Unsolved questions June 27, 2006 9:20 PM   Subscribe

How about after 7 days or so, a question (without a best answer) gets a mark of "No best Solution" or "Unsolved?" (along with perhaps an email to the poster?)

It'd be kinda cool to see where Ask.meta fails...and possible future solutions.
posted by filmgeek to Feature Requests at 9:20 PM (43 comments total)

Absense of marked "Best Answer" ≠ AskMe failure.
posted by cribcage at 9:21 PM on June 27, 2006

The email would be - hey, if you haven't marked something best answer...now would be the time.

Or maybe an automatic "tag"
posted by filmgeek at 9:22 PM on June 27, 2006

I can see the email notification being useful, but it seems that a lack of a checkmark (as we have now) would beat out any tag. Unless you're thinking of someone looking through a list of just the "unsolveds" and tackling them.
posted by brundlefly at 9:39 PM on June 27, 2006

ut what about situations like this?
posted by easternblot at 9:42 PM on June 27, 2006

AskMe exists for the benefit of the community, not just the asker.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:43 PM on June 27, 2006

(here's the missing letter: "B")
posted by easternblot at 9:44 PM on June 27, 2006

Brundle, I'm thinking of it for two reasons:

One, taking a look through unsolved questions (look, I'm using unsolved to mean, 'no best answer'.)

Two, scroll rate (if something gets past the week, and yet doesn't have a best answer....)...maybe someone missed it, etc. who'd be able to contribute.

Saucy, it's totally a community request.
posted by filmgeek at 9:49 PM on June 27, 2006

filmgeek: similar ideas have been brought up before and nixed.

I, for one, would like to see such an idea implemented.
posted by twiggy at 9:53 PM on June 27, 2006

It'd be kinda cool to see where Ask.meta fails...

Oh... you need to follow MetaTalk more closely.

...and possible future solutions.

Don't get your hopes up!
posted by scarabic at 10:02 PM on June 27, 2006

Good reasons, filmgeek. Now that I'm thinking about it, it would be fun to browse through open questions, as long as there is some sort of email reminder for the original poster. Wouldn't work too well if half the "unanswered" questions were actually just lacking a marked answer.
posted by brundlefly at 10:05 PM on June 27, 2006

I'm using unsolved to mean, 'no best answer'


You're making a leap from, "This thread has no marked BEST ANSWER" to, "This thread is unresolved." Please justify.

Here's an example thread. I see no compelling reason why that poster should use the BEST ANSWER option, nor why we should press him to via polite-pest coercion. Such threads are typical on AskMe. Please explain why you feel those posters should be required (or "encouraged") to mark BEST ANSWERS.
posted by cribcage at 10:10 PM on June 27, 2006

So this is different from the thousands of past MeTa threads proposing the same exact thing how?
posted by Rhomboid at 10:17 PM on June 27, 2006

I don't think that an email reminder or a new posting online is really necessary, but it might be nice to include the following in the original posting frame:

"Marking 'best answers' is a way of expressing gratitude to the people who help you."

...or words to that effect.

I know that at least once I posted what was pretty clearly a "best answer" and was rather disappointed that I didn't score a checkmark for it.

I think the idea would be to indicate that selecting and marking "best answers" IF THERE REALLY WERE SOME is polite; not doing so it is a bit rude.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:25 PM on June 27, 2006

I...was rather disappointed that I didn't score a checkmark...

Exactly why I think BEST ANSWER is bad, not good. AskMe shouldn't be a sport and it shouldn't hinge on one-upsmanship. When BEST ANSWER becomes some sort of trophy to "score" — and I don't think you're the only one who thinks that way, SCDB — it's doing more harm than good.

In my mind, encores and standing ovations are for exceptional performances; but nowadays, every performer expects to receive a standing ovation and every band is expected to perform an encore. The last time I saw McCoy Tyner (three nights in a row), he was performing encores for the first set. Fuck that. If you want to hear more music, buy tickets for the ten o'clock show. But he gives every 45-minute audience an encore, and they give him a standing ovation for every 45-minute performance simply because he's McCoy Tyner. Thus do meaningful gestures become meaningless.

