User posts new AskMetaFilter Queue January 8, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I just want to draw your attention to Plutor's new AskMetaFilter Queue, where folks who are worried about the 2-week AskMe posting limit can write questions that can be posted by folks who don't share that worry. I think it's a great communal idea, even if I'm fairly certain it will result in more questions being posted, at least temporarily.
posted by mediareport to MetaFilter-Related at 8:04 AM (315 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

First use here, I think.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 AM on January 8, 2007


How is this different from using a sockpuppet to get around the limit?
posted by Eideteker at 8:07 AM on January 8, 2007


A sort of weird explicit sense of community being involved, i suppose. Alternatively, how is this any different from having a friend ask a question for you, neh?
posted by cortex at 8:09 AM on January 8, 2007


Alternatively, how is this any different from having a friend ask a question for you, neh?

Well, I guess you save the friend having to type it in for you. Also, *sobs* I don't have any friends on metafilter.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2007


I don't know what to think of the idea as a long-term solution, but as a bit of functional concept art I like the end-run kluge aspect of it. Go Plutor!
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on January 8, 2007


I'd argue that there's a spectrum of time-limit-avoision morality. From worst to.. er.. least worst:

1) Using a sockpuppet
2) Using something like AskMeQ
3) Getting a friend to post it for you
4) Posting to MeTa to get someone to post it for you

Maybe "hacking the database directly" goes in there somewhere. In any case, the recent discussions made it clear to me that despite the fact that the time limits are important to keep the traffic down, there's an unintended side effect of decreasing the usefulness of the site. People become afraid of asking anything because they'll use up their question for two weeks.

I don't intend this to be a long-term "end-run kluge" (I like that description). And if it gets the "zomg cheater" vote from the community (or from Matt), I'm entirely willing and prepared to shut it down.
posted by Plutor at 8:15 AM on January 8, 2007


Damn, I had a very similar idea, but I don't know enough about web stuff to do it. And I'd say posting a question to MeTa is, if not worst, at least the most annoying to other users.
posted by muddgirl at 8:18 AM on January 8, 2007


I love it as an emergency question valve, particularly given how many folks have complained recently that they don't post questions out of fear that an emergency question will come up within two weeks. But while there are obviously ways this can be abused, the basic friendly concept is a good one. I like it.
posted by mediareport at 8:19 AM on January 8, 2007


How is this different from using a sockpuppet to get around the limit?
It's cheaper.

Kudos to Plutor for the work but, um...I'm not altogether sure this is a great idea. It has been decided that sockpuppet circumventing the time restriction is mostly a bad practice. Contacting another member and asking them to post on your behalf at least gives the *oh so important, that it can't wait* question a veneer of validation. Plutor's system will just inject all those questions back into the system that the increase in waiting time was intended to limit. I'll be interested to see Matt's reaction to this.
posted by peacay at 8:20 AM on January 8, 2007


"How can I grow a beard". "Let's discuss the movie Ten".

I totally understand this. Wanting to grow a beard and wanting to discuss a movie are emergency questions that need to be dealt with immediately, after all. Now if you'll all excuse me I have to add my emergency question, "Why is Paul barefoot on the Abbey Road album cover" to the AskMetaFilter Queue.

People become afraid of asking anything because they'll use up their question for two weeks.

I know. How the hell did we all survive before AskMe? I believe you're right, people are hoarding their questions. Kind of scary.

Don't get me wrong, it's cool that you're trying to help, Plutor. I wuv you.
posted by iconomy at 8:24 AM on January 8, 2007


I like it as an idea, and the sockpuppet issue is entirely irrelevant, but it does only contribute to the purported swamping of askMeta.

On preview: It's like an end run against limitations, and so the sockpuppet element is probably quite relevant.
posted by econous at 8:25 AM on January 8, 2007


Plutor, if you set this up so that it was specifically for registered users to post emergency questions when they arose before the user's two-week limit was up, I think you'd avoid much of the criticism you're going to get here.
posted by mediareport at 8:25 AM on January 8, 2007


Wow. My initial feelings are

1. What keeps people from using this to ask a question every four days?
2. How is this different from using a sock puppet to get around the posting guidelines? Why do we somehow trust people will use this after more than seven days but less than 14 after their original question?
3. Why is letting the two week rule run its course for a few months such a huge problem for people?
4. This makes follow-ups with questions either a) a pain in the ass the same way they are with anonymous questions (i.e. very hard to follow-up or get more information) or b) revealing of the original asker.
5. This, of course, undermines the purpose of having the two week rule in the first place.

So, in short, it plays up community aspects at the expense of rules that are put in place to try to mitigate overuse and/or abuse of the community. This probably means that the only people that are affected directly by this in a negative way are me and to a lesser extent mathowie at least for the time being. We've been discussing the AskMe question posting limit in at least two other open threads on MetaTalk and the limit has been in place for less than a month.

I think putting a mechanized solution in place, while clever, undermines the reason for the rule in the first place. So, while it's a clever hack it directly flies in the face of the problems we're trying to solve.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 AM on January 8, 2007


I actually was considering this not to be the emergency question valve, but the stupid-question valve. Emergency questions need to be answered quickly. A queue, by definition, prevents this. But putting stupid simple questions into a queue releases the "one every two weeks" to be used for when my house is on fire and I can only carry one thing out of the house my computer or my cat urgent please answer quickly.
posted by Plutor at 8:26 AM on January 8, 2007


Say it was a mailing list that people could use to trade questions when they needed to. Would that be as questionable?
posted by Plutor at 8:28 AM on January 8, 2007


I love it as an emergency question valve...

At the moment, Plutor's queue includes two questions:
  • I want to grow a beard.
  • How are gyroscopes measured?
And, of course, your "first use" example:
  • What's with the movie Ten?
Maybe it's time to stop using the words "emergency" and "AskMe" in the same discussion.
posted by cribcage at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2007


I actually was considering this not to be the emergency question valve, but the stupid-question valve.

!

Er...
posted by mediareport at 8:29 AM on January 8, 2007


I wish I hadn't rushed in to use the plutortech quite so quickly. Now my first arseMe question is on behalf of someone (presumably a man) who doesn't know about beards.
posted by econous at 8:30 AM on January 8, 2007


How come the gyroscope question has come and gone, but the beard question remains? Both have been posted to AskMe.
posted by amro at 8:32 AM on January 8, 2007


You guys forgot to click the "click here after you've posted" button. Cross-site-scripting limitations make the whole thing more complex than ideal.

I've disabled posting from the AskMeQ.
posted by Plutor at 8:36 AM on January 8, 2007


this really is no different then using sockpuppets to go around the rule and this isn't a solution to the 2 week limit - it's a hack. delete this thread and give timeouts or bans to anyone who uses this service.
posted by Stynxno at 8:37 AM on January 8, 2007


I actually was considering this not to be the emergency question valve, but the stupid-question valve.

In that case, I dislike it. There have always been ways to ask true emergency questions through a series of fairly above-board channels. Additonally, accountability in AskMe still matters. Having other people ask your dumb questions increases the number of semi-anonymous dumb questions that get fed into AskMe. People tolerate the existing AnonyMe thing because they know that mathowie and I check that queue and only approve stuff that seems non-trollish, important, needs to be anonymous, etc. This tool offers no such safeguards. If the an AskMe post is removed or trollish or needs to be edited, there is no way to get ahold of the person who really asked it. This is unprecendented in AskMe and, imho, not a good thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2007


Do browsers prevent you from using JavaScript to populate the AskMe posting frame with data from your site's frame?
posted by matthewr at 8:38 AM on January 8, 2007


*sheds tear nostalgically*

I guess the informal ways of getting someone to post an urgent question for you will do just fine. But I was really excited at having something set up to stop the "I never post because I'm scared I'll need my question later!" stuff.
posted by mediareport at 8:39 AM on January 8, 2007


Can I get banned if I repeatedly ask the AskMeQ what I should have for lunch today? I'm thinking Chicken Tikka Masala but I have that *every* Monday. Should I change it up or stick with what works? [more inside]

I love tikka masala.
posted by yeti at 8:41 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what's the problem. After all, a question has been used up by someone. That person after his generous act will not be able to post during two weeks.
posted by Memo at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can I choose which question I get to post?

I can't tell from the current setup (with only one question on the page). Otherwise, if I don't like the question at the head of the queue, what would keep the system from stalling at a really stupid question nobody wants to answer?
posted by that girl at 8:42 AM on January 8, 2007


Or ask, really.
posted by that girl at 8:43 AM on January 8, 2007


that girl, I don't think it was a "queue" in the denotative sense... more like a staging area, or a waiting room, where the doctor comes in and picks the most attractive patient next.
posted by yeti at 8:45 AM on January 8, 2007


Why can't we limit the the character count per question on the front of the green (to, say, 300 characters), with the rest of the question inside for anyone willing to click through? If questions take up less room, they will stay on the front page longer.

I'm sure this has been brought up in the previous OMG TWO WEEKS!!!??!!1! threads, but I can't seem to locate it.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:46 AM on January 8, 2007


Sorry Plutor I didn't hit the 'after posting button'. I hope nothing terrible happend. :(
posted by econous at 8:46 AM on January 8, 2007


Memo writes "I'm not sure what's the problem. After all, a question has been used up by someone. That person after his generous act will not be able to post during two weeks."

How about because frivolousness needs no encouragement.
posted by peacay at 8:47 AM on January 8, 2007


Would it be the same if the page had a list of volunteers and a form for sending the question privately to (one or any of) them?
posted by Memo at 8:51 AM on January 8, 2007


I bought then used some actual toilet paper today, it seems rather namby-pamby after the kitchen rolls I've been using. I wonder if regular butt sexers find ordinary TP inadequate for their goatsed anuses? I'm sure I would.
posted by econous at 8:54 AM on January 8, 2007


I had a similar idea, but it involved a vast army of sock puppets and unbridled price gouging.
And me mocking people whose questions didn't meet my high standards. Like those two.

Seriously, "I want to grow a beard"?

*Chortles, goes back to cooking up more Get Middle Class Quick schemes*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:57 AM on January 8, 2007


Talk about tragedy of the commons. The idea with the posting limit is to restrict posting rate, not create a new class of virtual commodity that is traded and bartered. What's next, an I'll-fave-yours-if-you-fave-mine swap site?
posted by GuyZero at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2007


If questions take up less room, they will stay on the front page longer.

oh my fucking god do people seriously not ever scroll WTF *rend* *gnash*

The front page of the green is not of fixed pixel-height. Wordy questions take up only pyschological space, if anything.
posted by cortex at 8:59 AM on January 8, 2007


I bought then used some actual toilet paper today, it seems rather namby-pamby after the kitchen rolls I've been using. I wonder if regular butt sexers find ordinary TP inadequate for their goatsed anuses? I'm sure I would.
posted by econous


There must be some kind of pollution or chemical spill near where you live or work that has deranged you.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:02 AM on January 8, 2007


Whatever the outcome of this thread, Plutor, you are a fucking genius.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:02 AM on January 8, 2007


Plutor, you are one of my favorite mefites, but this is a bad, bad idea. But nicely executed. Kudos.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:05 AM on January 8, 2007


I think it's bad for community because it divorces questioner from their question. One of the most community-building aspects of mefi is the permanent posting history of each user, as a brake on excess. Sure, there are sockpuppets and so forth but why add another erosional force to the mix?

I'd be a little happier if the questions said "posted on behalf of Querious via askmeQ" or something but I still think this is bad for the community and wrong in spirit.
posted by Rumple at 9:10 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


The new 2-week time limit is bad, and I'm glad to see people doing their best to mitigate it.

I'm fairly certain it will result in more questions being posted, at least temporarily.

Oh NOES!!!!
posted by Afroblanco at 9:10 AM on January 8, 2007


On AskMefi in general, tkolar's latest graph showing active users is cool: only 1-200 active users before the November 2004 floodgates opened. Via this thread.
posted by Rumple at 9:12 AM on January 8, 2007


3. Why is letting the two week rule run its course for a few months such a huge problem for people?

Because.

Not trying to be snarky, but anytime you throw up limits or rules, there's ALWAYS some people who want to go around them. Such is humanity.

Did AskMe have a 1 question a week limit from the beginning? If not, then how did people react after the first change in limits? Is it similar to the reaction now?

We've been discussing the AskMe question posting limit in at least two other open threads on MetaTalk and the limit has been in place for less than a month.

Perhaps you guys should have announced the change in Metathread, explained why the change was occurring ande that you were going to try it for a few months and see what happens. It might have prevented some of this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:17 AM on January 8, 2007


I'm in agreement with jessamyn here. While it seems like a clever hack, it just skirts the rules and I would prefer if people stuck with them for a while to see if they're working.

If we need a stupid question valve, we have one: answers.yahoo.com.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:21 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Rumple: "I'd be a little happier if the questions said "posted on behalf of Querious via askmeQ" or something but I still think this is bad for the community and wrong in spirit."

I would if I could. But XSS and whatnot conspires me to be almost completely unable to get data from MeFi. I can't check the MeFi cookie, I can't do AJAXy things, I can't open frames and read from or write to them. Sad, but true. Damn malevolents ruin it for the rest of us.

I had high hopes for this, but in the back of my mind I knew that some would consider this either no better than sockpuppetry or just against the spirit of the posting limit.

The real irony is that I couldn't post this to projects because there's a one-per-month limit.
posted by Plutor at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


That statement comes off as snotty Matt.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:23 AM on January 8, 2007


Perhaps you guys should have announced the change in Metathread

It's a good point—if the countdown-timer page had a bit of explanatory text and a link to existing Meta discussion, that might help limit the Bruhhnng? reactions. Then again...eh.
posted by cortex at 9:23 AM on January 8, 2007


Well, I can't see how it works since Plutor's temporarily disabled it. But what I immediately imagined when I heard about it was that people would post questions, then other users would decide whether or not to ask those questions.

So, it's not like a random shitpipe. Some member has to make a decision to support the question.

Or at least, that's how I assumed it would work. Maybe it doesn't/didn't work that way. But if it did, I would think it's kind of cool and could promote some nice good feelings, which could be a good thing around here.

