Just how Random is Random? June 21, 2017 8:34 AM   Subscribe

When I click "Random" to generate a random AskMe question, I'm constantly taken to this question about DVD commentary tracks. Why would this be the case? I probably hit it once every few days? It seems statistically unlikely with a random generator?

Just curious.

Is this a silly question for MetaTalk? if it is, please delete, mods! Thanks!
posted by Dressed to Kill to MetaFilter-Related at 8:34 AM (146 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

That's not happening for me, so just at a guess I wonder if it might be cached for you somewhere (could try clearing your cache or cookies, or seeing if the same thing happens on another device). Jessamyn pointed out that that's the first-ever AskMe question, so I don't know if that has something to do with it.

frimble may be along in a bit to contribute a real how-it-works answer, but I figured we can see if anyone else is running into this.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:37 AM on June 21


Actually, do you mean that's the only thread you ever get? Or you mean, you see that thread more often than you'd expect, but you also get others?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:41 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


No I get others. Usually by the time I click "Random" 5-10 times, it inevitably takes me to the DVD commentary question.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:56 AM on June 21


Just tested it again - this time it took me 3 tries (on the third "random" click it took me to the DVD commentary question). And it's happened on more than one device!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:57 AM on June 21


I clicked "random" fewer than 10 times and ended up at the question in question too.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:00 AM on June 21


Just to back up Dressed to Kill, I am guilty of over-using the random button, and i also get that dvd commentary question very frequently, seemingly disproportionate to what would be a random occurance.
posted by fourpotatoes at 9:02 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I clicked 'random' 100 times and did not see the DVD commentary question.

I did see one about human-dolphin hybrids, though.
posted by box at 9:06 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


What you all are missing is that the DVD commentary is, in fact, the most random question evar. QED
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:07 AM on June 21 [25 favorites]


Ha, I clicked 'random' ONCE and got it on the first try, and I never use the 'random' button.
posted by knownassociate at 9:17 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I ran a script to visit the "random" page 1000 times and got 3705 18 times, 44313 and 300682 twice each, and everything else was unique.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:20 AM on June 21 [16 favorites]


cortex has a theory (which frimble will check later) that would explain this. This is the first AskMe thread, but its thread number is 3705 (you can see it in the URL). The lower numbers weren't used. So, the Random function may work by picking a random number between 1 and whatever the current highest number for AskMe is (we just passed 310310!), and then if that number is in the empty interval from 1 and 3705, it'll give you 3705. That would make 3705 much more likely to come up than any other given thread. (Similarly, if it picks a number corresponding to a deleted thread... it must substitute another thread number, and if that also defaults to 3705, it would be that much more likely to come up.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:28 AM on June 21 [123 favorites]


I'm so glad I asked!! This is interesting! :D
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:37 AM on June 21 [15 favorites]


This is quality metatalk. Not sarcasm.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:50 AM on June 21 [66 favorites]


Also have never clicked Random before, and just got it on the first try.
posted by JanetLand at 9:52 AM on June 21


[flags 3705 as chatfilter]
posted by JanetLand at 9:53 AM on June 21 [23 favorites]


Great. The asker has buttoned. I hope you people are happy.
posted by Etrigan at 9:55 AM on June 21 [5 favorites]


JanetLand is right, that's totally chatfilter.

Which poses a new question: when did Chatfilter become a no-no, and why?
posted by Frayed Knot at 10:18 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


There's so much to love about this thread. That DressedToKill noticed and asked. That the answer is that it isn't really random. That I wasn't the only one who clicked it 100 times to see if I could get it before finding out what the answer was.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:34 AM on June 21 [9 favorites]


If you convert 3.7.0.5 from the Mayan Long Count calendar you get 1793 BCE, which in the Middle Chronology is the first year of Hammurabi's reign as king of Babylon. In the thread, commenter MzB has the userid 15282, 282 being the number of laws in the Codex Hammurabi.

