from late 2005 / early 2006 following an extended period of content shrinkage that began in roughly late 2010, and they appear to be down by about 40% from AskMe's peak. The comment numbers look similar.

From this, I don't think we'd be "using up a hugely disproportionate amount of a community resource[s]" even if there were a fairly large increase (30-40%) in the number of weekly posts to AskMe.
posted by zarq at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


This seems to be one of those "if you can't understand implicitly why then we might not be able to elucidate much further" kind of things.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:22 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe it's just because I deal with frivolous user requests myself at work but I completely see where Brandon is coming from with his remark.

Every requested pony can potentially be characterized as frivolous. Many of them can be solved by the user either shrugging and dealing with the status quo or finding their own solution, but that doesn't actually make the requests frivolous and it doesn't mean that what they are asking for might not be seen as a positive improvement by other users if integrated into the site.

Being a dick to people for making MetaTalk posts when they ask for something that they would like to see is counterproductive. There's nothing wrong with asking. There's nothing wrong with gracefully taking "no" for an answer. But it is toxic behavior to attack people for asking / opening up their idea to the community in MetaTalk: a specifically designated section of the site where they are invited by management to do so.
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on August 8, 2014 [12 favorites]


From this, I don't think we'd be "using up a hugely disproportionate amount of a community resource[s]" even if there were a fairly large increase (30-40%) in the number of weekly posts to AskMe.

If those new posts all came from the same 100 people ever week, those 100 people would be using up a disproportionate share of a community resource.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2014


By that argument, we should be preventing a bunch of people from posting, simply because they're averaging more than 2-3 questions per month.
posted by zarq at 9:32 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think we should actively prevent them from posting -- though towards the top of that list, there at least one person who could possibly benefit from a quiet word, especially about questions where they admit they're posting purely for curiosity and not because they have any plans to use the information -- but I don't think we should be building tools to make it easier.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:38 AM on August 8, 2014


AskMe content is down by 40% from peak and we're chastising people for wanting to post more? This seems completely backwards to me. Clearly the queue is a non-starter but re-evaluating some of these "using up a community resource" attitudes that were apparently formed when site activity was peaking might be worthwhile.
posted by dialetheia at 9:38 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


especially about questions where they admit they're posting purely for curiosity and not because they have any plans to use the information

What?

Where does it say, "you're only allowed to ask questions if you're going to put the answers to use" on the AskMe lintel?
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean seriously, do you really think that the site should start limiting/banning questions from people who are curious about something?

I suspect you haven't really thought that through.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on August 8, 2014


I don't ask many questions. Paypal me $25 and I'll ask anything you want. The filthier the better. Time to shake up my reputation.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:43 AM on August 8, 2014 [30 favorites]


When I click on "New Post," a site clock tells me exactly how much more time I need to wait, down to the second. As a new member, that is way more info than I ever expected. So, I'm actually feeling like I want to thank the site for going above and beyond (Thanks, Matt and mods!).

I agree with comments above that if you need more, a personal calendar alarm and internal check is best.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 9:43 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The one week posting limit is a pretty crude limit whose advantage is its simplicity. I think we'd be better served by some sort of dynamic limit that would lengthen as a particular user asked additional questions. Something that would two questions separated by a week but then increasing limits that would degrade back to a week. However that would be complicated though and hard to explain. So we get the one week limit that over all works better and some people push that limit.

Anything that encourages users to ask questions (or make posts) on a schedule is going to result in weaker questions. I'm sure there are dozens of users here who could post to a schedule but most are going to be like me and while not having a question ready to go are going to get that email saying it's been a week and are going to cast around to find a question. Some of those questions are going to be good but many of them are going to be crap.

neat graffitist: "I think our real issue is remembering to come back in a week and post it. It's not that we'll never post the question, just that it happens three weeks or two months later instead of a week later."

This is a feature not a bug. You still get your answer after all so why the compelling need to maximize the use of the medium.
posted by Mitheral at 9:45 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I click on "New Post," a site clock tells me exactly how much more time I need to wait, down to the second.

Which by the way, is a feature people requested at least twice in MetaTalk before it was granted.
posted by zarq at 9:47 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Where does it say, "you're only allowed to ask questions if you're going to put the answers to use" on the AskMe lintel?

Ask MetaFilter questions should have a purpose or a problem to be solved.

I mean seriously, do you really think that the site should start limiting/banning questions from people who are curious about something?

I don't think the site should ban questions from people who are curious about things, but I think if you're already the single heaviest user of a resource, you might want to try to exercise a little self-restraint, and it seems like questions you are merely curious about but which serve no useful purpose for you might be the most practical place to exercise that restraint.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:48 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


those same people would forget that they queued up the question. They'd forget to come back and look at the answers.

I don't think this is necessarily true. I read ask metafilter a lot I don't often ask questions and I don't think that questions that are put in a queue would necessarily be any worse than what's being asked now or more likely to be ignored or forgotten in most cases. If a person read ask enough to know about the queue and use it it seems likely to me they would be around the read the responses to their own question.

Sometimes I think about asking metafilter things about non time sensitivity things - for example book recommendations and then I forget but if there was a queue I might be more likely to put those questions in there because I wouldn't have the well what if I have a more important question soon feeling.

While I can see reasons for this not being a great idea I think some of the discussion surrounding it is a bit far reaching.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 9:52 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Which by the way, is a feature people requested at least twice in MetaTalk before it was granted.

And I emphasize again that this is "way more info than I ever expected."
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems worth noting that people asking questions aren't just "using up" a zero-sum resource, they're also contributing content which benefits the site. Fewer questions means fewer google results means fewer visitors. If AskMe content really has declined that dramatically, that's much worse for the site than people asking a few extra questions that they might have been able to answer by googling.
posted by dialetheia at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


jacquilynne: Ask MetaFilter questions should have a purpose or a problem to be solved.

Having a purpose means "answerable" in this context. It doesn't mean that someone can't be curious and ask a question. Sometimes the purpose of having a question answered is going to be, "satisfy my curiosity." Like this one. Lots of people ask questions that are both answerable and are not a problem to be solved. They often take the form of "How does X work?" None of them are breaking or straining the site. None of them have to solve a particular problem.

I think if you're already the single heaviest user of a resource, you might want to try to exercise a little self-restraint, and it seems like questions you are merely curious about but which serve no useful purpose for you might be the most practical place to exercise that restraint.

You're entitled to your opinion, but with respect I think what you're asserting is a bit ridiculous. No one is harmed by "satisfy my curiosity" answerable questions. The site is not impacted negatively in any way as long as the question being asked does not fall under the "chatfilter" umbrella. Eliminate that category of question from the site and AskMe would be a heck of a lot less useful as a resource.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


You're reading a great deal more into my posts than is there regarding how I feel the site is harmed by these posts.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:57 AM on August 8, 2014


OK. Perhaps that's because I do not understand your argument. I'm pretty sure I'm addressing what you've said, though.
posted by zarq at 9:59 AM on August 8, 2014


Nah, it sounds like you're arguing against some imagined thing that people are proposing.

