How can I steal my friend's apartment? December 12, 2005 3:46 AM   Subscribe

Dear ask.mefi, how can I fuck over my friend while he's overseas by stealing his apartment so that he doesn't have a place to live when he gets back. P.S. It IS a really nice apartment, and he IS a jerk for having let me live there while he's gone so I'm totally justified in my actions.
posted by furtive to Etiquette/Policy at 3:46 AM (123 comments total)

The poster is being a jerk, but the question is valid.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:50 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I dunno, why is helping people with their ebay scams wrong but this is ok?
I was under the impression that the problem with the ebay scam wasn't that it was illegal, but that most people here thought it was wrong.
This may be legal, but it's pretty lame.
posted by atrazine at 3:59 AM on December 12, 2005


I'm with ThePinkSuperhero. The asker is a dick, almost certainly more so than the person overseas, but that isn't really a reason to remove the question. Ignore it if you don't like it.

Which eBay scam was legal? Can anything be called a scam if it isn't fraud?
posted by Plutor at 4:07 AM on December 12, 2005


Well, it is lame, but the poster's main question was: Is there a legal way I can steal my roommate's lease? I think that's a valid question, and I, for one, would like to know the answer, even though it's a totally jerky thing to do and I don't think the poster should do it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:08 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Plutor, none of the ebay scam stuff was legal. But people have asked for help here before with illegal things that most of us don't consider "wrong".
posted by atrazine at 4:15 AM on December 12, 2005


The ebay guy tried to trick us into helping him with his scams by pretend to be a victim of the fraudulent auctions he was running. We don't care for being tricked, and I think we did a good job of tearing him a new one.

This postor, on the other hand, is up front and honest: I want to steal my roommate's lease, please help me. At least he's not lying to us about what he wants to do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:22 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


This metatalk thread breaks the guidelines more than the ask.metafilter thread it points to.
posted by crunchland at 4:24 AM on December 12, 2005


I don't know.

If someone asks "How can I steal money from people on ebay in a legal (if sneaky) way" or "how can I lharass someone in a legal (if sneaky) way" is it acceptable because they qualified it with the word "legal"?
posted by furtive at 4:25 AM on December 12, 2005


plutor: Probably referencing this askme from November 13th. The poster asked a series of "how can I detect scam" questions that started off innocently enough, but wound up seting off alarms.
posted by boo_radley at 4:27 AM on December 12, 2005


There are no guidelines in ask.me that require the questions be legal or ethical.
posted by crunchland at 4:33 AM on December 12, 2005


Knowledge is power. I'm interested in the answers to this. Even if I hope the guy with the lease comes back and physically assaults the guy asking the question. You know-- in a legal way.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:39 AM on December 12, 2005


There are no guidelines in ask.me that require the questions be legal or ethical.

But some questions are still deleted regardless. Can't wait until I need to screw someone out of cash, their home, or some other important possession though.
posted by sjvilla79 at 4:39 AM on December 12, 2005


The haphazardness of thread deletion are up to the whims of the admins. The number of "this thread shouldn't have been deleted" threads in metatalk bears that out. Had furtive posted a thread here that dealt with the fact that there are no guidelines that require ask.me threads involve legal or ethical topics would be a completely different story. As it is, this is apparently just a call for another arbitrary deletion.
posted by crunchland at 4:48 AM on December 12, 2005


"Dear AskMefi, my grandfather is taking way too long to die and leave me his inheritance. What are some legal ways to speed up the inevitable approach of Death's icy hand so that I might be able to afford an iPod before Christmas?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:48 AM on December 12, 2005


It's fine as long as your just curious.
posted by DaRiLo at 4:56 AM on December 12, 2005


Sorry "you're". My grammar teacher disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
posted by DaRiLo at 4:59 AM on December 12, 2005


"Dear askMefi: randomstriker let me use his meFi login while he was away from the keyboard, but he said he wants it back when he returns. Oh, and he's a jerk. Is there a legal (but sneaky) way for me to steal randomstriker's account?"

Next on askMefi: "How can I become a televangelist and legally separate credulous old people and sick people from their money, in a legal but sneaky way? What are some good direct mail tactics to get Aunt Bessie's Social Security check?"

Soon on askMefi: "I heard about this chick who set up a website and solicited money for her daughter's cancer, or for the funeral of her soldier husband, killed in Iraq. Of course she didn't have a sick daughter or a dead hero husband at all, but she made lots of money from hoodwinking people. Is there a way I could make that same money, but legally, like with a small-print disclaimer?"

Soon after on askMefi: "I heard that you can make lots of money sending out spam email. What are some software tools to send spam, how do I evade spam filters, and how do I keep it all legal? I mean, I know spamming annoys lots of people, but I really want to make some quick bucks."


furtive thank you for making this callout.

That anyone is defending this sort of crap just leaves me disgusted and dismayed.
posted by orthogonality at 5:20 AM on December 12, 2005


chrunchland, you've almost got it, except if it were a call for deletion I would have flagged it.

I see nothing wrong with questions along the lines of those one might after reading Crime & Punishment. But questions that are admissions of malicious intent, while not necessarily worthy of a rule to themselves, deserve further inspection and discussion.
posted by furtive at 5:25 AM on December 12, 2005


Well, thank goodness someone is looking out for our morality! ::rolls eyes::

If it's legal, than it's fair game for the AskMeta population, IMO. If someone wants to ask how to legally steal money from old people, they can be my guest. One thing I like about AskMeta is that it's relatively self-policing- if someone is being a jerk, 50 people will show up in the thread and tell them so.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:28 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


ThePinkSuperhero writes "If it's legal, than it's fair game for the AskMeta population, IMO."