So not random at all. Clearly the ghost of Hammurabi has possessed the MeFi server and is telling us that his favorite DVD commentary track is that of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois couleurs series.
posted by XMLicious at 10:49 AM on June 21 [35 favorites]


I should mention that I'm a software engineer, so I'm speaking from experience here.
posted by XMLicious at 10:56 AM on June 21 [31 favorites]


even random's not random anymore -- goddammed internet

(delivered in curmudgeonly voice)
posted by philip-random at 11:02 AM on June 21 [3 favorites]


It would make a really excellent drinking game - each player takes turn pressing "random" and when you get to the DVD commentary page, you drink.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 11:21 AM on June 21 [23 favorites]


I've never used the Random button and started pressing it from this thread and couldn't figure out why I was only getting old angry MeTas.
posted by edeezy at 11:30 AM on June 21 [12 favorites]


So now I've been messing around with numbers and subsites and there is nothing too exciting about 3705 on other pages, which is what I was hoping to find.

I did find that http://metatalk.metafilter.com/3705 redirects to http://ask.metafilter.com/3705 What's the deal there? I first thought that maybe the two subsites shared an index and somehow knew which site a particular page belonged to, but http://metatalk.metafilter.com/24456 and http://ask.metafilter.com/24456 both exist on their respective subsites.

Now I want to find that magic number where post XXXXX on the Blue, talk, ask, jobs, fanfare, and projects all deal with the same subject.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:49 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


What if I told you all posts on MetaFilter are random?

Free your mind.
posted by Fizz at 12:13 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


So, this seems like a place to ask this question without starting a whole thread. I remember reading an article on the internet that I am almost certain I saw on MeFi, that was about some guy who was absolutely convinced that a particular video game had it in for him. One of the old MMOs, I think. He'd go out on a raid with friends and just get absolutely pummelled, even though all the monsters would leave everyone else relatively alone.

And then it turned out that something in the targeting algorithm was messing up because his username was too short or was the last in the list for most raids or something. It was called something like the Yie Flag? Wye Flag? I've looked for it a couple of times over the years to illustrate some point I was making, but I've never found it again. Does anyone remember this?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:31 PM on June 21 [12 favorites]


That is such a satisfying answer to this question! No joke, I've had a difficult and frustrating morning, and after reading that theory I felt myself physically relax.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 12:44 PM on June 21 [13 favorites]


I just clicked "Random" 20 times and never got the DVD question. But that's 20 times more than I'd ever clicked "Random" because I'd never noticed it before and now I WILL NEVER BE BORED AGAIN.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 1:07 PM on June 21 [10 favorites]


I clicked 'Random' a coupla times, did not get DVD question, but did come across a related AskMe.
posted by Fig at 1:16 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


jacquilynne, I think I found what you're talking about, but not the MeFi post. The Wi Flag.
posted by Night_owl at 1:26 PM on June 21 [16 favorites]


Yes!
posted by jacquilynne at 1:31 PM on June 21


Update: Just did it again. Hit DVD Commentary Askme in 6 Random hits. It's like AskMe roulette.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 2:23 PM on June 21 [5 favorites]


I did find that http://metatalk.metafilter.com/3705 redirects to http://ask.metafilter.com/3705
What's the deal there?


(I've pieced this together, so cortex or jessamyn might come along and correct this but I think this is right -)

In the beginning there was Metatalk... and then in December of 2003 (after a bunch of earlier suggestions) in Metatalk 3702, AskMe was suggested. In the next thread, Matt announced that he was making an Ask category within Metatalk, in Metatalk 3703. It quickly started filling up the Metatalk page with Ask questions (two of which were 3704 and 3705, linked to here with their original metatalk urls)... so later in that same announcement thread, he says he's moving AskMe over to its own subsite.

That's the story of why there's no AskMe threads 1-3704.

From post 3705 (Dec 2003) to 7939 (June 2004), AskMe and MetaTalk shared one set of numbers.

(For the curious with time on their hands, you can see listings in the archives -- the Metatalks here (Metatalk archive for Dec 2003, for Jan 2004, and so on) and the AskMes here (AskMe archive for Dec 2003, forJan 2004, and so on). It's fun to look at; the boundaries between what counted as an AskMe question vs. a Metatalk question were different - for example what is AskMetafilter? was treated as an Ask even though today it would be a MeTa.)

