Protocol and Decorum December 20, 2014 10:50 PM   Subscribe

So what, if anything is the protocol for calling out advice on AskMe that is destructive, inappropriate, incorrect, or just plain bad?

I'm talking about questions which could prompt answers that could vary widely and be perhaps more subjective in nature, like Human Relations. Is there an accepted way to question someone's motives or advice without making it a huge derail? Would a MeMail to the, perhaps wrongheaded, answerer be an appropriate method for addressing these concerns?

There's a question up right now that's got me very concerned at the idea that outright bad advice isn't being questioned a little more aggressively. I'm not linking the question because I'm not up for throwing shade. Just yet.

Have you ever been contacted about an answer you provided? How would you like to be contacted if such a situation were to occur? Is it all to subjective to even fathom?
posted by SinisterPurpose to Etiquette/Policy at 10:50 PM (148 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Just to give a quick modside view, I'll briefly quote myself from a recent similar Metatalk discussion: "We ask that people not debate or fight with each other so that we don't have threads full of people arguing back and forth. If someone says something you believe is factually incorrect or bad advice, just offer your better answer. Don't say something like, "hey OtherAnswerer, that's a dumb answer, the actual correct answer is blahblah," just say, "hey, OP, I wouldn't suggest [bad advice] because of the danger of XYZ; instead, the wise thing to do is blahblah."

That thread was not focusing on subjective human relations questions, which tend to have some special issues. For example, often the original poster is in distress, which can affect how they frame their question, which can affect how people answer. In addition, people tend to answer from their own point of view, experiences, preferences, and biases, and this can vary dramatically among answerers, as well as how closely aligned their viewpoint is with the expectations of the OP. Sometimes there are cultural differences that make some advice less pertinent to the OP's situation. These are just a few of many considerations that can make human relations questions tricky, but it's pretty much always perfectly okay to say something like, "Suggestions to do X don't necessarily take into account Y, so I would recommend blah blah," or "advice to do X could actually make things worse because of Y. I recommend instead blah blah," or similar.

I'll let folks weigh in with their thoughts, but just wanted to give a bit of the moderation viewpoint on the general question of refuting what you feel is bad advice on subjective issues.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:57 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Flagging the comment/answer is always an option, and contacting the mods is always another.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:26 PM on December 20, 2014


What is a 'throwing shade', and how does it aid us in discussing this without an example?
posted by pompomtom at 11:35 PM on December 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Throwing shade = trash talking, and it seems like not providing a specific example is a good way to make sure specific people don't get called out/shat on?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:46 PM on December 20, 2014 [7 favorites]


Would a MeMail to the, perhaps wrongheaded, answerer be an appropriate method for addressing these concerns?

What do you think you would accomplish that way that you couldn't in the thread by saying "I actually wouldn't suggest XYZ because ABC"? How would commenting privately help the OP?

I doubt anyone goes to Ask with the intention of performing the action advised in every single answer. If there are answers that are a serious outlier to the bulk of the provided advice, the asker ought to be capable of recognizing that just like everyone else in the thread probably has, and that's why they aren't commenting on it.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:49 PM on December 20, 2014 [6 favorites]


It seems kind of passive-aggressive and unnecessarily gossipy to talk about a specific question but not identify which one it is.

If there's advice in a thread that you think is bad, say so in-thread where it matters, and be specific and diplomatic about it. Even if you don't have better advice, just say "Please do not do XYZ because it's dangerous/illegal/etc." It's the OP who needs to hear this info the most, and future readers who may be in a similar predicament, not whoever wrote the answer you disagree with.

Essentially, what taz said.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:03 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


How would commenting privately help the OP?

I was thinking more along the lines of helping future OPs by asking someone to check the advice given out on the reg. Sometimes I think nasty, bad advice garners a lot of favorites because the answers are entertaining on some level, but not remotely helpful. The favorites enable the behavior. Favorites become the nielsen ratings of Metafilter. And then those ratings get chased.

I'm not arguing against favorites. I'm not asking for downvoting. I'm asking for a practical way to tell another user they might be getting out of hand. Because I think maybe some people have taken things way beyond trolling in an environment which purports to offer help.

It seems kind of passive-aggressive and unnecessarily gossipy to talk about a specific question but not identify which one it is.


Unfortunately, passive-aggressive and gossipy are the diplomatic choices in this instance. At least, that's my opinion and therefore the option I've chosen.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 12:16 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


metafilter: favorites enable the behavior

sorry
posted by el io at 12:24 AM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think terribly unhelpful, even destructive advice can be helpful.

There have been a couple of times in my life when I've been at a bit of a crisis, and have asked 'human relations' questions to friends of mine. When I did this I asked a bunch of friends (that I could trust). In those times, I had some friends offer destructive, awful advice. Other friends gave me constructive, useful advice. It became apparent to me, hearing both sets of advice, which advice would be a productive solution to my problem.

If someone is going to have the bad judgement to choose the 'wrong' options presented to them, that's really on them. Removing comments or hearing other people bicker about the right path isn't necessarily help.

For me, I always asked these questions privately, so there was no chance for discussion among the people giving advice. I'm glad for that, because the last thing I needed (in times of crisis) was to be distracted with friends bickering between themselves.

I have seen people in ask.metafilter threads see other, better advice and then followup with 'oh, yeah, ignore that thing I said you should do, [mefi user] has a better idea.
posted by el io at 12:35 AM on December 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


If it's the thread I'm thinking about it seems certain advice is being questioned pretty aggressively by other posters so I'm not sure what the problem is. Especially since that is not a life or death situation and the worst that could happen is not really that bad.
posted by bleep at 12:46 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems kind of passive-aggressive and unnecessarily gossipy to talk about a specific question but not identify which one it is.

It's up to the person making the post, but generalizing can be helpful in ways that pointing to a specific post might not be, in that people may have different examples (again, not necessarily even pointing to a particular post) they want to discuss that touch on the same questions but for different reasons, and also because when the poster points to a specific post or comment people naturally tend to debate just that particular instance on an agree/disagree basis, which might be more limiting.

Either way can be okay for working through questions and issues, but I don't think that not providing specific examples is necessarily passive aggressive. (Personally, I tend to think of that more in relation to someone who has had a comment deleted and then makes a Metatalk about it, but without being specific that they are actually complaining about their deletion.)

I'll also just mention that sometimes I'm very grateful when a Metatalk post is not specific in cases when the person who made the Ask Me post is in a painful or sensitive situation and certainly wasn't expecting to have their question dissected and chewed over in the often-harsh Metatalk spotlight.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:51 AM on December 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


If I am understanding this right, this is mostly about one person and their stylistic choices in AskMe. From what I know, the mods have had this on their radar for a while now. If we disagree with the advice given, we can flag it, and provide opposite views, but I do not see any benefit in contacting the Mefite directly (even if (!) they wanted to change their comment, there just is no way).
posted by travelwithcats at 1:15 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Would a MeMail to the, perhaps wrongheaded, answerer be an appropriate method for addressing these concerns?

I know this is like, part and parcel of how some people operate on the site, and they view it as another facet of the community. But I personally think it's a dick move. I only memail for positive interactions.

Firstly, I don't how anyone here has a right to tell others what to say or think on the site (I realise my arrant hypocrisy in posting this comment). Everyone is allowed to post, the mods make the call.

Secondly, your own righteousness may not be so clear cut as all that. What seems irrefutable to one person is nonsense to another.

Third, a scolding memail, however nicely worded, is highly unlikely to engender the outcome the sender wants. It will never get a comment removed (mods do that, not users), and I believe it is unlikely to change minds, but rather irritate, infuriate or hurt. (I think if you have a personal relationship with the person is entirely different. But as a first contact from a strange mefite, it's terrible and unnecessarily confrontational. Ask me how I know!)

I think you've done the right thing to bring it up here. However I do think it's better for me, at any rate, to acknowledge that there will always be responses here I disagree with, and that's okay, because my courses of action are not right for everyone, at every time. Diversity of responses are a strength of the site more than a liability, I reckon.

At the risk of throwing shade, or at least a dim silhouette, I presume the op is talking about that new submissive question.
posted by smoke at 2:58 AM on December 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm not up for throwing shade. Just yet.
Posted by [No I won't]

I think maybe some people have taken things way beyond trolling in an environment which purports to offer help

In my understanding of the customs and recommendations on this site, if you notice that people take things "way beyond trolling," you have a right, even responsibility, to send the mods a heads-up via the contact form. If your idea about trolling is sound, action will be taken, there cannot be any doubt about it. So what this feels to me, right now, is a non-throwing-shade-type-of-way of doubting your own troll radar, or thinking, perhaps, that your judgment may not be respected by the mods. Is that it?