I actually have a question I'd love to ask right now (about trade-in value for damaged cars, motivated by the fact that I'm planning to buy a new car in the next two days), but I've got another day and some change before I can post. So my opinion may be a little biased...
posted by lodurr at 9:24 AM on January 8, 2007


This is MeFi, one of the most elitist websites of the internet. It's obvious how Matt feels about askYahoo, after all it's what most people around here feels about everything besides MeFi.
posted by Memo at 9:25 AM on January 8, 2007


We've been discussing the AskMe question posting limit in at least two other open threads on MetaTalk

There were several of us posting in those threads offering our "services" to post questions for others, but I thought all of us (or most) were JOKING!... I didn't realize there was so much hand-wringing and fretting over the limits of question-posting among the general Mefite populace...

I think Plutor's idea was very generous in principle but, as many have pointed out here, I'm afraid that it would only lead to abuse...

That being said, I have no objections to large numbers of questions on AskMe... I love research, and I enjoy being able to help people... Even the seemingly stupid questions can lead to interesting information being shared.
posted by amyms at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Where was all this hooha about trying to skirt the rules and figure out a way to work the system when the limit was one question every week? Yes, I know there were sock puppets and people sometimes asked other people to post for them, etc.

But now that it's one question every two weeks, there is suddenly a need for elaborate systems and work-arounds?

I love ask.me. Ask.me is many things. But ask.me is not water. You do not need it to live. Breathe deeply and wait until you can post again.

Also, I agree with Rumple. Why not just make all posts anonymous if we're going to divorce the question from the poster's identity?
posted by veggieboy at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2007


More questions on Ask means more data in Ask. As long as people take seriously the act of answering.

I just wish I knew how Plutor's app actually worked.

on preview: Veggieboy, you know the old saying -- as the stakes go down, the fight gets meaner.
posted by lodurr at 9:39 AM on January 8, 2007


That statement comes off as snotty Matt.

one of the most elitist websites of the internet. It's obvious how Matt feels about askYahoo


Jesus Christ, do you guys not understand humor? I was joking.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:39 AM on January 8, 2007


But now that it's one question every two weeks, there is suddenly a need for elaborate systems and work-arounds?

It's a period of change and adjustment. Move the bar, people will chatter about the relative old and new positions of the bar until they get used to the new one. Nothing surprising here.
posted by cortex at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2007


lodurr, the questions were posted without usernames - anonymously. Anon questions are normally only approved by Matt or Jessamyn. That doesn't entirely answer your question but it's an important point.
posted by iconomy at 9:44 AM on January 8, 2007


There was no limit in place at first, and then it was set to one per day I think, then one per week when that got to be too much. No one complained back then because a few rambunctious users were overdoing it and people were demanding a limit. When it went from days to a week, people understood that it was a way to tame the front page, which was going by too fast.

Of course, the site has grown to be something special since late 2003, back then adding a limit wasn't a huge deal since the site was still new and getting its legs. Adding a longer limit three weeks ago is a different story. It really messes with expectations when we've all spent the past two years thinking in terms of one week limits and how strong a question needs to be to be worth using up. I think a lot of people were surprised into finding out, as they went to ask another a week and a half later only to find out they needed to wait longer.

tkolar does have some pretty good stats in that other thread. I know one of them is that something like 2800 users ask questions within a couple weeks of each other. I didn't think the number of heavy users of ask mefi would be that high -- I figured a couple hundred might have always done the one per week thing, but I was surprised to see it was almost three thousand of you.

As jessamyn said, let's let the limit stay in place for two months (end of Feb), then we will have some data we can look at to see if things improved any. For 2800 people, they've gone from asking 3 or 4 questions a month to 1 or 2, so it might show up when we crunch the numbers.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:46 AM on January 8, 2007


I'm late to the party, but if XSS prevented you from getting user info back from MeFi, was the system completely anonymous? Could non-users post questions?
posted by nomad at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2007


Yeh, I guess that's important. I guess it would be pretty difficult for Plutor to get authenticated submissions, now that I think of it... I still think it's kind of a cool idea, but it takes away some of the coolness if it's an actual pony, instead of a member-lent pony.
posted by lodurr at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2007


Bah. Clever, but probably will contribute to diminshing utility.
posted by mzurer at 9:51 AM on January 8, 2007


For 2800 people, they've gone from asking 3 or 4 questions a month to 1 or 2, so it might show up when we crunch the numbers.

Is that so, though? Did tkolar's stats suggest that these people were consistently posting at a sub-two-week pace, or that they had merely in at least one instance posted less than 14 days apart?
posted by cortex at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2007


I don't know if this idea would be functionally possible, but could people's between-question wait-time be weighted somehow? For instance, for every 5 or 10 "best answer" markings you have associated with your user-name, your wait-time between questions becomes 75% of the standard wait-time, or 50%. Or it could be a function of the user's newness (the lag-time starts out long, but gets shorter the longer the user stays around).
posted by xo at 9:53 AM on January 8, 2007


Weighting posting limits based on answer history is a bad idea because it promotes answering for the sake of anything other than providing a useful answer.
posted by cortex at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2007


Plutor's site was inevitable. There's always someone out there more interested in problem-solving than social consequences.

Its a bit selfish of course because now someone else has to deal with the social consequences.

My take:

I think "Easily Google-able" should be a valid deletion reason which should be exercised more frequently. (This reverses a position I held when ask.mefi was young)

This question really irked me because it was basically "Lets chat about revolving doors!"

I sort of called him out in the thread (which I regret) and then someone else, in a now deleted comment, quoted me and basically added "WTF?" Yeah, I'm sorry to be a wet blanket on the chatfest...
posted by vacapinta at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know where I can get a map of Walt-Marts? I'd post it to AskMe, but I'm already trying to grow a beard. Thx.
posted by yhbc at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2007


I think "Easily Google-able" should be a valid deletion reason which should be exercised more frequently.

Heh. Of course, to be fair, the deletion reason should in fact include the appropiate google search.
posted by cortex at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2007


mathowie writes "Jesus Christ, do you guys not understand humor? I was joking."

More to the point, have you guys seen Yahoo! answers? If you think the quality is the same, take your business over there. If you want to post here, get a fucking sense of humor.
posted by OmieWise at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2007


Maybe he was just insulted that Matt would suggest that we'd be able to generate sufficiently stupid questions.
posted by cortex at 10:01 AM on January 8, 2007


While I love ask.me and I had no problem with lots of questions-- more questions allow for more valuable thesis-proposal-not-writing time-- I really don't get this sentiment of undue restriction that the two week limit imposes. I regularly use the ask.me archives to answer questions quite effectively. I can't imagine coming up with one question a week that had never been addressed satisfactorily before. In fact, I've never come up with a question to ask that wasn't either a) overtly chat filter (and thus not asked) or b) easily answerable by an ask.me search (or a cursory Google search).

In a sense, I guess I see the two week limit as a way to encourage people to do their own weeding out of their "easily Googlable" questions.
posted by carmen at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2007


or that they had merely in at least one instance posted less than 14 days apart?

I think that was it, but even so, 2800 was a much larger number than many people (including me) had been assuming. It had become almost accepted wisdom in MeTa that only a small handful of folks would ever bang up against the two-week limit, and tkolar's numbers showed that wasn't really true.
posted by mediareport at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2007


If I wanted to know how many button holes on a jacket would be fruity the first place I'd look for answers would be askMeta. Advice on neck beards also. Accelerando, by Charles Stross is available for free download. Naturally I bloody bought the hardback edition before discovering it for free. One of the greatest evolved abilities is that of learning from one another, the crowning achievement, I think, is humanities capability to learn across time and space through written language. Without me writing it here you would never know that I had just farted. Powerful stuff.
posted by econous at 10:03 AM on January 8, 2007


On preview: I'm a little disappointed that Matt was joking, I had a 'Oh, poor askHoo, mathowie, you big bully!' snark all set to go.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:04 AM on January 8, 2007


As far as the two-week limit thing goes, here's my suggestion :

So far, the only good defense I've read for the two-week limit is that less questions means less work for Mathowie and Jessamyn. I sympathize with our beleaguered admins - I could easily see how the site's growing popularity could lead to a greater need for moderation. However, I don't think that the solution to this problem is to try and cut the number of questions. I think that a better solution is to nominate a third admin. This seems inevitable - if the site continues to grow at the present rate, we'll need a third admin sooner or later, anyway. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of MeFites that could do the job rather well.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:04 AM on January 8, 2007


"For instance, for every 5 or 10 "best answer" markings you have..."

Please don't take this as a personal attack, as it's not directed at you, but:

JESUS FUCK, can we knock it off with the scoreboards, karma, and point systems already? Anything that can get gamed will get gamed. The only winning move, as the cliche goes, is not to play.

Having had my outburst -- and thank you for your tolerance -- I honestly don't think the problem is with too many questions in Ask. Yes, the site's traditional UI is sub-optimal for a high turnover of threads, but that's fixable in the UI and doesn't take policy. The primary problem is too many dumbass non-answers (for which I'm grateful to jessamyn for as much weeding as she already does), followed by the lesser problem of dumbass questions.
posted by majick at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2007


So far, the only good defense I've read for the two-week limit is that less questions means less work for Mathowie and Jessamyn. I sympathize with our beleaguered admins - I could easily see how the site's growing popularity could lead to a greater need for moderation. However, I don't think that the solution to this problem is to try and cut the number of questions. I think that a better solution is to nominate a third admin. This seems inevitable - if the site continues to grow at the present rate, we'll need a third admin sooner or later, anyway. Besides, I'm sure there are plenty of MeFites that could do the job rather well.

a third admin won't stop the increasing number of questions hitting the front page of askme; it will help diffuse the work on these fine two people, but it's the site's growth, not the workload, that would be the plague to the front page.

i still say a heavy handed approach to moderating borderline questions, as much as it sucks, is the way to help make things better there. not only by just limiting the number of questions but also to set a precedent that chatty askme threads aren't what it's for and if that's what you want, there are other web resources out there.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 10:07 AM on January 8, 2007


This war on questions is unwinnable. Plutor I salute you, but make sure your taxes are in order.
posted by bonaldi at 10:08 AM on January 8, 2007


"I think putting a mechanized solution in place, while clever, undermines the reason for the rule in the first place."

/signed

[this is bad]

We have admins who have proved to be two of the best online forum/community shepherds on the planet. And yet we get random yahoos whining and moaning and trying to sabotage things. The sense of spoiled entitlement by some users over this issue is pathetic. And this is a free service.

We have two capable people working hard to give us something nice. And we have many others working overtime to screw it up. Pretty please just keep your fucking hands off it.
posted by Devidicus at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2007


This war on questions is unwinnable. Plutor I salute you, but make sure your taxes are in order.

why do you hate freedom?
posted by dflemingdotorg at 10:11 AM on January 8, 2007


3. Why is letting the two week rule run its course for a few months such a huge problem for people?

Because you are solving a problem that doesn't exist?
posted by dame at 10:12 AM on January 8, 2007


"I think "Easily Google-able" should be a valid deletion reason"

But I do like that idea.
posted by Devidicus at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2007


DOES THIS FISH MAKE MY PANTS LOOK FAT?
posted by quonsar at 10:16 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think that was it, but even so, 2800 was a much larger number than many people (including me) had been assuming. It had become almost accepted wisdom in MeTa that only a small handful of folks would ever bang up against the two-week limit, and tkolar's numbers showed that wasn't really true.

Granted. At the same time, though, I imagine the thing most folks were imagining, when they came to that smaller number, was the number of mefites whose behavior could be characterized by sub-two-week posting habits, which is the real issue. If 2800 users over two years have asked two questions 10 days apart one time, the two week limit will have a lower predicted effect on that behavior than it would if we were talking about 2800 habitual weekly askers.

tkolar, if you're listening, can we get a distribution of number-of-occurances-per-user for sub-two-week question asking? That's definitely the stat I'm hot for, now.
posted by cortex at 10:20 AM on January 8, 2007


the only good defense I've read for the two-week limit is that less questions means less work for Mathowie and Jessamyn. I sympathize with our beleaguered admins

We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page. It has come up every week on MetaTalk for the past year.

The "only good defense" is that we're working on scaling issues, plain and simple. It's not about workload of a couple admins.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:26 AM on January 8, 2007


"For instance, for every 5 or 10 "best answer" markings you have..."

Besides what majick said, "best answer" markings often have little or nothing to do with what objective observers would consider a best answer. Some people don't bother to mark them at all, others pick a jokey comment that they enjoyed, others seem to scatter them at random. As a metric, it's worse than useless.
posted by languagehat at 10:31 AM on January 8, 2007


(Welcome back, Devidicus.)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:32 AM on January 8, 2007


Is quonsar having problems at home and acting out, or does he just NEED A NEW KEYBOARD?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2007


Jesus Christ, do you guys not understand humor? I was joking.

Mucho apologies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2007


Ok, mathowie. Sorry if I sounded arrogant with my "only good defense" assertion. I understand that the problem comes down to scaling issues. I guess the meat of my suggestion is that I feel the solution to scaling issues is increased moderation, and not a longer time limit on questions.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2007


QUONSAR HAS A JOB WHERE HE TYPES UPPER CASE STUFF INTO A DATABASE ALL DAY LONG AND IS TIRED OF FUCKING WITH THE SHIFT KEY. BESIDES, ITS REFRESHING AFTER 6 YEARS OF LOWER CASE. EMBRACE CHANGE!
posted by quonsar at 10:38 AM on January 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


I, for one, would be happy to vouch in a non-joking manner for the sucking of Yahoo Answers.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:38 AM on January 8, 2007


Does he also type stuff into a database in the third person?
posted by matthewr at 10:40 AM on January 8, 2007


Henry Wu: You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?

Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.
posted by matty at 10:41 AM on January 8, 2007


Here's my back-of-the-placemat idea:

How about an AskMe Queue here, on this site. Questions are submitted to the queue. People can mark the best questions as favorites. Questions that hit a certain threshold appear on the AskMe page to be answered. Once the AskMe page has filled up, any questions in the queue more than X days old are deleted. Questions may be resubmitted, but they can also be flagged as “give it up, Chuckles”.

