Homework helperfilter? November 1, 2005 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I flagged this post as breaking the AskMetafilter guidelines. If I remember correctly similar posts about asking for help on a school paper were deleted. If the consensus that posts asking for research on school papers perhaps is not a good thing, perhaps something can be added on the posting screen so users are aware of it before they post.
posted by geoff. to Etiquette/Policy at 7:58 PM (80 comments total)

How about anyone who wants to ask a sufficiently curious question gets to do it, and we let the school do its own policing? Take off the fake mustache and stop playing cop.
posted by ori at 8:02 PM on November 1, 2005


Sorry if this is seen as okay, I couldn't find anything on it and my gut tells me that posts such as this have been deleted in the past (kind of hard to search deleted posts).

I tried to go to the posting screen to see if users are warned of this but I'm blocked out. Perhaps AskMetafilter would be useful for a grad student looking for a copy of an esoteric source or something to that nature but for an undergrad assignment it seems sort of an icky feeling.

Of course nothing would stop the user from dropping everything related to the paper and asking the question but at least we can give them a good dose of guilt.
posted by geoff. at 8:02 PM on November 1, 2005


Jesus Tapdancing Christ, stop trying to regulate everything.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:04 PM on November 1, 2005


Ori, I hate flagging and giving call-outs -- I was just sure that a similar post was deleted earlier and thought it might be prudent to users to warn them if this was against policy.

I'm totally fine if everyone wants to keep it, I have no moral stance on it -- I'd just like to apply it to every instance and in turn warn people so they don't do something to break said guidelines.
posted by geoff. at 8:04 PM on November 1, 2005


I think using askme for homework research is pretty lame, but I also think withholding my brilliant insights is probably punishment enough. As long as people want to answer and the poster doesn't feel like a douchebag for making other people do his/her intellectual legwork then no harm done.
posted by moift at 8:12 PM on November 1, 2005


... warn people so they don't do something to break said guidelines.

They are guidelines. What the hell is with some people around here following a handful of suggestions as if they were the Talmud.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:13 PM on November 1, 2005


I don't see how the answers provided are in any way useful in writing the paper. It sounds to me like the poster is writing a paper, and as a result has become curious about whether people think Halloween and Christianity are compatible.

The paper is presumably not on whether Halloween and Christianity are compatible (I'm a sociologist, not an anthropologist, but I'll go out on a limb and suggest that "are halloween and christianity compatible" wouldn't be a very good anthropology paper topic). The poster is presumably doing the appropriate research on whatever the actual topic of the paper is, and will draw on that research and not metafilter answers in writing the paper.

If the paper is on whether or not halloween and christianity are compatible or whether or not people think they are compatible and/or if the poster writes a paper based on AskMe answers, the poster would surely get a bad grade because it would be a bad paper.

In other words, I don't think this is a post asking for help on a school paper.
posted by duck at 8:15 PM on November 1, 2005


This doesn't seem like a callout. I don't think Geoff was complaining about the post; I think he's asking about policy, and depending upon what's decided whether a warning should be implemented. It seems to me that's exactly the sort of question MeTa is here for.

My two cents? It's fine. More students should ask for help. It's better than plagiarizing, obviously; but it's also better than scribbling the paper on the morning bus ride. He's getting involved with his assignment, and he's polling strangers for their opinions. Good for him, I say.
posted by cribcage at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2005


"What the hell is with some people around here following a handful of suggestions as if they were the Talmud."
Think of us as Reform, not Orthodox.
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 PM on November 1, 2005


It seems fine to me. There probably are better uses for AskMe (and there are certainly much worse uses - which we've all seen), but questions like that one seem to conform to the requirement that answers are sought for a real and specific reason (other than passing curiosity), and I seem to remember other similar questions getting some decent answers (someone was writing a paper about drums and their various uses or something... I can't be arsed finding it right now).
posted by bunglin jones at 8:20 PM on November 1, 2005


What the hell is with some people around here following a handful of suggestions as if they were the Talmud.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL IS IT INDEED I THINK WE'D BETTER GET ALL WORKED UP OVER THIS SWEETJESUS.