All that's been said is "Can I get an auto reminder for AskMe," with an answer of "No." Nothing has changed or will change or is being planned to be changed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm going to build an Ask MeFi reminder app and charge $1 a reminder. I'll makes ones of dollars!
posted by COD at 10:17 AM on August 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah the main reason this is a Metatalk post instead of just an email in the contact form is that I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow. What exactly does that even mean? How do you define a "low quality" question, beyond the already in-place rules like chatfilter, vagueness, etc?

So are you arguing for a built-in site reminder of the week being up, or are you just arguing?
posted by rtha at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Many websites build themselves through increasing the number of activities people do on their site. Because their profitability is tied to page views and stickiness, they would love it if you spent all your internet time with them. I'm sure Facebook has contemplated offering email service so they could have that part of your eLife too.

MeFi stands out as different on that point. I don't know exactly what model Matt and the Mods work with, but keeping people on the website as long as possible isn't part of it. So, lots of website would take this request and think "We'll provide this service as part of our website, and people will be less likely to leave. We want that; it's worth the work to implement it." But for MeFi, it's "There already exist perfectly fine solutions to this problem outside of our website, so we don't need to add any functionality to deal with it."

It's kind of like the adjustment you have to make if you've only gone to restaurants that pile you up with food, and then you go to one with "small portions". At first you're disappointed, but then you realize their goal is something different to what you've become used to.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel for you - I forget when I last posted, so sometimes I'll have a question I'd like to ask but I realize I have a few days to go. The new countdown feature is great, and I now I don't have to look back at my prior question's timestamp. Thanks to the countdown, I generally remember to come back around when I can post again. For remembering questions, I now use my profile to list a few questions I have in mind. This way, there is also the slim chance someone will see my questions and send me an answer via MeMail. But I agree with alms:

alms: I don't want to see AskMe peppered with questions that have several thoughtful answers followed by, "Oh, thanks anyway but I actually figured this out a week ago. Sorry for taking your time!"

And there's the chance that someone posted a similar question in the days/ weeks/ months since you added the question to your queue, but because they didn't have to enter the question in new (and they might not be the most active user/browser of AskMetaFilter), the question gets posted and the first answer is "see this post from two days ago."

Even worse: their question is actually different than that recent one, but because their question was automatically posted, they didn't get the chance to see the previous post and clarify how this was a different situation from the other one.

My take-away is that a queue would be of limited benefit, but greater chance for annoyance, wasting pb's time on something that could be dealt with more productively on a user-by-user case.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:01 AM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


tl;dr but IMO if you're compelled to ask a question promptly 604,801 seconds after your previous, your inquisitiveness is monopolizing and overloading the AskMeFi resource. Especially if you're asking similar questions. Spread it around, ask somewhere else.
posted by Rash at 11:11 AM on August 8, 2014


I apologize for some of my wording in the original post, there was no need to use terms like "snobbish" and I realize it didn't set the best tone for this discussion.

That said, it seems like the most widely-shared objection to making it easier for people to post every week (by whatever means) ...is that Ask would be overloaded/swamped with too many questions. But as others have pointed out (and I didn't even know) the site is well below its peak traffic and there's no evidence we're close to that tipping point where the value of the marginal question would be negative.

Does anyone have a counter-response to that? Or an opinion on what the right volume of questions is?

I'm asking that in all sincerity. I agree there can be too many; for example, on AskReddit they go by so fast that many just never get the votes/views to receive any answers at all. It seems like we're way on the other side of the spectrum, but ...for those who scroll through every Ask headline, at what point would you stop doing that? 100 per day? 200?
posted by neat graffitist at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the main problem isn't so much the volume, but the fact that a post is going up about a question that the poster might not be particularly engaged with at the time. Maybe feedback will come late, or not at all because their focus has changed.

But you're always going to get pushback for this sort of thing, because it definitely falls under the general heading of "do my chores for me" no matter how you try to analyze the site impact.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:47 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


That said, it seems like the most widely-shared objection to making it easier for people to post every week (by whatever means) ...is that Ask would be overloaded/swamped with too many questions. But as others have pointed out (and I didn't even know) the site is well below its peak traffic and there's no evidence we're close to that tipping point where the value of the marginal question would be negative.

There was a recent funding crisis, belt tightening, and staff reduction. That is better but not fully resolved. I see no reason to think that more traffic per se will make the site better in any way. I think the mods have other issues they need to resolve before it makes any sense to suggest that "we just need more traffic."


Yeah the main reason this is a Metatalk post instead of just an email in the contact form is that I want to discuss this intuition people have that more "low-quality" or "inferior" questions could sneak into the site and make it a worse place somehow. What exactly does that even mean?

Yeah, I actually have the answer for that and it relates to your complaint that "some of us are forgetful or disorganized and that does not make our questions any less worthy." Well, yes and no. Sometimes, when someone is forgetful and disorganized, it does, in fact, make their questions less worthy. No, that does not mean people with serious problems should be actively discouraged from ever asking questions to get the help they need. But it does mean that actively encouraging them to ask more often (like every week) can go oh so very wrong.

I am medically handicapped and I am sometimes pretty darn screwed up. Here lately, I sometimes have the attention span of a squirrel on crack. Here is me, just yesterday, making three replies in the same ask two of which were basically useless. I considered flagging the first one myself and asking the mods to delete it but then decided I didn't want to impose just to, you know, protect my ego which isn't really all that fragile anyway and, besides, it was kind of a low cost screw up. I decided to reply again to try to actually be helpful. Yeah, not so helpful.

That was pretty harmless and I am generally better these days at not making huge messes all over the internet, but, no, really, when my memory and organization is just not there, no, I do not need matt and co helpfully saying "HEY, MICHELE, you want to ask your next question, don't you??? We know you do!!!" because that is exactly the time when I would go "SQUEEE -- they love me! I desperately need some ATTENTION and, hell, they ASKED me to do this!!!! For fuck's sake, I totally need to jump on that!!!"

I have enough social issues without matt and co helpfully shoving me out onto the stage every single week, half dressed and acting like a coked up whore, and saying "So what have you got for us today?". And I suspect I am not the only member who would be ever so much more of a hot mess if this pony was gifted to us. Because plenty of folks who are hesitant to post something without active encouragement behave way different when you start actively asking them to please do this thing (note the results of the JulyByWomen project -- lots of women are hesitant to post but were wiling to post once mefi as a whole specifically asked them to).

So, you know, if you have memory and organization problems and this is impeding your ability to get your questions posted in as timely a fashion as you would like, I respectfully suggest that you post a question to AskMe for how to help yourself get organized and what not to resolve that problem and not ask for the admins to fundamentally alter how the site works in a way that will have far-reaching consequences, many of them unintended, just for your personal convenience. It's a community. It isn't intended to revolve around the personal preferences of any one person.

And I apologize if that sounds gruff. It probably does. It isn't intended that way.
posted by Michele in California at 11:51 AM on August 8, 2014 [9 favorites]


That said, it seems like the most widely-shared objection to making it easier for people to post every week (by whatever means) ...is that Ask would be overloaded/swamped with too many questions.

No, it's that this is something you can easily do yourself. You have my sympathies if its hard to remember things. But really, this is something you can easily fix for yourself.

To be clear, anyone can make a post on AskMe once a week. If you want to make a new post literally five seconds after the one week time limit is up, then there are no technical means of preventing this and there doesn't seem to be one on the horizon. So, go ahead and make the post if you want to. But yeah, you're going to have to remind yourself to do so, by whatever means is most convenient and comfortable to you.