Point being, the idea that it's rude not to mark a BEST ANSWER? That you deserve that mark for contributing to the thread? Lame. AskMe is cool, and Slashdot karma-whoring will ruin it fast.
posted by cribcage at 10:41 PM on June 27, 2006

Here's a thought:

What about a system where a question can be marked "Still needs help"? The longer a question's sat, the higher the weight of the "needs help" flag. But here's the twist: Both the asker and readers can mark the question, so if something is really urgent, the community can mark the one hour old "HELP MY PET IS ON FIRE" question higher than the 6 month old "Which shoes go with this dress?"

Questions can be marked thusly once a week (month?), and decay on the list based on the recency of the last flag received.

Of course, this doesn't help people who want to know how someone else's question worked out, but I'd recommend e-mail for that (and if there's no e-mail, well, maybe they didn't want to follow up; let it go).
posted by Eideteker at 10:45 PM on June 27, 2006

see also
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:02 PM on June 27, 2006

Seems to me the 'best answer' thing is a distraction from the issue of unsolved problems. The very simplest way to deal with that would be to get users to add the tag 'unsolved', if they don't think the answers are good enough. Then anyone who wants to help can just look up ask.metafilter.com/tags/unsolved. It would then be a small matter of linking to the unsolved page from the AskMe front page, presto - solutions for all, maybe.
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:11 PM on June 27, 2006

Re: Best answer = bad. If you dislike the way Best Answer induces oneupsmanship, then fine - get rid of best answers, and just have a "resolved" flag for questions. I'd prefer that Best Answer stay, though. I like it.

Re: other solutions - There was a proposal to go back and tag questions "unresolved" thing which would be fine if it were more prominently documented and there were a big link on the front page saying "click here to see unresolved questions"... but there's not, so that solution relies on inside knowledge which vastly reduces the number of eyes that might see your question. I find it to be an unintuitive and clunky way of solving the problem.

I like the solution proposed in this meta question more than the other ideas i've seen, but I know mathowie is very anti-mefi-sending-any-emails.
posted by twiggy at 11:24 PM on June 27, 2006

I like the idea, frankly. This kind of dips into the MeTa tirade I did ages ago about how we need to churn up the linearity of AskMe a little - along with tangential topics like better drill-down and more modal ways of browsing, viewing, asking, and answering questions. (Which is kind of a way of saying AskMe shouldn't be a linear, time based chat stream.)

But the AskMe engine exists, and you "go to war" with what you've got. Etc.
posted by loquacious at 3:00 AM on June 28, 2006

The idea of a "stumped" page has been proposed before and I still like the idea, if only for questions that have a definite right answer. There are a couple of "what was that movie" / "what was that book" type questions that I got interested in and would love to know the answers for.
posted by teleskiving at 3:36 AM on June 28, 2006

A link to a page of unresolved questions could be added to

There is also a filtered view of this page showing just questions with "best" marked answers and another page of fantastic questions and answers suggested by members

but this should only be done if there is an elegant way to specify unresolved questions. (lack of best-in-show answers is not an elegant solution)
posted by bleary at 4:26 AM on June 28, 2006

This isn't 'standing ovation" as a concept.

I was using "unresolved" as a concept instead of typing the following (and I blame myself for not being more specific).

Hey, I had a very specific answer, a hard core "solve for X" sorta question (That Ask.Meta is supposed to center around, not chatfilter.) While I got some great responses, I didn't find a solution to my original problem. I was hoping that by flagging it in some way, that perhaps other people who might also have this knowledge (or possible more specific knowledge) would come by, see the quesiton and offer an answer.

So perhaps the tag "unanswered" would be appropriate - and after a week, the original poster could add the tag to their question. And a link at the top of ask.meta would say "Here are some unresolved questions"

I'm using my most recent question as an example of this.

I just posted this question, which was specific - I got some good answers, but not a solution (I think what I'm looking for doesn't exist yet on the MacOS).

But it may someday. Or someone is working on it, and can say something about it.

He/she comes home takes a quick look at the RSS or the home page of Ask.meta and never sees the question (Scroll rate) or ignores it.

I often find that I'm less likely to answer a question if already 20+ people have jumped in or 24+ hours have passed.

Instead of worrying about the whole whoring for a reward, It's a way for people like myself, who like to contribute, see what questions haven't met the needs of the original poster.