All he's asking for is a simple terse reminder on the posting page that AskMe isn't there to do your homework. He's not asking for your balls served piping hot on a silver platter, I'm the one asking for that. Yell at me.
posted by Ryvar at 8:20 PM on November 1, 2005


You make a rule that people can't ask homework questions, you know what happens? People stop mentioning it's for homework when they ask anyways.
posted by smackfu at 8:23 PM on November 1, 2005


Take off the fake mustache and stop playing cop.

Ignore the grouch, honey. Leave on that fake mustache, get over here and play bad cop!
posted by Rothko at 8:25 PM on November 1, 2005


You know, the whole "we won't do you're homework for you" thing is bullshit. Seriously, all someone has to do is omit the "I am writing a paper..." bit and those questions are NO DIFFERENT than any other question in AskMetafilter.

"oooh, they admitted they actually have a purpose for asking that question, we better lecture them on doing their own homework. That is not what ask.me is for!"
posted by Quartermass at 8:27 PM on November 1, 2005


or. what smackfu said.
posted by Quartermass at 8:28 PM on November 1, 2005


Yes to what smackfu said. And quartermass.
posted by davy at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2005


All he's asking for is a simple terse reminder on the posting page that AskMe isn't there to do your homework. He's not asking for your balls served piping hot on a silver platter, I'm the one asking for that. Yell at me.

It's the constant need to add disclaimers to every possible situation, the constant need to dive into debates about the most miniscule of policy, the constant need to try and figure out little ways in which to whittle-down this site into a nice, little, polite package in which everyone follows the "guidelines" to a "T" that pisses me off...

All it does is destroy some of the best parts of Metafilter.

If I blew up at Geoff, it was nothing personal, you just touched a nerve...
posted by SweetJesus at 8:32 PM on November 1, 2005


smackfu, quartermass: I realize that. But it might make some people stop and think. I've avoided asking questions that were for friends' homework assignments simply because I knew that AskMe wasn't for that and I didn't want to add to the clutter. Similarly, if other people knew that AskMe wasn't for that, they might do the same thing.

Ultimately it's just one short sentence that might contribute towards staving off a fraction of the deluge that is AskMetafilter. That's a good thing in my book.
posted by Ryvar at 8:41 PM on November 1, 2005


Posting a question on a website is a legitimate type of research. If one ends up directly using the material generated from that question, there are APA style guidelines for citing postings taken from a web forum.
posted by spaghetti at 8:58 PM on November 1, 2005


By the same thinking there should be no questions asking for help at work, I mean, someone is paying you to know that stuff. I say, bring on the homework questions, they are often more interesting and entertaining than the ones about how to format a spreadsheet or whatever.

In geof.'s defence, I remember quite a few homework question threads having a number of snarky comments from the self righteous, which probably led to the impression it isn't ok.
posted by Rumple at 9:03 PM on November 1, 2005


MLA

Brown, Oliver. "Welcome." Online posting. 8 Oct. 2002. Chester Coll. Students Web Forum. 20 Feb. 2003 .

APA

Frook, B. D. (1999, July 23). New inventions in the cyberworld of toylandia [Msg 25]. Message posted to http://groups.earthlink.com/forum/messages/00025.html

I was just under the impression that such posts had been deleted before. At least this metatalk thread cleared that up. I care less about what the criteria for deleting posts or what the community guidelines are, just that they are known to everyone and applied equally (as I'm sure any reasoned person can agree too). Of course every guideline or rule will have the exception but complete lack of norms will result in a Internet anarchy with hooligans making self-links and Lord knows what else.

posted by geoff. at 9:06 PM on November 1, 2005


People pretty much learn only by asking questions and reading things. I don't see these kinds of questions as a problem.
posted by interrobang at 9:17 PM on November 1, 2005


Ryvar:I've avoided asking questions that were for friends' homework assignments simply because I knew that AskMe wasn't for that and I didn't want to add to the clutter.

1)What is ask.me for then? 2)Add to the clutter? (doesn't every single question add to the clutter?)
posted by Quartermass at 9:26 PM on November 1, 2005


1)What is ask.me for then?

Metafilter not being my site, it's not really my position to say, is it? All I can say is that I dislike the notion of people using AskMetafilter because they are too lazy to do their own work.

Let me be specific: the question geoff links to is not strictly a violation of that because it's doing something research couldn't do - polling for opinions on a topic in hopes of finding some unique thread of logic. But that isn't the only thing to fall under geoff's proposed reminder.