Plenty of things are legal but unethical or immoral.
posted by orthogonality at 5:31 AM on December 12, 2005


So?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:31 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Re-reading the thread in question again, I might be for deleting it on the grounds that it's completely unhelpful. The postor isn't getting any information on the subject they asked about; just people feeling the need to say, This is wrong, don't do it! Not exactly what AskMeta is for.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:32 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


You know, Pink, at one time I really thought a lot of you.
posted by orthogonality at 5:34 AM on December 12, 2005


Oh booooooooooooo, come on now, let's not make this personal.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:35 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Oh my, let's not derail things.
posted by furtive at 5:40 AM on December 12, 2005


Exactly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:41 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Ethics is personal.

Ethics is about what we are.

Ethics is about whether we torture people, ethics is about whether we defraud people, ethics is what makes us what we are.

Do I have the technical skills to make myself a fortune sending spam? Sure I do. Or I could make a living writing viruses. Why do I eke out a living rather than become a televangelist taking other's money in exchange for empty promisees? Why don't I dell over-priced fake crap on eBay?

I could rationalize any of these things real easily: "I'm smarter than most people, I can get away with it, it only hurts them a little and benefits me a lot".

But once enough people take this easy way, life becomes worse for everybody.

When people start spamming, our email becomes unreliable. When people scam on eBay, all transactions become fraught with worry and mistrust. when somebody tries to steal a sublet apartment, all potential sublessors become wary of every potential sublessee, including honest people like me.

This shit brings us all down, makes all of us have to be cynical and mistrustful, poisons the shared social waters we all swim in. It's a form of pollution that taints every relationship and every dealing we have with other people.

Ethics is the sum of the very personal decisions we make every day.

I'm not making it personal. It already is personal, because the mistrust the apartment stealer, the spammer, the televangelist sows has personal consequences for all of us, everyday.
posted by orthogonality at 5:49 AM on December 12, 2005


This, right here right now, isn't a question about the ethics of stealing an apartment. It's about whether we should allow the question to stand in AskMetafilter or not. I say yes, because even if what the poster wants to do is wrong, it could bring about something interesting discussion on the matter (like a discussion of ethics!).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


You know, Pink, at one time I really thought a lot of you.

O, you're so cute when you're ugly!
posted by fake at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2005


I think it's a good MeTa thread because it's well worth considering whether or not we want questions like this in AskMe. I think it's a crappy question and that the poster shouldn't do it. There are moments in life when what seems like the best thing for you isn't because in order to get it you have to do something wrong. This seems likes one of these moments.

On the other hand, I think that it's ok as a question. I would be incensed if it were something that Matt posted for an anonymous poster because then there would be no link between the poster and the crappy question. I'm not really comfortable with it as it is, and I could easily see an even slightly more nefarious question being something that I would support deleting, but I think that there is no reason that people have to answer it.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on December 12, 2005


Get over yourself. Nobody cares what you think about the status of the asker's soul. If you really feel that you just have to let somebody know about your disapproval write a letter to the editor mathowie.

The only thing that should be deleted are all the idiotic non-answers in thread.

Until mathowie begins censoring AskMe questions in accordance with the moral majority people are free to ask all sorts of seemingly immoral questions. Such questions are still questions whose answers will likely lead to useful knowledge. Indeed, the only reason not to pose such questions on the green is because Mefi users are so arrogant and self-righteous that they're more likely to call you names and condemn you (based on little more than a few lines of text) than offer any sort of help.
posted by nixerman at 6:01 AM on December 12, 2005


nixerman is a great roomate.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 6:05 AM on December 12, 2005


I don't think that we need any real guidelines on this kind of stuff, as the thread itself shows most people just refusing to give advice.
posted by atrazine at 6:05 AM on December 12, 2005


Ortho, you've made a valid argument about how this post violates your personal code of ethics but you've made naught towards why I should support having it removed. Would you or I do it? No. Is he actually trying to approach it legally? Yes. Are we to be held accoutable if something bad happens? Of course not. Are we preventing it from happening by deleting this question? No, again.

The freedom to ask how far the law bends is entirely a valid question.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 6:09 AM on December 12, 2005


orthogonality, the only person who hurt AskMe is you. Your abusive behavior in the thread sends a message that such any such touchy questions aren't welcome on the green. Because of you, future posters will have to think twice before posting their question and consider whether they're willing to stand up to your insults. So, thanks, that's just what we need on AskMe: an environment where people should check in with you to see if they're questions are properly 'ethical'--or face your wrath.

And drop the "ethics" pose. You don't care one whit about the ethics of the question or the asker. If you did you'd be moved to offer advice in the form of an ethical argument. You're more interested in insults and condemnations than preserving any sort of moral order.
posted by nixerman at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2005


Watch out, Ortho. If the statement you mispell on your profile page is true, quonsar is gonna start gunning for ya.
posted by crunchland at 6:10 AM on December 12, 2005


nixerman writes "Get over yourself. Nobody cares what you think about the status of the asker's soul. If you really feel that you just have to let somebody know about your disapproval write a letter to the editor mathowie. "

Yeah, I obviously disagree. I think answers that condemn someone are a bad idea, but I think that when someone asks a question like this they may well benefit from getting a general sense of reaction to their question. AskMe is pretty good for that. So while I don't usually go in for moralizing on AskMe, I (obviously) don't think that it's egregious to suggest that someone may want to rethink something like this.