This would appear to solve a number of problems with AskMe:

1. It would help to moderate the quality of questions. It’s unlikely that we’d ever see another bullshit question from some woman complaining that her boyfriend won’t get a job or go down on her and won’t stop talking about a future where the oxygen concentration is higher and all the buildings have been abandoned for a thousand years but are filled with cats. Unless that’s what the people really want.

2. Capping the number of questions per day ensures that everything gets time on the first page, and combined with the voting system ensures that the quality of the questions are up to some kind of standard.

3. It doesn’t necessarily limit any user to two questions a month. If some needy freak asks a really good question every day, my gut feeling is that this is better than someone else asking a ridiculous question twice a year.

This would, naturally, require a bunch of work by Matt, which is the big drawback. Or my idea might be stupid. But the current system is only going to get worse otherwise, and predictably so: as the number of users increases, will users be restricted to four questions a year? And if they are, the quality of the questions isn’t going to improve, so it’s just going to be more of the same, just by a wider assortment of users.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:43 AM on January 8, 2007


(And, yeah, voting on submissions makes this place more like plastic.com, but even a stopped watch is right twice a day. IMHO.)
posted by solid-one-love at 10:44 AM on January 8, 2007


We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page.

Is that really a problem though? Or is it people feeling that their own question isn't getting seen by enough people in their mind?

I mean, if they wanted this change, shouldn't they be able to point to some evidence that proves/shows/hints that the answers to their question are just terrible BECAUSE it was gone from the page too quickly? Did they and if so, could someone point me to the post?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2007


We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page.

But why? Why does it matter that things are scrolling off the front page? Because people think they are getting fewer answers even though they are wrong, even though questions are getting answered? So you are fixing an imagined problem and causing trouble for people unlucky enough to have two genuine questions close together? Doesn't that strike anyone else as really screwy? I swear, this is going to drive me to a rubber room.

WHY ARE YOU FIXING A PROBLEM THAT ONLY EXISTS IN PEOPLE'S HEADS? Please tell me. I will totally stop bugging you, if only you can tell me why you are doing this. It keeps me awake at nights. I hallucianate the perfect answer in the perfect time on the perfect website. Please. Tell me.
posted by dame at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


How about an AskMe Queue here, on this site. Questions are submitted to the queue. People can mark the best questions as favorites.

I don't think that's a good idea to set up a popularity contest for questions. I think a lot of good questions wouldn't get put through, and questions we've done a million times (Should I dump him/her?) would.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


People can mark the best questions as favorites.

Any sort of system that relies on group favoring is bound to create problems.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:47 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


So you are fixing an imagined problem and causing trouble for people unlucky enough to have two genuine questions close together?

At this moment, I am feeling this pain. I have a question I am dying to ask, but I still have 5+ days left.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


In fact, I've never come up with a question to ask that wasn't either a) overtly chat filter (and thus not asked) or b) easily answerable by an ask.me search (or a cursory Google search).

Outside of one question over 2 years ago, and another anon one around the same time, this is me too.

I just wanted to acknowledge that you're not alone in the efforts of trying to answer your own questions before posting, while still being a regular askme reader. I know it sometimes feels like I'm the only one.
posted by dogwalker at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2007


"Why is Paul barefoot on the Abbey Road album cover"

He's pregnant.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2007


If you give me, say, $20 USD, I'll go to my local public library, research your question, and send it to you with an attractive digital sachet personalized by Dobbs.
posted by Dizzy at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2007


There are so many questions that could be deleted for being instantly Googleable, yet this seems to happen very rarely. This, for instance, is answered by the first result for 'xp files blue'.
posted by matthewr at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2007


WHY ARE YOU FIXING A PROBLEM THAT ONLY EXISTS IN PEOPLE'S HEADS?

Yes Dame, there is an AskMe problem. It exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no AskMe! It would be as dreary as if there were no Dames (maybe). There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

People complaining about questions rolling off the front page or not being able to keep up with the site, or feeling that the community aspect of the site is dissipating with the high numbers of questions have a valid concern even if mathematically questions are being answered at the same rate. Just because you think people shoudln't feel some way doesn't mean they won't. Just because you don't give a shit about the things that other people care about doesn't mean what they care about doesn't matter and/or doesn't mean that their concerns don't fill up MetaTalk and the MeFi comment form.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2007 [16 favorites]


I don't think that's a good idea to set up a popularity contest for questions. I think a lot of good questions wouldn't get put through, and questions we've done a million times (Should I dump him/her?) would.

It worries me that I am less pessimistic about the probably behaviour of MeFites than you...;-)
posted by solid-one-love at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2007


Look. There are rules. One question every two weeks. No likey? Tough shit.
posted by mattbucher at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2007


You know, I think if jessamyn told me one to day to go eat shit, I'm sure her presentation and description would be so appetizing that I would just gobble it down.
posted by yhbc at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2007


probably=probable, natch
posted by solid-one-love at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2007


"People complaining about questions rolling off the front page … have a valid concern even if mathematically questions are being answered at the same rate."

People with irrational, unsupported beliefs have a valid concern?
posted by matthewr at 11:02 AM on January 8, 2007


In fact, I've never come up with a question to ask that wasn't either a) overtly chat filter (and thus not asked) or b) easily answerable by an ask.me search (or a cursory Google search).

Well, good for you! Some of us haven't been so lucky. Looking at some of my recent past questions, I recall trying to research on my own, but not finding the information I needed (or confirmation that the information I was finding was right). To answer, I needed the diverse body of AskMeta users to help out, and help out they did. We've got a great bunch of smart people, and I enjoy picking their brains every now and again when I have a Q. I'm looking forward to asking this next question burning a hole in my mind, since I think they're going to be able to provide some perspective on the issue I have so far been unable to answer on my own.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:03 AM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'd hate to say it, jess, but I'm with dame on this one, even if I think she's being somewhat inflammatory in her conversation style. Sometimes people are just wrong, and I don't think that everyone should suffer just so that we can humor the people who are wrong.

even if mathematically questions are being answered at the same rate

Is there any other way for questions to be answered at the same rate?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:05 AM on January 8, 2007


Afroblanco: I guess the meat of my suggestion is that I feel the solution to scaling issues is increased moderation

Moderating borderline chatfilter isn't going to affect the continuing increase in non-borderline questions, and I think those are going to keep growing as well. I'm with you on the chatfilter stuff, but don't think increased moderation is really going to solve the general scaling issue.

dame: causing trouble for people unlucky enough to have two genuine questions close together

Speaking of imaginary problems...I'll join you in the rubber room, dame, as I ponder why folks keep insisting it's "trouble" for someone to get a 2nd question posted within 2 weeks. I was naively hoping Plutor's queue would finally put that imaginary problem to rest once and for all, but even without a separate mechanism, it's *never* been "trouble" for a user to get a 2nd question asked, given the options of emailing another user, asking someone at Metachat (probably the best solution), or using MetaTalk.
posted by mediareport at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2007


It worries me that I am less pessimistic about the probably behaviour of MeFites than you...;-)

Here's the example that sprang to mind- I want to find my Grandfather's address in 1939 Vienna. If a question like that was in a popularity contest with a human relations Q, a money Q, and a Wii Q, would it make it to the front page? I doubt it; as a question alone, it doesn't really provide any information to anyone other than the poster. I can see voters passing it by. And look what we would have missed out on seeing solved! Sometimes people ask questions that I hadn't realized I wanted answered; sometimes people give answers I didn't realize I wanted to know. I don't want to build a system that might limit opportunities for us to surprise ourselves.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2007 [6 favorites]


Y'all are making me want to ask a question just because I can.

Is there any other way for questions to be answered at the same rate?

Yes: well.

There are obviously people who spend a lot of time on AskMe, and scroll through multiple pages, and answer a lot of questions. There are others who don't (and those people are probalby less likely to show up in the MeTa threads). If your question is best answered by one of the latter users, then you want to maximize the chance of that type of user seeing your question, as opposed to just settling for one of the frequent answerers to do so.
posted by occhiblu at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


Look, I'm not trying to be inflammatory, I swear. But I've been asking why we are fixing a pointless problem for weeks now and not getting an answer. I already have a Cassandra complex. And it baffles me into lunacy seeing all this effort expended on imaginary problems.

So you say the problem is of people feeling un-community-like because they think they need to read every question, right? But why does it matter that they feel that way, in any practical sense? Because questions don't get answered if people don't feel generous? But questions are in fact getting answered. So people do feel generous, still, or enough do, right?

Just because you don't give a shit about the things that other people care about doesn't mean what they care about doesn't matter and/or doesn't mean that their concerns don't fill up MetaTalk and the MeFi comment form.

So things are valid based on how many people complain and how often they do? And everyone gives a shit about how I feel? Really? Or does that only apply when people disagree with me? How does this work?
posted by dame at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2007


Sometimes people are just wrong, and I don't think that everyone should suffer just so that we can humor the people who are wrong.

Telling people that their feelings are irrelevant, hollow or meaningless because those feelings are unsupported by reality. Yeah, that always turns out well.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:11 AM on January 8, 2007


ThePinkSuperhero, I'll happily post your question for you if the pain is too great to bear. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, either. Just let me know.
posted by mediareport at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2007


If a question like that was in a popularity contest with a human relations Q, a money Q, and a Wii Q, would it make it to the front page? I doubt it

It would be the only one of the four I would vote for, and I bet it'd be your fave of the four, too.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2007


it's *never* been "trouble" for a user to get a 2nd question asked, given the options of emailing another user, asking someone at Metachat (probably the best solution), or using MetaTalk.

It is certainly a slight problem, though not a totally insurmountable one, I will give you. And if creating that problem solved a real issue, then I would be all for it. I'd say, yeah, X is worth Y. I'd lead that parade, with my baton and everything. But it doesn't seem like that is the case.
posted by dame at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2007


that their concerns don't fill up MetaTalk and the MeFi comment form.

I don't understand, is filling up MetaTalk or the Mefi comment form a problem? If so, shouldn't THOSE things be limited?

Hell, a comment limit might be helpful.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:17 AM on January 8, 2007


dame, please read the dozens of previous threads on why Ask MeFi can't scale as it is, forever. People have said that it feels less like a community, that the quality of both questions and answers go down as it gets bigger, and that they feel less inclined to help anyone if they are just a bunch of anon strangers. So there is a problem and not an imagined one: there are scaling issues.

I feel the solution to scaling issues is increased moderation, and not a longer time limit on questions.

Afroblanco, as the membership increases linearly, the only way to keep the site manageable would be to delete more and more things. To continually increase moderation. I don't think that approach scales well or solves the problem beyond the short term.

And solid-one-love, what you've described is digg.com, where everything goes in the random pile, but the only thing on the front page is the stuff voted up by others. It's one approach, but is likely to reduce the number of answers in the random pile and increase them in the highlighted ones.

Seriously, this all comes down to scaling issues that everyone has been pressuring me and jessamyn with for quite a while. The first few times we talked about it, people wanted the ask mefi queue to be 1 per month, to ensure only the best questions got asked and answered.

Taking the 2 week limit off the table (as it is in testing until the end of Feb), what other approaches do you think could help ask mefi scale beyond a few thousand strangers answering each others' questions on a single page?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:17 AM on January 8, 2007


Moderating borderline chatfilter isn't going to affect the continuing increase in non-borderline questions, and I think those are going to keep growing as well. I'm with you on the chatfilter stuff, but don't think increased moderation is really going to solve the general scaling issue.

Well, I would say that the non-borderline questions aren't a problem. The site will receive more questions as it continues to grow, but as tkolar's statistics have shown, this doesn't affect the average response rate.

However, it just makes sense to me that as the site grows, so will the need for moderation. It may even be necessary to raise the bar a bit for the borderline chatfilter questions. And since it seems that Mathowie and Jessamyn already have a full plate, I suggest that we have a third admin to share the increased burden.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:18 AM on January 8, 2007


There are obviously people who spend a lot of time on AskMe, and scroll through multiple pages, and answer a lot of questions. There are others who don't (and those people are probalby less likely to show up in the MeTa threads). If your question is best answered by one of the latter users, then you want to maximize the chance of that type of user seeing your question, as opposed to just settling for one of the frequent answerers to do so.

Thank you, occhiblu, for that concise statement. I've been in favor of the 2-week limit from the get-go, mainly because I kept noticing folks who posted a lot of questions, and thought they were disrespecting the site by overuse for trivial questions. But I'm also one of the folks who thinks the increased number of questions hasn't really affected "the community" in a negative way, for some of the reasons dame mentions (without the fury). You've at least framed the opposing view in a way that makes clear sense.
posted by mediareport at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2007


Thanks, mediareport, I appreciate the offer. For some reason, I really want to hold on and post this one myself, mainly because I think it's possible it will involve some follow-up on my part.

Now I've gotten everyone all excited about my Q. It's going to be very boring, I promise; possibly even stupid.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dame's certainly agitated about it (not wrongfully so), but I think she has a good point. The only person who's hurt by AskMe's speed is the average reader. Questions still get roughly the same number of answers as always and, I'd wager, get satisfactorily answered roughly as frequently. Who cares that there's no way for me to read all of the questions? No one!
posted by Plutor at 11:20 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


A misplaced sense of entitlement is an ugly thing. I support the two week limit. And about a month ago, MetaTalk was filled with comments asking for longer limits. Matt and Jessamyn are trying something out. Give them a break. It's not the end of the world. If it doesn't work, they may just change it back! And then MetaTalk will be filled once again with the lamenting of those who just can't bear to hit the previous page button.

So now that you all know what I think, can we just consider the matter settled?
posted by Roger Dodger at 11:22 AM on January 8, 2007


Sometimes people are just wrong, and I don't think that everyone should suffer...

Science H. Logic, would you knock off the retarded melodrama. Nobody is "suffering," and nobody "needs" to post their question to AskMe. Walk outside, take a breath of sunlit air, and grab a slice of "It's-just-the-Internet" — and when you come back inside, try to recall why you felt that a one-week limit was acceptable but an increase to two weeks justifies this prolonged temper tantrum from folks like Dame (who posted 4 — yes, that's one-two-three-FOUR — questions during 2006).
posted by cribcage at 11:22 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Questions still get roughly the same number of answers as always and, I'd wager, get satisfactorily answered roughly as frequently

Well, to be fair, it's the "I'd wager" we should focus on. It's pretty much impossible to judge whether questions are getting as well answered as they would be if they had more time on the first page. I mean, I think they probably are, too, but we don't know that for sure.