The shared-number era ended with Metatalk 7940, mathowie switched over to a new server, which meant there could be separate numberings from there on... and here and following, mathowie talks about redirecting askme-on-metatalk urls from the gap to plain askme urls, so that old links won't break. And that's the story of why that MeTa link redirects to an AskMe one.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:26 PM on June 21 [37 favorites]


Damn that's a dangerous button, if I hadn't been on a mission could have killed many hours. But got to 3705 in less than 20 clicks.
posted by sammyo at 2:28 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Killing the last few minutes at work, so can't delve deep and my math may be completely wrong or off by an order of magnitude.

The most recent AskMe is 310321. So, if 1-3705 all point to 3705, one would currently have about a 1% chance of hitting. (3705/310321). Obviously, the odds of hitting were better earlier and would explain why some have easily run across the question and why others right now are not hitting it as much.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 2:35 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Surely your Velocity score has an impact on the odds?
posted by zompist at 2:55 PM on June 21


Wow LobsterMitten that's a thorough and interesting answer to my idle wondering. I really did want to know but that's just above and beyond. I also learned that for a time there were duplicate Ask/MeTa questions and for 30 minutes they were out of step which impacted the famous "First, be smart from the very beginning..." question.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 3:08 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I had likewise never seen that button and fear the time it might steal from me in the future (it took me 74 clicks to get the DVD commentary question, incidentally).
posted by 256 at 3:14 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Took me 43 clicks, I think.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:34 PM on June 21


34 tries for me. I have to be up for work in four hours so I got off relatively easy, I guess.
posted by starfishprime at 3:52 PM on June 21


A good question, let's find out.

One
Two
Three

Three.
posted by bongo_x at 4:27 PM on June 21 [34 favorites]


Seven tries for me. In order:

108086
54670
47561
166828
88980
7343
3705
posted by Wordshore at 4:32 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Happened for me the first try. Took another 28 tries to hit it again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on June 21


Took me 16 tries but yep.

This is super interesting!
posted by pointystick at 4:56 PM on June 21


I clicked random 16 times until I got 3705. That is amazing.

I was also reminded why I don't spend a lot of time on AskMe -- it's sooooo easy to get sucked in to those threads. Took quite a while to go through 15 of them! :)
posted by zarq at 5:51 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


I love this. I just clicked "Random" 60 times (that's how long it took before I got the DVD commentary) because I wanted to see it in action before it was fixed. :)
posted by oulipian at 6:12 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


My RSI says I will not be clicking random a bunch of times. So I automated it... and after ~100 hits to the random page I gave up without seeing it (I stopped there as I didn't want to DDOS ya'll or anything). So theres that... and then I thought I'd run the numbers. Ask currently goes up to #310335. Ignoring deleted questions (which i assume you guys might handle in a similar way as < 3705?) the chance of getting the DVD question on any one random request, assuming the above rounding algorithm is correct, is still only about 1.2%. Pretty sure if i kept the automation running I'd hit it pretty quick.
posted by cgg at 6:45 PM on June 21


Took me 85 clicks to get it
posted by Aranquis at 7:23 PM on June 21


5
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:30 PM on June 21


Quit after clicking it 50 times, but never hit 3705. Got fifty separate AskMes, ranging anywhere from 19436 to 302141.
posted by easily confused at 8:04 PM on June 21


Just tried again: took me 32 more tries, but I finally hit 3705.
posted by easily confused at 8:43 PM on June 21


I'd be interested in a random deleted question link.
posted by ctmf at 8:44 PM on June 21 [10 favorites]


Which is more likely: hitting 3705, or hitting "All Summer in a Day"?
posted by equalpants at 9:09 PM on June 21 [18 favorites]


it's a good question Bront
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:16 PM on June 21 [7 favorites]


I still haven't randomly gotten to the thread, but what I love about it now is how mathowie just magically shows up to give the first answer. Yeah, dude; just like you had no idea how all those people got their cats wedged in their scanners.
posted by yhbc at 9:20 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


I was going to click until I got it, but the second random page was called "How to Create an Automated Test" or somesuch, and I thought "Man, that seems like an awful lot of work, but this is kind of a waste of time, so..."
posted by jacquilynne at 9:24 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I noticed that multiple hits of the Random button breaks the back button, which makes the experience of spamming Random fraught with, "Wait, that one looked interes-- Oh."

