ASL? November 28, 2005 12:27 PM   Subscribe

AskMeFi could be improved if the people answering the questions gave more information about themselves and weren't so darned bashful. [MI]
posted by meech to Etiquette/Policy at 12:27 PM (32 comments total)

In legal threads we get lots of "I am not a lawyer" disclaimers. Perhaps people could add what they are on a more regular basis.

I know sometimes checking their user profile may give you more info about them or the pertinent personal information is given in their post, but the tendency to modesty in certain types of questions makes some reluctant to give their credentials for answering the question. In this answer a poster did give their qualifications and allowed the reader to give appropriate weight to their suggestions.

Maybe a [q: reason] ("q" meaning qualifications) at the bottom of the post when applicable could become an accepted part of AskMeFi. For example in this writing thread, a [q: have written ten novels, one appeared on New York Times Best Sellers List] and [q: write as a hobby] may help with evaluation of the answers.

If it became an accepted norm there would be no worries about coming off as some kind of egotist.
posted by meech at 12:27 PM on November 28, 2005

One problem I foresee, which is why I take abstract answers here with a grain of salt: [q: I'm a big liar but you'll never know that].

I sometimes see people trying to make a name for themselves here (for whatever reason) and I thing the ego problems that are created aren't because people are trying to be humble; I think the problems are credibiliity (lying to sound intelligent).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:33 PM on November 28, 2005

In my case, at least, it's less about the fear of appearing egotistical, and more about not wanting to appeal to authority. Sure, there are certain situations where one's specific experience is a necessary part of a good answer, but most of the time I believe that advice or explanation should stand on its own merits.
posted by chrismear at 12:39 PM on November 28, 2005

I think this is where a community stands out over say Google Answers. Over time I've gotten a sense of who knows what they're talking about.

A "qualifications" sounds too much like an appeal to authority and, although legal questions is a good example of where thats relevant, in many cases the person without the so-called fancy degree knows more about the issue at hand - thanks to life experience or what have you. I've found generally people are pretty open about their relevant experience if they have it, as in:"Well, I worked on a cruise ship and so can answer your cruise ship question by saying...."

I suppose personally I'm also reacting to the fact that I know several physics grad students and I have sometimes helped them out even though I only did undergrad myself. And I dont know how to non-egotistically add something like [q: was almost begged by one of my physics profs at Harvard to pursue a career in physics, no really!]
posted by vacapinta at 12:54 PM on November 28, 2005

There's also a subset of people who, for whatever are their own reasons, aren't comfortable with disclosing professions, experience or qualifications that might make them less anonymous here, but who nonetheless might have an occasional, useful specialist contribution to offer. If this became an accepted informal, optional convention I don't see a problem but I don't see it working well beyond that.
posted by normy at 1:11 PM on November 28, 2005

If it became an accepted norm there would be no worries about coming off as some kind of egotist.

Individually, maybe, but the site on the other hand would become the cocktail party from Hell.

Seriously, this is a bad idea. First, as SiezeTheDay points out, we're dealing with avatars here -- who's really going to know what the true value for [q] might be, in most cases? Second, if you identify yourself in any professional capacity, well, ---> duty of care ---> potential liability, and who want to lay themselves open for that, gratis, on what's essentially a message board?

If people are being vague and 'bashful' about their RL identities and qualifications, maybe there are good reasons for that.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:52 PM on November 28, 2005

Metafilter: the cocktail party from hell. Well, someone had to do it!
posted by Lynsey at 2:31 PM on November 28, 2005

meech's examples were not formal qualifications at all, but relevant experience, and answers that include that (like vacapinta's example of a cruise ship worker) are often more useful and/or convincing.

so i think meech is right, and that the rest of you have misunderstood the idea [q: criticised for lack of team playing skills in every formal work appraisal during adult employment]
posted by andrew cooke at 2:31 PM on November 28, 2005

Realistically we could just have the system autoappend [q: has keyboard, opinion] to every post and be right more often than not.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:44 PM on November 28, 2005

I'm not thinking of it as [q: mechanic, start the lawsuit now] but more like; if some-one asked what kind of fabric they should make a sail out of, an answer could end with [q: sailed every weekend for last 30 years]. They could fit that into their answer but it's not strictly relevant and they may feel like they're stating that they are the expert when they're not. The [q:...] is more of an FYI, an in case you're interested.
posted by meech at 3:21 PM on November 28, 2005

I keep reading the [q: as a callout to quonsar. Which would make Wolfdog's comment probably the least silly we would see. [q: speed reads a lot, often drunk]
posted by dness2 at 3:48 PM on November 28, 2005

I don't think a special formatting ('[q:...]') really solves the problem (which I'm still not convinced exists, but anyway).

Answerers would still have to decide to put that addendum in, and if they're too bashful to state their relevant experience in the answer, then they're gonna be just as bashful to add a q-tip, aren't they?
posted by chrismear at 3:51 PM on November 28, 2005

What were your qualifications for making this post?

[q: bored and sleepy]
posted by grouse at 4:07 PM on November 28, 2005

If your question needs a qualified answser, it does not belong on AskMe.
posted by mischief at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2005

On the other hand, if your answer could benefit from mentioning qualifications, you can type them in, in light conversational prose. I think the leading qualification would be "I had that problem once. This worked for me:", though.
posted by mendel at 4:44 PM on November 28, 2005

Actually, maybe it could be useful after all. I think andrew cooke's point turned me back around.

