Should incomplete questions be deleted? November 12, 2005 5:14 AM   Subscribe

Regarding ask metafitler similar to this one, where people don't give a fuller picture to their question/problem/situation: maybe they should be deleted? If a person isn't willing to be open about the things, why should metatime be spent on it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Etiquette/Policy at 5:14 AM (41 comments total)

Anon is asking a question. It may not be the question you and I believe he ought to ask (and perhaps we should even go so far as to explain our reasons for feeling this this to him in the forum provided), but it is, in fact, a question. AskMetafilter is for asking questions. So.
posted by Clay201 at 5:30 AM on November 12, 2005


Brandon Blatcher posted "If a person isn't willing to be open about the things, why should metatime be spent on it?"

Conversely, why shouldn't it?
posted by Bugbread at 5:34 AM on November 12, 2005


"...metatime..."

What the... Oh, no you didn't. You did!

*Debrains Brandon Blatcher with a large bone club, makes Kubrickian monkey noises*
posted by loquacious at 5:40 AM on November 12, 2005


It's a fair question IMO, albeit somewhat unclearly formulated. Some answerers have quite reasonably tried to make this clear to anonymous in the thread; I say let it stand.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:42 AM on November 12, 2005


I don't think that the lack of disclosure distracts from the question. There are many reasons not not name the specific issue, their partner could read MeFi, for example. The dealbreaker could be, as the poster stated, embarrassing or too personal, or just plain trivial to the point that it would actually distract from the question.

Are you sure you're not just annoyed because your prurient voyeuristic side hasn't been satisfied? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that that's probably why you made this post.

As entertaining as it can be sometimes, ask.me isn't here to trade titillating bits of personal information for answers. You don't need to flagellate yourself before the oracle. The question is well worded and answerable as it stands.

But as the poster will discover, the more vague the question is, the more vague the answers. See? Symmetry. The balance and equilibrium of nature at work.

*returns to feasting on Brandon's tasty, nutritious brains*
posted by loquacious at 5:49 AM on November 12, 2005


Obviously it's not going to be deleted; the fact that it's anonymous means that mathowie has reviewed it. That said, yes, it's ridiculous. Like most anonymous questions, it leaves out the most important information, yet asks the rest of us to bare our souls. I could answer, but I won't, not just because the question is incomplete, but because I feel such contempt for the asker that there's really no reason to waste my time.
posted by bingo at 5:57 AM on November 12, 2005


bingo : "Like most anonymous questions, it leaves out the most important information, yet asks the rest of us to bare our souls."

Like many anonymous questions, the asker would rather not bare his/her soul, and does not ask other folks who also would rather not do so to do so, but asks those who are willing to bare our souls to do so. There's no intrinsic contradiction in that.
posted by Bugbread at 6:09 AM on November 12, 2005


i think the incompleteness of the question caused anon to get some valuable feedback, perhaps in a way he didn't anticipate ... it wasn't the best question he should have asked, but he did get good answers ... i'd let it stand
posted by pyramid termite at 6:13 AM on November 12, 2005


bugbread, I'm not saying there's a contradiction. I'm saying that it indicates that the poster is a simp.
posted by bingo at 6:20 AM on November 12, 2005


Ah, ok, sorry about misreading you.
posted by Bugbread at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2005


what bingo said
posted by matteo at 6:45 AM on November 12, 2005


The dealbreaker could be, as the poster stated, embarrassing or too personal, or just plain trivial to the point that it would actually distract from the question.

Isn't that why we let people ask questions anonymously, so that they can reveal embarassing/personal/stupid things?
posted by cillit bang at 6:57 AM on November 12, 2005

Like most anonymous questions, it leaves out the most important information, yet asks the rest of us to bare our souls.
Obviously, I agree. And this one is worse than others -- because even hiding behind anonymity, the poster was still unwilling to name the specific dispute causing tension. Yes, it's still possible to give some guidance; but (1) it will be less helpful to the poster and others because of the poster's reticence, (2) it will not yield anything that wouldn't have also been said with the pertinent information included, and (3) it probably won't yield any useful advice that hasn't already been posted in AskMe by anonymous posters who were forthright.
posted by cribcage at 7:00 AM on November 12, 2005


Is there some sort of belief that the people answering these inchoate questions are being led astray? That through this sort of MeTa analysis of the situation, they will be saved from themselves and realize the error of answering such questions?