What I'm concerned about is people using AskMetafilter in place of sitting down and doing research. Let me cite a specific example of my own. A couple weeks back, a friend of mine had to write an analysis on Karl Rove. He had to find specifics on what Karl Rove's ability to influence the government were, and examples of how he has set policy. To that end, the idea of using AskMetafilter came up. Ultimately I opted not to because AskMetafilter isn't really intended to take the place of doing some good hard legwork on your own, and I knew that.

Other, newer people may not know that, or may be borderline willing to temporarily ignore that because 'they really need to.' A reminder on the new post page to the effect that AskMe isn't meant to do your work for you might help.

2)Add to the clutter? (doesn't every single question add to the clutter?)

Yes. Less questions = more, and hopefully better, answers for the questions that do exist. I'm of the opinion that the volume is too high, and the ceaseless torrent of questions has discouraged me from contributing answers. I've also had some rather passionate things to say on the subject of 'Dear Metafilter' posts.
posted by Ryvar at 9:43 PM on November 1, 2005


I'm glad kids don't get refused help at the library because they're asking questions they need to answer for homework.
posted by Tuwa at 9:44 PM on November 1, 2005


geoff.: If the poster cites messages from AskMe and the thread ends up being deleted...well, he'll be expelled and it's all your fault.
posted by mullacc at 10:03 PM on November 1, 2005


Ryvar - I understand your position; that is why no one is obligated (really) to answer askme questions; If it is painfully obvious to YOU, that said person is slacking off, or whatever, ignore it.

Seems to me the invisible hand might work here too... too many stupid questions go unanswered and the stupid questions might reduce in volume.

* I don't think that was a stupid question; don't let the word stupid detract from my statement, feel free to insert xyz/more appropriate word that you prefer in place of stupid.
posted by AllesKlar at 10:23 PM on November 1, 2005


What the hell? I didn't have Google - or the internet - in school. Should we ban students from that as well?

What more noble use for AskMe could there be than to help educate the next generations?

What we need for AskMe isn't more rules, it's better organization of the questions/topics. AskMe is only being drowned in a "deluge" because the interface is inefficient.
posted by loquacious at 10:34 PM on November 1, 2005


Alles: right, they're not obligated, but AskMetafilter will run smoother with less questions, better questions, more answers, and most importantly better answers. Adding a little 'we're not here to do your schoolwork' sign somewhere visible can only help those four criteria. I guess that's what I'm trying to say, basically.
posted by Ryvar at 10:35 PM on November 1, 2005


On failing to preview:

AskMe is only being drowned in a "deluge" because the interface is inefficient.

Amen.
posted by Ryvar at 10:36 PM on November 1, 2005


Other, newer people may not know that, or may be borderline willing to temporarily ignore that because 'they really need to.' A reminder on the new post page to the effect that AskMe isn't meant to do your work for you might help.

Adding a little 'we're not here to do your schoolwork' sign somewhere visible can only help those four criteria. I guess that's what I'm trying to say, basically.

Oh good god, that's so sad...
posted by SweetJesus at 11:03 PM on November 1, 2005


It might be because I had exceptionally lax teachers, but I've never met a teacher or professor who, upon hearing that a student used extra-curricular resources to learn (not, mind you, to WRITE the paper, but to learn in order to write it themselves), ever did or said anything to discourage further such conduct.
posted by shmegegge at 12:39 AM on November 2, 2005


Yeah, it's not like one could just copy and paste a series of AskMe questions into a Word document and call it a paper or a report.

I guess some of the answers (and general posts) here could be considered almost complete papers, but even considering that unlikely scenario, it has to be a better option than some of the crap I've seen my mom endure while correcting papers as sidework.

At the very least, such hypothetical rampant plagiarism will be the godsend and lifeblood of teachers and contract paper-graders the world over. Consider this risk to be a feature, not a bug.
posted by loquacious at 12:58 AM on November 2, 2005


I've avoided asking questions that were for friends' homework assignments simply because I knew that AskMe wasn't for that and I didn't want to add to the clutter.

I personally would have no problems with those questions. I am an avid reader of Ask because there are many questions I would not think to ask, which others do, and I find them fascinating.