As an aside, it really muddies the waters to pull the "favourites are ratings" card (long dead-beat horse, pony lovers excuse me). If we discuss actual advice on ask, written answers that are perhaps bad, we're talking about content. Let's stick to that, perhaps. Nobody knows what a bad commenter on ask "chases" with their bad comment (if it even is bad...I mean this is theory, since nobody knows what this is all about).
posted by Namlit at 3:21 AM on December 21, 2014


I think that the bounds of Ask are something along the lines of "whatever you say must be with the intent of helping the person asking the question". If someone posts about how they burned their hand putting it in the oven and what should they do about it, and a commentator responds with "put some butter on it", then it's a good idea to call out that advice (not that commentator) in thread as being bad advice. Perhaps in the vein of "butter will likely make the situation worse, you should run your hand under the cold tap for at least ten minutes to cool down the skin" with a link to a supporting webpage outlining the dangers of butter on burns.

Getting fighty with a user isn't generally that helpful. Calling out specific things that they say can be, in certain circumstances. Kind of like how it's better to say "what you just said was racist", rather than "you yourself are racist". Saying in the actual thread what the problem with [the given advice] is, is going to be of more use to the OP than a private conversation with the commentator about [the given advice].

I think it's more appropriate to help the OP than use Ask as a space to argue with people you disagree with.
posted by Solomon at 4:44 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you can respond in a way that (calmly) points out why you think the advice is flawed while still focusing on the OP's question and isn't just "wow why are you such a fucktruck, other answerer", that usually stands. If you can't, then flag it and move on. If you really can't move on from a specific case, I've always found the mods to be very helpful over the contact form in clarifying why they choose to let [something I objected to] stand, and that can sometimes help if I'm stuck on "uuuuuuurgh can you BELIEVE [thing]".
posted by kagredon at 5:09 AM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Fucktruck? Yay, new word.

Also, the phrase is part of a new meme, I feel it.

Wizard people, dear reader
Fucktruck, other answerer
Heavens above, other driver
etc.

So much better than Doge
posted by Namlit at 5:14 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I understand what taz is saying about the occasional value of not specifying what question you're talking about, but if half of us have figured it out I think it's silly and not helpful to dance around it.

I think the responses to jbenben's answer in this thread are a very good example of how to handle it when you see bad advice: call it out as wrong and explain why it's off base, then give (what you think is) better advice.

I am also guessing that she had at least one additional answer removed, based on taz's note in-thread. So I think there's at least some value to flagging answers that you think are off-base and letting the mods know why.
posted by amro at 6:34 AM on December 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


as a first contact from a strange mefite, [a chastising MeMail] is terrible and unnecessarily confrontational

Agreed. I once slightly contradicted another answer and the poster wrote me to say that he had had an ulterior motive in suggesting a certain course of action, namely, that the questioner would have to visit his doctor and thereby get more medical advice. I agreed with him and said he should clarify that in-thread, but he never did.

Maybe the sender just really needed to blow off steam, but nothing useful to the OP occurred as a result.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:38 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


destructive, inappropriate, incorrect, or just plain bad

Yeah, I wish it weren't true, but this kind of advice gets dished out in meatspace too. The Green isn't any different, and it shouldn't take too many asks (or too many reads of asks) for someone to figure this out. Especially for subjective asks, like, *ahem*, ones in the human relations box.

When you use the Green you have the chore fun of reading through answers to weed out the destructive, inappropriate, incorrect, or just plain bad.

Also, I'm strongly against calling out others. If you contribute something of more value, the plain bad start to show up more clearly as plain bad, and you help the OP too.

Fun fact: I once took the plain bad advice from a human relations ask, and things went very sideways. But that mistake is on me. I ain't blaming no fucktrucks here.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:04 AM on December 21, 2014


Have you ever been contacted about an answer you provided?

Happens to me fairly often. Most of them seem to come from like-minded folks. Though I did get one recently with subject "fuck you" and total content "fuck you" from a user who then went on to disable their account.

I sent an inquiry via the contact form to see whether anybody knew what was going on there because I honestly couldn't figure out what I could possibly have written to provoke such a response. Turned out they'd had to do a big Cleanup in Aisle 5 over that user's response to a (to my mind perfectly legitimate) question I'd left in an Ask thread pertaining to some software recommended by that user.

I've also had a couple of good and thoughtful MeMail conversations prompted by my answers on mental health topics, and I greatly value those. They didn't convince me to recommend anything different should a similar issue arise again, but I now know that next time I'll need to show my working and write more clearly so as not to be taken the wrong way.

Importantly, the folks who contacted me first took the time to provide their own thoughtful and well-reasoned answers in-thread.

It seems to me that the very diversity of opinion and experience presented in response to many Human Relations questions can often be a valuable meta-answer in its own right - as can the occasional 100% DTMFA consensus pile-on.
posted by flabdablet at 7:22 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I once took the plain bad advice from a human relations ask, and things went very sideways. But that mistake is on me. I ain't blaming no fucktrucks here.

Blame or no blame: if anybody has ever taken a piece of my advice and had an awful result, I would certainly appreciate finding out how.
posted by flabdablet at 7:27 AM on December 21, 2014


Have you ever been contacted about an answer you provided?

Based on the subject line I assume so but I generally deleted them unread. Turns out I just don't care that much what others think. After a while I decided it was easier to disable mefi mail and that works for me. My email address is right there but it rarely gets used.

So yeah, I'm all for a tactful, useful correction in thread if you have something to say. Seems more effective all round.
posted by shelleycat at 7:37 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I sent an inquiry via the contact form to see whether anybody knew what was going on there because I honestly couldn't figure out what I could possibly have written to provoke such a response.

Oh yeah, I once had someone throw a fit because I used a scientific term when replying to them which made no sense given we're both working scientists but meh, whatever. They blocked me, I have no recollection of who it was, basically a waste of time for everyone.
posted by shelleycat at 7:42 AM on December 21, 2014


This thread again?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:56 AM on December 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


I think the thread that amro linked to is a great example of how AskMe self corrects. So I don't think this is a big problem. AskMe seems to have 1 or 2 strident users at any given time who tend to dominate the site--especially Human Relation questions. And they often read like one trick ponies who answer the same way so frequently that their point of view is sometimes probably correct, in the same way a broken clock is correct twice a day. The site would probably be better if they just learned to back off a little.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2014 [31 favorites]


And stop posting with so many line breaks and RUN and all. It makes the comments unwieldy on the phone and also gives them an unnecessary narrative weight due to the length and drama.
posted by zutalors! at 8:30 AM on December 21, 2014 [23 favorites]


Huh? If the thread linked by amro is the one that OP meant, I don't see how this has triggered a meta.

Like, the one where someone was worried that someone might die because the internet told them to go for it in a "Should I eat this?" thread was a bit OTT in my eyes but I can see the cause for concern. But the worse that could happen in this situation is that someone... might think about breaking up with their boyfriend when they hadn't before.

Is this because "DTMFA" is some kind of cliche here and it's swinging back round from comically overused to dangerously overused? Or what.

On preview I guess this is drama about an individual user.

From a newish person who really likes the green as a useful resource (and who doesn't venture from it at all really- wonder why?), I'm kind of unimpressed at how this community really relishes stirring up some personal drama. If you're looking at the advice, you don't even notice who's "prominent" or not. I thought you all thought yourselves above that kind of stuff?
posted by mymbleth at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


You notice lots of line breaks and five consecutive lines with only one word on them. You notice.
posted by zutalors! at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2014 [27 favorites]


Yeah. What zutalors! said.
posted by amro at 8:46 AM on December 21, 2014


From a newish person who really likes the green as a useful resource (and who doesn't venture from it at all really- wonder why?), I'm kind of unimpressed at how this community really relishes stirring up some personal drama. If you're looking at the advice, you don't even notice who's "prominent" or not. I thought you all thought yourselves above that kind of stuff?

so you're "newish" but have already decided that you disdain the community for "stirring up personal drama" and thinking too highly of themselves? lol ok
posted by kagredon at 8:49 AM on December 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


Is it the mefi Christmas mixtape suggestion thread ? I fully support anyone that wishes to go postal at whoever suggested Sting.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


Really feeling the full responsibility of not articulating this fact more aggressively earlier, the action to post to metatalk was triggered by a post in AskMe. But the behavior I was actually concerned with is ongoing and not limited to a single user or question.