(ThePinkSuperhero, I'm not sure I follow you; why can't you follow-up in comments on a question someone else posts for you?)
posted by mediareport at 11:24 AM on January 8, 2007


(I could, I'm just being a nerd).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


On preview, Matt, how about implementing the category checkbox proof-of-concept thing that came up a month or two ago? It seemed like a good way of keeping the site more manageable for a single reader and allows you to see a mix of topics you are interested in.
posted by Roger Dodger at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


And solid-one-love, what you've described is digg.com, where everything goes in the random pile, but the only thing on the front page is the stuff voted up by others. It's one approach, but is likely to reduce the number of answers in the random pile and increase them in the highlighted ones.

It wouldn't increase the number in the highlighted pile; part of my suggestion was to cap the number of questions per day.

And while I disagree that it would reduce the number of questions in the random pile, wouldn't it be a positive thing if that actually occurred?

I wouldn't trust the digg.com userbase to vote on what colour shoelaces I should buy, but I think MeFites have taste enough to make such a scheme work.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2007


(Actually, I think it's more a mix of "This is such a smart question, I want it to go on MY record" and "This could be such a dumb question with such an easy question, I don't want anyone else to be involved".)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:27 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco writes "but as tkolar's statistics have shown, this doesn't affect the average response rate."

Dame's contention seems to be the same, that tkolar's stats turned this into something that we now understand, and understand to be a non-problem. The issue, though, is that the stats do not tell the whole story. It isn't that I think he gamed them, but that they fail to capture the sense of community and commitment that seems to have been part of making AskMe better than Yahoo! Answers. For the same reason that Microsoft Word's grammar editor cannot produce good writing (or good editorial decisions), statistics about answers and questions fail to completely account for the success of AskMe. They are an attempt to quantify something ineffable and reduce it to a mechanistic measurement.

The truth is that the statistics fail to address the persistent feelings that AskMe is cluttered by questions which do not contribute to the quality of the site. There's a lot of talk about answers contributing, which is why it's so tempting to argue against asking limits, but in this, and only this, I would like to argue for the supply-side, and say that the quality of the questions is the real issue. The two week limit may not solve the problem, but it at least tries to address the issue of questions.
posted by OmieWise at 11:28 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not furious. Just frustrated. I don't bear people any ill will or anything.

Seriously, this all comes down to scaling issues that everyone has been pressuring me and jessamyn with for quite a while.

This is part of it: NOT EVERYONE. Okay? Please? Many people, sure. People who are willing to post and complain, sure. But that isn't everyone and they don't speak for me or plenty of other people. There are a lot of members.

But my suggestion regarding the anonymity?* Make people wait two months to ask their first question. Which I think is absurd, but of course I think that even though some people may drop out, the problem as a whole doesn't exist. If it did though, I would make the first barrier question so high, you didn't have people just joining to ask questions.

*Even though to me that is such a weird claim. After all, there are plenty of participating members, who have been members for years, who I don't recognize.
posted by dame at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2007


Yikes, make that five months ago. Anyways, blacklite's idea was this.
posted by Roger Dodger at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2007


the persistent feelings that AskMe is cluttered by questions which do not contribute to the quality of the site

Yeah, but the problem is no one seems to agree on which questions those are. :)
posted by mediareport at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2007


why does it matter that they feel that way, in any practical sense?

Because if people feel the site sucks, then no amount of math is going to tell them it doesn't. We can say "look questions are getting answered" if they think their question isn't getting answered, but we can't say "read faster" if they feel that questions zip by too fast for them to keep track of, or if they feel that community is dissipating because of the speed at which questions "go away" to the average user. There's no math to address that.

Seriously, you don't have to give a shit about how people feel about the site, but I do, even if their feelings seem to me to be irrational or overblown. This may be really bigheaded of me, but I think the fact that I give a shit how people feel is one of the things that helps this site not suck. However, that means for every time I try to politely answer the same question you've asked (not particularly politely) over and over, I'm also answering email and "the site goes too fast" comments from other people. They're both valid points and we're trying to address both of them.

Look, I'm not trying to be inflammatory, I swear.

Then please leave it alone for a while. You don't see a problem. I see a problem. Mathowie sees a problem. Some other people see a problem and some don't. We are trying something.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco, as the membership increases linearly, the only way to keep the site manageable would be to delete more and more things. To continually increase moderation. I don't think that approach scales well or solves the problem beyond the short term.

So, are you saying that you think you will be able to avoid continually increasing moderation? I thought that increasing moderation in response to site popularity was a normal consequence of running a community.

I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but MeFi started out with you as the sole admin. The addition of AskMe increased the need for moderation, and so you asked Jessamyn to help you out. This seems to have worked pretty well - MeFi and AskMe are some of the best sites on the 'net, and I would argue that a lot of this is due to judicious moderation. When we're discussing communities and forums at my job, I often point to AskMe and MeFi as examples of well-moderated communities.

It seems logical to me that as AskMe becomes more popular, it will become necessary to add more moderators to filter out the easily-googleable and chatfilter-oriented questions, not to mention snarky or off-topic responses.

Taking the 2 week limit off the table (as it is in testing until the end of Feb), what other approaches do you think could help ask mefi scale beyond a few thousand strangers answering each others' questions on a single page?

I guess I just really don't see the single-page thing as being that much of a problem. However, I like Roger Dodger's suggestion of having a nice, friendly filtration system. I know that my AskMe experience would be improved by being able to filter out all the technology-related questions (which I feel are better served by tech-related forums, anyway)
posted by Afroblanco at 11:34 AM on January 8, 2007


mathowie: re: Your question about other strategies, there was a suggestion in one of the past threads of making people wait to post their question.

You type in your question, wait x-y hours, come back, and then press some other button to actually post it. If this were, say, 24-36 hours, people would have to wait, and might be more inclined to search a little more themselves, and by having a maximum, it would be "well, if you forget about it then maybe it wasn't that important of a question to ask"
posted by that girl at 11:36 AM on January 8, 2007


I suggest that we have a third admin to share the increased burden.

Jessamyn gets paid if I recall correctly, and Matthew needs to make a living off the site. So this suggestion comes out of Matt's pocket.

I doubt the one per two weeks suggestion will help but I support Matt's decision to try it out -- and it does need a trial period to see if it will work. Maybe even repetitive raising of the issue helps more than anything. It is clearly not a purely statistical or mathematical problem since numerous people have mentioned how they refrain from asking their questions in case they really need to ask one that week. They thus end up conserving something to the extent they never use it, which is irrational, yet understandable.

I think some people, and I seem to recall a comment to this effect from dame a week or two ago, treat Askmefi as primarily an entertainment site, something to read when they are bored at work. One could speculate that the fear they might "miss something good" is paramount in their minds. This motivation alone for alteration or structural changes of Askmefi can't be supported because it totally misses the point: Askmefi is not an entertainment site, it is a question-answering tool. Any entertainment is secondary.

In this sense, maintaining the uniqueness and non-googleability of the questions and getting those questions in front of the right eyeballs are key. For example, there have been two questions regarding found bones that I was able to answer fairly definitively. Maybe there have been more that have scrolled off the front. Every google-able question subtracts from the usefulness of the site. Without a laser like focus on usefulness, then you have a chat site.
posted by Rumple at 11:37 AM on January 8, 2007


Jesus Christ, do you guys not understand humor? I was joking.

Jesus Christ did not understand humor, either. The Barabbas thing was an elaborate prank gone bad, actually.
posted by matteo at 11:39 AM on January 8, 2007


Make people wait two months to ask their first question.
This is a really, really good idea. It will drive down the one-hit wonders that appear and disappear, and while people are waiting, they get to learn the community and contribute some answers. It's like the benefits of closed-signups without being closed -- and the only people who lose out are people we don't know (yet)!
posted by bonaldi at 11:40 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


The way the site works now, there is unfortunately no way to tell conclusively if a question that stays on the front page for some X longer is more likely to be answered. Looking at my own questions, there are 6 stumped, and all the others were answered in less than 12 hours. So maybe it's ok as it is. But I think it must be clear that with questions hanging there longer, there is a greater likelihood that the more esoteric ones will get answered. To my mind, it is the esoteric ones being answered that make the the site so great. A heavier hand on googleable answers might help, but will certainly drive more complainers into MeTa.
posted by mzurer at 11:41 AM on January 8, 2007


I don't think extra admins are the answer, either. You can't just keep hiring new people in the same roles forever (we're dealing with this at my office); at some point, growth will change the way things work and you have to rearrange things.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:41 AM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Then please leave it alone for a while. You don't see a problem. I see a problem. Mathowie sees a problem. Some other people see a problem and some don't. We are trying something.

And you're trying something so bad that people are writing software to get around it! This is like those stupid paths that meander around in a pretty route to avoid "spoiling the park" that nobody uses and the direct path ends up a trampled muddy mess.
posted by bonaldi at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2007


afroblanco, in absolute numbers, moderation would increase. If we delete 2 lame questions a day now, and a year from now the load per day of questions is twice as much, yes, we will probably delete 4 a day.

What I meant was you suggesting that the way to stop scaling issues -- let's say 50,000 users sign up in the next year -- could be done with more moderation. And I'm saying that won't work because it wouldn't just mean we delete every borderline question, but as the question load skyrockets, we start making up new rules to let us delete stuff. That's what I saw as not a good approach.

part of my suggestion was to cap the number of questions per day.

Oh man, I thought once per two weeks was bad. Imagine the clusterfuck of 250 people trying to ask one of the golden 20 questions per day?

Solid-one-love, reread my previous response, I was talking about answers, not questions. A huge random question pile with no limits a link away on the homepage would get few answers per question and reduce utility overall. A voted up homepage would mean everyone keeps answering the few that were interesting enough to float up.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:45 AM on January 8, 2007


bonaldi writes "And you're trying something so bad that people are writing software to get around it! This is like those stupid paths that meander around in a pretty route to avoid 'spoiling the park' that nobody uses and the direct path ends up a trampled muddy mess."

Are you kidding me? Give it a chance already. The drama some people attach to change around here is ridiculous. If AskMe is a muddy mess, go use Yahoo.

tkolar's data can be used in the reverse as well, to suggest that all those who are up in arms about this are worried about something that will have little effect on most users.
posted by OmieWise at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2007


But I've been asking why we are fixing a pointless problem for weeks now and not getting an answer.

During the "We just flipped the switch last night" MeTa (December 18), I remarked that the answer was, " ">Fewer Questions = Better Answers." Jessamyn agreed; and among your 4 comments in that thread, you acknowledged that answer and replied, "If I am wrong, I'll happily admit it, but if I am right, I hope we can go back to more questions" — which seemed to indicate that you were prepared to relax and let Matt's prescribed trial period play out.

If you've changed your mind about that last, well, that's your prerogative — but stop insisting that nobody has tried to explain it to you. It's demonstrably dishonest.
posted by cribcage at 11:50 AM on January 8, 2007


I know it's probably inappropriate, but oh how I wish I could find the Jaime Pressly "Cheerocracy" video segment from Not Another Teen Movie right now... it would be comedy GOLD I say!!!
posted by matty at 11:50 AM on January 8, 2007


One thing I think would help would be some more intrusive category views, like tabs near the top for each category. If it was a single click into a filtered view of any category, the experts might head over there. Those who just like to browse can continue to do so, but perhaps motivated answerers will dig deeper into their areas of interest.
posted by mzurer at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2007


And you're trying something so bad that people are writing software to get around it!

Even assuming that's the case, can we just wait seven weeks and then everyone can pile on and point fingers and make ominous jabbing motions with pitchforks and whatnot? What terrible thing will happen in the space of seven weeks that this can't at least be tried to satisfy the people who run this site and run it quite well?
posted by veggieboy at 11:52 AM on January 8, 2007


Honestly, cribcage, I forgot that one amid all the totally poor responses people have put up (including the people who made that argument, so they probably forgot, too.) Plus I found I was right about numbers and must have extrapolated. My bad. I still think this is dumb, but I won't complain till March (as long as I remember I said that--which isn't an escape clause, I just want to admit the possiblilty of re-mistake), since I said that. Okay? Deal?
posted by dame at 11:54 AM on January 8, 2007


Each "hit and run" question is five bucks towards running metafilter. I don't feel comfortable arguing to lessen that income. Also, those questions probably are more difficult to answer by virtue of the effort need to ask them and would therefore be the most worthwhile questions to to encourage.

Though it would be interesting to know whether new memberships are a substantial fraction of the overall income of the site, though none of my business of course.

The problem with extra admins also includes a lot more backchannel and MeTa bitching about admins and a downward spiral of negativity.

My suggestions would include:
- everyone shutting up and trying out this idea for the next two months
- consider a tweak to "two questions per month" or something to satisfy the cassandras
- make the page 150 questions long or so, or at least experiment with this re: bandwidth (and yes I know you can click on a second page but as noted above people are irrational and probably don't do this) to increase the eyeballs/question
- deleting easily google-able questions abruptly and with extreme prejudice
posted by Rumple at 11:55 AM on January 8, 2007


Deal. Let's go argue about religion.
posted by cribcage at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2007


I just wish I had written "two months" instead of "an entire fucking week".
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2007


What I meant was you suggesting that the way to stop scaling issues -- let's say 50,000 users sign up in the next year -- could be done with more moderation. And I'm saying that won't work because it wouldn't just mean we delete every borderline question, but as the question load skyrockets, we start making up new rules to let us delete stuff. That's what I saw as not a good approach.

Then perhaps the situation would call for a combination of solutions - say, adding a third admin as well as raising the bar for what makes a "non-borderline" question.

Setting a longer time limit seems like more of a pre-emptive approach - limiting the number of questions and hoping that people will put more thought into their questions. Adding an admin and raising the bar for question quality seems like more of a corrective measure - letting people ask the same amount of questions, but deleting a question if it is deemed unworthy of AskMe.