I gave up after a dozen or so clicks. This game is boring!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:49 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


You're just saying that because you didn't win.
posted by bongo_x at 9:55 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


Somebody hasn't seen War Games, apparently.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Greetings Professor Falkin A. Funny game. The only winning move is to quit because oh my gawd boring! How about a nice game of whiffle ball?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:19 PM on June 21 [4 favorites]


New game: how many times can you push the Random button MeTa before you chance upon a thread where someone flames out.

I managed twice, but surely someone can get a hole in one.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:26 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


I vote once we figure out the exact details of the bug that we don't fix it. Leave it as a Metafilter inside easter egg.

Frayed Knot: "Which poses a new question: when did Chatfilter become a no-no, and why?"

It slowly evolved but the first couple years were very chatty; the chat filter guideline didn't exist at all. Which makes sense considering the origin.
posted by Mitheral at 10:32 PM on June 21 [3 favorites]


Dang did it get fixed? I just hit 200 random clicks without getting the thread.
posted by Mitheral at 10:37 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Which makes me ponder a night long ago when a song* followed me from pub to pub to disco to pub to pub with a disco. It haunts me to this day. I'd long thought that it was just the universe fucking with me, because I hated the song, but now I'm thinking woh. Maybe it was just mathematics? Like, it was a popular song but it was a few years old. There are a trillion songs like that, maybe even a kazillion and yet that was the only one that followed me. And now I find out there might be a rational reason? Thanks Metafilter!

*This is the song.
posted by h00py at 11:20 PM on June 21 [6 favorites]


I'd be interested to know how many clicks it is until not getting the DVD page is an anomaly, e.g. <1.2%. For example, How unlikely is it to not get to DVD in 200 tries?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:55 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


I clicked 50 times and didn't get it, but on click #20 I had an exciting false alarm where it was an AskMe about DVDs but about how to burn them, not about commentary tracks.

I love this Metatalk!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:50 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


You should sidebar this question, quick, before it gets out of hand and we all end up in The Matrix.
posted by valkane at 2:31 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]


I am so glad you asked! I have been to shy to ask myself but I even have the link bookmarked in case I ever got the confidence (been years now). I love looking for random posts but I always end up in the DVD commentary track one.

You are my hero, Dressed To Kill :-)
posted by kitten magic at 3:21 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


12 tries. So no, it's not fixed but please don't fix it.
posted by misozaki at 3:25 AM on June 22


and agree it takes about 5-10 goes to get it. It's so predictable I now look for random posts via tags instead. I don't care about DVD commentaries and it kills my buzz when I'm wanting a nice meander through the interwebs.
posted by kitten magic at 3:27 AM on June 22


I'd be interested to know how many clicks it is until not getting the DVD page is an anomaly, e.g. < 1.2%. For example, How unlikely is it to not get to DVD in 200 tries?
posted by iamkimiam at 7:55 AM on June 22 [+] [!]


The probability of getting zero successful outcomes in N trials where the chances of success are the same each time is a textbook binomial problem.

You can use this calculator to work it out. There are three parameters:

* Probability of success on a single trial: .012
* Number of trials: 200
* Number of successes (x): 0

The chance of that outcome is 0.133 (13.3%). That makes the chance of getting at least one success out of 200 attempts 1 - 0.133, or 86.7%.

***
To work out how many failed attempts will match a specific probability is even easier. The probability of NOT getting the DVD commentary question is 0.988. So the chance of not getting it over and over is 0.988 to the power of however many attempts you make.

P = 0.988N

Set P to be less than or equal to, e.g., 1.2%:

0.988N ≤ 0.012

which Wolfram|Alpha tells me means you need at least 367 failed attempts to satisfy.