I was looking for a gentle and discrete way to tell another user when the situation arises to "cut it the fuck out." Because my gentlest way is "cut it the fuck out." And I know myself well enough to know that's not good enough.
posted by SinisterPurpose at 8:54 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I wish it weren't true, but this kind of advice gets dished out in meatspace too.

And yahoo answers, and quora, and other boards that exist in back corners of the internet. When someone is looking for an answer online, it's likely that they are doing broader internet searches. Although there may be incorrect answers given here, we have a pretty good process that allows for correction by other knowledgeable members and a regular encouragement for the OP to go and see real professionals who have genuine expertise. If we weren't here, people are certainly going to other worse places to try to ferret out reasonably helpful information. For whatever reason, people want to investigate these avenues on their own before going to the doctor, lawyer, taxidermist. I don't know that there's any way to avoid that, and I think AskMe is a bit of a bright light for this kind of initial investigation, when done right.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I was looking for a gentle and discrete way to tell another user when the situation arises to "cut it the fuck out.""

Flag it, that's the intended (gentle! and discrete!) way of handling it. Then a mod will have a look and decide if it falls within the destructive, inappropriate, incorrect, or just plain bad advice category. (Comments in category 1 & 2 will be deleted, category 3 & 4 probably not, unless many people flag it)
posted by travelwithcats at 9:08 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


"You notice lots of line breaks and five consecutive lines with only one word on them. You notice."

I feel like we have pointed that out more than a few times, the mods have asked the offending party to cut it out, but we still see the same patterns for answers in AskMe. Maybe we should all

start

posting

like

this!

STARTING NOW!
posted by travelwithcats at 9:14 AM on December 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's weird because I feel like that user gets special permission to post like that or something. It's unacceptable to me. I flag it every time.
posted by zutalors! at 9:17 AM on December 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Don't forget

a couple

-----

of these.
posted by amro at 9:20 AM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't think it's something that would be deleted coming from another user. There are plenty of people who are idiosyncratic in content or style or both. I figure I annoy about as many people as I am annoyed by, so I try to flag it (usually just...mentally, not on the [!]) and move on
posted by kagredon at 9:24 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]



But the behavior I was actually concerned with is ongoing and not limited to a single user or question.


It would be helpful to me if you could establish this, by providing examples.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:34 AM on December 21, 2014


"We ask that people not debate or fight with each other so that we don't have threads full of people arguing back and forth. If someone says something you believe is factually incorrect or bad advice, just offer your better answer. Don't say something like, "hey OtherAnswerer, that's a dumb answer, the actual correct answer is blahblah," just say, "hey, OP, I wouldn't suggest [bad advice] because of the danger of XYZ; instead, the wise thing to do is blahblah."

Can I get a clarification about correcting a portion of someone else's answer? I've run into a number of situations lately where someone's answer is not bad in and of itself, but contains misleading or factually incorrect information. A few times I've posted a correction, a few times I've let it stand, but both feel weird, because I'm not trying to provide better advice or a better answer to the question, I'm just trying to make sure misinformation doesn't stand. It feels borderline to me, because I don't know if the corrections fit under "arguing with another poster" or "providing a better answer."

I would hope that it's ok to make those sorts of reasonably-factual corrections (assuming they otherwise stay within commenting guidelines), but I'm not sure.
posted by jaguar at 9:45 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now jbenben's original response has been deleted? Along with some, but not all, responses to it? After their second and third response (and not the original) were deleted with a mod note explicitly saying "It's OK to say it once, just don't keep saying it over and over?"
posted by Flunkie at 10:01 AM on December 21, 2014


I've seen people post corrections of partial mis-information; as long as it's polite I appreciate it. Letting bad information stand is not the right thing to do, IMO.

I think a me-mail would be odd. Then what? Does the original answerer go back to the thread and post a correction on something they are apparently less familiar with than the corrector?

If the corrector has better information, that belongs in the thread. Politely.
posted by bunderful at 10:02 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


So what, if anything is the protocol for calling out advice on AskMe that is destructive, inappropriate, incorrect, or just plain bad?

I keep seeing these on MeTa again and again.

I think what what will keep you sane is to think "This is AskMe, and its just a collection of people's opinions, not necessarily true or correct".

The problem is that because of the way the site's been set up and moderated, it *may* seem as if the answers to questions SHOULD be true, accurate, or at least non-harmful.

Nope.

The problem isn't how to deal with bad advice on AskMe, the problem is how to realize that what's written is NOT necessarily, true, correct or even non-harmful.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:18 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Now jbenben's original response has been deleted?

I assumed it was so that the thread would not turn into a definite referendum on a single user's (whose name was not mentioned in this actual meta) posting style.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:18 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was thinking more along the lines of helping future OPs by asking someone to check the advice given out on the reg. Sometimes I think nasty, bad advice garners a lot of favorites because the answers are entertaining on some level, but not remotely helpful. The favorites enable the behavior. Favorites become the nielsen ratings of Metafilter. And then those ratings get chased.

I don't think this is why people give nasty bad advice. I think some people just have a compulsion to offer advice a lot, and also have bad opinions, and their answers are just the middle of that Venn Diagram, is all; I don't think popularity numbers really enter into it.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, the name was mentioned in this actual meta. Search for it. And anyway, the selective deletion crap (again)... ugh.
posted by Flunkie at 10:23 AM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


If nothing else comes out of this MeTa, I really really hope some of the at-least-3-off-the-top-of-my-head high-volume posters on AskMe think twice about pressing Enter after every single sentence or short phrase. It is incredibly obnoxious.
posted by likeatoaster at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


I would hope that it's ok to make those sorts of reasonably-factual corrections (assuming they otherwise stay within commenting guidelines), but I'm not sure.
-jaguar

It depends a lot on the specific phrasing and the specific issue, so it's hard to give accurate general advice on this. But I'll note a few generalizations:

On the issue:
Some issues are ones where people feel strongly that a correction is factual and needed, but corrections on these issues are likely to set off an argument. Often, corrective comments on these topics will be deleted more quickly because we know they are derails waiting to happen. People are more easily provoked on some issues than others -- offhand: parenting (sleep training!), etiquette, dogs, alternative medical stuff, certain ethical questions, anything that reminds somebody of an abusive relationship scenario or a he-said-she-said relationship scenario (where people take sides on whether the OP is the good guy or the bad guy, or on whether the OP is being duped into thinking their bad partner is good).

On the phrasing:
On most less-provocative issues, a dry factual correction is usually fine, especially if it:
- includes a positive suggestion or starting point to find one,
- includes a link or other support/authority/basis for the correction,
- (really) addresses the OP rather than the other commenter, and
- is free of venting/emotional-reaction metacommentary like "I can't believe some people are suggesting x, were you all raised by wolves."

But it's a spectrum. The exact phrasing makes a big difference to how likely a correction is to start an argument/derail. So, for example, if a correction is too explicit in personalizing who it's correcting, it's predictable that the person being corrected is going to feel like they have to reply. Or the more emotional language it uses to criticize the person/people offering the advice it's correcting ("people on this website are so terrible about victim blaming, you guys should all be ashamed" or whatever), it's more likely to spark a response.

A couple other points: once you've said your piece, trust the OP to read the answers. Don't repeat yourself four times in increasingly hyperbolic language. (Not saying you do this, jaguar. But we see it from some folks.)

And if a person has a history, where we have talked to them multiple times about a problem behavior, and they're keeping it up, then after some point their comments are more prone to be deleted.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Now jbenben's original response has been deleted? Along with some, but not all, responses to it?

Sorry, got my wires crossed earlier this morning, they've been undeleted. Caffeination has commenced.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:49 AM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think some people just have a compulsion to offer advice a lot, and also have bad opinions, and their answers are just the middle of that Venn Diagram, is all; I don't think popularity numbers really enter into it.

I think this is right. People answer questions not just because they have the correct answer, but because 1) they have a genuine desire to be helpful, and enjoy being in an instructor role as a teacher; 2) they like to be affirmed as being helpful. None of these things are bad, by the way, and they are partly why I got into a teaching profession.

To build off of this in a different direction (as this has been on my mind), what can get in the way of this is if there is a lack of openness to correction, or if our process doesn't allow it in a healthy way. Teachers have to be willing to be students as well; not to capitulate on issues where they have genuine knowledge of something more than others, but to have an internal posture of openness that doesn't hold on to being "right" as an issue of self-worth. The correct internal posture is one of teacher-learner. If we could all do that on MeFi (myself included), life would be (closer to) wonderful.