Yes, I know, some people will 'never' be satisfied (they'd never mark a best answer either.)

The "I'm a new dad," "how do I deal with my coworker",frankly are 'advice' threads. They'll possibly never have a best answer - we'd be asking the poster to evaluate for the general public what the best answer is (digression I think these sort of threads should have no best answer ).

No, I'm talking about the idea that people who answered were helpful - It's that the person who asked didn't find their solution.

Forget the email thing. All it'd need from the original poster, a week later is the unsolved tag...
and a link at the top of ask.mefi to that tag.
posted by filmgeek at 4:30 AM on June 28, 2006

See also. See also. See also. filmgeek, did you do a search? Because this really has been done to death in all sorts of permutations here.
posted by mediareport at 4:36 AM on June 28, 2006

I can pick no "best answer" for this thread, but the thread as a whole answered my question (as well as several questions I didn't have, and didn't want the answers to). It's definitely not unsolved.
posted by Plutor at 4:38 AM on June 28, 2006

filmgeek, your proposed solution already exists. You can start using the already existing "stumped" tag any time now.
posted by mediareport at 4:40 AM on June 28, 2006

This here is an impasse on competing interests and interpretations. If you like solving the unsolved then you have to page backwards and bookmark items of interest and recheck. (RSS per question would help)

If I had a question that wasn't solved and I thought it could be, I guess I would re-post it in a different way. But Askmefi is not the beall and endall of finding an answer to a question. You might call it failure but perhaps it's actually implying that other resources should be considered.

'Best answer' is always subjective and may be wrong, premature or not really applicable.

The tagging idea of 'stumped' is not a bad one I guess. But it's doubtful whether many questioners will know/remember/bother. And of course it's only going to be useful for a very small % of the userbase who are that addicted enthusiastic. I doubt it will result in many more eyeballs reviewing it.

Matt's not going to build in email notifications. But the status quo isn't that bad y'know, with a little bit of user tweaking - tagviews/bookmarking and the somesuch.
posted by peacay at 5:01 AM on June 28, 2006


Yes, I searched. Yes, I found the same exact threads you did.
Let's see...two comments about the idea of tagging out of both threads. Anything happen from it? No? Then it bears merit to be discussed further.

Plutor - no big deal. If it's answered no need for this.

mediareport - without the Public knowledge in the posting of the thread of stumped, nobody uses it/knows it's there.
posted by filmgeek at 5:03 AM on June 28, 2006

I notice that mathowie didn't weigh in during the thread in early March about 'stumped', despite jessamyn's opinion.
posted by peacay at 5:08 AM on June 28, 2006

Anything happen from it? No? Then it bears merit to be discussed further.

It's been a lot more than two comments in two threads, filmgeek. And I take "nothing happening from it" to mean Matt either disagrees, hasn't decided what to do or just hasn't gotten around to it yet. In either case, posting yet another thread about it seems a bit silly when you can just email him if you care. But you (and peacay) should know that mathowie directly addressed the issue less than a month ago:

I love the idea of a stumped page, but look at this sampling of unanswered questions. These questions are almost all too specific for Ask MetaFilter. A page of stumped questions would essentially be a Hall of Fame for bad uses of Ask MeFi....the majority of stuff I see go unanswered should be unanswered because it was usually a way too specific question that only a handful of people on earth could answer. There are good unanswered questions and there are bad unanswered questions. Looking at the recent unanswered stuff, a stumped page would be 75% bad questions that shouldn't have been asked here. Now I know the first thing someone will say is "why not just delete them?" and my answer to that is it would increase mine and jessamyn's workload to cut the lame unanswered questions and tell people to try something else.

This really has come up again and again and again and again...
posted by mediareport at 5:39 AM on June 28, 2006

I think that people should not be able to start a new ask-me thread before either marking a best answer on their previous ask me thread or declaring it unsolved.
posted by empath at 5:40 AM on June 28, 2006

I can't believe people think "best answer" is in any way relevant to the issue of whether questions have been resolved. Most questioners either give checks to whichever answers please them at the moment (sometimes answers which are later shown to be completely wrong) or don't bother giving checks at all—and that's fine; there shouldn't be any sort of moral duty to mark "best answers."