***
You can ask Wolfram|Alpha lots of other questions about this if you phrase them right. Like how many attempts will it take on average to see the DVD commentary question? (answer 84).
posted by rollick at 4:14 AM on June 22 [8 favorites]


The chance of that outcome is 0.133 (13.3%). That makes the chance of getting at least one success out of 200 attempts 1 - 0.133, or 86.7%.

correction: The chance of that outcome is 0.089 (8.9%). That makes the chance of getting at least one success out of 200 attempts 1 - 0.089 or 91.1%
posted by rollick at 4:26 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


If it has been this long without a concrete mod answer, does that mean it is officially a mystery? Wheeeee!

(Sorry about the bandwidth bill this month)
posted by Literaryhero at 4:53 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


43 for me, so I guess I'm really not all that sorry about the bandwidth.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:58 AM on June 22


Mornington Crescent for nerds.
posted by Wordshore at 5:30 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


I got it on the second try :o
posted by Panthalassa at 5:44 AM on June 22


Now I know Random is a thing! It's a history of Metafilter. I am addicted. Sad to see those that are gone and now I want to memail people to see if their car stereo problem was ever resolved.
posted by readery at 5:47 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


All you people mathing the odds are leaving out the all important fact that deleted Asks also take you to 3705.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:05 AM on June 22 [9 favorites]


Hah. Ran my one-line script again and then finally got it 8 requests later. And again 30 requests after that. frimble - I'm dying to know what logic our dear mathowie and pb left you here!! But yeah.. weekend. Monday's fine :D

I kid, I kid! Seriously, whenever you get a chance is coolio with me. I'm sure you probably have like, real work, to do... or something...
posted by cgg at 6:25 AM on June 22


All you people mathing the odds are leaving out the all important fact that deleted Asks also take you to 3705.

Do they or do they take you to DeletedAsk+1? What happens when that +1 doesn't exist because we haven't gotten that far yet? Or does it pull a new random number if the result is a deleted thread? If so that also messes with the probability because each time it pulls a new random number there's X chance it's going to end on deleted, but that X is itself based on possibly hitting any number of conditions that will eventually end in a re-randomization along the way. It reminds me of the mapped out Choose Your Own Adventure structures from a few days ago but with more loops back to an earlier point.

This is one of those puzzles where I'm not quite sure if I want to know the logic behind it or enjoy the mystery.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:08 AM on June 22


Maybe it's a ghost.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:22 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


What's a DVD?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 AM on June 22 [7 favorites]


> What happens when that +1 doesn't exist because we haven't gotten that far yet?

This is exactly why we need to vote #1 quidnunc kid. Wake up, sheeple!
posted by languagehat at 8:57 AM on June 22 [5 favorites]


I just wanted to pop in and say that LM's summary of the history of ask threadids is spot on and also I love you all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 AM on June 22 [17 favorites]


OMG I have been wondering the same thing for *years* and never thought to ask. Thank you, Dressed to Kill.

I might have a random problem, ok?
posted by charmedimsure at 10:09 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


I clicked it 20 times and didn't get the DVD commentary one, but I saw some really weird questions.
posted by superfluousm at 10:15 AM on June 22


Hm. You might have hit the "Like, totally rand-ummm!" button by mistake.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:34 AM on June 22




What's a DVD?

That's the old system where you could buy almost any movie ever made for cheap and keep it in a convenient package.
posted by bongo_x at 12:04 PM on June 22 [9 favorites]


how many random questions did you get until you saw one that made you think "oh my god, go to a doctor"

Yes, well, I tried it again and ended up at a strange and worrying medical question and I'm now looking at both my elbows in a mirror, confused and worried I can only lick one of them and not the other (even though I appear to be symmetrical).
posted by Wordshore at 12:12 PM on June 22 [10 favorites]


23 for me!
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:22 PM on June 22


Wordshore: "Yes, well, I tried it again and ended up at a strange and worrying medical question and I'm now looking at both my elbows in a mirror, confused and worried I can only lick one of them and not the other (even though I appear to be symmetrical)."