How this plays out in practical ways, then, is how I see AskMes ideally working:

1. Someone poses a question with the spirit of entering into a discussion with those who may or may not know exactly what they are talking about. Kind of like real life at a party, actually. There is a responsibility primarily on the asker to sift through what you get. At some point the asker ideally connects, if possible, to those who are genuine experts in the field. They'll get other opinions, too, and they can sift and weigh those as well. (Perhaps some sort of disclaimer about the responsibility of the asker before hitting post on their question would be helpful and quell some of the concern that pops up on this occasionally.)

2. People give answers, and they do it with a spirit of charity and wanting to help. This should mitigate giving frivolous answers to some extent. If they are experts, great, but deciding who is and who is not is an impossible thing to filter, so we roll with it as we go. All people should, to the extent that is is possible, couch their responses appropriately based on the amount of knowledge they actually have. Anecdotal answers are helpful here, I think, even if they aren't expert testimony. Anecdotal stories from patients actually help doctors get better at their jobs, as it expands their knowledge of things, so eschewing the non-expert can prevent healthy self-correction. Also, some knowledge is cumulative of people's experiences.

3. This one is key: those who give answers should be open to responses that charitably challenge things that may be wrong. To address the original question of the OP, as mentioned by a mod above, we need to do this in a way that doesn't become inflammatory. I think the mod team is already on top of this, but I've always liked the idea that we address the OP directly with what we disagree while not making it personal with whom we disagree. It helps keep the internal balance of "help the OP as the higher priority" versus being right before the masses in the foreground.

I think the third point might be the most difficult one to deal with over time, but I do think a general and regularly stated principle of "do it like this and sort of say it like this" when you disagree with a point (in terms of addressing the OP and expressing it in pretty clearly noninflammatory way) can be a really helpful . Maybe we could include it with the directions on the bottom of the answer box about "metafilter is only as useful as you make it... no wisecracks," although I find that I've rarely noticed that advice sitting there over the years.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:01 AM on December 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


On most less-provocative issues, a dry factual correction is usually fine... [b]ut it's a spectrum. The exact phrasing makes a big difference to how likely a correction is to start an argument/derail.

Got it, thanks. I will continue trying to balance my guilt about breaking rules with my tendency to be pedantic, without going too far in either direction.
posted by jaguar at 11:26 AM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Politely objecting to bad advice - "The advice above to do X is bad advice and here's why" - without personally attacking the poster of the bad advice has always been, and should always be, fine in AskMe.
posted by mediareport at 12:00 PM on December 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


SinisterPurpose: "I was looking for a gentle and discrete way to tell another user when the situation arises to "cut it the fuck out.""

If it's a pattern, contact the mods and say, "I don't know if you've noticed, but Johnny Jump-Up is posting in every beverage-related thread with a long screed about coffee-plantation slave labor and telling people who drink coffee to kill themselves, and it's really escalating. People haven't been taking the bait but he's getting out of control."

The mods generally reply either, "Thanks, we've been keeping an eye on it" or "Thanks for letting us know, we hadn't noticed it yet but you're right, that's not a great dynamic." And then the MODS talk gently to Johnny Jump-Up and suggest maybe he crank it back in morning-beverage threads and confine his screed to threads that legit have questions or discussion about coffee production. And if your reading of someone else's behavior is wrong, they do not mind if you just vent about your annoyance! (Better privately to the mods than publicly starting a shitshow!)

Sometimes you are the first person to tell the mods about low-level problem behavior! Sometimes other people have been doing their best to ignore it and not take the bait, sometimes mods have been really busy with several days of hot threads in a row, sometimes your interests just happen to overlap with someone else's and you're the first to notice when their posting is a problem site-wide and not just in occasional threads.

the man of twists and turns: "It would be helpful to me if you could establish this, by providing examples."

Or at least a couple of hypotheticals, I am a concrete thinker about this sort of thing and do better with specifics.

Also, jaguar, if you make a polite, factual correction and it gets deleted as a derail, it's not really a big deal. The OP or mods may be reading the thread differently than you are, with a different emphasis on what's responsive. Or there may be a lot of people posting angry stuff in the thread and you got caught in the sweep. I feel bad/guilty when I snark and get deleted, but when I know I was polite, calm, and factual and my comment gets deleted, I just shrug and figure I either focused on some side point that was not, in fact, important (because of my own biases and interests), or that there was other jerkery going on in the thread that I wasn't aware of. It's not a judgment on you (if it is, the mods will let you know you're being a problem!). I think of it in that case as more like an editorial process at a newspaper -- sometimes your editors have a different vision than you do and include or remove parts of your work at what seems like total random, but when you're an editor you see that you have a larger/different picture than individual reporters, and sometimes particular facts need to be emphasized or de-emphasized. Or sometimes, you just gotta cut paragraphs to fit the space in the newshole. It's not personal; you offer what you have, factually, and count on your editors and the public to take what they need from it.

PS, Johnny Jump-Up is a flower I like, not a reference to anyone in particular, it just occurred to me as a stand-in user name because I've been looking at gardening catalogs today.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:13 PM on December 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


One of my least favorite things about this site is how uptight people are about other people's posting styles or insignificant matters like using "@" to communicate to other users. Attacking the way someone writes, whether it's due to being a poor speller or organizing thoughts in paragraphs differently than you or using a symbol with a popular and obvious meaning to communicate with others... it just looks so petty and snobbish. Some of the smartest, funniest people I know are bad spellers or otherwise don't have a polished writing style. It's life. If someone's writing is so bad that you really can't understand what they're saying, consider whether you even need to engage with that person.

I also think that the compulsion to demand specific examples every time someone has a general behavioral question is very obvious gossip-mongering, and I wish people weren't so insistent on the demand to name names all the time. Whenever someone posts a MeTa like this it's open season on whoever is annoying you for the week. "It would really be helpful if you'd post some specific examples... it would also be very gratifying in that I want other people to validate my hatred of one specific poster. Thanks!" I mean, asking for advice about site etiquette without wanting to bitchslap other users is not passive aggressive. And yes, it is such a general trend on this site to the extent that I don't even have specific usernames to attribute the behavior to.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:22 PM on December 21, 2014 [31 favorites]


Another thought and then I'll step away - the way to think about it is, AskMe is a space for people to get answers.

It's not a space where an OP offers a subject and then there's a group discussion among other members. It's not a space for everyone to weigh in with their opinions about the OP personally, or about OP's credibility, or about other people in the thread and their goodness or badness or whatever. It's not a space to "give them a piece of my mind," whether "them" is the OP or the other commenters (even if "they" are really wrong about something). Corrections that seem mainly aimed at getting the OP a good answer are fine; corrections that tend toward one of those other scenarios aren't so fine. This is the kind of thing we mean when we say to keep it constructive.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


PS, Johnny Jump-Up is a flower I like, not a reference to anyone in particular

</breathes sigh of relief>
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:48 PM on December 21, 2014 [32 favorites]


Is this because "DTMFA" is some kind of cliche here and it's swinging back round from comically overused to dangerously overused? Or what.

I think this is the case, and I think the solution is generally to post an answer disagreeing with the DTMFA suggestion where (say) it is hinging on a single unreplied text message.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:44 PM on December 21, 2014


If someone's writing is so bad that you really can't understand what they're saying, consider whether you even need to engage with that person.

Formatting your comments so they deliberately take up an enormous amount of real estate relative to their content is rude and attention-grabbing. Ignoring it is pretty challenging when you have to scroll past something that is at best a single paragraph that's been stretched to twenty lines and it happens all the time despite flagging it and moving on for years.
posted by winna at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2014 [26 favorites]


There are a handful of users who I think give unreasonable advice regularly, usually predicated upon a hyperbolized reaction to incomplete descriptions of emotional topics. But in the past when I've contact the mods, they've said, paraphrased: "Yeah, they're a known flake," and either delete that comment or let it ride, and at least I've done my part. From keeping a modest eye on it, most of the folks you'd think are prone to bad advice are known by the mods to be prone to bad advice, so the best answer is usually to disagree without quoting the bad answer and state (or restate) your advice to the OP. Quoting the bad advice makes it less likely to get deleted and more likely that if it does, your reply will be deleted too.

Then I like to bellow at my screen "THE TRUTH WILL OUT!"
posted by klangklangston at 3:23 PM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, jaguar, if you make a polite, factual correction and it gets deleted as a derail, it's not really a big deal.