Whether site traffic has fallen or risen since X date is completely immaterial.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the tone of the responses to this question at all. Why is everyone being so scoldy and hostile about this? "Do your chores for you"? "Do you just want to argue"? "If you have memory and organization problems"? A community member asked a completely harmless question in good faith. It would be nice if we could respond in kind.

Whether site traffic has fallen or risen since X date is completely immaterial.

It isn't at all immaterial when the most frequently stated objection has been "more questions use up the community resource".
posted by dialetheia at 11:57 AM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


There was a recent funding crisis, belt tightening, and staff reduction. That is better but not fully resolved. I see no reason to think that more traffic per se will make the site better in any way. I think the mods have other issues they need to resolve before it makes any sense to suggest that "we just need more traffic."

The funding crisis, etc., was precipitated by a substantial decrease in site traffic. The two are directly related.
posted by zarq at 11:58 AM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I apologize for some of my wording in the original post, there was no need to use terms like "snobbish" and I realize it didn't set the best tone for this discussion.

Okay, cool. Your wording choice was not ideal, but worse, you started out all muddled about exactly what you were asking for to begin with: ideal volume of questions, or auto-reminder that your askme week is up? They're not mutually exclusive, but they are different questions.
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

For those who scroll through every Ask headline, at what point would you stop doing that? 100 per day? 200?
We're currently right around the threshold for me. I like to at least glance at every question, but if I miss a day or two, I often just skip them all.
posted by dfan at 12:09 PM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Does anyone have...an opinion on what the right volume of questions is?

Sure. I'd like to see the AskMe front page track fairly closely to MetaFilter. This means two things. First, that I can step away from the site for a few days and catch up mostly by scrolling the front page, maybe a bit of a second page. Second, and I realize this is more abstract, that the amount of scrolling on the front page remains "reasonable."

To your request, I would agree with Matt's first point: helping people to push the site's limits seems not great. I'd add that if we were going to see or encourage more volume on AskMe, I would rather see more people posting questions, than people posting more questions. See also, #JulyByWomen. That's my two cents.
posted by cribcage at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have...an opinion on what the right volume of questions is?

I miss when there were more questions. I'm often disappointed by how quickly I scroll through the day's activity and I definitely notice the lower comment volume as well. AskMe honestly seems kind of dead these days compared to how I remember it, which is part of why I'm so surprised to see people arguing that more questions would be bad. Obviously the queue is a non-starter and I wouldn't use it anyway, but it seems like a nonsensical objection.

First, that I can step away from the site for a few days and catch up mostly by scrolling the front page

I remember the halcyon days when you often couldn't get through the whole day's questions without clicking through to the second page. The breadth of questions was usually greater and I thought the post volume and variety attracted a wider variety of commenters. Did question volume or comment volume start to decline first, I wonder?
posted by dialetheia at 12:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


It isn't at all immaterial when the most frequently stated objection has been "more questions use up the community resource".

It's immaterial because no one has demonstrated how adding the reminder for AskMe would be a benefit to Matt and the other moderators, the people who have to sign off on this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:32 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The funding crisis, etc., was precipitated by a substantial decrease in site traffic. The two are directly related.

The decrease in site traffic you are talking about was a decrease in random strangers getting directed here by google and, thus, a concomitant decrease in ad revenue. The increase in traffic that this pony request proposes as a good/acceptable thing is an increase in posting of questions. There is no reason to believe posting more questions will fix the decrease in ad revenue. Those are not directly related.
posted by Michele in California at 12:43 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton: I think the main problem isn't so much the volume, but the fact that a post is going up about a question that the poster might not be particularly engaged with at the time. Maybe feedback will come late, or not at all because their focus has changed.

This is also my concern. I think discussions of broader levels of activity on Ask.Metafilter are beside the point, and if a queuing feature were available, I'm sure it would be used by more than a handful of people, so I don't see the resource of Ask.Me getting monopolized by a few people (though there may be people whose queue is full for a year, resulting in weekly questions from those folks for a very long time).

Engagement is my concern. If a bunch of people did fill up their queues for questions, would they be so interested in coming back to try and find answers for other people? And my concerns for questions being posted without concern for what was posted previously still stand, which is another part of being engaged with Ask.Metafilter.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2014


The decrease in site traffic you are talking about was a decrease in random strangers getting directed here by google and, thus, a concomitant decrease in ad revenue. The increase in traffic that this pony request proposes as a good/acceptable thing is an increase in posting of questions. There is no reason to believe posting more questions will fix the decrease in ad revenue. Those are not directly related.

An increase in posted questions can lead to an increase in search engine results that point to AskMe. Which can result in increased traffic. Also...

One of the ways I personally contribute to MetaFilter is by creating front page posts, which probably help increase traffic by a teeny, tiny increment. (I have no illusions about what a miniscule effect one post might have!) Those posts may or may not show up linked by other sites or news outlets, be discussed / linked on social media, etc. All of which could conceivably increase traffic. That's not why I post, but it can definitely be a positive side effect. A single link post might not be picked up, (people will probably link to the original content) but an in-depth post with multiple links that tells a story definitely does.

Here's an example: back in 2010, I made this post. A day later, someone pointed out to me that it was being linked by a bunch of people on Twitter. I make a lot of posts, and it's easy for me to only think of mefites as their audience. Seeing other people (possibly silent lurkers / non-members?) linking to the post was a reminder that people outside the site do see our FPPs. The feedback we get in threads isn't necessarily representative of the larger audience.

With regard to search engine results, adsense and advertising income, Metafilter's bread and butter is new content.
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


zarq, matt is pretty confident that traffic to AskMe in specific went down because of a change in a google algorithm. That appears to be improving recently, but if AskMe is largely invisible to google, no, more Asks don't necessarily do a durn thing for either site traffic of that sort nor revenue.

Also, I personally think what's going on with mefi is a good bit more complicated than that. But this is not really on topic. So suffice it to say that while I don't want to argue with you, I don't agree with you.
posted by Michele in California at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


zarq: An increase in posted questions can lead to an increase in search engine results that point to AskMe. Which can result in increased traffic.

It technically could, and I would personally like to see more posts on AskMe again. However, I have to say that I don't know of any relationship between AskMe's gradual decline in content and the precipitous drop in Google referrals. I think it would take more statistics work than I've done to show one, and it'd require the actual Google numbers rather than the vaguely flat (but for the drop) graph that I dimly recall from Matt's commentary on this.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2014


I don't look at it as the site's resources being taxed if you ask a question every week exactly seven days past your last one. I see it is as taxing the goodwill of the Ask community, who spends a LOT of human-time answering questions thoroughly and to the best of its ability.

Not saying that any of the questions would be trivial and unimportant, but if you have three of them in mind and ready to go, you could probably find the answers to the second and third questions in the time it took waiting to see them posted. Waiting 3 weeks to ask a pre-thought-up question is asking the Ask community do your legwork for you.