(shakes head sadly)
posted by boo_radley at 2:09 PM on June 22


This is exactly why I told pb to get his random numbers from somewhere better than the Lincolnshire Poacher.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:36 PM on June 22 [4 favorites]


This is exactly why I told pb to get his random numbers from somewhere better than the Lincolnshire Poacher.

So that's why I've been getting constant emails "pick a number between 1 and 310335".
posted by bongo_x at 3:48 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


42

As are all answers to life's important questions.
posted by mightshould at 4:44 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


I clicked "Random" in MeTa and got a thread from 2005 and I just want to thank all current users and mods for being OMG so much better now.
posted by lazuli at 4:56 PM on June 22 [3 favorites]


This is exactly why I told pb to get his random numbers from somewhere better than the Lincolnshire Poacher.

The only credible solution to that problem.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:24 PM on June 22


I was skeptical but then I got to it in 19 clicks and was extremely pleased.
posted by solarion at 10:37 PM on June 22 [1 favorite]


Tried again; 38.

Oddly (or perhaps not), noticed that many of the AskMeFi's on the way there fell into one of just three notional categories:

- I hate my work colleagues / boss
- How do I code?
- My wedding may not be such a good idea
posted by Wordshore at 2:19 AM on June 23 [6 favorites]


8.
posted by h00py at 2:31 AM on June 23


This MeTa is GOLD people. I love you guys.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:53 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Matt Haughey wins Fields Medal for proving that 3705 is the randomest number

It has been announced that amateur mathematician Matt "Hematics" Haughey has been awarded the 2017 Fields Medal, one of the most highly-regarded prizes in the world of number-wrangling.

Haughey is being honoured for creating an entirely new way of proving mathematical theorums: he constructed a web-based computer application called "MetaFilter," which has established an amazing result about random numbers - specifically, that 3,705 is the randomest number there is.

The incredible thing is that no-one realised that the "MetaFilter" program was actually constructing this proof, even though it has been working on the problem since at least 1999. Internet users who have visited the "MetaFilter" website would have assumed that the site was a social application designed to help people dump their motherfuckers, suck their favourite bands, or vote #1 quidnunc kid. In fact, the site was busily constructing a highly sophisticated and complex proof of the proposition that there is no natural number more random that 3,705.

Accepting the award, and the prize money of $15,000 Canadian dollars, Haughey thanked all those people who, in using the "MeFi" app, had unwittingly helped to establish one of the most profound results in the history of number theory. He also apologised to 146,352 motherfuckers who have been dumped in the course of the proof, 2,746,899 favourite bands who have been sucked, and anyone who ever voted #1 for, or ate, a quidnunc kid that was past its use-by date.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:10 AM on June 23 [56 favorites]


Mornington Crescent for nerds.

Tootsie Pop for diabetics.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 AM on June 23


What's a DVD?

Surprisingly affordable* these days.

*(except for The Criterion Collection, Olive Films, Cohen Film Collection, Shout! Factory, Film Movement, Arrow Films, and other 'status' brands, which remain as unsurprisingly unaffordable as ever)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:18 AM on June 23


Shit. Given the mix of numbers when the database was shared with MetaTalk that goes up to almost 8,000 total records, that means moving the random number generator that is currently at "1 to infinity" to "3705 to infinite" still won't be truly random, and instead you'd want "only ask posts from 3705 through 7940, then up to infinity" which would be a challenging query to summarize and get just right to get true random.
posted by mathowie (retired) at 10:53 AM on June 23 [6 favorites]


I remember when they used to be $20, same as in town.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:54 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I've been clicking, in random bursts, since this was posted and I've probably seen like 100 random askmes, but still haven't gotten the DVD commentary one.
This is what I get for aspiring to more than meh.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:16 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a challenging query to summarize
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Took me 16 tries but yep.
...
I clicked random 16 times until I got 3705. That is amazing.


I also got it in 16. Now someone come up with a clever theory for why THAT number is coming up so much.
I am not a statistician, but I could come up with a close approximation of the plausible, boring answer.

which would be a challenging query to summarize and get just right to get true random.