Oh, yeah, I'm ok with getting deleted if I derailed something. It's more that I have a huge pit of guilt in my stomach every time I post a comment that's a "Well, actually..." to correct a bit of factual misinformation in an AskMe thread (yes, I have issues, why do you ask?) and wanted to know if I should listen to that guilt or ignore it. It sounds like I can turn it down a bit, but not turn it off, as it'll keep me from getting too comfortable correcting other people unnecessarily.

I'm just reality-checking my anxiety because heaven forfend the mods put something negative on my permanent record, basically. (Yes, again, issues, I know.)
posted by jaguar at 3:23 PM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Formatting your comments so they deliberately take up an enormous amount of real estate relative to their content is rude and attention-grabbing. Ignoring it is pretty challenging when you have to scroll past something that is at best a single paragraph that's been stretched to twenty lines and it happens all the time despite flagging it and moving on for years.

I just don't think it's done deliberately, and I think that different people formulate their thoughts differently based on their thinking style. Clearly it bothers the shit out of a lot of people, but it seems so simple to just let it go. If you don't agree with the content, fine, flag... but I don't find it difficult to just scroll. And I do a lot of reading on my phone and my ancient laptop with a very small screen. Different strokes I guess.

Contrastingly, some of the people who I think consistently post some of the stupidest and most obnoxious content around here have impeccable grammar and style. I'd rather see one of jbenben's real estate-grabbing comments any day.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:42 PM on December 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


There are a handful of users who I think give unreasonable advice regularly, usually predicated upon a hyperbolized reaction to incomplete descriptions of emotional topics.

If I don't know who this is, does this mean it's me? :( No wait don't tell me.
posted by bleep at 4:13 PM on December 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


This question has devolved from one about the quality of an answer to nitpicking about styling. If we want to be petty and snitty enough that we start flagging comments based on too many line breaks that force our poor beleaguered fingers to push a key/touch a screen a few additional times, okay. I'm ready, willing, and able to flag the ancient MeFi one-liners that force me to scroll down AND don't offer anything of use to the FPP, the Ask, or the MeTa.
posted by kimberussell at 4:14 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Er... you're contributing to the 'petty and snitty' discussion that you complain about.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:18 PM on December 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I used to have this old car, and there was some weird issue with the radio wiring or a fuse or something, so the radio would cut out periodically. The only way I could get it to come back on was, after turning the ignition off, disconnecting and then reconnecting some wires in the trunk.

Then the car started to have this problem where every time I hit a bump, the trunk would pop open.

I went to a mechanic to get the trunk looked at, because it was getting to the point where I felt kind of nervous getting on the highway, never knowing when the trunk latch would free itself. Mr. Mechanic called me to go pick up the car, and I did, but the trunk popped open on me on the way home. It was the damnedest thing, though, because the radio never went out again.

This thread is kind of like that. Even if the trunk doesn't manage to get fixed, maybe the excessive line-break issue will, because that shit is downright annoying, and it appears in an extremely large percentage of AskMe threads, regardless of topic.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:31 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


jbenben is great. I like consise answers, but she definitely adds to the site.
posted by michaelh at 4:32 PM on December 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


What I really dislike about this thread is that the poster of the thread was quite careful to ask her question without calling out either a user by name or a user's style by identifiable characteristic. Instead, the poster asked if her solution to a thing that was annoying (a memail about it) was an acceptable action or whether there was a better way to handle the situation.

Then a small number of folks started calling out a particular user by name. That seems like dirty pool to me.

My solution for people who, in my opinion, respond to too many questions with answers of too little value (a problem I see in myself, by the way) is the incredibly useful diediedead greasemonkey script and a personal habit to wait a minimum of 30 seconds before hitting post. Otherwise, I think the only solution is to contact the mods: "Hey, I think this person is participating in bad faith."

I have memailed people about ask.me answers before but only in a positive "wow, your answer was helpful to me" or a "I agree with so-and-so's answer but did not want to post in the thread because X,Y,Z answers are more prominent and I don't want to be fighty". Emailing to someone to tell them they are answering wrong or in a way I find counter-productive seems very much to be overstepping the bounds of polite interaction. As does calling out users by name when the person looking for solutions did not.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:44 PM on December 21, 2014 [19 favorites]


Er... you're contributing to the 'petty and snitty' discussion that you complain about.

In an attempt to shine a light on the fact that many other people have equally annoying habits here. I hate seeing people singled out here for silly reasons. Post styling is one.
posted by kimberussell at 4:51 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But when the post styling detracts from the mobile user experience, how long do we have to put up with it so as not to infringe upon someone's freedom to use obnoxious styling that makes using the site on a mobile device much more painful than it needs to be? Why do we have to kowtow to one user's idiosyncrasies at the expense of many, many, many other people?
posted by palomar at 4:56 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it kowtowing or just, you know, living on Earth?
posted by stoneandstar at 4:58 PM on December 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think this is a well-formed, well-framed MeTa about a common issue with a relatively straightforward answer (address the OP, not other answerers).

But if it turns into a referendum on one poster, I think folks should consider whether that poster is occasionally knocking things out of the park, achieving an excellent answer-to-favorites ratio (not just answering as often as possible), and/or frequently offering the most passionately sympathetic and enthusiastic answers--something some querents probably need a lot of. That kind of thing would be worth some idiosyncrasies to me, at least.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:03 PM on December 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I wanted to add a dissenting mobile user opinion.

I read this site several times a day, and about 90% of my reading is done on my iPhone 5s. I have no issues with line breaks, short paragraphs, or anything else. In fact, I had never noticed it before this thread.

It takes a fraction of a second to scroll on, and in the grand scheme of "annoying user habits", it wouldn't even make my top 50 list.
posted by dotgirl at 5:04 PM on December 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


The spacing issue is contrary to my experience. I cannot, absolutely cannot parse a thick wall of text on my mobile and I find it almost as annoying on a regular computer. I appreciate paragraph breaks and proper punctuation. Frankly, the lack of these things distracts significantly from my appreciation of someone's comment--to the point of not reading it.

I don't get the kerfuffle about "bad" advice in a relationship question. Maybe leaving allows both parties to meet people better suited to them. Maybe they stay together and end up calling forth the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There are no factual responses to such questions. Even if the advice is illegal, it may still be good advice and vice versa. Who is to say? Why the need to police advice i.e. opinion according what you or I or someone else considers "good" advice?
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:34 PM on December 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


I was going to say the same thing, that occasionally "too much spacing" actually makes comments easier to read on my iPhone. There are commenters who write very long walls of text that I usually skip right over on my laptop or my phone because I know there's no way in hell I'll be able to suss them out properly (or rather, putting in the time to do so won't have the payoff I hope for), so I just skip, but I've never thought it was any particular hardship to scroll past.

I was a little salty in my last comment, but I just feel that this issue of "annoying" posting styles is one on which reasonable people disagree, and I'd rather err on the side of not silencing posters who generally contribute good things to the site.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:32 PM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was looking for a gentle and discrete way to tell another user when the situation arises to "cut it the fuck out."

Honestly, there's probably 10,000 better things you could do than worry about this shit. Flag it and go read a book.

If you're really amped up about it, write a note to the mods via the contact form.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having an issue with another user's formatting is not the same as silencing, come on. Reasonable people can disagree without it coming down to sanctimonious judging of something that bothers other people when it doesn't bother you.

Relationship questions were what I immediately thought of when this topic came up earlier this month, because there's been a number of MeTas from people who have been absolutely certain that some AskMe answers are wrong andharmful when it comes to the interpersonal questions, and it's even more obvious that the general AskMe response has to hold true: The only remedy for bad advice is good advice. If you can explain politely and reasonably where you see problems in another user's advice, you can try it, but since the point is to help the Asker, the better avenue is to try and explain why your response makes more sense.

That being said, the example brought up in this thread was such a comical example of the haste to suggest DTMFA that has been known to plague AskMe that I, too, thought it was a parody.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:02 PM on December 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sanctimonious? Jesus. Is this really worth flinging shit? I apologize for judging your judginess!

I said "err on the side of not silencing" because I'd rather deal with my personal preferences about posting styles (even those that annoy me, yes, even my sainted self is capable of getting annoyed) than make them the rule of the site, when it comes to something innocuous. Maybe it's a bit sanctimonious to act like putting information in short paragraphs is a crime against humanity. Sorry I offered the suggestion to be a bit more tolerant? I see we'd rather call out and judge and name names and generally act like we've got sand in our swimsuit. Time to graduate from MeTa High.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:42 PM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


Is it the mefi Christmas mixtape suggestion thread ? I fully support anyone that wishes to go postal at whoever suggested Sting.