There are, I think, at least two different types of questions. One type is the "What kind of gun should I get?" question, which, because the topic of guns in the house is a contested topic, should be answered straight. I assume that the asker has thought about the ramifications of having a gun in the house.

Another type of question is the "How do I scare the shit out of people?" question. This one is illustrated for me by an anecdote. When I was in college a guy I knew put on a skull mask on Halloween and hid on a poorly lit path with a hatchet. He spent the evening leaping out at people and screaming at them, until campus security came, confiscated the hatchet, and he was suspended for a year (as he should have been). When he came back he was a changed guy, he'd put a kind of serious crimp in his education. He would frequently say that he wished someone had said to him that they thought jumping out at people with a hatchet was a bad idea. He didn't blame anyone else, but he'd been drunk, and something that seemed fucking hilarious to him was actually pretty daft. He hadn't thought it through, and there had been serious consequences. He might have asked a question like, "How do I scare hell out of someone on a dark path on Halloween?" and while a straight answer would have been strictly correct, a gentle "That's a bad idea," might have saved him some trouble. Probably not, but maybe.
posted by OmieWise at 6:18 AM on December 12, 2005


Can anything be called a scam if it isn't fraud?

You mean, legally a fraud? Sure.

As for the question itself: It seems clear to me that people need to have the latitude to express ethical discomfort with questions. How else do we have confidence that we've done what's right? But it also seems clear to me that people ought not be abusive to that end. Those are different issues, and my personal bias is toward the former if we could only have one.

That said, I don't believe that it's necessary to have just one of those two.
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on December 12, 2005


bleagh. there's rather a lot of rhetorical posturing here isn't there?

how does one balance private and public morals in a community? how does that trade against something rather like a digital tragedy of the commons?

i dunno. maybe it comes down to people claiming the world is going to end if their particular viewpoint isn't followed. or maybe there's really some kind of compromise. and maybe this ugly little spat is it. what fun.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:25 AM on December 12, 2005


The question is not valid. If it is, the only valid answer is that the contemplated behavior is unethical. However, since the powers that be in AskMe routinely edit out such responses the question should not be allowed to remain.
posted by caddis at 6:31 AM on December 12, 2005


I actually found the question helpful in that now, if I ever need to sublet my place, I will have some new specifics to worry about.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:34 AM on December 12, 2005


Your abusive behavior in the thread sends a message that such any such touchy questions aren't welcome on the green. Because of you, future posters will have to think twice before posting their question and consider whether they're willing to stand up to your insults.

I don't think they should be welcome on the green.
posted by caddis at 6:35 AM on December 12, 2005


No kidding, CunningLinguist- maybe that's something I should have asked prospective roommates this weekend- Do you intend to steal this place out from under me?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Of course the question is valid. And of course it's also valid to express a moral position in response.

And the question is not ethically cut and dried. There are details missing from the account: What was the nature of the agreement between the lessee and the subletters? Will the lease expire before the lessee returns? (That's unclear in the account.) What are the terms of the lease on subletting? (It may be a violation of the agreement for him to have let them live there. It would be in most of the leases I've ever signed.) (Yes, I will confirm in advance: Most of the residential leases I've ever signed explicitly forbade subletting.)

Did people ask for this information? No.

And CunningLinguist has a really really valid point: A detailed discussion of this kind of issue, much like a detailed discussion of identity theft, can be very valuable ot people who want to defend themselves.

And furthermore, as in any ask.me question, it's possible to suggest other routes. As was done in the thread. See, for example, my response.
posted by lodurr at 6:40 AM on December 12, 2005


The askme thread is valuable because it's helping to point out to the poster the potental unethical nature of his quest. He's not getting the answer that he wants--but is getting advice on not doing it. Though the question is potentially violating our ethics policy here, the answers are not.

Some people need to learn ethics. Most of us learn them at home, but some of us, including the poster, apparently never did, or they quickly forgot. I'd vote for keeping the thread open, simply for the fact that maybe the poster will actually learn something, and go and find their own apartment.
posted by lester at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2005


I propose a few questions for AskMe. Would these be valid questions?:

1) "I make my living sending phishing emails to collect passwords, social security numbers and the like. Lately the old routines seem to be less effective. Perhaps my deep well of creativity has run dry. Any creative ideas for fooling suckers into giving me their personal information?"

2) "There is this woman in my dorm who flirts with me but never lets it go any further. I am totally in love with her and this teasing is driving me crazy. How many roofies can I give her without putting her life in danger and how should I get them into her? Is their an equation regarding body weight, number of drinks and number of roofies I should consult?"

3) "I have just invaded Poland. There exists there a large minority population. How best to dispose of them?"

4) "I am a member of a community website and it has been on my nerves lately. To get back at all those SOBs I want the take it down for a few days or longer with a DOS attack. Are there any web sites that can walk me through the process?"
posted by caddis at 6:54 AM on December 12, 2005


3) "I have just invaded Poland. There exists there a large minority population. How best to dispose of them?"