Much easier: add an easter-egg header on the top of that page congratulating the user for finding the first ever Ask and linking to this discussion if they are curious about why it might seem to pop up more than you'd think.
posted by solotoro at 12:01 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


15 Random to get to the commentary track!

But along the way I was detoured to that horrible time back when mefite item was suffering from dehydration, and Unicorn on the Cob was trying to help him OTC because of freaking evil medical bills. Sad and timely as we descend back toward those glorious days.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 12:01 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I just clicked through 100 times and never saw the DVD commentary AskMe. Now I want to keep going..I saw about 15 or so random Cat questions and at least 10 related to...can I eat this?
posted by Benway at 3:14 PM on June 23


- I hate my work colleagues / boss
- How do I code?
- My wedding may not be such a good idea


Now I want to read/write either a AskMe question or a short story (or a short story in the form of a question) combining all three.....
posted by epersonae at 3:16 PM on June 23


which would be a challenging query to summarize and get just right to get true random.

You want a dumber algorithm, right?

- pick a random id from the possible range
- is it a valid ask post?
- if not, repeat

Most IDs are valid at this point, so there's no need to get fancy...
posted by john hadron collider at 4:24 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


solotoro:
"Much easier: add an easter-egg header on the top of that page congratulating the user for finding the first ever Ask and linking to this discussion if they are curious about why it might seem to pop up more than you'd think."

I vote for this. Metafilter used to be a magical land of in-jokes and secret knowledge. Taters were $20, same as in town. We all knew how to identify a portobello mushroom. Some of us were used to being silenced all our lives. Paphnuty was silenced completely.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:15 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


...58. The past two weeks have been super-stressful for a crazy mix of good and bad reasons. Reading this MeTa post has absolutely improved my quality of life.
posted by ubersturm at 5:47 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


amateur mathematician Matt "Hematics" Haughey has been awarded the 2017 Fields Medal

Auto DQ'd from any special election votes since you missed the nigh on automatic "Math Owie" joke.
posted by carsonb at 6:00 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Come on, Matt "Hematics" is pure gold.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:39 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


Me too! I used to click "Random" a lot as a lurker here and noticed the same thing happen.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:43 PM on June 23


When I finally got it I got it on the 19th try in a run, so I'm not one of the cool 16 kids but whatevs
posted by yhbc at 6:49 PM on June 23


FOUR count 'em four
posted by zompist at 7:38 PM on June 23


Ha. Three.
posted by freethefeet at 1:05 AM on June 24


Two! Oh wait, it was actually 141. It's been a long time since I trawled through random ask.mefi questions—I'd forgotten that button even existed.
posted by JiBB at 1:15 AM on June 24


Random numbers are peat moss, but newer.

I shouldn't have said even that much, but now that I can light matches with my mind, I figured WTF.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:59 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I wasn't going to comment but hit the random button after reading zompist's post and laughed that I got it in three... :)
posted by freethefeet at 2:51 AM on June 24


Random numbers are peat moss, but newer.

It's the preserved bodies that we find buried deep in random numbers that are truly fascinating. Rando Bodies are the new Bog Bodies.
posted by hippybear at 4:25 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Oh my god! I use the random button all the time, and I get the DVD commentary question ALL THE TIME! Every single time, I mentally compose this exact MetaTalk question, but I never actually post it. Thank you so much!
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:57 AM on June 24


Jeremy Benthems' dead?!
posted by clavdivs at 10:57 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


If the Random Post algorithm for the blue is constructed the same way, you'd expect this post to come up more often than others, as well. But it is preceded by only 18 non-post numbers, so the odds are a lot longer. Though maybe not that long if deleted posts also go to #19.
posted by beagle at 1:06 PM on June 24


This is obviously a UI defect. Just change Random to Random*
posted by Roger Dodger at 1:14 PM on June 24


In Putin's Russia AsMe question randomizes you.