However, I understand what you're saying, and I realize that people can get pretty touchy about having their questions deleted. I guess in the end, I really don't think that an increased question load is much of a problem. However, others seem to disagree, and I like Roger Dodger's idea of an improved filtration system.

Here's another idea - how about a filtration system that allows you to enter in a list of tags that would determine exclusion from your AskMe front page? So, that way, I could say, "please don't show me any questions that are tagged with 'ipod,' 'perl,' or 'osx?'?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:01 PM on January 8, 2007


mathowie wrote:
Taking the 2 week limit off the table (as it is in testing until the end of Feb), what other approaches do you think could help ask mefi scale beyond a few thousand strangers answering each others' questions on a single page?
Here's three:
  1. Give each category its own page. People only read the categories they're interested in and each page scrolls at a much more leisurely pace. Price: some acceleration in community fragmentation.
  2. A hard cap on the number of questions; first come, first served. Every day (or half day, hour, half hour, etc.) AskMe starts excepting new questions until the cap is reached, then it shuts down for the rest of the period.
  3. Each member gets one "free" question annually. All subsequent questions are five bucks each.

posted by timeistight at 12:02 PM on January 8, 2007


FOUND IT!
posted by matty at 12:03 PM on January 8, 2007


What terrible thing will happen in the space of seven weeks that this can't at least be tried to satisfy the people who run this site and run it quite well?

Since this change wasn't made to satisfy the people who run the site, this makes no sense.

There's nothing wrong with bringing up problems with the change and pointing out if and where it falls short.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:09 PM on January 8, 2007


Number 1 seems like the least onerous of these from the user perspective. More up front work for White Mao tho. On balance I like it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:10 PM on January 8, 2007


Every day (or half day, hour, half hour, etc.) AskMe starts excepting new questions until the cap is reached, then it shuts down for the rest of the period.

Since Metafilter is comprised of Americans, should it conform to when our day begins?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:11 PM on January 8, 2007


Brandon Blatcher writes "Since this change wasn't made to satisfy the people who run the site, this makes no sense."

What? Yes it was. Even if they might not have done it if the site were just read by them and their clones, it's still a change made to satisfy them. You don't think that finding a way to address scaling issues on AskMe is on Matt's todo list?
posted by OmieWise at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2007


timeistight writes "Here's three:
  1. Give each category its own page. People only read the categories they're interested in and each page scrolls at a much more leisurely pace. Price: some acceleration in community fragmentation."

This is a bad idea which will make AskMe less useful, for askers and answerers. I'd argue that part of what makes the site so successful is the serendipity between question and answer, a serendipity served by a flat interface.
posted by OmieWise at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2007


I'd argue that part of what makes the site so successful is the serendipity between question and answer, a serendipity served by a flat interface.

This is why I think that filtration should be tag-based rather then category-based.

Categories are very general - blocking out an entire category has a high probability of blocking out questions that you may, in fact, be interested in.

Tags, on the other hand, can be as specific as you like. For example, if we had tag-based filtration, I could block out all technology questions that concern technologies that I'm definitely not interested in (such as ipods and home entertainment systems), but still see the questions relating technologies that I am interested in (such as C# and AJAX)
posted by Afroblanco at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2007


Give each category its own page. People only read the categories they're interested in and each page scrolls at a much more leisurely pace. Price: some acceleration in community fragmentation.

I don't peruse by looking at specific categories and I suspect many others don't either.
posted by Falconetti at 12:24 PM on January 8, 2007


1. It [a question queue] would help to moderate the quality of questions. It’s unlikely that we’d ever see another bullshit question from some woman complaining that her boyfriend won’t get a job or go down on her and won’t stop talking about a future where the oxygen concentration is higher and all the buildings have been abandoned for a thousand years but are filled with cats. Unless that’s what the people really want.

I think it would have the opposite effect, people like those questions.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2007


ThePinkSuperhero is just building hype Trump-style for her next question. Let's have a meet-up as we count down on January 13th, 10:22 PM EST. :)
posted by yeti at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2007


As if we needed more, this is still another demonstration of the absolute stupidity of the two week limit.

I like answering questions, and when I do, I read all the other questions by the OP before I compose my answer. The two week limit deprives me directly of information I need in order to give a good answer, and I believe the indirect effects are even worse: I believe people are now feeling so constrained by the new limit, they are choosing not to ask the sort of spontaneous, off the cuff questions which have given AskMe so much of its sparkle in the past, and which are the most likely to give me the sort of insight I seek in order to grasp them as a person (perhaps the greatest pleasure I receive here) and which allow me to respond to them as one person to another, as well as giving me a possibility of perceiving an underlying pattern in their lives, and therewith the possibility of giving them an answer which could really make a difference to them.

There are a very surprisingly large number of extremely capable and interesting people answering questions on AskMe, and when I see that one of my favorites has answered a question which interests me as well, I feel anticipatory delight I can only compare to sitting down to a dinner prepared by my mate according to a recipe handed down in her family for three generations and refined by her deep understanding of food, and I linger over and savor every word.

But the two week limit is dashing these delights from my AskMe table; people are much more likely, I think, to Answer questions around the time they Ask one. On Jan. 6, for example, 41 members Asked questions. Of those, 15 contributed 26 answers to threads other than their own and which they posted to those threads after posting their questions. If I had counted answers made immediately before they posted their questions, these numbers would be even more impressive.

The results are in. End this silly trail before you do even more harm to the patient-- who wasn't sick in the first place.
posted by jamjam at 12:27 PM on January 8, 2007


ManFilter: Why are boys so stupid? Unlike their skulls, this question has [more inside]
posted by ThePinkSuperHero to boys = retarded at 10:22 PM EST - 193 answers  47 new
posted by cortex at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


jamjam, who are these constrained people? I think they is you. Let the experiment run its course before pronouncing it a failure. If people are still concerned that their questions are sliding off the front page too rapidly to receive amswers, despite evidence to the contrary, some kind of filtering/segmenting is in order for AskMe.
posted by Mister_A at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2007


This is a bad idea which will make AskMe less useful, for askers and answerers. I'd argue that part of what makes the site so successful is the serendipity between question and answer, a serendipity served by a flat interface.

This is something I was just pondering. Some forums I'm on manage to maintain some sense of community, despite being huge and having different sub-forums. However, what really makes MeFi unique (besides pancakes) is that I see a whole lot of stuff that I would otherwise never look at. The fact that I can just incidentally see something and think, "You know what, I do have something intelligent to say about that" lends a whole new perspective to topics, which would probably otherwise be answered by the same 10 people who consider it their forte.

As far as alternate suggestions, I really don't have any. I do think that getting rid of easily googleable questions would be a huge help though. Even in my brief time here, I've noticed that a lot more questions are ones that could be easily be answered via google. And honestly, I've even posted one. Matt makes a good point about the scalability of this though.
posted by !Jim at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


End this silly trail before you do even more harm to the patient

Drama! The patient isn't in any danger. Some kvetching at worst. And that's speaking as a kvetcher waiting on the goddam two week limit.
posted by cortex at 12:33 PM on January 8, 2007


This is why I think that filtration should be tag-based rather then category-based.

No solution of any import should depend on tags. People are hopeless at tagging posts.
posted by poxuppit at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Give each category its own page. People only read the categories they're interested in and each page scrolls at a much more leisurely pace. Price: some acceleration in community fragmentation.

I support this. Sure, it will fracture the community a bit but the creation of Ask.Me fractured the Mefi community as well. Its not a bad thing. There'll be cross pollination.

Three sites (based on question load)

1. Technology including Computers and Internet
2. Health and Human Relations
3. All others
posted by vacapinta at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2007


The solution to all of our problems
posted by Plutor at 12:35 PM on January 8, 2007


deleting easily google-able questions abruptly and with extreme prejudice

I don't think that's a good idea, at least not as a blanket rule...

I've been able to answer questions for people who said their Google-fu had failed them... Maybe my Google-fu is stronger than theirs, or maybe I just thought of better/different search terms or combinations of terms... I've seen this happen with other answerers too...

I do think that people should be encouraged to Google for themselves and/or try other methods of research (and I said that in the other thread, to one of the posters who was complaining about not being able to ask more questions), but sometimes people get stuck, or hit a brick wall, in their searches and others are able to help them...

Maybe when we find an answer for someone through a Google search, we should make a habit of saying "I found this through Google by using x,y,z search terms"... Maybe that would come across as snotty or as a "ha ha I have better Google-fu than you," I don't know... But it also might help people to learn to refine their search skills...

After all, isn't helping other people find answers what "querying the hive mind" is for?
posted by amyms at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


ThePinkSuperhero is just building hype Trump-style for her next question. Let's have a meet-up as we count down on January 13th, 10:22 PM EST. :)

yeti, you're a big fat cow! I might just SUE YOU for saying such a thing. You're a loser, a real loser. You will rue the day you said these words. I am sending one of my friends right now to steal your SO.

Just doing it up Trump Style...
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hmm. This is clearly the result of the site becoming too popular. The solution should be obvious. Suck more.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Three sites (based on question load)

1. Technology including Computers and Internet
2. Health and Human Relations
3. All others


Actually, let me add

4. Travel and Transportation

What this breakdown would do to the current front-page is left as an exercise to the reader.

All the Ask.Mefi addicts also get even more sites to check. Thats also a good thing.
posted by vacapinta at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2007


"We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page. It has come up every week on MetaTalk for the past year."

"Just because you think people shoudln't feel some way doesn't mean they won't. Just because you don't give a shit about the things that other people care about doesn't mean what they care about doesn't matter and/or doesn't mean that their concerns don't fill up MetaTalk and the MeFi comment form."

Y'know, I'd like to preface this with the statement that on the whole, I like both the moderators. And I especially like Jessamyn (no offense, Matt, she just seems to jibe with my tastes more often). But when I see these two answers, the salient message is then that people just need to make sure that there's a MeTa thread about how these limits are unfair every single day of the week, because that's the only way to get something done. It makes me feel less sympathy for you guys when there are a bunch of whiny MeTa posts, it makes me feel less sympathy for you guys when there are a bunch of retarded suggestions or "why did my question get deleted" kvetchings. Because, hey, you do it to yourself. I realize that it's a dangerous row to hoe, between too responsive and too imperious, but on this issue I don't think that the cries of the "It goes too fast" are based on anything worthwhile, and further, I'd say that while they're loud and frequent, that doesn't make them more valid. The dismissal of numbers is understandable, but it makes talking about a structural or political problem much harder, because if you're not going to justify your arguments with data, we slip into the realm of theory. I think too many people equate faster with too fast, just like I think too many people end up being NIMBYs when it comes to development. It's not the questions they're objecting to— it's the growth, flat-out. That's where they're losing their "sense of community," and seeing more traffic on their shaded streets. And it evidences just as much a sense of entitlment as any of the "Answer my $5 question" comments do.
posted by klangklangston at 12:41 PM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


Suggestions for improvement

* Hearlily recommend the filtration system. People can subscribe to the areas that ineterest them (or hopefully areas they have knowledge in. I dont' think having each category as a separate page would work, as the user would constantly have flip between several pages. Ajax based would be nice, so people could easily change the categories while on the page, so they could filter on the fly.

* Limit the FPP posts to a single sentence where the main question is aked, then increase the number of posts on the first page. People could give details/backstory on the inside. Use the side bar to list other recent questions that are no longer on the first, in chronological order.

* Allow users to order the page in certain sequence. Say if they like Tech, Arts and Human Relations, they can put Tech first, then arts and Human Relations. This way, they'll see ALL the questions from from Tech, then all the questions from arts etc, etc and then they'll see all the questions from other categories. Take it a step further and allow the user to be to control how many questions they see from each category, say just the10 most recent or favorited or unaswered questions from each category.

* Redesign the current interface so that previous post link is more proounced/obvious? Say put it at top?

* Allow people to mark a question as read so it no longer appears on the front page, so they can get rid of questions they're not interested in when they feel like it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on January 8, 2007


Hey I've got an idea! GYOFCQAARS (community question and answer resource site). Also, what IRFH said.
posted by Mister_A at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2007


how about just the in-site ability to filter out categories you have no interest in? that'd shorten up the page for the users that use it, providing us more time to get to questions we have an interest and perhaps a knowledge about? even if it only hits the 20% of the site that use it the most frequent, we might be able to provide timely or non-timely answers if we aren't sifting through the sheer volume.

or even just have a tab that allows us to do this. a "customized askme" where you can allow or disallow categories and tags you want or don't want.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2007


So this is weird - the AskMeQ about gyroscopes (which I posted because I found it genuinely interesting) was deleted, but the other AskMeQ-sourced questions (1, 2) remain.
posted by exogenous at 12:53 PM on January 8, 2007


How about some of the cleverer folks here mocking up a few Ask front page layouts with the goal of doubling information density while improving readability?

That would be a start toward "fixing" the too-many-posts problem. Being realistic about it, that problem is NOT going to be solved by a two-week posting limit (and it's obvious that it's not), simply because the number of users is increasing rapidly.

So it WILL be necessary to solve the problem of too many posts, regardless of posting limits. Posting limits are at best a bandaid. New visual designs WILL be necessary.

I WILL stop stressing words by TYPING THEM IN CAPS when I GODDAMN WELL FEEL LIKE IT. OK, sue me, it's easier than clicking the 'B'. I hate having to move off the keyboard for the mouse.
posted by lodurr at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2007


Solid-one-love, reread my previous response, I was talking about answers, not questions. A huge random question pile with no limits a link away on the homepage would get few answers per question and reduce utility overall. A voted up homepage would mean everyone keeps answering the few that were interesting enough to float up.

Ah. yes, we're both misreading each other: there would be no answers in the random pile under my scheme. One would vote on the queue, not comment in it. As such, that it would decrease the number of answers in the random queue would go without saying, which is why I read it as "questions", and not "answers".

IMHO, reducing the number of answers to low-quality questions would also be a benefit.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2007


(Not that visual designs solve the problem, but they will be necessary to address teh "posts falling off the front page" issue.)
posted by lodurr at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2007


You don't think that finding a way to address scaling issues on AskMe is on Matt's todo list?

