Answering AskMe Without Expertise? September 21, 2005 8:51 PM   Subscribe

It may be that I am not the first to notice this but --

Why do people post to AskMeFi topics when they don't know what they're talking about?
Sometimes when the question itself asks for input from some specific audience someone will post "Well, I think..."
(No, not going to link -- I don't want to be nasty.)

I just think it's weird.
Or rather -- "Well, I think it's weird."
posted by Methylviolet to Etiquette/Policy at 8:51 PM (21 comments total)

Sometimes knowing how to ask the question is as important as the actual question itself, as far as expecting good answers. AskMe is a two-way street. I'll leave it at that.
posted by Rothko at 8:55 PM on September 21, 2005

One of the strengths of AskMefi is that people like to give their opinion.
One of the weaknesses of AskMefi is that people like to give their opinion.
posted by vacapinta at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2005

Yes, agreed.
When I think about it, Vacapinta, I guess it is much weirder that I could post the most abstruse question I could think of and that I could get a good answer. And I do!
"Well, I'm a cabinet maker/chemical engineer/native speaker of Latin and I think..."
posted by Methylviolet at 9:04 PM on September 21, 2005

This is one of those situations where you'd have to draw a line and wouldn't be able to. Everybody should exercise a little more restraint with the thinking-out-loud in AskMe threads. But I think there are probably better ways to engender that conscientious instinct than "hey! you don't know what you're talking about!" For myself, I will sometimes chime in when I don't have an answer, but I do have a thought to offer than might clarify the question or bring up an angle that had been ignored thus far. There are also times I type a few lines and decide that I'm just restating common sense and not offering anything much - whereupon I abandon my post and move on.
posted by scarabic at 9:17 PM on September 21, 2005

Is it kosher to point to a Monkeyfilter thread and ask what y'all thnk of the advice in that?
posted by davy at 9:30 PM on September 21, 2005

You could also ask "Why do people call out AskMe answers with the mistaken impression that they know what they are talking about but the answerer does not?"

There is a little knee jerk animosity around these parts... And big egos... And lazyness...
posted by Chuckles at 10:22 PM on September 21, 2005

A lot of it is Male Answer Syndrome, to be perfectly frank.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:42 PM on September 21, 2005

It is preferable that people let you know that their answer is unqualified, rather than just stating something that is their opinion as fact. I see that much more often.

Or they don't read the whole question and give advice that was explicitly not asked for.

So maybe people just don't read.
posted by qwip at 10:45 PM on September 21, 2005

"Male Answer Syndrome," ROFL. Yeah, that almost got me. Then I realized that it would be ludicrous for me to post to a breastfeeding thread and forwarded the link to my wife instead. Hee.
posted by ZakDaddy at 11:56 PM on September 21, 2005

A lot of it is Male Answer Syndrome, to be perfectly frank.
posted by mathowie at 10:42 PM PST on September 21 [!

I think I am hereby proving that Answer Syndrome can be unisex.
posted by Cranberry at 12:45 AM on September 22, 2005

I think the technical term for this is "pulling the answers out of their ass".
posted by Joeforking at 2:08 AM on September 22, 2005

This comes up on MeTa at least once or twice a month. Besides which, it's almost universal human nature. It's a surprise? It's baffling? Huh?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:00 AM on September 22, 2005

Another weird thing I notice is that sometimes people post just to say that the question is stupid.

Don't they have better things to do?

posted by Methylviolet at 6:23 AM on September 22, 2005

True. I hate those people.

Seriously, though, you're right that it isn't a stupid question. I just wish that people that asked questions on MeTa actually read MeTa, which, you know, would make more sense. There have been several good, long MeTa conversations about how people compulsively answer AskMe questions when they're not qualified, why they do it, and what should be expected from AskMe in the first place.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:02 AM on September 22, 2005

So Matt, have you read Eyebeam?
posted by plinth at 9:16 AM on September 22, 2005

This doesn't annoy me 1% as much as people who can't read the fucking question. If you're too busy to read the [mi], where it says "X is not an option/we've tried X already and it didn't and can never work", why are you wasting your valuable time giving a suggestion, like, say, X?
posted by Aknaton at 10:46 AM on September 22, 2005

I'm not qualified to theorize on this matter, I am afraid. Though I am quite interested in metacognition.
posted by 31d1 at 11:44 AM on September 22, 2005

Wow, I never would have thought...
posted by mkultra at 12:57 PM on September 22, 2005

FWIW, yes, it happens on AskMe, but nowhere near as much as what happens at other sites. One of the reasons I gave up on /. is the amazing amounts of what I referred to as "Slashdot arrogance" (but seems to be roughly the same as Male Answer Syndrome; at the time I characterized it as, "since I know a lot about computers, I know a lot about everything"). Trying to correct all the misinformation flying about there in a thread on a topic in which I did have some expertise would drive me nuts.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:04 PM on September 22, 2005

Slashdot is pretty bad in this way, but I think it's more to do with its particular demographics--the younger computer nerd crowd. I was one, once upon a time at the very dawn of the PC age. They're science/math literate, generally, and smarter than average, and so they are bad know-it-alls who don't yet comprehend how limited their knowledge really is. Really, it takes a long time for math/science/engineering types to grow out of this, usually past college and in many unfortunate cases, never.

Smart people more on the humanities side of things tend to think that the things they know about are the important things and most everything else isn't important. Nerdy types are often very like (or are) Objectivists with a very simple but totalitarian epistemology that puts every possible domain of knowledge within their sphere of competence. So the humanities types avoid free-for-all opportunities for Male Answer Syndrome because much of it is totally unimportant and, instead, exhibit MAD in things closer to their legitimate expertise (but often not actually within their expertise).

I'm both types, which is pretty unusual, but I progressed to where I am by being, mostly, the nerdy math/science type for much of my life. It sounds very hand-wavy and BSing philosophy crap to say that the whole idea of "knowing anything" is pretty ambiguous, but I think you'll find that while humanities people tend to assert this in a facile way, at least when they're young, while the math/science types, as they get older and if they're smart and wise enough, assert this in a more rigorous manner. I certainly do.

You'd think because I am, I can't deny, something of a know-it-all, I'd be on AskMe a lot. But I'm not. Because, actually, in the way that AskMe is supposed to be specific, I don't have any illusions of some all-encompassing competence. But I'm also not very troubled by how egregiously accurate or inaccurate the answers on AskMe are. I think most answers, anywhere--certainly supposedly "authoritative" answers--are far more ignorant than most people suppose and so I don't find obvious ignorance that terribly alarming.

I don't have a lot of hope for those folks who don't know how to accumulate real knowledge by sifting through a lot of data, and a lot of thought; and for those that do know how to do this, I'm confidant that they do and bad answers on AskMe, or anywhere else, are not particularly difficult impediments to them.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:47 PM on September 22, 2005 [2 favorites]

So E_B, I should be immune to MAS because i don't know anything about science or math: I'm a Liberal Arts nerd myself. (Like, I'm always aware that "liberal" has more than one definition.) Plus I ain't been young since the first Reagan administration.

Therefore one can assume that I usually know what I'm talking about. GED!
posted by davy at 9:15 PM on September 22, 2005

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