AskMe connects seeker with information source October 19, 2005 8:44 PM   Subscribe

This Ask MeFi post is probably one of the best examples of finding the answer you were looking for. Simply incredible.
posted by mathowie to MetaFilter-Related at 8:44 PM (53 comments total)

I agree but dont you usually put this stuff on the sidebar rather then MeTa?

/ just wondering
posted by wheelieman at 8:51 PM on October 19, 2005


That post really is astonishing.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2005


Yeah, I put it in the sidebar, but fuckin-a, this is worthy of a full metatalk post. I mean, it's mostly luck that another member among the thousands worked at the one place in America that had the info he was looking for, but still, it's pretty insane that a member asked a question about their grandfather and now they are getting handwritten notes from their grandfather in return.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:59 PM on October 19, 2005


That is really something, thanks for pointing that out. Where I work, it can be fun watching people's reaction when they can hold an 18th-century will with their gggggrandfather's signature. But the stuff arco and his colleagues found is just a whole other level. Wow. Librarians and archivists rock.
posted by marxchivist at 9:08 PM on October 19, 2005


Im tired so the wowness factor doesnt strike me, but it's sure amazing. Thousands upon thousands storm the streets of MeFiopolis every day, nobody quite knows what will strike their fancy. Here, a drunken knife fight over politics ensues, there, a crowd of people gather to listen to Y2k's vintage recordings of Leadbelly, and far odd in the distance a man reunites with a link to his distant distant past. hardly, however, anybody notices these events in the streets, as confusing and scattered as they are, they still create a community. We're all in this thing together, overlooked by Lord Matt and the Lady Jess. We find humor, we find opinons, we find hope for a socitey that shares it's ideas. Heres to you, sacred city, may you grow so that the world may see your beauty.


/creative writing attempt, feel free to ax this comment in the dungens me lord.
posted by wheelieman at 9:18 PM on October 19, 2005


Did i ever mention how much I hate spelling and proofreading?
posted by wheelieman at 9:22 PM on October 19, 2005


Metafilter: Did i ever mention how much I hate spelling and proofreading?
posted by wheelieman at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2005


*shuts up before anyone tells him to do so*
posted by wheelieman at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2005


Most excellent indeed.
posted by dg at 9:38 PM on October 19, 2005


Yeah very cool. You have made cool shit possible, Matt.
posted by scarabic at 9:38 PM on October 19, 2005


Cool thread, Matt.
posted by onalark at 9:42 PM on October 19, 2005


This is very wonderful!
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:15 PM on October 19, 2005


Yeah very cool. You have made cool shit possible, Matt.

Usenet did this sort of thing every minute, back in its glory days.

Matt, please don't ever sell out to Immigration Lawyers.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 PM on October 19, 2005


Very cool. Justified all crap AskMe posts for all infinity.
posted by Dagobert at 11:06 PM on October 19, 2005


hooooooooooooooooooooooooly fuck.
posted by shmegegge at 11:10 PM on October 19, 2005


I've posted 15 AskMe questions before, but this is the only time the answer has made me cry.
posted by yankeefog at 2:45 AM on October 20, 2005


Amazing. Absofuckinglutely amazing.
posted by bunglin jones at 3:15 AM on October 20, 2005


ha ha ha. I read that question a couple of minutes after it was posted and thought "yeah, 1930's Austrian phone book and no German - good luck pal!"

arco really pulled a blinder, "Librarian OF DEATH" indeed.
posted by NinjaPirate at 3:21 AM on October 20, 2005


I read that thread when it first popped up, saw arco's response, and just knew it would end like this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:37 AM on October 20, 2005


This should get a write-up somewhere in the standard press, really... It would be kind of cool with a photo of the place when yankeefog finds it.
posted by taz at 3:38 AM on October 20, 2005