God help me, that was funny.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:59 AM on December 12, 2005


I don't know, caddis, but I think you should post them and find out.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I'm for allowing such questions to remain if and only if answers such as "this is completely immoral and you're an asshole for doing it" are also allowed to remain. If such answers are removed, the question should also be removed.
posted by Justinian at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2005


Caddis: The world does not exist merely at the extremes. There are middle grounds. So your questions are strawmen in that they are so extreme as to be clearly objectionable.

That you propose them in this way suggests you intend to turn around and say, "Well, you thought those were wrong, so any question about wrong stuff should also be wrong." That's the same kind of reasoning that my fiance's 15 year old son uses when she tells him that he can't do some particular thing that he thinks he ought to be able to do. For example, if at any time she has ever told her ex-in-laws that she had an engagement when she didn't, he'll argue that it's therefore appropriate for her to help him scam our mobile provider to get a new phone for free.

I'll just say in advance, that if that's what you're headed toward, I won't regard it as warranting response, since it entails a rigid logicality that only the the autistic apply with strong consistency.
posted by lodurr at 7:05 AM on December 12, 2005


The question is not valid. If it is, the only valid answer is that the contemplated behavior is unethical. However, since the powers that be in AskMe routinely edit out such responses the question should not be allowed to remain.
posted by caddis at 6:31 AM PST on December 12 [!]


So far there seem to be a lot of "don't do it, it is wrong" flavored responses. If they are allowed to remain then I have no problem with the question remaining. I get the impression that some more strongly worded admonishments were censored. For questions of such ilk I think it appropriate to let some of the moral outrage stand. These sorts of questions sully AskMe, but if the group then turns on the person asking it, AskMe is redeemed.
posted by caddis at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2005


Justinian: Remove the "and you're an asshole for doing it" part -- or, preferably, replace it with somethng more constructive -- and I'm with you. (E.g., explain what about it is bad, as you could do for all of caddis's examples.)
posted by lodurr at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2005


Oops, Justinian beat me to it.
posted by caddis at 7:07 AM on December 12, 2005


No, leave the "you're an asshole for doing it" part.
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on December 12, 2005


Well, I probably wouldn't actually use the word "asshole" in an actual response on the green. I was just conveying the tone of the response.
posted by Justinian at 7:11 AM on December 12, 2005


"I have several detainees picked up in sweeps of an area that may or may not be terrorists. How can I legally torture them to find out? Should I avoid the word 'torture'? What about sleep deprivation, dogs or sexual humiliation? Does that count?"
posted by klangklangston at 7:15 AM on December 12, 2005

caddis: No, leave the "you're an asshole for doing it" part.
Why?

After all, it violates the guidelines and alienates the person you're talking to. Sure, it provides you with moral satisfaction, but it fails to achieve it's ostensive purpose.
posted by lodurr at 7:17 AM on December 12, 2005


it violates the guidelines and alienates the person you're talking to

They should be alienated.



(E.g., explain what about it is bad, as you could do for all of caddis's examples.)

I think the question about the apartment differs from my extreme examples. In my exmples anyone would see that they are clearly very, very wrong. Either that or the person who fails to see it would be psychopathic. I don't think MetaFilter would want to be party to, in even small measure, to the truly vile behavior in those questions. Regardless of your moral opinion on them, I think Matt would be safe in assuming that anyone who posted one of those was doing it for a joke and he could pull it without ever having to face the moral question posed by having that on the green.
posted by caddis at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2005


Here's one for you, caddis, and orthogonality, too: "What's the best strategy for making sure the male and female flowers on a small plot of marijuana plants don't share pollen?" Is that an acceptable question for AskMe?

the only valid answer is that the contemplated behavior is unethical.

Nonsense. As CunningLinguist and lodurr note, there are indeed useful answers in that thread, many of which somehow manage to be helpful as they also let the poster know stealing an apartment out from under someone is a bad idea. Imagine that.

Banning questions like this one is completely unnecessary. Funny how the folks who call for it are almost always the ones to start getting personal in the subsequent MeTa discussions, too. That's kind of revealing.
posted by mediareport at 7:22 AM on December 12, 2005


I have no ethical problems with marijuana cultivation techniques.
posted by caddis at 7:25 AM on December 12, 2005


I am for a completely ethics neutral, anonymizable AskMe. The only stuff that shouldn't be on there is the stuff that gets site admins in trouble.

This by the way marks a change in me - a few months ago I would have sided with ortho. AskMe is so, so useful that I'd like to keep even my own politics out of it.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2005


I get the impression that some more strongly worded admonishments were censored.

Oh, come on. This is about your need to furiously express your righteous indignation more than anything. Talk about unethical.

It's simple: AskMe's the place where tone is valued most; it's supposed to be an open, helpful place. It doesn't need Moral Avengers coming down from on high to strike down posters with great vengeance; it handles moral opprobrium quite effectively without that crap. Read the thread, caddis. If you can't see equally effective ways of conveying your message that simultaneously honor the generally welcoming tone of AskMe, you're being foolish.
posted by mediareport at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2005

caddis: They should be alienated.
Well, I hope that you cut slack when other people display that kind of righteous conviction in blue threads and in other gree threads. For example, if some resident of Kansas asks how to find a safe and reliable abortionist, and someone chimes in to tell them that they're morally reprehensible human beings for wanting to take a human life. Only they do it by calling them filthy shit-sucking scum. Because, of course, that person truly believes that the asker should be alienated.