Which looks awful written out, but is exactly one of those murky and grouchy moral judgments OP is looking for.
posted by kimberussell at 1:14 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Software engineers have known for a long time: human attention is almost always the scarcest and least elastic resource in a system.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:19 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not seeing a reason to freak out about questions staying the same or going down as time goes on. They don't disappear. Many people find their answers in previously asked questions. If you've been around the site for a while, even if you have a moderately novel question, the consistency of responses might lead you to know that metafilter will indeed invite you to dump the person already. Or buy "the gift of fear". A lot of music questions ask about certain genres or themes - those have been asked and answered at length. Many of those music threads have so many links to videos, songs and content, it would take a solid year to listen to it all enough to be tired of it enough to ask a new question.

So I'm just saying - I don't think we need to look at a lack of an increase in questions, or even a decrease, as a negative thing.
posted by cashman at 1:24 PM on August 8, 2014


I don't look at it as the site's resources being taxed if you ask a question every week exactly seven days past your last one. I see it is as taxing the goodwill of the Ask community,

That goodwill is the very resource I was considering, in my previous comment.

I would rather see more people posting questions, than people posting more questions.

Me too.
posted by Rash at 1:54 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I see it is as taxing the goodwill of the Ask community, who spends a LOT of human-time answering questions thoroughly and to the best of its ability.

It's undesirable for mefites to try to answer every single question, though. There are a handful of people who do seem to try, with mixed results.

It strikes me as highly unlikely that the community will be overwhelmed if a few more people ask questions, or if the same people ask questions a little more frequently. We used to have a higher post frequency and questions still received answers.
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on August 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


From a site behavior perspective and not necessarily about absolute volume of questions (which I think the mods have already addressed fairly completely), my recollection is that there have been some rare but significant user problems with people posting one question a week every week, that devolving into chatfilter, those users' participation becoming more and more problematic to the site culture, resulting in at least one banning that I can think of. So far as I'm aware, there's never been any user problem with people posting less often than they absolutely could.

As I understand it, problematic site behavior requires an inordinate amount of time and attention from the mods relative to the site as a whole; most of their time gets taken up with managing a few users. I personally think that if people got weekly posting reminders, there's a trivial chance that that would lead to increased user abuse of the system. But "trivial chance" isn't the same as "no chance", and even one chronic abuser of the system eats up a terribly outsized portion of mod capacity. I can very much understand why it is not in the site's best interests to lay out a red carpet for that possibility, especially when there's absolutely nothing stopping you from making your own automated reminders anyway.

I don't see any reason to stop people from posting every week, presuming that their questions are genuine and contributory. But I also don't see any reason to make sure people absolutely know that they can post right now, and I can see people treating that site reminder as an encouragement to ask something, because otherwise they're wasting question days. I don't think that behavior is largely likely, but it's definitely happened before, and it only has to happen with a couple people to stretch mod resources to breaking. It may well happen anyway, but I don't see a need for the site to facilitate it.
posted by Errant at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


AskMe should not be your calendar/reminder software of choice.

I've only asked two questions of Metafilter at large. I daily ask my friends-- including MeFites-- what I should wear, where I should go for dinner, scheduling issues, recommendations... These could be appropriate questions for AskMe, but my answering pool has enough data, and the questions are specific and narrow enough, that I generally don't need to turn to the general populace.

I read AskMe every day. I comment on specific questions over dinner with my family; highlighting ones that raised question then knocking out my need to ask a similar one. It is a tremendous resource for me, on this passive level.
posted by RainyJay at 3:37 PM on August 8, 2014


I keep a list of questions I'd like to ask, because I often think of questions two or three at a time and then not again for a few weeks or months. I'm the kind of person whom you would think would advocate for a queue. But I don't.

I find that when I go back through old questions in my queue, I often want to ask them differently, have found half the answer myself and just need the other half, etc. If I were proposing a feature change, it actually would be a once-a-year emergency second question, in case you ask your dumb hair question and then realize that someone is dying and you need to ask something really important within 7 days.

Your feature request is an example of a situation being ok for an individual, but not ok when scaled to a group -- a type of the Tragedy of the Commons, if you will. It's ok for me to keep questions in a queue and revise and repost them; it's not ok for the site to automate that for everyone, thus creating a huge burden on the whole system. 1 + 1 + 1 does not always equal 3. Sometimes it equals 3000 because there are unintended synergistic effects.
posted by 3491again at 3:48 PM on August 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


If I were proposing a feature change, it actually would be a once-a-year emergency second question, in case you ask your dumb hair question and then realize that someone is dying and you need to ask something really important within 7 days.

I would be much more supportive of this pony, though I imagine it might be implemented as a process rather than a pony. If we could use the contact form to ask the mods to pretttttttty please reset your post counter because reasons, that'd probably cover it.

I don't ask questions most weeks or even most months, but I've asked a couple of questions that were closely followed up by some horrible thing happening in my life that I could have used AskMe's advice on. It wasn't the end of the world that I couldn't ask (the intersection between AskMe and truly urgent emergency need should be pretty much nil), but as a super rare exception, it would have been nice.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:01 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't ask questions most weeks or even most months, but I've asked a couple of questions that were closely followed up by some horrible thing happening in my life that I could have used AskMe's advice on.

Sounds like a pretty high ratio. Maybe the pony we need is the addition of a symbol against the evil eye?
posted by mr. digits at 6:52 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


However, I have to say that I don't know of any relationship between AskMe's gradual decline in content and the precipitous drop in Google referrals.

So what? That isn't an argument against the idea of: hey, let's have more AskMe posts so that we get more traffic. Just because the downturn was sudden and had one main cause doesn't mean we couldn't have a variety of ways to gradually push back against it. The solution to your problem doesn't need to be the exact reverse of the cause of your problem.
posted by John Cohen at 8:20 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


If we could use the contact form to ask the mods to pretttttttty please reset your post counter because reasons, that'd probably cover it.


You can use the form to ask anything.
Anything at all.
The unattainable is unknown, at the contact form.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


wow, you know i don't agree with this existing either, but i think people were needlessly, ridiculously fuck-you mean in the previous threads.

then i looked at the date of the first thread... and wow, this site really did used to be a very different place. how quickly i forget.
posted by emptythought at 8:36 PM on August 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


But that first thread is epic.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:01 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


My read of the site stats could be wrong, and I would be glad to see someone else more officially calculate this stuff so no one relies on my off-the-cuff work.

And the good news, if I'm counting correctly, is that the number of questions per month has been holding pretty steady since around February. The bad news is that those numbers are on par with the number of posts from late 2005 / early 2006 following an extended period of content shrinkage that began in roughly late 2010, and they appear to be down by about 40% from AskMe's peak. The comment numbers look similar.


I was curious to see what exactly this looked like, and needed some R practice. So, after (quite a bit longer than planned) messing around with the infodump, I produced this graph, which gives averages (over 1-month windows) for posts and comments on metafilter and ask.mefi. Hopefully, I did this right. But assuming that I did...

First, it is clearly right that in absolute numbers questions are substantially down since the peak (1-month average peak was 94 per day in mid-2010). Comments in ask.mefi when plotted per thread, in contrast, have been completely flat since the beginning, suggesting that we quickly reached a pretty stable answering behavior. (Note that this is per thread so the absolute number of comments does go up and down with the average question count.) Second, the blue has actually been surprisingly stable since 2006 or so, both in terms of posts and comments per post. This is interesting and suggests that the drop in questions isn't really an indicator of overall site health.