I'm sure it is.

But Matt mentioned:

"We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page. It has come up every week on MetaTalk for the past year."

so I was under the impression that the change was made for the users as opposed to anything that would benefit the admins.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:00 PM on January 8, 2007


First, the data that shows that most people aren't close to the 1-week limit (or a hypothetical 2-week limit) isn't necessarily a reason to believe that increasing the time limit won't decrease the number of questions. What if most users only posted a question every 14 months, but the time limit was a year? I think you'd see less questions regardless because people would be "saving" their questions for when they really, really needed it. Until we actually see the effects of the 2-week limit, it's premature to say that increasing the time limit won't have any effect.

I also don't understand the absolutely nutso furvor people are having over this issue. If the data says that it's [extremely?] rare to post a question within 2 weeks, why do you care so much? What is the real, substantial difference between 1 and 2 weeks? Do you just hate all change?

I don't believe the "more is bad" mantra that many have, but I do think there are a lot of easily googled, hypothetical, or things that are already answered on Wikipedia that get posted every day. Honestly, if there were 1000 top-notch questions every day that got just as many good responses as happen today, I couldn't find fault with that.

I'll reiterate my previous constructive suggestion (hey, you can make them, too!) to deal with the increased flux of bad questions: 24-hour waiting period. Post your question, wait a day, then if you still haven't found the answer, come back and click another button and the question actually shows up. I think "Urgent!" questions are a scourge upon the earth anyway, but anonymous questions could probably go straight through since they're looked at individually.

As a last resort, there are probably two clearly-demarcated sorts of questions that get asked. There are the "What font is this?" questions that have a clear answer and usually require an expert, and there are the "Should I sell my car and buy my girlfriend a goat to appease my father?" questions that are very open-ended. AskMetaFilterWhatShouldIDo and AskMetaFilterWhoIsThisEighteenthCenturyPainter?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:01 PM on January 8, 2007


jamjam writes "The results are in. End this silly trail before you do even more harm to the patient-- who wasn't sick in the first place."

Says you.
posted by OmieWise at 1:02 PM on January 8, 2007




klangklangston, I only mentioned all the previous metatalk posts about scaling and asking for limits on Ask MeFi because people in the past three weeks seem to have forgotten that there was over a year of hand-wringing leading up to the upping of questions to 2 weeks instead of 1.

I understand that people are upset about the change. I think jessamyn and I have acknowledged that again and again and tried to make it clear that we're not going to switch it back immediately because 2-3 weeks after a change isn't enough to go on.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:04 PM on January 8, 2007


"The solution should be obvious. Suck more."

Now, if only I had a nickel for every time I've said that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:05 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I understand that people are upset about the change. I think jessamyn and I have acknowledged that again and again and tried to make it clear that we're not going to switch it back immediately because 2-3 weeks after a change isn't enough to go on."

Yeah, I understand that. (And would suggest that if you want to avoid the acrimony, that you close threads like this when they devolve and open new ones explicitly for constructive solutions). But since you guys have said again and again that it was the volume of the off-my-lawn-this-site's-too-fast moaning that made you up the limits, I think it's fair to expect the exact same tactics from the people who disagree with it.

Oh, and by the way, I think that the 24-hour delay is an excellent idea.
posted by klangklangston at 1:09 PM on January 8, 2007


I hate AskMe, either way. Every time I work up a question so I can get a little attention, a quick search shows that somebody has already asked it, better than I was going to, and there's tons of information readily available on the subject I was only tangentially interested in, anyway. So then I wind up wasting my time answering a question or two for which I receive only the barest flicker of recognition. It's a wasteland for the true egocentrist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:11 PM on January 8, 2007


the 24 hour delay is a great idea. People would probably start honing their questions very closely over several iterations of this process, and might clarify in the first comment with what they've learned so far.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2007


MetaFilter: People are upset about the change.


People always said I thought I knew everything, is this why I never asked an Askme? Is that an AskMe? I have no answers to my questions.
posted by Duncan at 1:22 PM on January 8, 2007


The 24-hour-delay sounds really annoying to me. It's probably fine for anyone in this here metatalk thread because hey, we've got time on our hands and are on the site a lot. But for the majority of users that might login once and come back a week later? Super annoying and would lead to loads of user confusion (where is my question? why do you have this nanny step in place? what about my URGENT question that I'M SIGNING PAPERS FOR TOMORROW MORNING YOU FUCKING DOLTS HELP ME).

Seriously, going to one question per two weeks seems like a cakewalk than having to revisit some dumb site within a timeframe (no more, no less or it gets deleted).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2007


Damn. I feel like this is the fifth time I've read through an entire thread on this topic and it still didn't end with a bang. I'm hoping that eventually mathowie will decide to prematurely end the 'two-week posting limit' trial after being shouted at by dame (among others). Then--and this is the entertaining part--dame will mock mathowie for being spineless. It'll be almost as good as a flame-out.
posted by mullacc at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2007


Which leads to more Metatalk threads for us to read and poop in! What's the problem?

Just kidding, I agree that people would probably be very confused by an extra step.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:28 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, no, it has become clear: he is not spineless. He is anti-dame. And that's the most spineful thing of all. Sigh.
posted by dame at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dear AskMe:

Should I entrust my important life decisions to a bunch of strangers on the intarweb?

tia
posted by bardic at 1:47 PM on January 8, 2007


Questions may be resubmitted, but they can also be flagged as “give it up, Chuckles”.

Hey! What'd I ever do to you?
posted by Chuckles at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2007


More Metatalk threads? Now ThePinkSuperhero is just itching to post one, but she used it already over the weekend. Nice try, but you're still going have to wait another two days.
posted by yeti at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2007


LIFE IS SO UNFAIR! ::whimper::
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


1. Get a lawyer.
2. See a doctor.
3. Brush and floss.
posted by fixedgear at 1:55 PM on January 8, 2007


Gee whiz, if it weren't for MetaTalk, I wouldn't know anything was wrong with Ask MeFi.
posted by danb at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2007


The first few times we talked about it, people wanted the ask mefi queue to be 1 per month, to ensure only the best questions got asked and answered.

Taking the 2 week limit off the table (as it is in testing until the end of Feb), what other approaches do you think could help ask mefi scale beyond a few thousand strangers answering each others' questions on a single page?


My previous (but not particularly original) suggestion:
1 per month for the first year, then 15 (or whatever number ed.) per year, with the reset date being your sign-up date. Still a little complicated, but not too bad..
There might still be a spike in questions around that fateful day in November, but it can't be too important.
posted by Chuckles at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2007


mathowie writes "Taking the 2 week limit off the table (as it is in testing until the end of Feb), what other approaches do you think could help ask mefi scale beyond a few thousand strangers answering each others' questions on a single page?"

A lottery could be implemented, this is a classic approach to resource management in meat space whether we're talking access to hiking an oversubscribed trail or hunting moose.

Here's how I see it working. Let's say the optimal number of questions is 80 per day. We split the day into four segments of 6 hours (1-7AM, 7AM-1PM, 1PM-8PM, 8PM-1AM). People ask questions as they do now but instead of immediately appearing on the front page they go into the pool for the next segment's 20 questions. At segment switch over the server randomly chooses 20 questions out of the submitted pool. Those questions are posted to the AskMe exactly 6 hours after they were submitted. This maintains question spacing though out the day. Questions that don't win the segment lottery are discarded. Users can only submit a question once every 24 hours and if their question is selected they need to wait 2 weeks as now. All numbers (segments, period ranges, questions per day etc.) are for example purposes. Numerous tweaks exist, we could weight the different segments so that 1-7AM got few questions than the other three or weekends got fewer questions than week days. Or maybe 3 segments would be better.

This approach would also encourage googling for an answer.

mathowie writes "Imagine the clusterfuck of 250 people trying to ask one of the golden 20 questions per day?"

My suggestion is all automatic and avoids a land rush situation like that that existed when signups were limited to 20 per day.

bonaldi writes "It will drive down the one-hit wonders that appear and disappear, and while people are waiting, they get to learn the community and contribute some answers. It's like the benefits of closed-signups without being closed -- and the only people who lose out are people we don't know (yet)!"

Ya, make them login a certain minimum number of times too and lets make them have a minimum number of page views.

timeistight writes "Each member gets one 'free' question annually. All subsequent questions are five bucks each."

Prime the guns of entitlement.
posted by Mitheral at 2:12 PM on January 8, 2007


How about a new question subsite. You can call it PollMe. This subsite would contain questions such as "My boyfriend keeps coming home smelling of perfume, but he says it's because he works in the department right next to the cosmetics counter at Sears. What should I do?" or "Hey it's my birthday next week, should I ask for a Nano, a Shuffle, or a 750GB Monster and how can I still appear like I'm not an ungrateful ass?" or "Can anyone recommend a good restaurant in New York City? Yeah, I didn't think so" or any other question which relies on people's opinions rather than cold, hard, provable facts. This hopefully would allow some harsher moderation on AskMe for truly helpful answers and a rock solid resource, while allowing people to yuck it up, feel the community and enjoy less important questions elsewhere. Whaddya think of that? Hmmm?
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2007


4. Oh god thank you. *sighs deeply, contentedly*
posted by loquacious at 2:17 PM on January 8, 2007


Mitheral, wouldn't that be destructively annoying and discouraging in general to anyone who didn't get their question posted? The whole day-after-tryouts did-I-make-the-cut thing seems like an stunningly bad addition to the AskMe interface.
posted by cortex at 2:19 PM on January 8, 2007


This is utterly ridiculous.

There is no problem! Didn't we read the stats thread? Why are you proposing these convoluted solutions?

All that needs to happen is to turn the 2 weeks back to 1 week. And I'm assuming mathowie will do that in a month or two, when he admits that the change didn't have any effect.
posted by knave at 2:20 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well then, just close this thread and everybody shut up about it for a month or two.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:21 PM on January 8, 2007


I hate all you fucking snowflakes.
posted by Mister_A at 2:22 PM on January 8, 2007


There is no problem!

But the rash itches.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:26 PM on January 8, 2007


klangklangston makes a very interesting point:
I think too many people equate faster with too fast, just like I think too many people end up being NIMBYs when it comes to development. It's not the questions they're objecting to— it's the growth, flat-out. That's where they're losing their "sense of community," and seeing more traffic on their shaded streets. And it evidences just as much a sense of entitlment as any of the "Answer my $5 question" comments do.
but personally, I think it is trumped by !Jim's:
The fact that I can just incidentally see something and think, "You know what, I do have something intelligent to say about that" lends a whole new perspective to topics, which would probably otherwise be answered by the same 10 people who consider it their forte.
I think a reasoned adjustment in the posting limit rules will improve question filtering, and this is MetaFilter, after all..
posted by Chuckles at 2:28 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about some of the cleverer folks here mocking up a few Ask front page layouts with the goal of doubling information density while improving readability?

Personally, I read "questions scroll off the front page too quickly" as "I can't keep up with the number of questions". As such, improved layout, or more/better categories, will do nothing.
posted by Chuckles at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2007


Two questions a calendar month would be much better than a fixed two-week limit. The problem with a fixed two week limit is that life doesn't work like that. If anything, questions will tend to be clustered around major life events. Force them to be at least 24 hours apart if you need to.

2-3 weeks after a change isn't enough to go on

If there were broad agreement that there are currently too many questions, I might agree with you, even in the face of the statistical evidence to the contrary. I think it has now become clear that while it might have looked that way before the change, there is in fact no such consensus.
posted by teleskiving at 2:36 PM on January 8, 2007


Is this what happens when threads aren't closed?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:41 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is nothing. Remember way back in the olden days when we had the image tag?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:42 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


cortex writes "wouldn't that be destructively annoying and discouraging in general to anyone who didn't get their question posted? "

Maybe. If it is determined that an absolute limit on questions per day is desirable a lottery of some sort seems to be the fairest way.

I was trying to come up with a way to run a lottery without needing a bunch of back and forth by the questioners. Also if a lottery was to be implemented I think it's imperative that we make people actually submit their question before the selection process otherwise we'd have people signing up everyday and only when they are successful would they try to think of a question. This way lies bad questions.

It also slows the feedback loop in a similar way to the return the next day to confirm/submit your question suggestion.
posted by Mitheral at 2:47 PM on January 8, 2007


Back when we banned the img tag we had weeks of people describing in their favorite Eighteenth Century Painter. It was terrible. The brush strokes were too dense and didn't draw enough distinction between the elephant's internal emotional dilemma and external -ummm- expulsion.
posted by yeti at 3:08 PM on January 8, 2007


The frontpage should show the last 50 questions plus 50 questions chosen at random that are still open.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:14 PM on January 8, 2007


We've always said it was to appease the dozens of metatalk posts demanding that we do something about the speed at which questions roll off the page.
Is that really a problem though? Or is it people feeling that their own question isn't getting seen by enough people in their mind? emphasis added


Jessamyn has touched on this, but here's my pointless rant anyway:
This community is made up of people. People who exist, for all intents and purposes and in the context of MetaFilter, as minds only. If a problem exists in those minds, it is as much of a problem as if it were made of granite with titanium cladding and surrounded by a force field. It is clear that a significant portion of users who participate in both Askme and MeTa like the idea of the two-week limit because it makes their interaction with the community more satisfying. It is equally clear that a number of that same subset of users (it seems to be a similar amount, but I'm just guessing) don't like it because they don't see the problem in the first place and aren't prepared to accept that something may be a problem for someone else and not for them. Perhaps they think other users are not as important as them, but I am certainly prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt there (particularly dame, whom I know is not like that).

Sufficient discussion has taken place over this, both before the limit was imposed and after, to make it clear that a not-insignificant number of users supoprt this trial. Let's for [insert deity of choice]'s sake let the trial run its course and then decide if it worked or not.
posted by dg at 3:16 PM on January 8, 2007


Did you miss the part where I said I would and stopped arguing?
posted by dame at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2007


Maybe. If it is determined that an absolute limit on questions per day is desirable a lottery of some sort seems to be the fairest way.