Because if there isn't, this query (or at least the implied likelihood of a 'yes' answer to it) seems inherently mean-spirited. People are answering the question in healthy numbers and in good spirit, which seems like enough. The question isn't pure chattiness, it's just vague. That an anonymous poster would be reticent shouldn't be shocking.

The idea that people answering AskMe have precious limited time in need of righteous conservation strikes me as just plain silly.
posted by cortex at 7:10 AM on November 12, 2005


I'm a bit on the fence with this. In principle, I agree with cribcage and cillit: the point of anon posting is being able to say the things that normally you wouldn't. Posting anon and still holding back possibly important details seems silly and counterproductive.

But, on the other side, from a practical point of view, I realize that if anon had posted the reason, and it was something unapproved of by MeFi members in general, the whole question would be derailed by posts about how if he really loved her, "Dealbreaker X" shouldn't be a dealbreaker, or how he's an evil bastard for holding her to standard X, or the like. That is, there's always the possibility that it seems counterproductive only because we don't know the details, and that in fact giving the details would have been the counterproductive approach, and witholding them the productive approach.

As such, we have something which appears to be less useful than most hypothetical alternatives, but more useful than a few hypothetical alternatives. It very well likely to be bad, but we don't know enough to know for sure if it's bad.

In the absence of knowing that for sure, what it comes down to is whether or not there is enough information for people to provide answers. A decent amount of people seem to be answering, so it appears that, while there's not enough information for people to give really really good answers, people think that there's enough information to give some answers. So, if the questioner is willing to ask, matt is willing to anonymize it, and other people are willing to answer it, it seems like it should stand. Not the best Q&A session in the world, but I don't see what would make it a candidate for deletion.
posted by Bugbread at 7:13 AM on November 12, 2005


Isn't that why we let people ask questions anonymously, so that they can reveal embarassing/personal/stupid things?

As for this: anonymity shields identification-by-username but does nothing to prevent identification-by-description. Imagine that anon's SO reads MeFi, or at least knows of it and know that he reads and posts there. If the significant detail of the "deal-breaker" is stated specifically, what stops her from realizing, anonymity be damned, just who is asking this question?

It may be annoying to you, it may strike you as overly cautious or cowardly, but the rationale is there.
posted by cortex at 7:16 AM on November 12, 2005


Cortex, the anon poster provided vital statistics that would pretty easily identify him to his SO, if she were to stumble across the post. His age, her age, their living situation, how long they've been together, the fact that it's not a kids or a sex issue, and the fact that they've discussed the issue numerous times.
posted by Gator at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2005


cortex : "If the significant detail of the 'deal-breaker' is stated specifically, what stops her from realizing, anonymity be damned, just who is asking this question?"

I agree in principle, but not in this case. That is, if I had a relationship question, and my wife read English, I'd have to be super-super vague, because she's very well aware that I read MeFi quite a bit, and anything specific in the question would be a dead giveaway. That said, this post indicates that the poster is 34, his SO 31, both never married, together one year, living in same house. That seems quite a giveaway.

I think it's safer to believe anon's own explanation:
I'm loathe to mention what the missing piece of the relationship is. I fear that others would denigrate my decision to even consider ending a good relationship "because of that?!?!".
From what I've seen of relationship questions on AskMe, I think anon may be right on the money.
posted by Bugbread at 7:24 AM on November 12, 2005


Fair enough. That's what unherded morning speculation earns me.

*distances self from post-in-question, hovers gaurdedly around stated principle*
posted by cortex at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2005


I don't make anonymous calls and I don't write anonymous letters. That being said, I have posted one anonymous AskMe question. The reason it was anonymous was not because I was personally embarrassed by it, but because it involved the medical/legal issues of a young family member who should have the right to a certain amount of confidentiality.