[q: spends a lot of time on metatalk. active user since 2001]
posted by vacapinta at 5:11 PM on November 28, 2005

Answers can sometimes make much more sense when they are qualified somehow. I don't always qualify my answers but I do when I think that it will help the questioner identify with or be able to visualize the answer.
posted by snsranch at 5:53 PM on November 28, 2005

I don't think we want this to be a formal thing. It's nice when people advert to their background or experience when sharing (and they often do), but if it were to be a ubiquitous thing then some others might just shy away from offering any answer, feeling intimidated. If an answer is given and someone wonders how to judge it, ask them or email and ask them what their background is - I've done that once before. Encourage someone when it seems necessary rather than try and impose some standard that only a small amount of the site readers will see here anyway. 2c
posted by peacay at 5:57 PM on November 28, 2005

At least on the SQL and JavaScript threads, people can see right away if you know how to code or not by just reading your code samples.
posted by matildaben at 6:05 PM on November 28, 2005

andrew cooke makes a good point about the distinction between qualifications and experience, but I don't agree with him about the specific instance of the ethics question (first link above). If the poster had familiarity with university ethics policies it would be almost as easy to link and cite real sources as to claim experience.

Anyway, back when the issue of professionals answering questions was in full debate I had this to say:
Anyway, when answering a question do you say "Well I am a doctor and I think this"? Personally, I think that is kind of childish. If your advice doesn't stand on it's own merits then you need to write better answers. Also, if the person you are talking to needs to hear your credentials to take you seriously you probably don't want them taking you seriously.
You can also see some counter arguments there, if you are interested. It is worth adding that I am an advocate of full openness about ones identity. My qualifications, such as they are, are only a few clicks away.
posted by Chuckles at 7:34 AM on November 29, 2005

Great point peacay!
posted by Chuckles at 7:36 AM on November 29, 2005

i didn't mention the ethics question

i agree that "i am a doctor" isn't much good (nor "my mother is a dentist", sigh...), but "i treated someone with similar problems and we had success with..." is good. again, it's experience that seems to count.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:03 AM on November 29, 2005

Seconding mischief. If you're asking for free advice, you need to be willing to do the work to sort through it a bit yourself. Otherwise, pay someone with experience to do that work for you.

I just see this devolving into a credentials war (even if people stick to "I have done this X times" background disclosures). And I think a lot of the "I don't have experience with your exact problem, but here's an avenue you might want to pursue, because it could be relevant" answers are worthwhile, and such a system would discourage them.
posted by occhiblu at 8:20 AM on November 29, 2005

This is pretty silly. People who feel like mentioning their "qualifications" (which are uncheckable anyway in most cases) will continue to do so and those who don't won't, just like now. But god forbid we should let a day go by without a pointless discussion of how people should behave on MeFi.
posted by languagehat at 9:54 AM on November 29, 2005

Now that's meta.
posted by chrismear at 10:26 AM on November 29, 2005

I think this has pretty much run its course, but ...

I'm not sure, andrew cooke, that your distinction between experience and qualifications really holds, in that it's just as easy to type [q: ten years' experience as circus freak] as it is [q: MBA from Denver State].

But mostly what peacay and languagehat said.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:43 PM on November 29, 2005

my distinction isn't based on how easy it easy to type, but what it means to the user, nor do i really care about the syntax. but if you read the text on the metafilter main page it says:

AskMeFi could be improved if the people answering the questions gave more information about themselves and weren't so darned bashful.

and i think that's true, if that information shows the experience being drawn on to supply the answer.

but it's no biggie. i'm more worried about the motives behind people recommending american coders :o/
posted by andrew cooke at 1:07 PM on November 29, 2005

When I say the two things are 'just as easy to type', I mean that it's as easy to exaggerate or lie about experience as it is to lie about formal qualifications. So, yeah, I think there's a whole trust issue with AskMe that's kind of latent and enduring due to the nature of internet anonymity, and won't be resolved (necessarily) with any [q] business.

But, yeah, like you say, it's no biggie.

And what's with people recommending cheap Australian shiraz in the fine wines threads?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:40 PM on November 29, 2005

oh, ok, yeah, i agree
posted by andrew cooke at 1:59 PM on November 29, 2005

posted by Sonny Jim at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2005

For many AskMe Qs, the amount or quality of experience isn't as important as the appropriateness of experience. A doctor lacking specific experience would then say "q: Family practictioner of 11 years, with no specific experience in this area" - which is a clumsy caveat and appeal to authority at the same time.

AskMe is the culling of information from many Jacks of all trades, hopefully they can express the basis for their knowledge.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 5:11 PM on November 29, 2005

I don't think this is a particularly good idea. Asking someone to cite references or reasons for their answer, or discuss their answer, is one thing. Appealing to qualifications is something else again.

In my own personal experience of being a highly-qualified expert in a particular field, I have found that it is possible to be dead wrong. Since that's true, what's the point of squashing what would otherwise be a democratic conversation?

More generally: Highly qualified people know how important it is to be able to disagree, and to be able to be disagreed with, in a cordial and productive way; and they need to be able to do this, because if the things they were qualified in were straightforward, they wouldn't need special qualifications to know about them.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:37 PM on November 29, 2005

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