It is hard to make any predictions about the future from this graph when you see the details, I think, as while there may be a trend since Feb it is hard to spot in the overall arc given the variance. There are at least two possible explanations for the drop: (i) ask metafilter is losing momentum (predicting that questions will continue to fall), or (ii) ask metafilter was above its carrying capacity for community attention at the peak (predicting that it will level off at some point). Personally, I suspect that (ii) is right to some degree -- 94 questions per day on average is definitely enough to overwhelm any one reader.

A variant to (i) is that questions have been to some degree driven by ad traffic leading to signups leading to one-off (or limited quantity) posts, and so "peak ad" is also peak asking. I find this unlikely in that, to the extent I was able to superimpose this on mathowie's revenue graph, there's not a great correlation (e.g. there's a sharp rise in ad revenue that actually appears to follow the beginning of the drop in questions by as much as a year), but I wasn't able to literally superimpose them without the data so this isn't very definitive.
posted by advil at 9:48 PM on August 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


I can't predict with any confidence what effect this has had, but it's also worth nothing that somewhere a few years ago we started pushing back a little bit on the volume of anon stuff, adding a little more friction to the process. I don't know if we've seen a consistent long-term reduction in the volume of submitted/approved anony asks or not, nor do I know that even if there has been a consistent reduction there it would be a significant chunk of that change, but it might be worth looking at.

advil, if you feel like reworking your R stuff a little bit, you could do separate graphs for Anonymous's question activity and for everybody-but-Anonymous to see what the actual pattern has been like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I too would want a queue, but I know for a fact that I'd abuse it. I am trying really hard to only ask a question once a month now because I feel like me asking something weekly is an abuse of the privilege of being a member here. For me, AskMe meets a need I didn't consciously know I had, but I want to be judicious about using the site to meet that need because my "stuff" is my responsibility. So basically what I'm saying is thank you for making the site less easy to post frequently to. It forces me to be brave and use real people as resources instead of hiding behind the safety and comfort of my username.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:09 PM on August 8, 2014


This is interesting and suggests that the drop in questions isn't really an indicator of overall site health. It is hard to make any predictions about the future from this graph when you see the details

First of all, thank you for the work--I was worried I'd made some mistake, and your choices for how to represent it were much better than I'd have made.

I have one wild guess about the drop in activity on AskMe. I've looked at the number of first-time posters per month (at least, the first time posting under a particular account) and the number of first-time commenters per month, and just eye-balling it, my feeling is that the downward trends there lead the downward trends in content by a little, but I'm not really sure. I think it would make sense, though, that if the replacement rate of new users gradually falls below the abandonment rate then the content numbers would also gradually fall.

I agree with you that the blue's content numbers look much better, but I think the first-time posters per month and first-time commenters per month have begun declining over the past year there too. The content is obviously fine, but efforts like Fanfare and #JulyByWomen could be really well-timed here for countering that trend before it impacts the content.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:22 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think many long time users view AskMe as something of a precious resource. That is, it is a place on the internet where hard, obscure, and interesting questions about extremely varied topics often receive thorough, literate, interesting, and even deep attempts at answering. Hopefully this will continue being true for a long time, but as we were reminded of earlier this year, nothing is certain. If a resource is precious to me I don't try to draw on it as much as I possibly can, even though drawing on it would increase the benefit for me individually, and I definitely don't want to automate the process of min/maxing it. In fact, drawing on that resource too much, aggregated over many people, would most likely diminish the quality substantially. I'm not sure this is really different from the quantity argument that the mods are making, if one assumes there is a quantity/quality tradeoff (which I think the mods aren't necessarily, but I am). I'm not making a moral judgment, but given all this I do find it hard to empathize with the motivations for min/maxing AskMe in this way. But then, I'm solidly on the guess-culture side of things.

I am as Asky a motherfucker as you'd find this side of the black stump and I agree totally. AskMeta is a treasure.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:24 PM on August 8, 2014


Incidentally, I've put the numbers I'm looking at onto PasteBin; they're based on the data dumps from Aug. 2: AskMe, MeFi, and overall users.

But I'd still encourage anyone looking at the quantitative issues opened up in this thread to make their own investigation of the Infodump files and draw independent conclusions that take new factors into account.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:37 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


neat graffitist: "I fully understand Matt's points... But that's not what most people are objecting to... I'm trying to get a clear idea of what that judgment actually is."

This here seems like the moment when this stopped being an actual feature request and started being an academic question about whether more questions in Ask is good for the site, which has very little intrinsically to do with the idea of having some sort of reminder to let people know when they can ask another question. That's okay - I think this is a very stimulating and interesting discussion - but it seems worth noting that there were perfectly good objections to the notification idea that we left by the wayside because we were more interested in various objections the community has had to the idea in the past than we were in the idea itself.
posted by koeselitz at 2:22 AM on August 9, 2014


If I were proposing a feature change, it actually would be a once-a-year emergency second question

There's a completely workable end-run for this. Get a sock puppet now. You can use it if it's an emergency at some point in the future if you need to ask a question. There is no reason to code a complex feature in to the site to accommodate this.

Your feature request is an example of a situation being ok for an individual, but not ok when scaled to a group

Basically this I understand why people want this, but especially in a new lighter-mod MeFi, this isn't something that solves a problem for the site. In fact it may introduce a very small-scale less-optimal situation. And there are offsite tools that users have available to solve this problem for themselves.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 4:21 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


...this stopped being an actual feature request and started being an academic question about whether more questions in Ask is good for the site, which has very little intrinsically to do with the idea of having some sort of reminder to let people know when they can ask another question. That's okay - I think this is a very stimulating and interesting discussion - but it seems worth noting that there were perfectly good objections to the notification idea that we left by the wayside because we were more interested in various objections the community has had to the idea in the past than we were in the idea itself.

Well, I don't know about that. I think the loudest objection -- which Matt and others have reiterated -- IS that more questions in Ask aren't good for the site. So it's natural that the discussion has focused on that objection.

I do realize there were other objections that no one's responded to, like the preferences page being too crowded or the possibility of the asker not being around when the question is answered, or the same question being asked in the interim ...those are all valid objections to me but not as fundamental as the above one. Whether we want Ask to grow or shrink is a pretty important question, isn't it?

I think more broadly, this thread is following a pretty typical pattern for feature requests. The mods are sort of reflexively negative on them because they have to be, or they'd be swamped with work and competing feature requests -- this part I completely understand. There are also a lot of users who are reflexively negative on any feature they wouldn't use themselves because... well, this I find less understandable.

So anyway, the beginning of a feature request thread is a list of Reasons Why Not -- some of which are perfectly valid but others of which may be not fully thought out, or not the real reasons, or just not that big a deal. And it takes a little back-and-forth to sort through them and figure out what the core of the request and the objections are about, which is what's happening. And look, the answer from the mods may still be "wherever this discussion goes, it's not gonna happen, we just aren't open to persuasion on this" but that doesn't mean nothing else can come out of the discussion.

(What's truly inexplicable to me is the volunteer First Junior Mod Brigade, led by Brandon in this case, who consistently try to shut down the discussion at the Reasons Why Not stage, limit it to the narrowest form of the original question, and go into a kind of moral panic when it drifts "off topic" or generates further questions.)