So I am supposed to feel ashamed, compose a nasty memail, or press the red button? I'm already drinking, so that won't help.
posted by bibliowench at 7:44 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


If I were jbenben I'd be feeling a bit shit reading some of these comments. I'm on an iPhone, intensely irritable even on a good day , and I have no problem with her paragraphing.
posted by taff at 8:02 PM on December 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


I just wanted to point out the the title of this post is quite likely a sly reference to Procol Harum and I like that very much.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:08 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have literally no idea what you guys are on about. I couldn't pick jbenben's formatting out of a lineup if I had a gun to my head. Even if you truly are irritated by [whatever exactly? Line breaks?] isn't that even lower than flag it and move on level shit? Is this really the kind of thing to gang up on people for? It's Christmas.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 8:53 PM on December 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Speaking of bad/incorrect advice in Human Relations questions, can we just STOP with people being obsessed with What Texting Is For? Nobody uses texting only for quick "could you pick up milk" memos anymore. In the past 24 hours I have used text messages to:

- Exchange sweet nothings with the person I'm dating. (Fun fact: I have literally never spoken to this person on the phone in 3 months of knowing each other.)

- Arrange transportation to the airport tomorrow with a friend who is also flying around the same time.

- Arrange a place to stay when I arrive at my destination.

- Bond with a good friend who lives far away.

- Make brunch plans.

- Tell my brother happy birthday because one or possibly both of us was getting shitty cell reception when I tried to call.

So far, the sky hasn't fallen yet. None of the above types of communication went awry in any way. Nobody is dead. No Human Relations Asks have resulted.

I get that sometimes, especially for early dating questions that revolve around communication between partners, there are things that are better discussed in person or at least via voice communication. But I've seen an unusual amount of OMG NEVER EVER TEXT ANYONE advice lately in AskMe, and it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this MeTa. Because, yes, seriously, in 2014, most of the time it is absolutely fine to send a text message. Even if you need to convey something more complicated than "running five minutes late".
posted by Sara C. at 9:01 PM on December 21, 2014 [25 favorites]


MetaTalk: we'd rather call out and judge and name names and generally act like we've got sand in our swimsuit.
posted by mr. digits at 9:04 PM on December 21, 2014


Can we just STOP with people being obsessed with What Texting Is For? Nobody uses texting only for quick "could you pick up milk" memos anymore.

This x1000. If you call me and it's not an emergency, I get irritable. To (mis)quote Aziz Ansari - "If you're not on fire, hang up and text me that shit."
posted by dotgirl at 9:28 PM on December 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


has always been, and should always be, fine in AskMe.

No offense, but this means absolutely nothing.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:46 PM on December 21, 2014


Got it, thanks. I will continue trying to balance my guilt about breaking rules with my tendency to be pedantic, without going too far in either direction.

Love this. New Years Resolution 2015.
posted by salvia at 9:59 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had a few rocky starts in ask but these were quickly ironed out. Asking an imprecise question for example can garner some...😼
Like using emoticons, why?
After these minor booboos I take ask fairly serious. What I love is the magnitude of intelligence and grace of words you can hear. I think it is bad form to be pithy, rude etc. especially innuendo. That upsets a good thing.
Call it ma green code.
posted by clavdivs at 10:03 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seriously.
posted by clavdivs at 10:03 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am just amazed that someone can have 5200+ comments in response to askme q's. Wowzers.
posted by futz at 10:05 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because, yes, seriously, in 2014, most of the time it is absolutely fine to send a text message.

Lawn, mine, off it.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:09 PM on December 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I find excessive line breaks annoying not necessarily when I'm reading through the thread for the first time, but most definitely when I'm trying to scroll back up to quote someone else, or give credit for another poster's idea. And that's even on a laptop or desktop computer.

The peremptory tone that comes from a bunch of commands and exclamations issued as separate paragraphs is extremely annoying, but less of a scrolling problem. It just reads like someone yelling all the time. I'd have similar issues with someone using all caps on a consistent basis. It's one thing, kind of, when there's a major safety issue involved, but it starts feeling really overdramatic when there's not.
posted by jaguar at 10:22 PM on December 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


Because, yes, seriously, in 2014, most of the time it is absolutely fine to send a text message.
Yeah, I don't get the hate for SMS. This weekend, I negotiated, haggled, explained and generally communicated with over 30 different people about the pile of crap in my garage that I advertised for sale or free. Not once did I speak to them unless they came to pick something up (and that's the way I like it!). The days when SMS was just for things too unimportant for a phone call are long gone.
posted by dg at 10:28 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't get the hate for SMS.

As somebody who frequently does advise people to avoid its use for matters of emotional weight, let me point out that I don't hate it either.

This weekend, I negotiated, haggled, explained and generally communicated with over 30 different people about the pile of crap in my garage that I advertised for sale or free. Not once did I speak to them unless they came to pick something up (and that's the way I like it!).

...all of which has about as much emotional content as "please pick up some milk", making SMS just fine.

SMS is good for many things. Intimacy is not one of them.
posted by flabdablet at 10:34 PM on December 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


SMS is great for intimacy.

I don't think it's great for Big Conversations. I wouldn't break up with someone via text, or tell them I was pregnant, or have any kind of Big Important Talk. But I wouldn't do those things over the phone, either. I would want to be in person.

I think that SMS can be great for all those niggling little "cycle of anxiety" moments, because you can just ask about what's bothering you, a neutral tone is typically assumed, and you don't have to get all worked up and weird about it like you might if you brought it up in person. You also don't have to wait till the next time you see each other. Texting is both immediate and casual, and in situations where you want to immediately defuse a concern without making a big deal about it, SMS is ideal.

In the AskMe that reminded me of my concern with the No Texting advice, I actually thought it would be 100% apropos to just text the guy and ask what was up with the morning awkwardness.

I think people can sometimes not do texting very well within the bounds of a relationship (and there's a HUGE problem with the tendency to read tea leaves in someone's response time or word choice), but I absolutely think that there's a wide range of good uses for SMS in an intimate setting.

Also, sexting. Who doesn't love sexting?
posted by Sara C. at 10:47 PM on December 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I like consise answers, but she definitely adds to the site.

Adds carriage returns, perhaps?

There are a small set of users with such distinctive writing/formatting styles that I know who it is from the first sentence, and at least in the wall-of-text cases it's my cue to skip to the next comment. I don't know how anyone has the time to read that much, much less type it.

Would a MeMail to the, perhaps wrongheaded, answerer be an appropriate method for addressing these concerns?

If someone is 99 percent of the time smart and awesome, but has a rare moment of being wildly wrong, I could imagine sending them a message. But when I notice someone being terribly wrong (as compared to just disagreeing), it's commonly someone who I don't necessarily associate with being smart and awesome.

SMS is good for many things. Intimacy is not one of them.

Actually I think it's great for intimacy, but poor for emotional nuance. I've had to learn to watch out with jokes especially, and things like "was I just stood up or what?" are really hard to figure out with text. But that makes it work great for intimacy, because you are cutting past all the nuance.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:48 PM on December 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think text is great for building intimacy by sending little updates ("was up all night sick!") or supportive notes ("thinking of you today. good luck on your exam!"). It is not good for things that requires too much back and forth. To me, that category includes not just situations where you're wanting quick feedback on something emotional, but also complex scheduling (not the simple "i'm free on Friday" but the "maybe I could push back the dinner if you aren't able to meet earlier in the day, or should we just do Saturday" ones).
posted by salvia at 11:44 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm absolutely fine with long conversations via text, so I feel like for the most part this is all YMMV type of stuff and not really great for laying down the law in an AskMe. Unless it's a question where something went badly awry because of SMS behavior, I think it's fine to just let people use text however they use it. It's not really something worth being prescriptive about.
posted by Sara C. at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


So... texting is the new Ask/Guess culture divide?
posted by viggorlijah at 11:54 PM on December 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually I think it's great for intimacy, but poor for emotional nuance.

As one who firmly believes that intimacy is fundamentally built on emotional nuance, I'll agree to disagree.
posted by flabdablet at 12:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


It seems to me that people who respond to AskMe questions are not registered therapists and they're not expected to be. They're people who have experienced similar situations and who feel they have something to contribute that might actually be helpful to the OP. One person's past experiences are different from another's, but the one doesn't have more value than the other, particularly since the OP's situation is unique in itself. Everyone who uses AskMe knows that in order to access professional-level advice, they have to get up, get dressed, go out into the world and make contact with a professional. Otherwise, they can take whatever information/anecdotes/advice they get from an AskMe post. And we all do the best we can to give useful advice to the best of our ability. We are fortunate to have some real, live professionals here - physicians, lawyers, therapists - and their advice is invaluable.