The only way I can think of to bring unsolved questions to people's attention is to set up a separate subsite for them; questioners who felt their question could use more eyes could click on "Move to Unsolved," and helpful sorts could visit the Unsolved page once in a while and see if there's anything they can answer. But it can't be automated; you have to depend on posters to choose to do it.
posted by languagehat at 5:46 AM on June 28, 2006

Sometimes there are some pretty good, helpful answers, but nothing that really qualifies as best. Take, for example, my most recent AskMe thread. Thre problem was solved, and I posted a followup, describing what the eventual outcome was, but, since I didn't actually use most of what was suggested, I didn't feel it was necessary to mark something as best. I suppose, if pressed, I could more-or-less arbitrarily give the award to someone, but that seems, well, arbitrary. Clearly, some answers were better than others, so I suppose I could mark every helpful answer as best, but that seems silly.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:46 AM on June 28, 2006

there shouldn't be any sort of moral duty to mark "best answers."

But it *is* just a teensy bit bad form to ask a highly specific question and then not acknowledge a clear and specific best answer when you get it.
posted by mediareport at 5:50 AM on June 28, 2006

Here's an idea for an alternate solution so that a "stumped" page doesn't become a "hall of fame for bad uses of AskMe":

When a question has gone unanswered for X days (let's say 4 - by then it's long off the reasonably-browsable askme radar), a new option for flagging is available -- "stumped", or "unsolved" or whatever.

A user may flag his/her own post as "stumped", and it will only appear on a "stumped" page if mathowie or jessamyn approve.

"Creates more work for them" .. fine, give 3 or 4 reputable AskMe regulars the ability to view "pending stumped" questions too.. they don't need any sort of admin access.. just the ability to view and approve pending stumped questions. We're a community, after all, and a few of us ought to be able to help out.
posted by twiggy at 6:49 AM on June 28, 2006

Twiggy, isn't that the same thing I just said?
posted by Eideteker at 7:05 AM on June 28, 2006

eideteker -- similar, but not the same, because your idea requires a place where "the community" (i.e. everyone) can see all unanswered questions.. and mathowie's concern was that that place would be too full of bad askme's...

My idea avoids having a page that is freely accessible to all and will be full of at least 1/2 crappy askmes. I do like your idea of weight based on length of time unsolved, though.
posted by twiggy at 7:14 AM on June 28, 2006

Would it be rude to request a "sucky answer" flag?
posted by signal at 7:46 AM on June 28, 2006

mrmoonpie: Why not post what the actual answer was and then mark yourself as best answer?
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on June 28, 2006

If you don't get the answer you want and you really want to know, ASK THE QUESTION AGAIN. It'll popup on the front page again, different people will see it, and the questions people really want answers to will get more focus. AND it costs you something.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 AM on June 28, 2006

AND if anybody notices you doing this, we'll get a new Metatalk thread as a bonus. AND that's because you really shouldn't make a habit of doing that, even if arguments can be made for the rare exceptions.
posted by cortex at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2006

Okay, I know this is from a different thread, but for the record..

Looking at the recent unanswered stuff, a stumped page would be 75% bad questions that shouldn't have been asked here.

It shouldn't be wrong to ask a too specific question. Of course, you shouldn't be surprised when an answer doesn't show up, but if you need the answer, ask the question!
posted by Chuckles at 9:14 AM on June 28, 2006

empath, I did enter a followup, detailing what we actually did. But I'm not convinced that it was, in the endn the best thing to do, and, even if I were convinced of that, it'd seem kinda bad form to mark my own answer as best. I mean, if I knew the solution already, why'd I ask the question?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2006

Forget the email thing. All it'd need from the original poster, a week later is the unsolved tag...

filmgeek, you should go to the wiki and type up a description of how you think this taging system could work. You should also link all the old meta's that talk about this issue there. I'm sure they are also worth reading for guidance, there are likely to be some good ideas there (along with lots of.. bad ideas).

When that is done, post a meta that points people at the wiki and says "why aren't people doing this?". Then a week or two later you can post another meta saying "It would be really good if people start doing this. Is there a problem with the system, as described, because we could work on that."

And so on..
posted by Chuckles at 9:23 AM on June 28, 2006

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