In any case I think these competing intuitions about Ask are really interesting, that some people see it as a tragedy of the commons where the question-answerers are noble volunteers whose time and attention are a precious resource that must be guarded against abuse ...and others (including me) see it as much more of a constructive feedback loop that matches people who like answering questions with people who have questions (or even just people who like asking questions, what's wrong with that?) -- so more is inherently better, at least up to some distant limit where the system overloads and everyone's behavior shifts.

I know that when I've answered Ask questions it never feels like a chore, I enjoy it just as much as getting answers to the ones I've asked, and when I'm scrolling through questions I never wish there were fewer of them.
posted by neat graffitist at 4:35 AM on August 9, 2014


Pony requests are often denied when there are perfectly good (or at least adequate) third-party solutions. In this case, calendar reminders. In other cases, people have suggested greasemonkey scripts. Etc.
posted by rtha at 6:37 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Could one of the mods send me a text message if I haven't posted a question in a while? That would be great.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why you perceive the "loudest" objection to have something to do with question volume is beyond me. You're asking the site to create a feature that will benefit only a few users and which is completely unnecessary in light of easy to implement non-site solutions. Moreover, there are other arguments against this too, only one of which has anything to do with question volume.

Question volume is probably the weakest argument against your request, and from my standpoint it appears you're conflating "weakest" with "loudest" because it allows you to conveniently ignore all of the compelling reasons why your proposed feature request is not a terrific idea.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:54 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


There's a completely workable end-run for this. Get a sock puppet now. You can use it if it's an emergency at some point in the future if you need to ask a question. There is no reason to code a complex feature in to the site to accommodate this.

Um... isn't it verboten to use a sock to bypass the one week limit?

If not, I'd like to introduce you all to my twin brother, DefinitelyNotZarq, who uh... may be making some posts to the blue from time to time... :D
posted by zarq at 7:17 AM on August 9, 2014


isn't it verboten to use a sock to bypass the one week limit?

It's fine in an emergency and you can trust the mods to determine if people are abusing this feature or not. It's much easier to have oversight into this sort of rare occurrence than to build in a mod-side feature for something that is supposedly pretty rare.

It's like cortex said above about the anon queue. It's a little human-intensive as a feature here, so mods try to simultaneously tell people to use it if it's important but not to overuse it. There are ways to tell if people are overusing it and if they do, someone will talk to them and if this doesn't have any effect, people can be blocked from using the anon feature. In the whole time I worked here, I think there were only 2-3 people who this ever happened to, and maybe a dozen users who we talked to about it.

Making posts to the blue with a sock puppet (especially to end-run posting limits) falls into a much more "please don't do that" category.

Standard disclaimer: this is how I understood things when I was working here. I suspect it hasn't changed much but it may have.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


advil, if you feel like reworking your R stuff a little bit, you could do separate graphs for Anonymous's question activity and for everybody-but-Anonymous to see what the actual pattern has been like.

I don't quite have time to finish this before I have to go off elsewhere for the rest of the day, so I'll have to try to get back to it tonight and post a new graph (I also need to remove deleted threads from the graph I posted earlier). Eyeballing the data in a preliminary graph, anonymous posts have been more stable but seem to have an arc that matches the overall trend (but smaller). Perhaps unsurprisingly, comments in anonymous posts are higher than in ask in general.
posted by advil at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2014


What jess said. We will understand in an emergency, as a one-off thing, if you're not fucking around. We'll probably still drop you a note saying "hey, this looks like an emergency so as a one-time thing we understand, but..." but we won't burn your house down or kick your dog as long as the not-fucking-around clause is present.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


What about the cat?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, I don't know about that. I think the loudest objection -- which Matt and others have reiterated -- IS that more questions in Ask aren't good for the site. So it's natural that the discussion has focused on that objection.

I disagree with the assertation that volume is the loudest objection to your suggestion. I just tallied every response in this thread, and by my count, the objection "1. Your problem can be solved by existing tech/ this isn't something Metafilter needs to spend time doing" has been repeated more than "2. Posting less than weekly benefits Metafilter".
posted by 23skidoo at 8:45 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yep, it doesn't sound like anyone cares if more questions are posted to AskMe. The site is simply not going to remind users to do so every week.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2014


I often amuse myself by imagining what Ask Metafilter would be like if it were similar to other social sites.

Ask Metafilter would like to access your email contact list (because every one of your email contacts should know about that weird rash on your tookus)

You've asked about a rash on your tookus; would you like to add these other members who've asked about rashes to your contact list?

To ask about a rash on your tookus, please sign in with Facebook or Twitter.

This photo of a rash on your tookus has been automatically added to your G+ photo gallery!

Information you've shared about a rash on your tookus may be used in onsite advertisements personalized for your friends and family.

Before you can ask about the rash on your tookus, please click here to indicate you've read the (560,000-word) Ask Metafilter Terms Of Service and new privacy settings agreement

O hai, some members of your contact list were shown your question about a holiday in Ibiza, while others were shown your question about the painful rash on your tookus. As an experiment. For science.

It's been 6 Days, 23 Hours, and 59 Minutes since you asked about a rash on your tookus; would you like to ask another question about your tookus now?
posted by taz (staff) at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2014 [29 favorites]


some people see it as a tragedy of the commons where the question-answerers are noble volunteers

Look, people shouldn't have been jerkish to you about this. But that's a recurring problem on MeTa that is bigger than this individual thread, so you shouldn't take it personally. And you aren't exactly helping the situation with sarcastic paraphrasings like this. Jerks aside, a lot of people have treated your request respectfully and explained why they disagree. You are choosing which comments to respond to, and how, and those choices—as Cortex said yesterday—are creating the impression that you want to fight. In which case, fine, you'll get plenty of volunteers, but be honest about that upfront so the rest of us don't waste our time.

Separately, it has not been my experience that mods are reflexively negative about feature requests. Purely in my personal opinion, they have been surprisingly open and quickly accommodating to some really unnecessary and stupid ones.
posted by cribcage at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I have zero objection to there being more Asks. But I have big objections to there being more Asks because people are receiving a push notification actively encouraging them to post when it would not have otherwise occurred to them.

I think that's a good way to lower quality and thus harm the health of the site. I am fine with efforts to improve quality which have the consequence of thereby attracting more traffic, whether more questions or more eyeballs or more whatever. But I am not fine with trying to pump up those numbers artificially in a quality-be-damned sort of way.

I am seeing no reason to believe this feature request adds real value to the site and lots of reasons why it would lower value. Thus, I am not for it.
posted by Michele in California at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Finding out that AskMe question volume has decreased is really interesting to me. It explains why I used to read it and think (because I'm a judgmental asshole) "Jesus H. Christ can some of these people not put their pants on in the morning without asking the internet what leg should go first?" And I don't have that feeling about AskMe much anymore.

As someone who goes to AskMe first and the blue second, I really think the volume of questions can wear down the patience of potential answerers, which is a net bad for both the askers and the site as a whole. It's not necessarily about the quality of the questions, more that I can handle (reading; I'm not even talking about answering!) one "which pant leg first" question per day but not three, and if I hit the third and bail, that means I miss the question where I could legitimately provide useful insight or expertise.
posted by misskaz at 10:23 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


nerd graffitist: "Whether we want Ask to grow or shrink is a pretty important question, isn't it?"