Great Meta!
posted by spitbull at 1:44 PM on June 24


is now the time when we propose solutions? because I love proposing solutions to problems I don't understand!

my proposal: what if you generated a number in the interval (0,1), and multiplied it by the highest question ID, and then tested to see if it's a hit. if it's not a hit, generate a new number and try again. I thiiiiink that would give you uniform probability for all questions, and you wouldn't have to care about specific ranges being valid or invalid.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 2:09 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I guess this upends the entire discipline of Probability & Statistics?
posted by infini at 2:25 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I vote for this. Metafilter used to be a magical land of in-jokes and secret knowledge. Taters were $20, same as in town. We all knew how to identify a portobello mushroom. Some of us were used to being silenced all our lives. Paphnuty was silenced completely.

I want new pancake recipes

does anyone read down here in the grey?

aww c'mon cortex, I'm just running away from teh poltergeists in my webzez

posted by infini at 2:27 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]




When it comes to the artist behind that particular comic strip, Metafilter sure as hell can be sure. Maybe the relevant XKCD would work better?
posted by radwolf76 at 10:14 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I got it on 22, but already knowing that it was the very first question, i scrolled to the bottom which has the "newer" link to look at the second, and the third and so forth, which brought me to 3725.
Enjoy.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:05 PM on June 25


I don't suppose this is the one time where SELECT rowid FROM table ORDER BY RAND() LIMIT 1; is actually worthwhile to mention. (This is like suggesting blink to me.)
posted by crysflame at 11:20 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I need closure. I don't want to be sitting here in 5, 10, 15 years with this random ask business hanging over my head.
posted by Literaryhero at 12:58 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


I've finally dug into the reasons why, and yeah, the answer is that the SQL function generates a random number in the range 0..MAX(link_id), then takes the next non-deleted question with a link ID higher than that number.

And of course, any numbers generated that are lower than 3705 will then choose that question. So it's exactly what people thought.

It's done this way explicitly to avoid (e.g.)
SELECT TOP 1 
    *
    FROM askmefi
    ORDER BY NEWID()
which gets crappy, quickly, for large database tables, as any such answer has to do something for each row of the table (in this case, generate a new GUID).

The solution, which is pretty straightforward, is to generate a number in the range MIN(link_id)..MAX(link_id) – this will still be imperfectly random, because questions that come after a string of deleted questions have their chances of being chosen increased by each deleted question that came before, but that's a level of imperfection that I hope we can live with.
posted by frimble (staff) at 5:05 AM on June 27 [19 favorites]


I want new pancake recipes

Top 'em with blueberries and maple syrup.
posted by zarq at 11:24 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


The random distribution should no longer be weighted approximately 3700x toward the first question asked. Hopefully that helps.
posted by frimble (staff) at 1:03 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


I'm guessing at this point that requesting 3700x weight for a different random question every day (week? year? 12 years?) would be a bridge too far?
posted by carsonb at 8:55 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Just to, y'know, even things out?
posted by carsonb at 8:55 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing at this point that requesting 3700x weight for a different random question every day (week? year? 12 years?) would be a bridge too far?

The first person to guess the heavily weighted question gets to choose the next one.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:43 AM on June 28 [3 favorites]



> What happens when that +1 doesn't exist because we haven't gotten that far yet?

This is exactly why we need to vote #1 quidnunc kid. Wake up, sheeple!

Internet users who have visited the "MetaFilter" website would have assumed that the site was a social application designed to help people dump their motherfuckers, suck their favourite bands, or vote #1 quidnunc kid. In fact, the site was busily constructing a highly sophisticated and complex proof of the proposition that there is no natural number more random that 3,705.


Talk about sheeple! What about the mods allowing this quidnunc blue to happen so shamelessly?

Why are no MeFis complaining?

This is exactly WHY WE NEED TO NOT vote for such a blatant abuser of the rules!
posted by Samizdata at 7:14 PM on June 28


Thanks for the fix, frimble!

Also, it's weird this took so long for people to ask about this. The longer time goes on, the less obvious this quirk becomes.

I do hope that by the secret rules of the admins of Metafilter, frimble has now introduced some other interesting quirk into the Metafilter code that users will discover and have some fun with eventually.
posted by thenormshow at 12:06 PM on June 29


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