Frankly, I would rather read a question about the relationship between Christianity and Halloween than some lark about what to do on a first date or something. If someone asks about something that might lead them to different viewpoints on something school-related, and it's interesting reading to me, then I got no problem.
posted by brundlefly at 2:29 AM on November 2, 2005


On further reflection I think I might be wrong. The thing that kills it for me is that discrimination via intent is impossible, and attempting such would only make life harder for Jessamyn/Matt.
posted by Ryvar at 2:34 AM on November 2, 2005


If you were asked to do a paper on Nuclear Power and your dad's friend happened to work for BNFL, you'd be credited with resourcefulness and common-sense if you were to ask them some questions before doing your homework. Ask.Me is your dad's friend...

There's a huge difference between asking for opinions, experience, or even methodology and asking for someone to do your work - which is not what's happening. The Internet in all its guises is a great research tool, be that sifting through google results, consulting the Wikipedia or asking on USENET for people with more expertise that you. All of these things will help people learn, and the act of writing the paper afterwards fixes that knowledge.

The "We don't help with homework" cry is as old as the 'Net and it's just wrong - it's exactly one of the things we should be doing.
posted by benzo8 at 2:39 AM on November 2, 2005


Yep, this is wrong, and not only did I answer the question, I gave the poster a bonus research suggestion just because I found the idea interesting. It's a fine outlaw kind of feeling, kind of like being a Hell's Angel, only without the inconvenience of doing all those drugs, smelling funny, or listening to Steppenwolf.
posted by melissa may at 2:50 AM on November 2, 2005


What's wrong with Steppenwolf?
posted by brundlefly at 2:53 AM on November 2, 2005


That's an entirely different AskMe.
posted by melissa may at 2:56 AM on November 2, 2005


Oh. OK. What about the whole smelling funny thing? Is that typical? I'm using Firefox on OS X.3.9.
posted by brundlefly at 2:58 AM on November 2, 2005


What benzo8 and spaghetti said. I'm a professional researcher and a university lecturer with students of my own and from both sides asking people for opinions, insights etc are fundamental. In general the more people you ask the better off you are. Asking people is a good thing not a bad thing. They can point you in the right direction, give you insights into how things work in theory and practice, question your assumptions, think of things you haven't thought of, tell you where you're going wrong and more. In essence, they can help you understand what you're trying to learn about - and that after all is what getting an education is supposed to be about.

Getting people to write essays for you is the bad thing of course.
posted by biffa at 3:05 AM on November 2, 2005


Why even have AskMe at all?!

Are some of you people this anal in real life?

I mean, the Penthouse forum type questions are okay, but asking for educational info isn't?
posted by konolia at 4:15 AM on November 2, 2005


but asking for educational info isn't?

I think intent matters a lot. It's one thing to solicit opinions and another thing to try and get people to comb Google/Wikipedia/etc. for you because you can't be arsed.
posted by Ryvar at 5:08 AM on November 2, 2005


And before someone jumps down my throat let me be clear on one point - there are questions that are easily answered by Google and don't need to appear on AskMe, such as my example - and there are questions which require specialized knowledge, which is a different ballgame in which AskMe shines.
posted by Ryvar at 5:10 AM on November 2, 2005


how about we get people to show some proof of age before they post?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:23 AM on November 2, 2005


This is not some easily googleable question like "How old was Millard Fillmore when he died?".* It requires opinion, conjecture, and nuance. If the poster uses our ideas and opinions and sources and fails to do his own reseach and synthesis of the information, he is hosed. No one did anything but provide him with food for thought, and it made for a highly interesting thread. And that's all I've got to say about this silly brouhaha, except that brundlefly honey, I've got Firefox and it's nothing but cloves and roses; then again, I use CCleaner.


*74, dang.
posted by melissa may at 6:23 AM on November 2, 2005


And intent. In fact, all posters to AskMe should be required to have a brain scan first. (Not to MeTa, though, or the place would be quiet as a grave.)
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on November 2, 2005


Er, that was a response to andrew cooke, before the delightful and equally lowercased melissa may inserted her informative comment.
posted by languagehat at 6:29 AM on November 2, 2005


My darling languagehat, I only take neurological advice from ikkuyu2 and tea leaves, so I knew you weren't talking to me.
posted by melissa may at 6:35 AM on November 2, 2005


Rumple writes "I say, bring on the homework questions, they are often more interesting and entertaining than the ones about how to format a spreadsheet or whatever."