Yes, but my point was really this: if we want Ask to grow, then this feature - notifying people exactly when their new-question waiting period is over - probably isn't the best way to do that, is it? The obvious way to increase the number of questions people ask would be to increase the number of questions people can ask. Say maybe two per week instead of one.

If the problem is that we want more people to ask questions in Ask, then there are better ways to solve that problem than this feature.
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 AM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Whether we want Ask to grow or shrink is a pretty important question, isn't it?

Perhaps, but it is a question that's already been answered. By the site owner.

The fact that you don't like the answer doesn't change the answer.
posted by dotgirl at 11:10 AM on August 9, 2014


> Whether we want Ask to grow or shrink is a pretty important question, isn't it?

You know, I don't think it is. Again, Matt and The Mods can respond definitively, but I've gotten the feeling that the goal is for AskMe (and the other parts of MeFi) to maintain a certain feel and style, that includes openness, a human scale, and manageability. An additional 40 questions a day that are useful and generate good answers would be fine. An additional 4 per day that are just people flapping their gums and getting into fights would not.

So the goal is to manage the quality, and respond to the quantity that this produces. And the judgement is that personal Ask queues won't help, and will more likely hurt, the quality.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


cribcage: Look, people shouldn't have been jerkish to you about this. But that's a recurring problem on MeTa that is bigger than this individual thread, so you shouldn't take it personally. And you aren't exactly helping the situation with sarcastic paraphrasings like this. Jerks aside, a lot of people have treated your request respectfully and explained why they disagree. You are choosing which comments to respond to, and how, and those choices—as Cortex said yesterday—are creating the impression that you want to fight. In which case, fine, you'll get plenty of volunteers, but be honest about that upfront so the rest of us don't waste our time.

OK, you're right. I didn't start this thread to fight but I can see I've been taking the bait. And I agree that even ignoring the less constructive comments, my main question has been answered and these reminders are a feature most people don't want.
posted by neat graffitist at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2014


For the record, I think whether or not we want Ask to grow is actually a very good question. It's bigger than this feature request, but it's worth asking. Metafilter changes over time, and I think it's good that we think about how and about what that means.
posted by koeselitz at 12:57 PM on August 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I looked over zarq's list of most frequent askers over the last year, and I think I recognized all but a handful of usernames.

And the users I recognized as having asked good to extremely good questions outnumber the users whose questions have not interested me all that much by about twenty to one; I expected a substantial majority, but nothing like that. The people asking a lot of questions are definitely not a problem.

Yet I do think there is a problem: AskMe certainly fell off the Google cliff for extrinsic reasons, but it continued to roll down the slope at the base of the cliff, too -- I believe because it lacks the energy and vitality which used to practically radiate from the page when I opened it up in the morning, and I think the reason for that is most likely to be a relative lack of the general interest, curiosity-driven questions which have been discouraged over the last few years as a matter of policy.
posted by jamjam at 2:00 PM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's a matter of quality. Let's be honest, you'd go through your queue of good questions in a month and then you'd just be throwing random crap out there when you got the email. That works for trying to write every day or whatever but not for a discussion forum. Some people will use their own tools to do this anyway but the ones who don't needn't be encouraged officially.
posted by michaelh at 7:28 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Let's be honest, you'd go through your queue of good questions in a month and then you'd just be throwing random crap out there when you got the email.

A cursory review of people who have posted an average of more than two questions a month for the last year and the year before shows little to no "random crap."
posted by zarq at 6:27 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't predict with any confidence what effect this has had, but it's also worth nothing that somewhere a few years ago we started pushing back a little bit on the volume of anon stuff, adding a little more friction to the process. I don't know if we've seen a consistent long-term reduction in the volume of submitted/approved anony asks or not, nor do I know that even if there has been a consistent reduction there it would be a significant chunk of that change, but it might be worth looking at.

advil, if you feel like reworking your R stuff a little bit, you could do separate graphs for Anonymous's question activity and for everybody-but-Anonymous to see what the actual pattern has been like.


Some new graphs: As a reminder from my previous post, interpreting this fall in questions is not as easy as it might seem and I do not think that one cannot jump from this trend to the conclusion that ask metafilter needs us to find strategies to increase posting.

Since it isn't obvious from the above graphs whether the mods succeeded at the pushback that cortex mentioned, I came up with a way of looking at this, just by examining the ratio of anonymous to total questions (since this should abstract away from variations in total post count). I think they have, as this ratio has fallen to about 7% from a peak of 9% in 2010, and has been holding steady for this year. Here's some numbers with yearly post counts and the proportion of those that are anonymous:
   year mean_comments post_count anon_ratio
1  2003      14.29920        498      0.004
2  2004      13.48668       8560      0.019
3  2005      14.56414      16175      0.048
4  2006      14.27785      23444      0.043
5  2007      14.50576      24486      0.051
6  2008      13.30934      30080      0.064
7  2009      14.06976      31093      0.083
8  2010      14.77197      32128      0.092
9  2011      14.63641      29690      0.085
10 2012      15.00699      27307      0.084
11 2013      15.19460      22091      0.072
12 2014      14.43695      11372       0.07
On a related note, the per-month averages for deleted threads have been pretty stable on both subsites for quite a long time, basically the history of the site, so this isn't interacting. (I can post some graphs at some point if anyone is interested, but not today.)

Finally, if anyone is curious (as I was) what the huge spike in anonymous commenting was near the beginning, this is partly just extra participation in a new feature, and partly an initial allowing of fairly broad/chatfilter/controversial anonymous questions that probably wouldn't fly any more. Examples: 1, 2.
posted by advil at 10:57 AM on August 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


(One more addendum: pulling out deleted threads did make a noticeable difference in the mean comments per thread. So that was the biggest issue in the old version.)
posted by advil at 11:02 AM on August 10, 2014


(One more addendum: pulling out deleted threads did make a noticeable difference in the mean comments per thread. So that was the biggest issue in the old version.)

Scratch that, I just had stupid mistake in that graph -- fixed now. (Ok, I'm stopping.)
posted by advil at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2014


I've fixed an issue in the graph I already posted

These are amazing, and one thing I'd pick out as brilliant about them is the choice to show mean comments per thread. For AskMe's graphs, the relatively flat line to me indicates that there was never a shortage of attention for answering questions, even when there were so many more questions--the questions pretty much got a number of answers not based on the fluctuation in number of questions. There is doubtless a limit to that based on the population of answerers, but it doesn't seem to have been reached previously--people read through a ton more questions on the page just fine (even happily, in my recollection of it).

As a reminder from my previous post, interpreting this fall in questions is not as easy as it might seem and I do not think that one cannot jump from this trend to the conclusion that ask metafilter needs us to find strategies to increase posting.

I agree with this, even if I'd like to see more posts there. And of course, simply increasing posts made by the existing pool of users would not be identical to the situation in the past--it could exhaust the time people have for writing up answers by inflating demand but not supply. So the supply of answerers is an interesting unknown for determining whether that's viable.