I should have said in the AskMe thread that if anyone was able to help with this issue to say so and I would email them with further info. I didn't do that (It was my one and only question to AskMe) and couldn't once it was posted because then my identity would have been revealed along with (possibly) the identity of the juvenile.

if you're too mousy to attach your name to your question, I don't think you deserve people's signed replies. Does anyone else agree? posted by cribcage

It doesn't always come down to just being mousy, cribcage. If you want to email me I would gladly explain which question was mine and the details. Then you can decide if I made the right decision.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2005


loquacious:
Are you sure you're not just annoyed because your prurient voyeuristic side hasn't been satisfied?

yeah, I want details, but mostly because I find those details really matter when offering advice on relationships. Being coy, especially when you being anon isn't very helpful, although that could be saying a lot about the original poster and thus, the situation.

Besides, he said it wasn't about sex.


You don't need to flagellate yourself before the oracle. The question is well worded and answerable as it stands.


No one's demanding flagellation, just a clearer picture. Nor do I think it's really answerable, as it's vague (well at least not ast the original poster inteneded, which might be a good thing) Someone else mentioned that the left out detail might be trivial. It can't be trivial if he's thinking of ending a relationship based on it.


But as the poster will discover, the more vague the question is, the more vague the answers. See? Symmetry. The balance and equilibrium of nature at work.


This a great answer and puts my initial complaint to rest (at least for now!). Kudos to Matt also for not getting all godlike on this and saying "this is stupid, I'm not posting it" and instead letting the community respond to the individual based on what the individual was willing to offer.


*returns to feasting on Brandon's tasty, nutritious brains*


Get your paws off me, you damn dirty ape .

Nods to bugbread, pyramid, cortex for other good comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on November 12, 2005


Thanks for the elaboration. Well said and well played.

Especially considering how I scooped out your noggin like a deviled egg. That can't be easy.
posted by loquacious at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2005


How many “should I break up” questions does AxeMe need, for that matter? How about this: if you have to ask, the answer is “yes, back away from the keyboard and do it now.” This question sucked in particular and seemed to me to be almost parodical in its vagueness. The fact that it was asked anonymously exacerbates this because the asker has no way to reply or follow up.
posted by ijoshua at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2005


I don't mind the type of question, but this one in particular made my head hurt. What is the point of keeping your identity secret if you keep your problem secret as well?
posted by Quartermass at 9:15 AM on November 12, 2005


If a person isn't willing to be open about the things, why should metatime be spent on it?

Pfft. As if you really have anything better to do...
posted by crunchland at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2005


I find the judgment of what is and isn't worthy of "metatime" incredibly self-congratulatory and annoying. Not only are you denigrating the person who asked the question, but also all the people who did judge it worthy of their time and answered it. If your time is so high-falutin' important that you don't wish to spare any for people who are purposely vague, please feel free not to answer their questions.

As for this particular question, I agree with bugbread. There are a number of particular bees up metafilter's bonnet, and if the issue in question happened to relate to one of them, not matter how much anonymous asker might care about the issue, he'd have received a chorus of 'you're an idiot for even caring about that' replies. Or if the issue seemed trivial to many but was important to the anonymous asker for whatever reason, same result.

As a MeFi counter argument, I once was having a conversation with a group of fairly conservative friends back home, and somehow the subject became related to whether friendship could hinge on political beliefs - ie, could you be friends with someone who disagreed with you on certain major issues. I mentioned an acquaintance that, while I liked her well enough socially, I didn't think I could possibly be friends with her because of her stance on gay marriage. A general conversation on whether you could be friends with someone you disagreed with ended up as a laser focused conversation about whether gay marriage as an issue was worthy of such consideration. Basically all that was said in the next half an hour was "You're not gay, she's not gay, you don't want to marry her, why does her stance on gay marriage matter at all?"
posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2005


The question and phrasing really sucked. And seriously, if you are asking the internet advice on complicated and delicate relationship matters, then you probably have bigger issues at stake than just where you are going to park your penis at night.

But can I just ask: what the hell is a 'deal breaker' anyway? I've never come across this phenomenon before finding it on Metafilter. What teh fack? Using 'deal breaker' is a way you'd describe the final decision between attending Julliard or Oberlin...or like deciding between an Infinity or a Lexus. "Well guys, I wasn't going to abort, but the doctor said that the baby had the downs, so that was the lol deal breaker lol." Fucking lame.
posted by naxosaxur at 10:43 AM on November 12, 2005


I find all sorts of questions annoying including many anonymous ones but I still sometimes answer. This was a pretty crappy question but I don't see what's so hard about not answering a question you don't like.