Agree, one of the things I miss about persuing an undergrad degree is the exposure to new topics and avenues of discussion.

benzo8 writes "The 'We don't help with homework' cry is as old as the "Net and it's just wrong - it's exactly one of the things we should be doing."

Classically the problem has been some fool would make their first post to a mailing list something that 3 minutes reading the FAQ would have answered for them. Or some twit would post a message to alt.warlord inquiring about feudal chinese warlords. The fact that the poster didn't take even 5 minutes to read existing postings while still soliciting expert advice is what ticks people off. Especially on a forum that might only see a half dozen posts a day and the members liked it that way. In other words the anti-homework cry was about the degradation of the S/N ratio than a desire to prevent cheating or slacking.
posted by Mitheral at 6:37 AM on November 2, 2005


"I'm glad kids don't get refused help at the library because they're asking questions they need to answer for homework."

Tuwa, do the librarians answer their questions or point them to where they might find the answer to their questions? There is a difference.

I imagine there is a little bit of both, depending on the question. But for the most part kids shouldn't expect to walk into the library and ask "what was the name of Vice President Cheney's lying ass piece of shit staff member who outted a covert CIA operative" and expect any answer ofter than "you may wish to check LEXIS/NEXIS or Google. Think about your keywords carefully though. You'll get lots of returns if you simply enter 'Bush cronies assholes.'"

I don't have a horse in this race. Students need to learn the ethics of academics, but I am not sure Metafilter is the place to police such things. At the same time a friendly reminder in the guidelines can't hurt.
posted by terrapin at 6:40 AM on November 2, 2005


Smelling funny, for Firefox 1.0 and greater users.

To smell funny: Avoid soap and water. Avoid toilet paper. Avoid changing clothes. Eat lots of raw garlic. Vote party-line Republican. Go down to the local dive bar and ask for the drippings in those weird rubber nubby mat thingies. Pour over head. Then go to the restroom and lie down. With any luck or timing, someone will come along and vomit on or near you. For optimum smelliness, go to local dog kennel and/or horse stables and lie down in stalls, or simply foster an addiction for RPGs or MMORPGs. Enjoy smelliness.

To not smell funny: Upgrade water to hotfix release "hot water and soap". Douse self in hot water and soap repeatedly, scrubbing intermittantly. Shave or trim hair in crotchetal area, ass and/or armpits, if needed. Use toilet paper. Avoid dive bars, IRC, and MMORPGs. Do not touch dice with more or less sides than 6. Also, you may adjust the parameters of your diet. Eating less meat and processed food is a good basic diet parameter. Ironically and/or oddly: Avoid petroleum based fragrances such as cheap cologne and/or perfume. But do use a mild underarm deoderant.

IE users, all versions, Windows or Mac: Remove your tongue or mouth from Bill Gates' demon-cock infused anus. Repeat. Install Firefox and follow instructions above.
posted by loquacious at 6:55 AM on November 2, 2005


"but AskMetafilter will run smoother with less questions, better questions, more answers, and most importantly better answers."
Please cite data to support this conclusion.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 AM on November 2, 2005


of both, depending on the question. But for the most part kids shouldn't expect to walk into the library and ask "what was the name of..."

But they can. I answer similar questions. In libraries we give answers, and we point people to places where they can do more research. If someone started using AskMe as a ready reference site "How many degrees do the interior angles of a pentagon add up to?" I'd call bullshit, but if people use AskMe as one stop on their overall research crawl, that seems okay to me. The questions I don't like -- though they're rarely deleted -- are the ones where someone is clearly just copying the question from some sort of essay test "Describe the ways in which the cultural climate of the South was an important part of the novel Gone With the Wind. Give specific examples." Google Answers used to have some specifric language about not doing people's homework for them, I don't think AskMe has as strict a stipulation nor, in my opinion, should it.