Without confirmation, I remain hesitant about the integrity of the data, but it looks like first-time posters and first-time commenters peaked in 2009, some months before posts and comments peaked. The decline from there isn't as obvious, but overall it seems to have trended downward. The abandonment rate is trickier to calculate (someone better at this than me might be able to do it using estimated rates of re-entry based on historical re-entry to the pool after some period of time to guess how many people really abandoned the site up to some point in time?). But if a decline in AskMe users isn't what caused the drop in questions and comments, my imagination is blocked right now at thinking what else could be responsible.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:17 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just my little two cents, but there are questions/topics and responses that I think are... less a good use of the site (as I understood it anyway), that have appeared more often lately than others, and there are users who post as such more often than others; as a result my visits to MeFi overall have dwindled. It's not just disinterest, at least on my part. Surely, I am not the only person who feels this way.
posted by sm1tten at 12:43 PM on August 10, 2014


No, some people seem to feel the need to post to Mefi everyday or ride a hobby horse on a particular topic(s). Installing the MeFi Nope script helps curtail the feeling those people are drowning out the front page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Brandon, does the MeFi Nope script work on comments as well as posts? I don't want to block this particular person completely, just comments they make on a certain subject (that they will not. stop. commenting. on. Despite not having relevant current knowledge! I don't understand. But anyway.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:45 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the fundamental disconnect is that the veteran crowd tends to see the "one week per question" limit as the sort of limit you casually run into..."oh yeah, it hasn't been a week yet" and not some ongoing problem. AskMe is often not our main draw, and being the type of community that is largely valued for answering questions rather than asking them (though both have a value) they would rather expend their energies lightly scrolling through AskMe answering a few questions vs. having a deluge of "I have another question!" questions filling up the page.

I am definitely the type of person who min-maxes certain rules. I always did it with break-times at work (I know the law! I am allowed XYZ!) and whenever my rights and basic dignity come into play I will figure out what the limits are and exploit them when it doesn't make me look like an ass or directly take away from someone else somehow.

But as a lurker-since-2001 I get the feeling that the community that built AskMe doesn't value the sort of experience that leads someone to posting a question every week -- why aren't you researching things better and answering your own questions, and then answering questions in AskMe instead of somehow coming up with one every week? At that point AskMe is basically being used as a public utility that you pay $5 once in a lifetime to get one question per week to ask, rather than what it grew into and actually is seen to be by most of the veteran community.

I honestly do look down on the notion of feeling any sort of desire or need to ask a question every week and I do see a lot of questions I would categorize as a waste of effort for people to answer, somewhat insulting to the user base. I would rather the questions be asked by people who have a long list of things they've ruled out, etc. I want them to be hard questions with often concrete answers that are super-valuable rather than just another subjective experience explained.

It is an elitist mindset but it's the mindset of many answerers -- we find our own answers and try not to cudgel others when they don't, but our strongest trait is that we feel some sense of guilt about just asking people questions that we find reasonably complex. We want to find the answer ourselves and share it with the first person who asks. Not condescendingly, of course, but yeah, questions themselves have intrinsic quality and if you're coming up with good questions once a week, you're basically creating content for MeFi and I can't necessarily fault you for that...but if you feel like you need to ask a question every week, I feel like you should be paying $5 a question, TBH.
posted by aydeejones at 5:38 PM on August 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


zarq: "A cursory review of people who have posted an average of more than two questions a month for the last year and the year before shows little to no 'random crap.'"

But that means nothing; we're talking about the potential impact of actively encourage people to post as much as possible, and we have never done that. Actively encouraging people to post by sending then messages basically asking them to would do much more than allow people to ask more questions - it would encourage people who would not normally have asked anything at all to think to go ahead and ask. Doesn't that stand to reason?
posted by koeselitz at 5:47 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


does the MeFi Nope script work on comments as well as posts?

No, it just works on Posts on the front page.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 PM on August 10, 2014


No offense to anyone, but please don't change the current state of AskMe. And I say this as a member who requested this very pony very early on in my MeFi membership (I think I was the 2nd). The wonderful apocalyptic essay was enough to show me the folly of my request.

Again, no offense to the OP or anyone else. I'm merely stating my opinion.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:36 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


But that means nothing; we're talking about the potential impact of actively encourage people to post as much as possible, and we have never done that. Actively encouraging people to post by sending then messages basically asking them to would do much more than allow people to ask more questions - it would encourage people who would not normally have asked anything at all to think to go ahead and ask. Doesn't that stand to reason?

No. From the statistics provided in this thread, and the pattern of posts currently made by our more frequent users, the only possible conclusion that we can draw is we have very little idea what might happen if this pony were granted. Everything being raised here (including and especially the idea that posters would suddenly post "random crap") is pure speculation, and little to none of it is based on previously-observed community behaviour.
posted by zarq at 3:51 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not even a veteran, I mostly lurk, but aydeejones sums up how I feel ask should work from what I've seen of it.
posted by ElliotH at 5:13 AM on August 11, 2014


Maybe the pony we need is the addition of a symbol against the evil eye?

Hey now.
posted by malocchio at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


If I were implementing an AskMe queue:

1. Users could enqueue as many questions as they want.
2. A question from a user's queue would only be posted if they have not posted a question in the last month.
3. Users could still post questions manually, if they have not posted a question in the last week.

This would increase the number of questions asked, but I wouldn't expect the number of questions to skyrocket because the auto-asking functionality of the queue waits so long before posting. If everyone posting every week is disaster, this would at most be disaster divided by 4.
posted by Jpfed at 9:54 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


How rudderless would one have to be to need to ask a question every week? Sheesh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:45 PM on August 11, 2014


Some families don't issue their kids rudders. I am okay with helping a few people build their own from scratch.
posted by Michele in California at 5:08 PM on August 11, 2014


This isn't a site for kids.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:13 PM on August 11, 2014


I saw a used rudder on the ground years ago. Kind of grossed me out.
posted by cashman at 5:38 PM on August 11, 2014


> This isn't a site for kids.

That's a deliberately obtuse objection. It sounds like you just picked a single word in MiC's comment and wrapped a retort around it, rather than understand her (obvious) meaning and respond to that.

So to be utterly and explicitly clear: Some people do grow up without much of a rudder, many from parents who did not help them to develop one. When they become adults, they try to find ways to build one for themselves. AskMe can be a resource for that, and MiC is glad to serve as part of that resource.

If you find people trying to do that objectionable, you might want to not spend much time on AskMe.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:58 PM on August 11, 2014


Sure but every damn week? I repeat: sheesh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:29 PM on August 11, 2014


And is that really AskMe's goal, to be a refuge for hapless netizens?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:33 PM on August 11, 2014


Hey, I can eye roll with the best of them, but it's no skin off my nose if AskMe helps people who haven't learned a few things yet.

Everyone is fighting their hardest battle. If asking strangers on the internet helps them win, then come sit by me and we can eye roll together in a dim corner where we don't bother anyone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:55 PM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Know what else will work? The mod team not complying with this request, just as they've not complied with similar requests in the past.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:07 PM on August 11, 2014


The mod team already said they weren't planning to do this. I think you could sort of have left it at one sheesh and made your general point sufficiently instead of doubling down on taking a generalized shit on other mefites.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


> And is that really AskMe's goal, to be a refuge for hapless netizens?

AskMe's goal? I think it might well be the reason we're here on Earth.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:21 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


True, Cortex. Sorry.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:31 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


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