With regard to the style and length and paragraphing of comments, I'm sorry that handheld phones make lines shorter and scrolling to read the entire length of a comment more of a hassle, but it strikes me as pretty lame to expect comments to be posted in text mode for the convenience of mobile users. I read a lot, and I write a lot, and I can type up a storm without any effort at all - it's just like talking, to me, and I converse in sentences and paragraphs, not in acronyms and snipped-off thoughts, little bits and pieces that can encourage innuendo through their brevity alone.

Almost without fail, the books I read have short paragraphs and lots of them. Books I read on my Kindle are the same way and yes, scrolling is part of the game; however, I don't have to turn pages or scrounge up a bookmark before I shut the lights off for the night - that should count for something. I don't know what the answer is, but I've no intention of reworking my comments with the idea of making them fit a mobile device's format - any more than I'd expect someone posting from a mobile device to type out long paragraphs.

Maybe it is a new cultural divide - or maybe it's just a matter of each of us learning to tolerate the ways of the other.
posted by aryma at 1:19 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think people can sometimes not do texting very well within the bounds of a relationship (and there's a HUGE problem with the tendency to read tea leaves in someone's response time or word choice)
Yeah, especially response time - because there are no other clues as to what else might be going on or if the sender has even seen a message, it's not possible to know whether they are brushing you off, asleep or giving thought to a response. I neither confirm nor deny that I may have at times over-thought the time it's taken for someone to respond to a text ...

As far as criticising how others use or shouldn't use text, it really is something that's up to the individuals concerned - some people and some couples are much more comfortable with Big Things being communicated this way, some have Rules about things that have to be face-to-face and others don't really care. In the same way that it's not fair to criticise people's stylistic choices unless it's clear they are doing it to annoy or draw undue attention to themselves, its not fair to dictate how a couple should communicate unless it's very clear that their communication medium is actually part of the problem.
posted by dg at 1:49 AM on December 22, 2014


Huh. I always did multiple line breaks because it's easier for me to read; no idea it created an unpleasant scrolling experience.


I'll stop doing that.



Next time I post.
posted by kinetic at 3:15 AM on December 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I'm going to be more of an asshole than usual here, but this really seems like a bullshit thread to argue over who gets the last laugh in what they really divine from an ask post, and get an extra puppy-shit-nose-rub on whoever has the side they disagree.

several people seem to have gotten really projectiony and presumptuous, reading way in to stuff in that one ask thread this is obviously about. especially if we're talking about the silly linebreaks thing.

this is a really gross meta to me, and seems to have even reached back to fuck up that thread a bit.

christ, give it a fucking rest. we're basically arguing over someones right to, or not, go "i knew a guy once who vaguely acted sort of like that and it made me feel bad so obviously your situation is the same and this guy is terrible".

I read some of this thread, all of that thread, and skimmed the rest of this thread. it's a lot more snarky buttposting or lawyering of that sort of thing than it's anything constructive. and what even is constructive is just a retread of that other recent really tiresome thread.

does there always need to be some longboat "what about ask answers that bother me!" thread now?
posted by emptythought at 4:28 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


> Also, sexting. Who doesn't love sexting?

Me.

sorry, this seemed to be phrased very rhetorically in a 'everyone loves it, everyone has to love it' kind of way, and I wanted to point out that not everyone does - we all have different comfort levels when it comes to sexuality and that's totally okay. I'll always say something when I see an 'everyone loves [sexual activity]' type comment :)
posted by winterhill at 5:04 AM on December 22, 2014 [24 favorites]


I'm not up for throwing shade.

Also, let's leave the racism at the Christmas dinner table, where it belongs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's great for Big Conversations. I wouldn't break up with someone via text, or tell them I was pregnant, or have any kind of Big Important Talk.

So you totally 100%, agree with the people who are "obsessed with What Texting Is For". Glad that's settled.
posted by spaltavian at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Guess who's coming to Christmas dinner?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:30 AM on December 22, 2014


Natty Dreadlock?
posted by soundguy99 at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not up for throwing shade.

Also, let's leave the racism at the Christmas dinner table, where it belongs.


I had never heard the term "throwing shade" before this MeTa; but from what I can see it appears to come out of "New York City ball culture during mid-to-late 1980s and the African America, latino, gay and transgender communities involved in it" (and with a lot of nuance in how the term was used), with a recent uptick in use after a Gawker headline. Questions of appropriation aside, that's at least better than what I first assumed, which was an unironic use of the word "shade" as a racist pejorative.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:48 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


SMS is great for intimacy.

For some people. General unilateral "This is how THIS works" pronouncements tend to make AskMe more didactic than it needs to be.

I'm one of those people in a happy LDR which is one of those things that AskMe says either never happens or is only happening because we are fooling ourselves. And sure, it's maddening but I just tell people what my experience is and they can decide for themselves if I am deluded or not about what I think is going on in my own life.

I try to put little "In my experience..." courtesy preambles on to people's answers and am a lot happier for it. Which is easier if I don't feel that they are hollering at me to begin with.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:52 AM on December 22, 2014 [14 favorites]


General unilateral "This is how THIS works" pronouncements tend to make LIFE more didactic than it needs to be.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, that's never true.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:49 AM on December 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


In my experience, you're wrong, Brandon.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:59 AM on December 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hell, life is more didactic.
posted by Namlit at 10:36 AM on December 22, 2014


Sara C.: "you can just ask about what's bothering you, a neutral tone is typically assumed, and you don't have to get all worked up and weird about it like you might if you brought it up in person"

I'll just say this... greatly differs from my lived experience in several important ways.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:08 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


As far a I can tell, there is only one person on Metafilter who posts without capital letters. That's the only style I notice that annoys me.

I just pretend their keyboard is broken.
posted by smackfu at 11:37 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


WHO DOES THAT?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:42 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


jbenben is great. I like consise answers, but she definitely adds to the site.

You can have any answer you want so long as its DTMFA.

Just wanted to say I think the mods do a good job modding AskMe.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


smackfu: "As far a I can tell, there is only one person on Metafilter who posts without capital letters."

Oh, if only that were really true.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:06 PM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Spell check is an impediment.
posted by clavdivs at 2:34 PM on December 22, 2014


I don't love sexting either.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:35 PM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really, guys? Let's lay off individual posters. I am really fascinated by the bigger discussions about information quality and how misinformation or "bad" information is dealt with online, but I don't think those conversations necessarily require calling individual people out. Everyone needs a hug.
posted by sockermom at 2:49 PM on December 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't.
posted by h00py at 2:58 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


hy would someone skip capital letters? y mother, ucinda, would be outraged. utraged!
posted by mr. digits at 3:41 PM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


IDK, I like the fact that these folks are out there, caring enough to help others and lend an opinion or support. I too recognize certain styles of posting, but if you look beyond that, you will see some really good individuals who care and really want to help people. Not your usual Beavis and Butthead jokey kind of help, either. Or some dude saying stuff like "you should listen to your boyfriend because men know best." Which I have seen.

I've managed a diverse group of women on an email list for years. They all have their quirks (as do I). We've learned to kind of slide by them, if they annoy us, or we have this option called "no mail," which means we don't see anything for a while and can only check in on the interwebs. Once in a while, we will all be called to just take a break from it. I did it myself last summer, when the politics of some women's rights came up and one of my members is from Arizona and a prepper (but a liberal prepper) and I just about shot the top of my head off like the dude in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when she started denigrating women's rights in favor of corporate rights.

So I took a break because man, I am not here to give those old ladies some sort of heart attack. She carries a pistol in her bra because she's so scared of them there people out there. So I let it be and went silent for a few months.

It was really peaceful, and then I realized, wtf, I had a lot of shit going on in my life at that time, that her words wouldn't have made me so crabby. We all have our levels of stress that we can deal with, and there is often something there that crops up, to tip us over the edge.

But this is not that thing, folks, to tip you over the edge. This is AskMe. People are volunteering their time to answer these questions, and yes, we may get it wrong, and yes, we do bring our own experiences and prejudices to the table, and yet, there are always other questions, other posts, and a whole 'nother internet beyond this one site. I can be baking, reading, cleaning, researching, writing, cleaning my rocks, whatever the hell blows your skirt up, but I don't need to be ragging on a fellow member for their posting style. I like it, because then I know that person is going to be looking out for me if I ever have a problem.