It's a question of form and content, as the SO likes to say: When the form is vile, it taints the content. If you carry water in a dirty bucket, the water will be tainted. If you perform moral education through anger and alienation, you will get tained moralism. I don't know about you, but I feel pretty strongly that tained moralism is responsible for at least as much of the bad stuff in this world as amoralism and anti-moralism combined -- and probably more.
posted by lodurr at 7:32 AM on December 12, 2005


I have no ethical problems with marijuana cultivation techniques.

You know, at one time I really thought a lot of you.

I keed, but the point is that not everyone shares your ethical stance. The best solution is a generally open setup that allows folks like randomstriker to ask their godawful questions, so that folks like nakedcodemonkey, popechunk and lodurr can help him see that there's a better way. It was working fine, even without you and ortho feeling the need to pull your pants down and crap on the general concept. What, did you think the message hadn't gotten across yet?
posted by mediareport at 7:39 AM on December 12, 2005


At the very least, if people can ask questions on how to screw other people over, people should be allowed to condemn them in the askme thread. You can wax rhetoric about the askme guidelines and some perceived askme code where any question needs to be answered but the bottomline is that this action would be just as "evil" as an ebay scam even if it is technically legal.

AskMe is not and should not be ethics-free. I see no reason why askme should help people do unethical things. (And yes, this is unethical and nobody in here has argued that it isn't.)
posted by fred_ashmore at 7:40 AM on December 12, 2005


people should be allowed to condemn them in the askme thread

Oh bullcrap. If all you have to offer in response is utter condemnation, leave AskMe to the adults. They were handling this one just fine, thanks.
posted by mediareport at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2005


I think the question is valid because there are a couple people who are the only ones living in the apartment and are likely paying the entire lease, the primary leaseholder is away for some unspecified time that could be a while, and it's implied that the leaseholder is disorganized and somewhat of a jerk.

While it's great to warn the person that this is a bad idea and screwing over an unethical person is still unethical, don't we have a level of community trust? A person who creates an account just to use ask.mefi is suspicious, but I think that we should assume that when a member of our community asks or says something a little questionable that they should get the benefit of the doubt.
posted by mikeh at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2005


The best way to condemn an asker's moral choice is in the context of actually answering their question.

For example: If stealing someone's flat is bad, you can offer ways of getting the flat from them that don't screw them over; you can inquire further into the nature of the person's jerkiness and see if that can be resolved; you can investigate avenues for finding similar flats; you can investigate avenues for extending the sublet.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2005


Orthogonality, you must have a constant outrage at the many despicable things that go on in society all the time.

I keep thinking if such a question/subject was raised at a pub or over a dinner whether someone might not nip it in the bud, if there were no particular extraneous circumstances regarding the departed leaseholder, by suggesting it was probably a bad idea, much as OmieWise mentioned.

It's something I could imagine myself musing about; asking so as to driftnet for some sort of validation or support. I might even mean it, if the departed one was a complete dickwad, but I have great doubt about it causing a tumult of outrage among people that I know. Stern rebuffs perhaps but, in the great scheme of things, this is not that important or outrageous is it? I'm not at all trying to condone an attempt to oust a missing leaseholder, but asking the question out loud isn't reallllllly that bad.

As said above, provoking the discussion may give some useful information which could be used to try different avenues of negotiation with the leaseholder, make the poster feel that they must resign themselves to their situation or perhaps even give them the necessary knowledge to takeover the lease. Although there's a stated intention in the question, I think sometimes it's best to give the poster some leeway in the manner by which they express themselves - the benefit of the doubt that they are generally reasonable people, much more complex than the few words we have before us to judge.

I don't think it should be deleted.

As to illegality/immorality............vvv tricky. I suppose the possible harm to third parties and risk to mathowie are the 2 main criteria for judgment.
posted by peacay at 7:48 AM on December 12, 2005


I just thought the question is worded in such a way that it's bound to draw maximum ire. What if it just said "I'm subletting someone's apartment. How can I take over the lease even if the subletter doesn't want me to?"

People would be free to point out that they shouldn't do it.
posted by drezdn at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2005


Good. looks like at least one righteously furious and judgmental comment, ortho's, has now been deleted.

provoking the discussion may give some useful information which could be used to try different avenues of negotiation

It already has. AskMe delivered nicely on this one, despite the handful of folks who offered nothing but insults.
posted by mediareport at 8:00 AM on December 12, 2005


Apparently Randomstriker's earlier AskMe post did him no good at all.
posted by LarryC at 8:29 AM on December 12, 2005


Why does randomstriker need to steal an apartment if he just came into a large chunk of money? The mind boggles.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I was thinking the same sort of thing, LarryC. I'm also boggling that he's 30, and not a phenomenally self-centered 19-year-old.
posted by Gator at 8:32 AM on December 12, 2005


You're more interested in insults and condemnations than preserving any sort of moral order.

Ain't it the truth. Get over yourself, orthogonality. The poster is obviously an asshole, that's been made clear (by the way, it's odd/telling that he hasn't shown up to defend himself in either thread), all's well. We don't need people's random outrage censoring AskMe.