My real pet peeve is these godawful relationship ones that go like this: OK. So person 1 like person 2 but 2 likes S, 1's sister. I'm kind of stuck because S and I have been seeing each other secretly, for fear of upsetting 1 and 2... The more inside usually ends up convoluted and hard to follow with the letters and numbers. How hard is it to make up some fucking names? Even Dick and Jane are better than 1s and 2s and As and Ss.
posted by 6550 at 10:48 AM on November 12, 2005


naxosaxur : "Well guys, I wasn't going to abort, but the doctor said that the baby had the downs, so that was the lol deal breaker lol."

Your subtle satirisms of people you disagree with are delicate and intricate as always.
posted by Bugbread at 11:29 AM on November 12, 2005


oh bugbread you are so dreamy what is the secret to your charm?
posted by naxosaxur at 11:34 AM on November 12, 2005


Feh. We don't know if the so-called dealbreaker is that Anon's girlfriend squeezes toothpaste out of the middle of the tube and he MUST have a woman who is as anal-retentive as he is, or that she never finished her degree and doesn't want to and he MUST have a partner who finished college, or that she intends to become the fulltime caretaker for her parents when they become infirm and he MUST live 1000 miles away from her hometown for the sake of his career.

See? Each one of those is a vastly different type of "dealbreaker," and would say something vastly different about who Anon and his girlfriend are, whether his dealbreaker is a "good" one of not, what he means by "settling," and -- most importantly -- what kind of meaningful feedback he can get in AskMe. Barring all that, his question isn't answerable in anything but an abstract way.
posted by scody at 11:38 AM on November 12, 2005


Without detailed knowledge about how any theoretical abstracted answers would be interpreted and applied by the asker, we have no idea how useful or unuseful such abstracts would be.

Abstracts can be useful.
posted by loquacious at 11:43 AM on November 12, 2005


what is the secret to your charm?

designer, limited-edition pocket protectors?
posted by matteo at 11:48 AM on November 12, 2005


Sure, abstracts can be useful. I think it's pretty likely, however, given the abstract nature of the question that there are many people who aren't answering -- people who could otherwise offer useful feedback -- precisely because the theoretical range of "dealbreakers" is so wide. If anon's "dealbreaker" is a relatively major one (say, his need to be in one place for his career while his partner intends to stay in her hometown), an abstract answer (say, "it's important to compromise if you really love someone") based on someone's experience with a relatively petty dealbreaker (say, different levels of neatness vs. messiness) is off the mark.
posted by scody at 11:55 AM on November 12, 2005


whoops, how did that happen?! I had a whole other sentence there...

...Conversely, if the situation is reversed and anon's "dealbreaker" is a relatively petty one (say, in this case, different levels of neatness vs. messiness), a different abstract answer (say, "you'll always regret it if you settle") based on someone's experience with a relatively major dealbreaker (say, sacrificing one's career for his partner's family) could be almost tragically misguided.
posted by scody at 11:58 AM on November 12, 2005


naxosaxur : "oh bugbread you are so dreamy what is the secret to your charm?"

It's my l33t haxxoring skillz and my hurf burf butter eater physique! Lollol.
posted by Bugbread at 12:16 PM on November 12, 2005


My guess is the dealbreaker had something to do with anal sex videos and grilling steaks.
posted by tristeza at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2005


"...metatime..."

*wipes tear from eye* Oh that's a good one!

"I'm not wasting time, boss! I swear. It's careful use of metatime!"
posted by Rothko at 2:50 PM on November 12, 2005


I think he assumes everyone will say "how can that possibly be the deal breaker?" and doesn't want to hear it. Ironically, that's probably exactly what he needs to hear.
posted by smackfu at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2005


That question made me want some new flag options, I had to select 'other' when what I wanted was 'this is a really crappy question'.
posted by The Monkey at 5:40 PM on November 12, 2005


tristezo, i laughed
posted by cortex at 8:27 PM on November 12, 2005


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