On the one hand, I don't want to be thought police and neither does Matt. On the other other hand, since you can ask a question again immediately after yours has been deleted, we'd be more likely to delete a heavily flagged homework-ish question like the one I just wrote and encourage the poster to post again in a way that makes it clear that they're just looking for ideas [as I think the original question that geoff. pointed to was doing] and not expecting someone to write them an essay.
posted by jessamyn at 7:43 AM on November 2, 2005


I think we've come down hard on people in the past that simply wanted their homework done for them. A question like "what was the role of the white aristocracy in the drive towards the Civil War in Amercia?" is clearly doing someone's research and work for them, and frowned upon.

In this case, you have a student that said they did research on the topic through both books and observation in the real world, and they were just looking for some anectdotes to pad it out with. I can't see a bunch of contributed comments from religious people being any basis for a serious article, so it's probably half the curiosity on the part of the person asking and half just to throw some extra heresay crap into a paper that is mostly based on research from books.

I don't think it's tweaking ask mefi too much to keep around.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:16 AM on November 2, 2005


(I suspect my opinion will be unpopular, but, as a professional teacher and someone who spent 15 years as a college student, I feel strongly about this, so here goes...)

You PAY money to go to school. The teachers there provide you a SERVICE. You should be allowed to complete your assignments however you want. Certainly, a school may have rules about cheating. A school may refuse to accept your money if you're caught breaking its rules. But that should be between the school and you. It's no one else's business.

Teachers should quit worrying so much about grades and cheating and who's-the-boss-of-the-classroom, and they should focus on creating an environment in which people can learn if they CHOOSE to do so.

Let's say I go to a fine restaurant and order a steak served well done. Most chefs feel like well-done steaks are a travesty. But I am PAYING them for the steak. They are providing me with a SERVICE. So they either need to deal with it and provide me with what I ask or say, "Sorry, we can't take your money, because we don't serve steaks that way." It would be totally insane if I posted a question on AskMe about where I could get a well-done steak and the question was deleted.

If I choose to cheat, I may be hurting myself. That's MY business. I'm an adult, and I can choose to hurt myself. I can choose to listen to Beethoven symphonies on crappy headphones if I want. I'll be ruining the experience for myself, but if I want to do so, that's MY business.

You make a rule that people can't ask homework questions, you know what happens? People stop mentioning it's for homework when they ask anyway.

Seriously, all someone has to do is omit the "I am writing a paper..." bit and those questions are NO DIFFERENT

I agree. But (again) we're in the minority. Most people here care deeply about the intent behind the question. I don't get why. Intend doesn't change the question (just one's perception of the questioner). I've argued this out before in threads about philosophical/emotional questions that don't have objective answers.

Apparently, it's okay to write "For a book I'm writing, I need to know how people feel about divorce" but it's NOT okay to write, "How do people feel about divorce?"

I am baffled by why anyone would care about the difference. I've brought up the fact that in the first version, the person might be lying. He might NOT be writing a book, but he might just have learned a sneaky way to get keep his question safe. The standard response is something along the lines of, "Well, we don't condone that sort of behavior, but it's better if the person states his reasons." WHY? I'm similarly baffled by the common attitude towards sock puppets. When people ask about how they can post multiple questions a week, I've seen MATT suggest they get a sock-puppet account! He "doesn't condone it, but..."

I figure (and maybe I'm wrong) that (a) many people like the ILLUSION of intent and (b) many people just like rules, regulations and customs. There seem to be a ton of people here who have nothing better to do than look for rule violators. And they're totally fine if people follow the rules in a bogus way, i.e. appending "for a book I'm writing..." so that their question can stay -- as long as they are following the rules.

it might make some people stop and think.

Make a rule and enforce it. Don't try to make people stop and think. That's condescending.
posted by grumblebee at 8:42 AM on November 2, 2005


I guess I am just more of a believer in teaching people to fish rather than giving them a fish.

When I was in school (chisel and slab of rock in front of me) the librarians, teachers, et cetera, that I ran into would never just give me an answer. They would spend a lot of time with me to show me how I could find the answer. My parents too. If I asked "How do you spell ...." my mother or father would say "look it up in the dictionary." It wasn't done in a dismissive way either. If a dictionary wasn't handy though, either would help me. It might be "sound it out and we'll see if you are right," or it might be the direct answer depending on the complexity of the word.
posted by terrapin at 8:44 AM on November 2, 2005


I guess I am just more of a believer in teaching people to fish rather than giving them a fish.