Or, as By The Grace of God put it so well:

I am for a completely ethics neutral, anonymizable AskMe. The only stuff that shouldn't be on there is the stuff that gets site admins in trouble.
posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on December 12, 2005


What's the best strategy for making sure the male and female flowers on a small plot of marijuana plants don't share pollen?

Unethical and illegal are not always the same thing. This is a bad example.

IMO, the AskMe post should stay, and those who chose to answer should do so in a way that follows the guidelines. It is possible to follow the guidelines and still make it clear that (as worded) the person is acting in an unethical manner.

We also can not assume that the poster of the question is telling the truth (especially in light of the ethical lapses). For all we know the person who holds the lease is a saint who helps old ladies across the street, feeds the homeless in their spare time etc. The poster may simply want to justify their own actions.

Besides, the poster has now revealed his/her true self to the community. That may be punishment enough, as he/she tries to function in the community in the future.
posted by terrapin at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2005


Just because the question is deleted doesn't mean they will give up on it in real life. And maybe they'll get worse advice elsewhere after they are shot down on MeFi.

Might as well leave the question and try to guide them as ethically and legally as possible. And if it's a terrible idea, tell them so and why.
posted by starman at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2005


I am for a completely ethics neutral, anonymizable AskMe. The only stuff that shouldn't be on there is the stuff that gets site admins in trouble.

I disagree -- the type of questions that show up in AskMe reflect on the character of the community, and some of them poorly. It is less awkward to delete the question than it is to make exceptions to the rule to "limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer".
posted by eddydamascene at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2005


I think most of the outrage is because of how the original question was worded. (Although, I agree with the general consensus that the contemplated actions are unethical.)

If it had been worded thusly, I'd bet the answers would have gone a different way:

I've subleased part of a really nice apartment. The original leaseholder has been relocated to Europe for an undetermined time. The other roommates and I are very uncomfortable with the original leaseholder and would like to replace him with a different roommate, but don't know where to begin, or how to open dialogue with the original leaseholder. Can anyone suggest a solution that allows us to stay in the apartment, protects the original leaseholder's credit, and smooth his exit from our lives?

I'm not suggesting that it's any more ethical when phrased thusly, but I am suggesting that the ethics judgments being made are being made in a vacuum. We don't really know anything about the situation, how or why the roommate is a jerk, how or if the poster is a jerk...we frankly don't have the empirical data that would allow for anything but a reaction to the semantically loaded phrases chosen by the poster.

If s/he had come in and remorsefully declared a problem with a roommate...I can't help but believe that there would have been a ton of valuable info about breaking multiparty leases.
posted by dejah420 at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2005


What's hilarious is the outrage over evicting a roommate, but when a rabbit is being tortured, it's apparently just fun and games on AskMe. Very consistent opprobrium.
posted by Rothko at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2005


Unethical and illegal are not always the same thing. This is a bad example.

Um, are you saying growing and using marijuana isn't unethical?

And particularly when it's against the law?

That's a pretty large assertion you're making there.

I suppose this is what bugs me the most. It's the brazen laziness of such condemnations. Very few people seem to be willing to make the effort required to explain why an action is unethical and why this makes it the wrong course of action. I'm all for people on AskMe giving advice in the form of ethical arguments. I do it literally all the time. My advice--both on AskMe and off--almost always boils down to 'Tell the truth/Be honest.' But shallow condemnations that do little more than insult the poster or inspire her with shame aren't just unhelpful and harmful to the culture of AskMe, they're also very, very tedious.

There's no reason AskMe shouldn't be able to handle most any question--from abortion to 'I would like to steal candy from babies'--if people are willing to make honest, thoughtful attempts to actually address the question.

...the type of questions that show up in AskMe reflect on the character of the community

Reflect to who? And, really, this is a pretty silly argument. No it's not just asking touchy questions but answering such questions that make one into a moral degenerate? News flash: intelligent people can encourage and participate in the discussion of most anything--even radically taboo subjects--without making radical judgements about the characters of those involved in the discussion. This isn't because intelligent people are morally degenerate or have no morals (anything goes)--it's simply because they realize that an open culture of discussion and inquiry is farmore morally valuable than shutting down such discussions and putting their morals on display.
posted by nixerman at 9:24 AM on December 12, 2005


I'm all for allowing morally questionable content on askMe, so long AS IT DOESN'T GET MATHOWIE IN TROUBLE.

See, if a question can get the site in trouble for helping a dude do something wrong, then the question needs to go. Frankly, putting the word legal in this dude's question is the kind of token alteration to an essentially illegal question that doesn't make much difference. All someone has to do is suggest something in a slightly legally gray area and the site could get sued. It doesn't matter if the questionable answers get deleted, so long as the questioner sees them first, and acts on them.

Oh, and orthogonality is being a massive douchebag. Fuck that guy.
posted by shmegegge at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2005


...the type of questions that show up in AskMe reflect on the character of the community...

Uh Oh.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


p_g's tags for that question are hysterical.

oh, and Bort wins.
posted by shmegegge at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2005


Very consistent opprobrium.

You're being ridiculous, Rothko. The AskMe thread you're talking about was deleted, first of all, and secondly, your demand for consistency assumes that everyone reads every AskMe thread. Puh-lease.
posted by mediareport at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2005


Um, are you saying growing and using marijuana isn't unethical? And particularly when it's against the law?