Kudos to acro. Great story.
posted by peacay at 4:46 AM on October 20, 2005


Isn't this the whole idea of Askme? That you reach and hit someone who knows the right person? :D
posted by filmgeek at 6:10 AM on October 20, 2005


librarians rule, and arco rules specifically.
posted by jessamyn at 6:25 AM on October 20, 2005


it's pretty insane that a member asked a question about their grandfather and now they are getting handwritten notes from their grandfather in return

Isn't this testimony to the quality of the archives available rather than anything to do with Metafilter? Take credit if you like, but I don't think it's deserved.
posted by cillit bang at 6:31 AM on October 20, 2005


That gave me chills.

cillit bang, I don't think anyone's suggesting MetaFilter should get sole "credit" for this, but it provided a communications link that didn't exist a few years ago, and but for MetaFilter (or, more specifically, AskMeFi), yankeefog's family would not have obtained this information. To that extent, it's a testament to the utility of a virtual "community."
posted by pardonyou? at 6:49 AM on October 20, 2005


Isn't this testimony to the quality of the archives

Yes. It's also a testimony to the fact that those archives don't mean much if no one can find anything in them, or don't know that they exist, or don't know how to use them effectively. No offense to you, yankeefog, but we probably could have put you in the lobby of the library that arco works in, and you still would have had a difficult time churning through all the information that they have there to get at what you wanted. You might have quit with a street address, you might have given up altogether when someone said "microfilm machine" or maybe you would have lumped it into the great "unknowable" category even earlier once you realized that the information wasn't Googleable, Yahooable, or ask-your-local-librarian-able.

In any case, this AskMe thread is a great textbook example of why the combination of librarians/archivists + the access to people and resources that the internet provides is greater than either of those two things individually. Or, in other words "suck it haters, try finding that with your precious Google!"
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2005


Can some one please tell me how Kevin Bacon is involved in all of this?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:32 AM on October 20, 2005


I agree with Jessamyn, This was incredible, I had tears in my eyes and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
Arco deserves some kind of award, he didn't just locate the docs, he got somone else involved and is doing the translations. Above and beyond the call...
posted by Wilder at 7:34 AM on October 20, 2005


Amazing.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:47 AM on October 20, 2005


I didn't think I was trying to promote metafilter when I highlighted this, I just thought it was an amazing story. The question seemed like such a longshot, and the result is even better than I imagined.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:06 AM on October 20, 2005


Unbelievable. That made my day.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:32 AM on October 20, 2005


Wow. The wonders of the Internet will never cease to amaze me.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 9:03 AM on October 20, 2005


beautiful and profound...
posted by naxosaxur at 9:03 AM on October 20, 2005


Yet another reason to love ask metafilter.

Metafilter: Suck it haters, try finding that with your precious Google!
posted by Space Kitty at 9:29 AM on October 20, 2005


No offense taken, Jessamyn. I agree with you completely.

I don't think anybody would claim Matt has somehow put together a magic machine that can find the answer to any question. But he did put together a website that attracted a very intelligent group of users with a very eclectic collection of expertises (is that a valid plural?), and then he was clever enough to realize that this eclectic collection of brains could be used to answer questions. A huge amount of credit absolutely has to go to Arco, his colleague, the Holocaust Museum, and to the people who preserved the archives and donated them to the museum, as well as to archivists and librarians in general...but the fact that I could ask such a longshot question and get more than I asked for is, I think, a reflection of something good about the MeFi community.
posted by yankeefog at 9:41 AM on October 20, 2005


I love how jessamyn can be first so eloquent and passionate, then to sum it up with such cutting style:

Or, in other words "suck it haters, try finding that with your precious Google!"
posted by raedyn at 10:16 AM on October 20, 2005


Big ups to arco, a shining example of a librarian who makes us all proud! And [this is good].
posted by Lynsey at 10:24 AM on October 20, 2005


Just fantastic. Good show, arco!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2005


suck it haters

I blame keswick.
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2005


Simply incredible. AskMe rules.
posted by deborah at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2005


expertises (is that a valid plural?)