Well sure, but AskMe is one big fishing derby in that regard. Some questions aren't about learning methods to answer these questions in the future, someone just wants to know a good restaurant in Santa Fe and they trust the community to give them a good list of choices. Answers that are basically "Here is how to google/look up the answer to your question" are often less helpful than just offering an answer.

Speaking as a librarian, it's great if everyone learns how to use the resources we have available to answer whatever their information needs are whenever they want to use them, and ultimately that's part of our job. However, there are tons of good reasons why people might not have the time, energy, brainpower, or interest to want to step through our process with us each time they have a question. Offering everyone a mini-lesson in "how to look things up" along with their question isn't always appreciated or useful or appropriate. The good librarian/educator/parent knows when to approach it one way or the other. Or, back to your metaphor, sometimes people are too hungry to benefit from a fishing lesson, and you have to feed them as well as plan for the long term stability of your fishing village, so you have to both give fish and teach fishing. The real beauty of AskMe is that you can use all the people in your community the way you would use all the resources in your library and we all become primary source material.
posted by jessamyn at 9:21 AM on November 2, 2005


You make a rule that people can't ask homework questions, you know what happens? People stop mentioning it's for homework when they ask anyways.

I guess then we'll never figure out that it's a homework question, huh? Take a look at Wikipedia's Reference Desk sometime, which does have a "no homework questions" policy. And people do post homework questions there all the same, which are usually easily detected by the volunteers there, despite the fact that the asker didn't explicitly state it was a homework question. ("What are four uses of carbon?")

When that happens, there are some people who tersely respond "Do your own homework," and others who will, though not answering the question outright, give the person a nudge in the right direction ("There are several uses for carbon discussed in the article on carbon, as well as many other interesting facts about the element.") I fall in the latter category, which should give you an idea how I feel about a "no homework questions" policy, both there and on AskMe.

As far as grumblebee's comments about intent, I think there's an important distinction to be made. I think intent should be irrelevant as to whether a question is "worthy" to be on AskMe or not. But I would not agree that we should never ask about a questioner's intent, because that intent can be key to better understanding the question and providing a relevant answer. For example, "What is a good restaurant in Santa Fe? [Because my spouse and I will be visiting in a few weeks and would like to eat somewhere nice.]" is a different question than "What is a good restaurant in Santa Fe? [Because I need to arrange a dinner for 60 people.]" But both questioners may pose their question without the part in brackets, it is entirely appropriate to probe for the intent behind the question. Or, how many times has someone asked "How do I do X?" when what they really want to do is Y, and they know if they could do X then they'd be able to do Y? But once people probe the questioner's intent, they may be able to suggest alternate ways of doing Y that don't involve X at all.

In short, probing a questioner's intent to judge the worthiness of a question is unnecessary and pointless, but probing the questioner's intent in order to provide a better answer is very reasonable.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:10 AM on November 2, 2005


If no-one can use Ask Mefi for help with school, then no-one can use Ask Mefi for help with their jobs either.
posted by mendel at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2005


Totally...
posted by Quartermass at 10:20 AM on November 2, 2005


DevilsAdvocate writes "And people do post homework questions there all the same, which are usually easily detected by the volunteers there, despite the fact that the asker didn't explicitly state it was a homework question. "

I doubt anyone has studied the false negative rate for homework detection, I'd bet it's pretty high.
posted by Mitheral at 10:41 AM on November 2, 2005


As far as grumblebee's comments about intent, I think there's an important distinction to be made. I think intent should be irrelevant as to whether a question is "worthy" to be on AskMe or not. But I would not agree that we should never ask about a questioner's intent, because that intent can be key to better understanding the question and providing a relevant answer.

I agree, but I don't think "intent" has any special status here. The more we know about ANY facet of the question, the better we'll be able to answer it.
posted by grumblebee at 10:47 AM on November 2, 2005


If no-one can use Ask Mefi for help with school, then no-one can use Ask Mefi for help with their jobs either.

friggin' exactly. What makes doing research for schoolwork different than doing research for your job, or your project, or anything? We're not DOING their homework for them. No-one's writing them a paper -- we're helping them do research. Now, you might say that conducting polls on AskMe is verboten, but then again that should supposedly make all that "What's *YOUR* favorite band?" questions also against the rules.
posted by fishfucker at 11:23 AM on November 2, 2005


h3 works in preview but not when posting = LAME
posted by fishfucker at 11:23 AM on November 2, 2005


If it's OK with jessamyn, it's OK with me, by gum.
posted by languagehat at 11:24 AM on November 2, 2005


damn it. style font sizes don't work either.