Yes, I am saying that. Mostly because it is against the law while other drugs such as nicotine and alcohol are still legal. And also because of hwo marijuana became illegal. Marijuana became illegal partially because of progaganda suggesting that black people (including jazz musicians! *gasp*) smoked it, and when they did they raped white women.

Sorry, I just think it was a bad example. Cheating people out of their homes is not the same as growing a plant.
posted by terrapin at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2005


The AskMe thread you're talking about was deleted, first of all

Not for quite a while, mediareport. And the Metatalk discussion that followed is essentially the inverse of this one. So, again, the outrage is inconsistent, if not seriously misplaced.
posted by Rothko at 9:49 AM on December 12, 2005


Not for quite a while, mediareport. And the Metatalk discussion that followed is essentially the inverse of this one. So, again, the outrage is inconsistent, if not seriously misplaced.

Well, I would assume (and I'm not going back to check as it's not of great concern to me) that the posters in that thread are quite different from those in this one. Not everyone comes out for every cause, I guess.

The idea that this community has a set of ethics is kind of like saying that a dictatorship has community ethics; in the end, one or two people make the decisions and occasionally the community can complain enough to get a reversal. In the end, it's a bunch of individuals with individual levels or what's right and what's wrong and we should leave the ethics to what directly contributes to hurting the site, as opposed to the hypotheticals like "it reflects on the community" or that it's a downward slope. Give Matt some credit; this site will always stay on the right side of the law and will continue to spark trouble between people on both sides of every issue.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 10:07 AM on December 12, 2005


Dear AskMe: Does genocide or slavery go best with white wine? Please help me chose the best method to keep the citizens of my empire incheck. I'm looking for pros and cons, and personal experiences. Are there any books that would help me to get this done before thursday, as I'm having a state diner and really need to get this mess cleaned up?

(assume no element of surprise)
posted by blue_beetle at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2005


mmmm... slope.... so delicious and slippery!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:40 AM on December 12, 2005


the type of questions that show up in AskMe reflect on the character of the community, and some of them poorly

That comment is completely idiotic. Fortunately, most people won't assume it reflects on "the character of the community," any more than random AskMe questions do.
posted by languagehat at 10:46 AM on December 12, 2005


"Dear AskMe: I just found out that an ex-roommate of mine is trying to screw me out of my flat while I'm temporarily overseas. I'd like some advice on how to keep him from doing so. Oh, and as a bonus, he just came into a substantial chunk of money, so if I could somehow get him to waste it on attorney's fees or something along those lines that would be swell, as he's really a jerk"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:50 AM on December 12, 2005


Reflect to who?

Mom, Allah, and the New York Times.

News flash: intelligent people can encourage and participate in the discussion of most anything--even radically taboo subjects--without making radical judgements about the characters of those involved in the discussion. This isn't because intelligent people are morally degenerate or have no morals (anything goes)--it's simply because they realize that an open culture of discussion and inquiry is farmore morally valuable than shutting down such discussions and putting their morals on display.

AskMe isn't a mental exercise; it's about providing answers to real questions. In some cases, it's about Metafilter members acting as enablers in unethical behavior.

And languagehat, you can eat doo-doo.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:54 AM on December 12, 2005


And languagehat, you can eat doo-doo.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:56 AM on December 12, 2005


Dear ask.mefi, how can I fuck over another user while he's reading Fark by stealing his low user ID number so that he doesn't have a place to post when he gets back. P.S. It IS a really low UID, and he IS a jerk for having let me see it in older threads while he's gone so I'm totally justified in my actions.
posted by lampshade at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2005


Watch out, q.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2005


Dear AskMe: I was recently told that I could eat doo-doo. However, someone else told me that I shouldn't. How do I resolve this without hurting anyone's feelings?
posted by languagehat at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2005


News Flash: intelligent people can encourage and participate in the eating of doo-doo without making radical judgements about the characters of those involved.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2005


My 2c.
A lot of people are assuming that there is a definable ethical line. I don't think that's the case. Questions on (for example) abortions or contraception could easily be seen as immoral by a large number of people, but I don't see that as a reason to remove the question.

Some questions will need to be removed, and I guess that decision falls with the site moderators. I'm happier seeing a question being deleted because Jessamyn didn't like it than one being deleted because a tonne of people flagged it. Metafilter Mob Think is courser and a lot more judgemental than anything the Admins would do. That's no reflection on any individual, it's just one of the byproducts of having a lot of people in one place at the same time.

I normally hate people who say this, but my opinion is - If you can't agree with the question, then don't say anything. Flag it as offensive, but don't say anything. The minute it becomes socially acceptable to start shouting off about ethics in a thread is the same minute as you give everyone permission to do the same in your threads. That's not what you want Ask ending up as.

An example, and I'm not doing this to rub your nose in it furtive, but it just helps me if I can use a real example. If, in your Using IRC through proxies at work post, a lot of people of people had shouted at you for stealing time from your employer, making a bank's network less secure and compromising your and other peoples livelihoods by opening your work up to the possibility of legal problems, then how would you have felt about that. You don't need a lesson in morality when all you're doing is asking a simple question, and any shouting would have diluted the usefulness of the webpage in question.
posted by seanyboy at 11:42 AM on December 12, 2005


if someone is being a jerk, 50 people will show up in the thread and tell them so.

And if someone is not being a jerk, 10 people will show up to tell them they are.