Granted. And I think the lottery proposal is interesting and could have useful applications; I just don't think AskMe is one of them. I see now much more clearly now than I did before this latest discussion just how disinclined I am toward any idea that puts an arbitrary red-light-green-light wall between asker and asking.

The fixed-time period, be it one week or two weeks, is a clear, static, non-competitive per-user limit. When someone can ask a question is clear to them; the question of whether they'll get away with it doesn't exist; and I think that's the way to go.

A max-per-day (or -hour or -whatever) limit punishes busy/schedule-inflexible people and favors whoever has the time to sit at their computer and hit post at just the right time. It's eBay auction sniping, Metafilter style. Ick. (Bonus feature: load spike around Post Time, as X+n people all try to claim a piece of the X available questions.)

A blind lottery punishes people for having bad luck, which is somehow worse yet—and given that, as you say, Mitheral, fairness would require that they submit their question ahead of time, such a system would have to either allow for storage and editing and reuse of unselected questions (a bunch of new infrastructure work for Matt), or add to the user frustration of having to store or recompose their question every time they want to take a shot at it. Ick ick.

Submitting an AskMe question should not (post-asking deletion probability aside) be a game of imperfect information. Posting should just work. Put the constraints before that part of the process, if necessary, but the button should say "Post", not "Try to Post".
posted by cortex at 3:24 PM on January 8, 2007


Here's my simpletons view; sometimes great things are created to get around silly rules, this aint one of 'em.

It totally skirts the PURPOSE of having the two week wait.

If you have an emergency then e-mail somebody. Matt or Jess even.
posted by snsranch at 3:25 PM on January 8, 2007


Wow, I got 4 favorites from that 'I wanna neck beard, how do you feel about that?' This thread seems really serious 'n' stuff, why not keep it one question every four weeks, and charge a dollar for each extra question up to a max of one a week, with all proceeds going to a charity? Did that guy poo on his girlfriend in the end? How did her previous lovers feel about pooing on her? I have to spend a good 20 second soothing myself before I can even use a urinal with others present. So shitting whilst someone else is there, under me, would be very awkward. And smelly. Apologies.
posted by econous at 3:26 PM on January 8, 2007


The frontpage should show the last 50 questions plus 50 questions chosen at random that are still open.

Now that I kind of like. Every other, perhaps, with the 50-rand shaded a bit different and selected on a weighted basis (more recent get more chance of showing, back to some terminal point [a month]). And if the set shown varied every page load, you'd get more bits of flickering visibility for off-the-front-page questions. Hmm.
posted by cortex at 3:29 PM on January 8, 2007


charge a dollar for each extra question...with all proceeds going to a charity

Just an aside: per-transaction charges of ~$0.30 + 3% means that for every $1 surcharge, said charity (or, you know, Metafilter) would only see about $0.66.

Goddam micropayment vultures.
posted by cortex at 3:33 PM on January 8, 2007


dame, this thread does not revolve around your massive ego. It's a sensitive issue for many others as well. Do you really need to moderate?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:33 PM on January 8, 2007


I was the one quoted, so I thought it referred to me. And I'm waiting for dinner to be ready and there aren't enough questions to read!
posted by dame at 3:35 PM on January 8, 2007


Why don't we make the most convoluted question asking process possible? "Potential" Askers must first take a picture of themselves with an object relevant to their question, then inscribe the question on the back with an industrial laser. The picture must be sent to mathowie, taking care to include $5 and a SASE.

mathowie will use the envelope to send a secret item indicating that he has received the question. Then, you must send him an email identifying the item and containing the text of the question, along with no fewer than 5 resources or techniques that you have already exhausted. You must then send jessamyn at least 3 answers to potential follow-up questions.

Meanwhile, mathowie will post your question to Rate.Me, where members of the community will vote on the worthiness of your question. Of course, votes from members with a usernumber lower than 17k will be worth triple. After you have received a minimum number of votes (which depends on the current phase of the moon), your question will finally appear on Ask.Me.

The answer, of course, is Frank.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2007


charge a dollar for each extra question...with all proceeds going to a charity

It's been mentioned in the past that the flaw in this system is that people would be very upset if their question subsequently got deleted because of guidelines. The kvech factor may not be worth $1
posted by edgeways at 3:41 PM on January 8, 2007


Why don't we make the most convoluted question asking process possible? "Potential" Askers must first take a picture of themselves with an object relevant to their question

And a squirrel. A pigeon is fine, but squirrels would be better.
posted by qvantamon at 3:42 PM on January 8, 2007


I did the math and the answer wasn't "Frank", it was "Ice cream has no bones".
posted by loquacious at 3:43 PM on January 8, 2007


Charging money for questions doesn't solve the problem: too many questions scrolling off the front page. Any moderately affluent MeFite could ask a new question everyday for a dollar; imagine a couple dozen doing this and completely killing the system, despite "donating" to charity.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 3:46 PM on January 8, 2007


You know, it seems to me I used to have an opinion about this, and perhaps even cared about it. Now, after reading this entire thread, all I have is a headache.

I'd post an AskMe question about it, but then what if I had a really important question in the next two weeks? Better not...
posted by languagehat at 3:49 PM on January 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


doesn't solve the problem: too many questions scrolling off the front page.
I actually think it moves pretty slowly. It's only when I've been away for a day or two I think it's too much to catch up on.
posted by bonaldi at 3:51 PM on January 8, 2007


Sufficient discussion has taken place over this, both before the limit was imposed and after, to make it clear that a not-insignificant number of users supoprt this trial. Let's for [insert deity of choice]'s sake let the trial run its course and then decide if it worked or not.

Can we try a more liberal policy after this one runs its course? Because it seems like there would be plenty of support for that as well. This is not a rhetorical question. I mean more liberal in the sense of allowing a poster to ask two questions close together if they choose to do so at the expense of using up some long-term quota (a month, a year, whatever).
posted by teleskiving at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2007


Ah, the wisdom of crowds.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:59 PM on January 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of the argument in this thread goes to the question of whether the (perceived) problem is:

(A) the strict number of questions; or

(B) the user experience/community "feel."

Of course they're interrelated, but it seems to me that a lot of the better proposed solutions attack the problem on point (b) rather than on point (a), which, as many have pointed out, introduces all kinds of logistical issues (lotteries, long waiting periods, etc.). Also, a lot of the people who seem (somewhat inexplicably) angry about solutions directed at (a) seem like they would not be so riled up about (b).

It seems to me that the best approach would be to refine the way that AskMe displays so that more users feel like they are able to read/participate in/contribute meaningfully to a greater number of questions. Allowing a "easy sort by category" would be one way to accomplish this. Throwing up 50 random questions (great idea) would be another. The total amount of information posted to the site would not decrease, but an average user's ability to navigate and participate would be improved.

Also -- a side note, but note that this basic problem (navigating lots of information and getting the community "feel") is solved in the Blue because readers can browse by "recent comments," which effectively leads users to active/interesting discussions. Saying that "people don't read everything on the blue so they shouldn't have to read everything on the green for 'community' sake" ignores this difference.
posted by Mid at 4:03 PM on January 8, 2007


^ an easy "sort by category"
posted by Mid at 4:04 PM on January 8, 2007


cortex writes " It's eBay auction sniping, Metafilter style. Ick. (Bonus feature: load spike around Post Time, as X+n people all try to claim a piece of the X available questions.)"

Agree totally, we should avoid a land rush at all costs.

muddgirl writes "Why don't we make the most convoluted question asking process possible?"

There is some merit to this. Not insignificant portions of the BBS world operated on members having to prove they were past the larval wanker stage. This usually included either having people vouch for you or delivering value add to the board before being allowed to take. Obviously we don't have a problem that could be relieved with ratios but stuff like the $5 donation for accounts keeps at least a little of the riff raff out (though just barely, paypal is too easy, people don't even need to leave their chair).

There also may be lessons from the great renaming. With continued growth we will eventually have early usenet's problem of it not being possible for any human to read all of AskMe.
posted by Mitheral at 4:21 PM on January 8, 2007


I like answering questions, and when I do, I read all the other questions by the OP before I compose my answer. The two week limit deprives me directly of information I need in order to give a good answer...

I think you've misunderstood the purpose of AskMe. It's not entertainment for people who like to answer questions, and it's not about digging through old threads to find an answer. It's about, "I have a pointed question — like, 'Help identify this weird bone that I found' — and I hope that by posing it to 3,500 people, I'll get it in front of somebody who knows its answer."

Lots of people post legal questions about which I could confidently speculate; and I enjoy engaging in legal speculation, so that would be fun. But I don't, because that's against the rules of AskMe. If I know the answer, then I'll post. Otherwise, I keep quiet and wait for someone who does.

This goes to the heart of the rationale for slowing the front page scroll: Hopefully, as the site grows and collects more doctors and lawyers and waitresses and astrophysicists, each question will benefit from more, better answers. Just as everyone has to wait longer to post questions, everyone should also exercise more restraint about answering questions — and these two mechanisms, acting in concert, will (hypothetically) improve the quality of AskMe.

But when I see these two answers, the salient message is then that people just need to make sure that there's a MeTa thread about how these limits are unfair every single day of the week, because that's the only way to get something done.

While I share the "Don't give in to terrorism" sentiment (and I'll admit up front that I'm not going to research this point, so feel free to dredge the evidence and prove me wrong), it's my impression that, during previous MeTa threads (prior to the 2-week limit), there was a general consensus about boosting the limit. Now that the limit has been imposed, yes, there's a vocal contingent objecting — but no consensus, with lots of folks defending the limit. Noteworthy distinction, I think.
posted by cribcage at 4:49 PM on January 8, 2007


Iv'e had a little to time to pray about this, so I can speak with some authority on the issue. Jesus really doesn't care about askMeta, he would rather watch The Shield or Battlestar Galactica. I love that guy(Jesus), in a non homo way. Though either one of us would be fine with the other being a homo and loving the the other, perhaps even in a sexual manner. Even both of us being homos and celibate would be cool with him, though he says it'd be ok to play around a little, or a lot. I mean, he such lovely blue eyes, and alabaster skin his beard hair is so soft and blonde it's like a pubescent girls armpit. Lovely. Jesus is a little like jonmc that way. Though it has to be admitted that Jesus's daddy is a right moody bastard, the freaky fucker touched me once and I licked it. Ugh.
posted by econous at 4:58 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Even I found that comment a bit offensive, econous, and I don't even believe in jonmc.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:01 PM on January 8, 2007


I would still like to investigate the 1-per-month question bank, as a long-term, scalable solution.

Previously:
If only there were a way to:

1. Bank 1/4 of a question per month, up to a maximum of 3 banked questions (basically, a year's supply), non transferrable.

2. Prevent/screen more and more duplicates/easily googleable queries on AskMe to prevent scrolling off. Mini-mods with an approval queue just sounds like a nightmare, though.
posted by Eideteker at 9:08 PM EST on April 4

This is true. I never read AskMe unless I'm specifically linked to a question, and the universe hasn't collapsed in upon itself yet. I wonder what percentage of users have posted more FPPs than AskMes. I'm over the "one AskMe question per FPP or bestanswer" idea, but I still think people should be contributing to MeFi if they're going to put a drain on the community by using AskMe. Maybe along the lines of what Jess suggested in terms of a waiting period, add a clause that you have to have at least attempted an FPP before asking your first question. But that still leads to junk FPPs.

I dunno, I just don't like the idea of people signing up (and paying $5, sure), just to use the knowledge base without contributing. But there's no algorithm I can think of that monitors contributions discourages crap. Giving someone one question per ten answers means you get a bunch of crappy one line noise for answers, because people are greedy for questions. But I do know that I find AskMe unreadable in its present state, so I rarely contribute anymore. Occasionally I'll remember to search for things tagged with keywords pertaining to my specialty, but that's too much work and too narrow a field.
posted by Eideteker at 1:26 PM EST on August 5

Actually, I remember a proposal I made once before but can't remember in which thread. I suggested letting users get one question per month, with up to four of those being bankable (you can accrue up to four questions). And if that didn't sound complicated enough to code, you could transfer the questions to a user who had already used theirs for the month (put a "Donate your questions?" link on the profile page or something). Questions asked that are over the asker's monthly limit get put into a waiting list, where donors can review them for urgency (My mom needs a kidney... vs. What wallpaper should I choose?). Questions that don't get bumped off the waiting list simply get posted when the querent's month is up (not on the first of the month; that would be suicidal). Donors might do this out of community spirit, but if not enough people are donating, maybe you could build a system where donors of enough questions (100?) earn points for a free gift membership for a friend or something (you'd also have to code up the gift membership thing). I think that would glut the page, though, and that the small stream of regular donations would be enough for the most urgent and immediate of questions.

It's actually not that complicated, but would require basically rebuilding the system from the ground up. But I figured I'd throw it out there. I like that people who have to ask questions would still be able to, but that frivolous questions would have a higher cost to the asker, reducing their overall frequency (and by the absence of their example, reducing their overall tendency). Questions right now are so "cheap" that they can be asked indiscriminately. I've basically raised the price, but also placed them into a merit-based system (oh, and as an added bonus, you can hide the usernames on the waitlist page so it's not a popularity contest).
posted by Eideteker at 1:52 PM EST on August 5
posted by Eideteker at 5:11 PM on January 8, 2007


1. Technology including Computers and Internet
2. Health and Human Relations
3. All others
.....
4. Travel and Transportation


Really we need SEVEN groups:

1. computers (CompMe)
2. human relations (SocMe)
3. science and nature (SciMe)
4. travel and recreation (RecMe)
5. news and current events (NewMe)
6. everything else (MiscMe)
and
7. a meta-ask to talk about ask (TalkMe)

We could think about adding a page for arts and literature, if necessary, but that could come later.

If each subject page gets too busy, we could split again, like an iPodCompMe page for example.