I understand being irritated, really, I do. I have myself been guilty of thinking "oh, come on! Not this again!" and I am not talking about Jbenben, but any number of comments on the entire site by many various users. Freaking scroll by it and move on, or flag it, or write to the mods. That's the only answer I have for this MeTa. And I really hate the pile on. It's stupid and non-productive and I'd rather focus on all of our good points instead.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:57 PM on December 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm not up for throwing shade.

Also, let's leave the racism at the Christmas dinner table, where it belongs.


Honest question from a genuine place: Is that a racially insensitive or offensive idiom? First time I heard it was in a Janelle Monae song, and I had to look it up. It's not something I hear in real life often, and I only see it in print occasionally. I've always kind of liked it, though. If it's offensive, I'd like to know that too, because I think it's good to dismantle the blinders when you get the chance.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:20 PM on December 22, 2014


I think I've run the gamut of responses to my AskMe answers. I've been contacted via MeMail with follow-up questions and thank yous. I posted ONE snarky answer in all the years I've been here. ONE. I was having a bad day, I guess. It was this year, and I'm still embarrassed. It was deleted within an hour, so big thanks to mods.

I've never been contacted by anyone with a negative response, but I would welcome it as constructive criticism. My goal is always to contribute to the community (except that ONE time), so if I received critical feedback offered in the same spirit, I would be completely ok with it.
posted by raisingsand at 8:09 PM on December 22, 2014


Mudpuppie, dipflash gives an overview of the term upthread. It's appropriative when used in a context like this.
posted by mymbleth at 5:12 AM on December 23, 2014


Brandon was kidding though. He's a silly billy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:51 AM on December 23, 2014


This place really gets into the Festivus spirit.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:16 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]



As far a I can tell, there is only one person on Metafilter who posts without capital letters. That's the only style I notice that annoys me

It has been suggested that use of all lower case for one user is related to a "lifestyle choice" (like kink? Is lower case as an expression of kink a thing?) but I haven't bothered to dig into the commenters history to read that explanation.
posted by jayder at 8:33 AM on December 23, 2014


I think the reason given was RSI problems.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2014


As far a I can tell, there is only one person on Metafilter who posts without capital letters. That's the only style I notice that annoys me

anti-capitalism raises awareness of income inequality. your discomfort is rooted in your bourgeoisie guilt.
posted by Madame Defarge at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


You don't know shit, and your mother dresses you funny.

Or maybe something more constructive.

I'm just saying. I had a great answer with nuances and purposeful paragraph construction--you know, topic sentences and tight allusions. Nine hundred words. Then the cat jumped on the keyboard and deleted it. Fuck that. But don't hate me just because you don't like what I said.

I already went through this shit with jessamyn back on the green, and she told me that if I paid attention to the difference between the blue and the green it would be clear to me that her gentle snipping of the comment I made to that fuckwad about his goddam dog was in the best interests of everyone, including me. I ended up agreeing with her about the snipping of my comment, but I still think that fuckwad doesn't deserve to have a goddam dog.

Is that the one you were worried about?--or did I get all wound up over nothing?

You can memail me if the mods don't clear this up for you, but I probably won't open it.
posted by mule98J at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is one situation in which texting is completely and unambiguously the correct way to communicate: when trying to hire teenaged babysitters to come watch one's children.
posted by Area Man at 10:54 AM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I still think that fuckwad doesn't deserve to have a goddam dog.

This is such an evocative phrase I'm constructing all kinds of stories around it. I don't want to know the real story, though, because it's probably depressing.

FOR EXAMPLE: I don't deserve a dog because when I leave during the day I make him listen to Improving Audiobooks instead of letting him watch Shaun the Sheep on the Big TV. It's cruel and unusual to make him listen to someone drone on about physics for six hours when he could be viewing claymation ungulates. Someone phone the Humane Society!
posted by winna at 11:35 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is that the one you were worried about?--or did I get all wound up over nothing?


who? what one? wtf is this about?
posted by zutalors! at 11:45 AM on December 23, 2014


Calling out bad answers in human relations questions is challenging because of the obvious fact that there is rarely a clear, objectively correct answer as with more technical questions. But suggesting that someone end a relationship because her boyfriend did not tell her down to the precise nanosecond exactly when he preferred her to leave his house in the morning may be the absolute peak "Ridiculous rush to DTMFA advice after only one paragraph of non-alarming information" in site history.

Just this morning my wife confessed that she accidentally opened one of the Christmas presents I bought for her, mistaking it for something she ordered for one of the kids (it came from the same online store). No doubt, had I come to AskMe to express my disappointment with this development there would be someone suggesting I consult a divorce attorney right away.
posted by The Gooch at 11:54 AM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think part of the issue here - and it's not just with the Ask in particular but with quite a lot of the instances where it gets trotted out - is that at some point, a lot of folks wound up taking "DTMFA" to be synonymous with advice to break up. And it's not, not at all, and by using the concepts interchangeably you wind up with situations like this one, where it would have been perfectly fine (though still a YMMV kind of thing) to say "From your description of all this, it sounds like you aren't likely to get the kind of relationship you want from this person, and you might want to consider breaking up," or what have you. The abbreviation DTMFA, and the concept it signifies (Dump the motherfucker already), convey a specific meaning. The meaning is along the lines of "Holy shit, your significant other is absolutely awful both for and to you, and this is visibly as close to objective truth as such a thing can be, and you really need to get the hell out of there immediately because this is far past the point where you should even be thinking about still being with this person."

Dump the motherfucker already is fine advice for a question like, say, "My boyfriend yells at me all the time and tells me I'm too fat to love and that it's my fault he cheated because I'm too fat." Much less so if it's a question like, "My boyfriend definitely wants kids and I definitely don't. We love each other and we keep trying to find an answer here and we mostly spend our time crying and trying to comfort each other because we don't know what to do."

If one says DTMFA to the former, no one but terrible people will give a shit, and who cares about them, they're terrible. If one says it to the latter though, it's going to sound insane, even if it's intended as a simple euphemism for breaking up, because it implies that your partner has committed some kind of terrible wrong.

Sometimes I also see it misused to give the advice to break up as emphatically as possible, or with complete certainty. But even "I'm definitely certain this is not the right relationship for you" does not necessarily mean that your significant other is a motherfucker who should be dumped already.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2014 [14 favorites]


I still think that fuckwad doesn't deserve to have a goddam dog.

I don't think you're wrong. I think there are a lot of hyperbolic answers that I give in my head with great glee but then don't post to the site.

- Your party is going to be awful no matter what you decide on for the appetizers
- It's a wonder she stayed with you this long, move on
- Don't do that to/at the library
- It sounds like you made a terrible life choice at some point in the recent past and are trying to nitpick your way out of it. That won't work.
- Some places are just awful.
- No music will work for this occasion. Go back to bed instead of agonizing over this.
- It's you.
- You don't deserve a goddamned dog.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:16 PM on December 23, 2014 [28 favorites]


That is a really good point FAMOUS MONSTER. When I see DTMFA...my brain literally reads it....drop the motherfucker already. And in some instances it isn't just an insane response, it is potentially insulting and offensive to the poster and the defenseless significant other in the question. When applied in the second example you provide, the answer could very easily be interpreted as glib and sarcastic. And in that way it should be flagged and deleted. But it has become a deeply ingrained and very blunt instrument on the green so I know my suggestion is probably insane.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:13 PM on December 23, 2014


If someone wants to convey a sentiment other than 'Get Out. Now. No good will come if you stay in this relationship," then they shouldn't use DTMFA. It's the big red button of relationship advice, and the reason it gets regarded as being thrown around too much on Ask is because, well, it's thrown around too much and takes the place of anything more considered, up to and including 'This relationship doesn't sound right for you, and I think you should think hard about what you hope to get out of it going forward,' and other such advice to end a relationship, just without such haste and prejudice.

Overusing DTMFA just makes you/the userbase sound alarmist, and in the example cited is rightly considered a far too extreme reaction to the circumstances given. There isn't a pithy acronym for a lot more moderate suggestions, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be typed out instead of the bluntness of DTMFA.
posted by gadge emeritus at 3:18 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Might be worth noting that the AskMe most discussed here seems to be wendelling.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:06 PM on December 23, 2014


Think of DTMFA like saying stop. You can shout it or say it quietly or jokingly.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 4:14 PM on December 23, 2014


There isn't a pithy acronym for a lot more moderate suggestions

TRDSRFYAITYSTHAWYHTGOOIGF
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gesundheit.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:15 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think there are a lot of hyperbolic answers that I give in my head with great glee but then don't post to the site.

...because CATZ, amirite?
posted by kinetic at 2:50 AM on December 24, 2014


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