BTW, ethics is not politics.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:52 AM on December 12, 2005


Ethical, moral, and political litmust tests are What They Do (tm).

Now, when we are in a poo-flinging contest, I'll fling right along with everybody else. AskMe is a knowledge base, not a poo-flinging contest.
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2005


I wasn't aware that the nature and subject of my questions or answers had to help the perception of The Community stay at/reach a certain level, as judged by certain people.

Put me in the "anything (that won't get Matt jailed) goes, so long as discussion is civil" camp. Meaning I disagree with caddis' conclusion that calling a poster an asshole is acceptable.
posted by phearlez at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2005


looks like the question was resolved rather nicely. So it wasn't the end of the world after all.
posted by puke & cry at 12:16 PM on December 12, 2005


I come to Metafilter for the blowhards.
posted by event at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2005


So, this is going to become a semi-weekly thing, right? Where we have a long and acrimonious meTa thread over how standards for questions and answers [are / are not / ought to be] enforced in Ask.me?
posted by lodurr at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2005


sweet christ some of you would make very good neighborhood association board members.
posted by kcm at 12:37 PM on December 12, 2005


... for somebody else's neighborhood?
posted by lodurr at 12:39 PM on December 12, 2005


You mean the neighborhood SS?
posted by puke & cry at 12:41 PM on December 12, 2005


'Of course I'm guilty!' cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. 'You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?' His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. 'Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,' he said sententiously. 'It's insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that's a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit -- never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?' He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity. "Down with Big Brother!" Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I'm glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I'm going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? "Thank you," I'm going to say, "thank you for saving me before it was too late."
posted by crunchland at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2005


someone should call this thread out on MeMeTa.
posted by kcm at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2005


Can we give a weekly no-prize for the best obliquely-applied literary quote?
posted by lodurr at 1:02 PM on December 12, 2005


If you have a problem with the question...... DON"T ANSWER IT!

or you could answer it by telling the guy what a self-serving low-life he is for asking in the first place
posted by matkline at 1:48 PM on December 12, 2005


How are you going to fuck your flatmate when they're overseas ?

Thats the bit i don't understand.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:23 PM on December 12, 2005


Perhaps you, yourself, are also overseas, sgt.serenity?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:26 PM on December 12, 2005


My two cents.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:09 PM on December 12, 2005


>Unethical and illegal are not always the same thing. This is a bad example.

>>Um, are you saying growing and using marijuana isn't unethical? And particularly when it's against the law? That's a pretty large assertion you're making there.


No, it isn't, at all, if by 'large' you imply 'unfounded'. 'Legal' and 'ethical' are not at all coterminous. There is overlap, and that's the most you can say. Ethics (as a system) is not the substrate of law, although it may be argued that ethics is the substrate of justice, and perhaps morality could be characterized as the underpinnings of law.

In my humble, of course.

Cultivation of drug crops may be illegal, may even be immoral for some (moreality being subjective, in my opinion), but the act in and of itself cannot, I think, be characterized as unethical.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:19 PM on December 12, 2005


Wow.
posted by randomstriker at 4:24 PM on December 12, 2005


Perhaps you, yourself, are also overseas, sgt.serenity?

No , You're the one that's overseas in my opinion.
We're going to have to hire a couple of boats and get this all sorted out.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:26 PM on December 12, 2005


Finally, randomstriker! Clearly, we've been waiting for you. LOOK WHAT YOU DID!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:32 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Perhaps you, yourself, are also overseas, sgt.serenity?

No , You're the one that's overseas in my opinion.
We're going to have to hire a couple of boats and get this all sorted out.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:26 PM PST on December 12 [!]


Touché
posted by caddis at 5:55 PM on December 12, 2005


I guess they'd have to be flatboats, then.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:15 PM on December 12, 2005


As an early respondent to that question, I do feel obligated to reply to this subsequent folderol; fully expecting that no one will ever read it. Anywaze... At first, I too was pretty frikken tempted to tear a strip off randomstriker for the greedy opportunism the question implied. But then, I thought about the real purpose of Ask Me, and decided to actually try to help the poster, instead.

So I answered the question with what I knew would be salient information, and appended the comment (or answer, if you will) with a suggestion that perhaps the very plan itself might be misguided. The guidelines for Ask Me are pretty straightforward. It is a place where questions can be asked and answered without fear of ostracization, an Online oracle, or confessional. The collective wisdom of 29, 000 brains.

It seems clear to me that participation in that specific arena pre-supposes that you hitch your preconceptions at the door. Mocking or castigating a questioner will almost never gain respect or trust. Matt and Jess have made it abundantly clear that Ask Me simply is not for preaching or moralizing.

Now in this case, the interface worked exactly as intended, oddly enough. Whether is was the blunt acerbicism of some, or the more reasoned appeals to fairplay by others, we'll likely never know. But, Randomstriker recognized the folly of the intended action and subsequently decided not to do it. He them came into the thread, admitted the mistake, and thanked the community for opening his eyes to the error of his ways.

Oh look!! There goes a flying pig.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:04 AM on December 13, 2005


Whether is was the blunt acerbicism of some, or the more reasoned appeals to fairplay by others...

The latter. Quite frankly it's hard for me to take any of the moralising in this thread seriously given how contemptible your own responses are.
posted by randomstriker at 2:19 PM on December 13, 2005


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