If there is a plural, that's it, but googling it gets hardly any hits in English (and even fewer that sound as if they were written by someone whose native language is English. I think it's taken as a mass (uncountable) noun, like furniture or money. Note this citation from the OED, which is quite similar to your use:

1970 Insight Nov. 1/2 A team of people with highly specialised expertise: buyers, economists, journalists, researchers with the knowledge and training to deal with consumer problems.

By the way, I love the weirdness of this earlier citation:

1953 ‘M. INNES’ Christmas at Candleshoe ix. 104 ‘Why does he get a fee?’ ‘For making an expertise... That, it seems, is the technical term.’

Oh, and AskMe does, in fact, rule.
posted by languagehat at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2005


"suck it haters, try finding that with your precious Google!"

Or in a card catalogue, for that matter!

Very cool story.
posted by nyterrant at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2005


Yankeefog, I am so glad for you and your family. And arco, I've always admired your AskMe answers on this subject; you are a true asset to this community.

Or what naxosaxur said: Beautiful, and profound.
posted by melissa may at 3:47 PM on October 20, 2005


matthowie, thanks for the MeTa post. I had somehow missed this on the blue. Awesome!
posted by trip and a half at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2005


er, "..on the green". Duh!
posted by trip and a half at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2005


(I just found this discussion thread.) Thanks for your kind words, everyone! I'm just really glad I was able to help.

The Museum is a remarkable place to work, for a variety of reasons, but one of the most satisfying aspects of my job is being able to help people like yankeefog make these discoveries. The example given in the AskMe thread is particularly striking, but we often make similar "connections" as part of our work. People sometimes ask me how I can work at a place that is "so depressing" (their words). I tell them stories like this one to explain how deeply moving, intellectually challenging, and richly rewarding my work can be.

Oh, and the story of the discovery of these documents is even more remarkable than you've heard about so far: my colleague literally had these newly-microfilmed reels in his office awaiting official approval to have them sent offsite for processing and duplication. Within the next two weeks, these reels will be sent away, and it will be about 6-8 months before they will be available again. Yankeefog just happened to ask the question at just the right time, I just happened to glance at AskMe at that moment, and my colleague just happened to have the reels at hand for this to come together. Not to mention the fact that the documents made it through the war intact; then to Jerusalem, where they sat in storage for decades; then to the USHMM through the efforts of our international archival programs office, where my colleagues are attempting to capture and preserve as much of the documentary evidence of the Holocaust as they can before it slips away. I feel very priviledged to play a role in all this.
posted by arco at 8:27 PM on October 20, 2005


I said it in the green, and I'll say it again. wow. awesome.
posted by mwhybark at 11:12 PM on October 20, 2005


!
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:00 AM on October 21, 2005


Kudos, etc. But this is also probably the first case of somebody flagging his/her own comment with a "best answer" flag, no?
posted by signal at 7:00 AM on October 21, 2005


Piffle. You people are sooooo behind the times. I've known arco was amazing for a long time now.
posted by orange swan at 7:03 AM on October 21, 2005


Signal, the ability to tag your own post as "best answer" was only enabled recently, which is perhaps one reason why nobody (or few people?) have done it before.

I will admit that I had some hesitation in doing it. But the post-of-my-own that I flagged was one that was just reposting some particularly helpful information I had gotten from arco. (I should add that it was reposted with his permission.) If he had posted it on his own, I would have flagged it as a best answer with no hesitation.

It's not like you get cash or valuable prizes when your answer is flagged; the idea behind flagging is to allow people to sport the most useful info at a glance. And the info arco gave me was definitely useful.
posted by yankeefog at 8:49 AM on October 21, 2005


yankeefog: sorry if I came off snarky, not my intent. I'd just never seen the self-flag before. I do understand why you did it and don't think you needed to explain yourself at all.
posted by signal at 9:32 AM on October 21, 2005


No problem. I think it's actually a good issue to raise, since self-flagging is a new feature, and it's will take a little bit of experimentation and discussion before we all figure out the etiquette of using it.
posted by yankeefog at 6:42 AM on October 22, 2005


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