HOW CAN I ANNOY PEOPLE WITHOUT HAVING TO RESORT TO MAKING A .GIF IN MS PAINT.
posted by fishfucker at 11:24 AM on November 2, 2005


We used to have the <big>, but that got banned. We've still got <small>.

Also, how crazy is it that there's something as simple as a <big> tag?
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on November 2, 2005


     #    #    #  ###
   #  #   ##   #  #  #
 #######  # #  #  #  #
#       # #   ##  ###
There's always pre
posted by delmoi at 11:33 AM on November 2, 2005


And Blink
posted by Mitheral at 12:07 PM on November 2, 2005


If we can answer questions about disposing of bodies and consistently beating a bear in a knife fight, I think it's ok help a kid with his homework. We've already shown that we don't care about intent. Intent is irrelavent. Information wants to be free!
P.S Can anyone tell me how to build a cheap nuclear bomb that could easily be disguised as a podium used in a presidential press conference? It must be undetectable and use only items available at home depot. Oh, and I'm in a hurry. (Note: this is for saving puppies, and kittens. And making rainbows. No evil intended)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:16 PM on November 2, 2005


*marks loquacious' answer as best*
posted by brundlefly at 1:11 PM on November 2, 2005


Being that I am the suppos├Ęd infractor here, I'd like to make a few points.

I don't want this to be taken personally by the original poster, but shouldn't someone have offered me the chance to state my position?

The vast majority of you are correct in assuming that I have no plans on using the information presented in the post in any way that violates the plagiarism policy of my university.

As an atheist, I simply wanted to understand the motivations behind the opposition toward Halloween I observed in many fundamentalist Christian groups. To conduct thorough research, I thought it would be a good idea to get a range of opinions from a group that represented a cross-section of thought. That does not necessarily mean that I am planning on using any views given in my paper, I simply wanted to see what opinions exist.

I asked because I found interest in the subject, which is the same reason I chose it to be the topic of my paper. Rest assured, the University of Pittsburgh is not really that difficult of a school, and I doubt any semi-intelligent being would have much difficulty obtaining a satisfactory grade on a paper here.

Now for your moment of zen:

"Make a rule and enforce it. Don't try to make people stop and think. That's condescending." - grumblebee
posted by matkline at 2:55 PM on November 2, 2005


I think the post was a splendid one, because it was the first time I've been thanked for my contribution to a thread ;-)

Otherwise, I don't see asking Metafilter for help as any different from asking your mates for help. If you're lazy and want everything handed to on a plate, you should be told to piss off, if you're genuinely curious and asking for different perspectives, fair do's - and that's what matkline was doing, as he says above. (Plus he said suppos├Ęd when lesser mortals might have said supposed, which means he can get away with anything in my book.)
posted by jack_mo at 3:09 PM on November 2, 2005


Hell, man, I didn't even graduate THAT long ago, and when I was in school, I would have killed to have this kind of instant-answer community. Granted, anyone would be a fool to not double-check any factual claims made here, but it sure beats having to haul my butt down to the library (all due respect, members of the MeFi Librarians Club).
posted by mkultra at 3:29 PM on November 2, 2005


I read a thesis on the social interactions of dishwashers once.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:18 PM on November 2, 2005


How did you get an advanced copy?
posted by Quartermass at 5:12 PM on November 2, 2005


Are some of you people this anal in real life?
*raises hand slowly*

*looks around*

*puts hand back down*
posted by dg at 7:28 PM on November 2, 2005


I'd love to know how to change my post - it seems I have just posted a question to askMefi where I mixed the long/short of things and would love to be able to fix it... My post is HUGE. I don't even see the short question inside the post. What do I do? It's just offensive now, even though its a serious topic.
posted by prodevel at 10:56 PM on November 2, 2005


prodevel: email matt, he can work the more inside magic.
posted by jessamyn at 5:44 AM on November 3, 2005


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