I know it's a crazy idea, but it could work!
posted by bonehead at 5:32 PM on January 8, 2007


The only thing that offends me is that I seem to have left entire words out of my comment. It's not like I'm a blind guy with no arms typing with with my knob or tongue. It's interesting that in elevators they have buttons. Buttons with braille on. If I were a blind person with no arms I don't know what I'd rather use to operate it. Not my nose though, I use that for my toes.
posted by econous at 5:33 PM on January 8, 2007


7. a meta-ask to talk about ask (TalkMe)


That one (currently called Metatalk) should be called GougeOutEyesWithCarKeysMe
posted by sleevener at 5:54 PM on January 8, 2007


In echoing Dame, right now AskMe isn't busy enough and a lot of the questions suck.
Obviously, the problem is the waiting period (;)) [That emoticon in parantheses looks like an Asian with a double chin to me— NOT RACIST]
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 PM on January 8, 2007


ecounous: did the court order you to put a sign in your yard saying that a sex offender lives there?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:08 PM on January 8, 2007


If you're so desperate to ask a question, Amazon's Askville seems slightly better than Yahoo Answers to me. I think it's open to registrations now, but if it's not, e-mail me and I'll send you an invitation.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:54 PM on January 8, 2007


I'll post your question, languagehat.

Also, I just watched "Munich".
posted by ersatzkat at 7:08 PM on January 8, 2007


SPOILER ALERT:
Everyone dies at the end of "Munich".
posted by Dizzy at 7:39 PM on January 8, 2007


SPOILER ALERT:
Everyone dies at the end of MetaTalk.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:07 PM on January 8, 2007


There is no such thing as an emergency AskMe question. Period.
posted by potch at 8:20 PM on January 8, 2007


People, Usenet never went out of business. People seriously interested in a broad spectrum of expertise wouldn't be posting questions in the quiet little backwater puddle that is AskMe, they'd be getting their queries out in front of the whole world (distribution: global), and taking their lumps. The world will still write you a book for free, on any given day, if you can ask something truly interesting in the Holy Hierarchy, and filter the crap flood for the inevitable nuggets.

AskMe is recreational, for both the seekers of answers, and the folks that answer. It's ultra low tech (no threading model, no forward posting, no images, no whiteboard, etc. etc.) and dog simple in presentation. It appeals to those with simple questions needing fairly simple answers, who can't filter the crapflood of Usenet, and can't be arsed to wade through news.announce.newusers FAQ. It's a decently active, entertaining place for a group of irregulars that answer occasionally, some of whom have some expertise, and many of whom have some ego. I've personally written some of the longest AskMe answers, and they're not even a decent preamble to what is regularly posted in a lot of Usenet groups. An AskMe question that gets 100 answers is still a relatively scarce commodity, while a Usenet post that elicits only 100 replies is basically being ignored by the world, because almost anything posted by a human being in Usenet these days is going to get 100 "f**k off" replies in friendly greeting.

AskMe is just a real small, simple little play pen, with one full time nanny. And that's fine. That's all it was supposed to be. If it were a real community, it wouldn't need a nanny, but we're not ones for the rough and ready justice of a crowd, and besides, it's still One Man's Website. If the One Man squints down his nose at the Nanny on any given Wednesday, and says "A 19 day posting interval is optimum in Wisconsin's deer season." well, Them's His Rules.

We can discuss Optimizing the Size and Number of Frogs in a Green Pond of Finite Dimensions by Automatic Shut Up Rules until we're Gray in the face, but I suspect we've already way over thought this, given the fundamental limitations of the thing. At some point, if we really wanted the quality of the thing to improve, we'd institute some structure that promoted a meritocracy. But we'll never get to that, for all the reasons Socrates died protesting. Not in this crowd, anyway. And besides, as I've said, we don't operate the thing, and we don't have a hand in its design or future, except indirectly as participants. So, we can suggest Green Horses of a Different Color Until Doomsday, if we've no better use for the time, but I'm unpersuaded there is much of a "problem" really, or much of a "solution" needed.

Ergo, It Is What It Is.

But that doesn't stop anyone from building a real knowledge management site built on a community adminstration model, and incorporating their view of a meritocracy as a first approximation subject to refinement under community experience, and perhaps naming it something like MetaAnswerMe.com, and posting same to MeFi Projects. I'd just have one question here if I saw that Project: Where and when d'I sign up for that?

'Cause, lordy! I got questions for such a fierce place as that.
posted by paulsc at 9:03 PM on January 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this will help anyone else, but when I first started reading Ask MeFi, I checked it a couple times a day and looked at everything since the last time I checked to see if any questions attracted me. When I missed a day or two, I'd take a while catching up. I finally got to the point where there was just too much, and I mostly ignored AskMe.

I use Netvibes as my homepage, and it finally occurred to me that the tags for AskMe posts have their own feeds. I'm interested in a lot of topics but it's still a finite number, I could add each of the feeds for the tags I'm interested in to an "Ask MeFi" tab on my Netvibes page. So far it's working a treat, and there's only a few questions to read each day. I went through my AskMe favorites to figure out what tags to get feeds for, and also thought about my interests. I'm skimming AskMe (and will be for a few weeks) to see if there's tags I didn't think to add. Once that's done, though, I'll probably only check out all of AskMe now and then.

I realize this doesn't help everyone (some tags have lots of questions, not everyone uses tags, etc.) but maybe it will help some. Now I don't care how fast the questions scroll; I'm getting to read all the ones I want to. I do wish I could subscribe to multiple-tag feeds (like vermont+travel) but I'll live. I figure that this might be an alternate way to solve the "Aieee! The green scrolls too fast!" problem.
posted by booksherpa at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2007


I don't think people who are complaining that the green scrolls too fast are doing so because as readers they can't keep up; people are complaining because as askers they think their question did not have enough time on the front page to attract enough attention from potential responders.

(I understand that this would seem to imply that askers think there are readers who are not reading past the first page on a regular basis, which seems contradicted by all the readers here saying they do so. I think MeTa is a hard place to get a sense of that, though, since I would presume that those people who do not have the time or inclination to read all of AskMe regularly do not read MeTa regularly either.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:53 PM on January 8, 2007


Jesus Christ, do you guys not understand humor? I was joking.

You need black writers.
posted by The God Complex at 12:52 AM on January 9, 2007


There is no such thing as an emergency AskMe question. Period.

Clearly there are many who disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:10 AM on January 9, 2007


.
Perhaps a two week limit on answers rather than questions may be of benefit and possibly more amusing.
Anyway , i think i've managed to make the most bizarre suggestion in this thread.

(happy new year all btw)
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:21 AM on January 9, 2007


"Clearly there are many some who disagree don't know what the word emergency means."

At one time I went from working in an acute health care facility to working in an office. I well remember the sting of sarcasm and criticism I received early on when I went all gungho thinking that the boss, who said something needed to be done urgently, was actually telling me to, you know, run and stuff to get this whatever-it-was done.

If you've ever worked in a first line hospital dept. the word 'emergency' in virtually every other context is just exaggeration.

There is no emergency here. If you see it differently then your emotional calibration centre needs tweaking or drugging and you should get away from the internet for a bit.
posted by peacay at 4:54 AM on January 9, 2007


Q: YES I SAID YES IT DOES YES.
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 AM on January 9, 2007


At some point, if we really wanted the quality of the thing to improve, we'd institute some structure that promoted a meritocracy. But we'll never get to that, for all the reasons Socrates died protesting.

What the hell are you talking about? (If you can boil it down to a paragraph or two.)

There is no emergency here. If you see it differently then your emotional calibration centre needs tweaking or drugging
you probably didn't work in an acute health care facility.

There, fixed that for you.
posted by languagehat at 5:35 AM on January 9, 2007


Emergencies are in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes the beholder is not the person asking the question, but the person creating the need for them to ask the question.

"Go to USENET" -- well, that's just a fine answer. Have the world write a book for you and filter the torrent for gold nuggets amongst the shit. But -- holy shit -- that's a lot of shit...

peacay: Get calibrated. Most of the rest of us don't share your experiences, and we don't have any obligation to bend our perceptions or word usages to them.

But hey, to make you and the "there's no such thing as an emergency outside of situation x" crowd happy, let's call them Urgent AskMe Questions -- UAQs, for short. Or do y'all want to redefine "urgent", as well?

Now, just to be clear, I think most people have a pretty skewed concept of what constitutes an "emergency" or even an "urgent" issue. But that's my perception. If Jane has to deal with a social worker in the morning and she's worried they're going to take her kids away if she doesn't say the right things, who am I to say that's not urgent?

More to the point: Who is anybody else?

I'll tell you who: An admin.

Which I'm not. And which y'all aren't, either. 'Cept maybe a couple of you.
posted by lodurr at 5:36 AM on January 9, 2007


one month limit for new users, yo. Easy, uncomplicated and ace.

I've got two questions in my head just now, and if I think of another, that's a month before I get to ask it. If I can wait that long, some n00b can.
posted by bonaldi at 5:51 AM on January 9, 2007


There have certainly been urgent and/or short time-dependent AskMe questions, and there will continue to be urgent and/or short time-dependent AskMe questions.

Minimizing that point through word games is stupid.
posted by mediareport at 5:56 AM on January 9, 2007


Yeah yeah orright. It was just meant as a bit of rhetorical perspective.
posted by peacay at 6:10 AM on January 9, 2007


You know, it seems to me I used to have an opinion about this, and perhaps even cared about it. Now, after reading this entire thread, all I have is a headache.

That's right. I used to care, but now I just wish mathowie would get rid of AskMetafilter altogether.
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 AM on January 9, 2007


I'd like to punch AskMe right in the nose.
posted by cortex at 7:44 AM on January 9, 2007


My pal Cheney is gonna go duck hunting with AskMe.
posted by Dizzy at 7:51 AM on January 9, 2007


AskMe is going to go for a drive, but get snuck in the snow. too soon?
posted by muddgirl at 8:05 AM on January 9, 2007


Leave the AskMe. Bring the cannoli.
posted by cortex at 8:07 AM on January 9, 2007


What about combining a hard cap and a filter system? For instance, everyone gets one questions per month which will go straight to the front page. Otherwise, they get one per week which will go into a pool and voted on. Say you want to have a voted question added every 30 minutes or an hour. Just set a timer with the highest voted question added to the front page. Each question remains in the pool for one day.
That way with the one question/month, a user can hold on to it for that emergency with possibility of other non-life threatning questions being asked.
Speaking of life-threatning, a voting booth would probably get rid of the doctor questions which could just have an auto-responder, "Your question will be responded with, 'GO SEE A DOCTOR!!! Therefore, go see a doctor. Bye.'"

A hard cap on the number of questions; first come, first served. Every day (or half day, hour, half hour, etc.) AskMe starts excepting new questions until the cap is reached, then it shuts down for the rest of the period.

I think this would be the worst solution. As was already mentioned, you'd just have a flood of people at 'x' time waiting in line to ask their question. Hello, reload & server overload.

Limit the FPP posts to a single sentence where the main question is aked, then increase the number of posts on the first page. People could give details/backstory on the inside. Use the side bar to list other recent questions that are no longer on the first, in chronological order.

I don't know if I'm alone, but it's exactly the one-line "What's going on?" with no real substance on the main page I skip.
posted by jmd82 at 8:14 AM on January 9, 2007


occhiblu: I don't think people who are complaining that the green scrolls too fast are doing so because as readers they can't keep up; people are complaining because as askers they think their question did not have enough time on the front page to attract enough attention from potential responders.

I don't disagree with you, but if a number of people who were interested in a particular tag or tags subscribed to that tag's feed, then more people would see an asker's question. I really think the tag feeds can help everyone.
posted by booksherpa at 8:52 AM on January 9, 2007


I can't wait till next week, when we can have this exact same argument all over again!
posted by muddgirl at 9:23 AM on January 9, 2007


I've read almost every thread and comment on this, not all at once but as I've seen the threads appear, and I'm not so sure I have a firm grasp of the bottom line. But here's a suggestion.

1. Reset everyone to a baseline of 2 questions. Use a question and a 30-day limit starts ticking until you can ask another question in its place. On the question page, have it easy to see how long before that 30-day period is up. So if I want to use both questions in a day, fine, but it's 30 days before I can ask again. If a user asks Question A, 30 days starts running - then asks Question B a week after asking Question A, and 30 days starts running for Question B. So user would have to wait 3 weeks before asking another (after the 30 days for Question A ran).

OR

2. Every user gets their 1 question every 14 days. Plus, every user gets 1 emergency question - use the emergency question, and a 90-day time limit starts ticking (again, user can see how much longer remains), and after 90 days user gets another emergency question - no stacking them, 1 maximum.

I don't know enough to know if these are practical. Apologies if they are not.
posted by KAS at 11:09 AM on January 9, 2007


I like concept 1.
posted by Mitheral at 11:22 AM on January 9, 2007


Concept 1: You can only post a question if its been at least 30 days since the question before your last question.
posted by vacapinta at 12:55 PM on January 9, 2007


Concept 1: You can only post a question if you've been here a month.
posted by bonaldi at 12:59 PM on January 9, 2007


Concept 3:
You can only post a question if you do my laundry for a month.
Concept 4:
If you ever discuss AskMe question-frequency, use the phrase "Owl-Stretching", or are circumsized, you cannot post for six months.
posted by Dizzy at 1:59 PM on January 9, 2007


"... What the hell are you talking about? (If you can boil it down to a paragraph or two.) ..."
posted by languagehat at 8:35 AM EST on January 9

Even Plato couldn't do that. But I.F. Stone gave it a go, at slightly greater length, in this 1979 interview.
posted by paulsc at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2007


I just noticed that AskMe questions # 54665 - 54675 are all one-line-only questions. If you scroll down to that part of the page, it's a nice preview of how things would look if the first line of each question was restricted to a certain number of characters.
posted by xo at 4:35 PM on January 9, 2007


xo: I suggested that earlier, but cortex yelled at me. Cortex isn't invited to my birthday party no more.

I admit, my phrasing broke several laws of physics. What I was suggesting was that smaller, bite-size questions on the front would be easier to peruse, and more could fit in the average space now allotted to the front. Since most of us -- I assume -- only read the questions that pique our interests, this makes scanning easier and Matt could leave 24 hours worth / 100 questions on the front page without it shrinking the scrollbar to the thickness of a paperclip.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 5:48 PM on January 9, 2007


I actually agree with that sentiment in principle, and believe as well that more concise phrasing would make a slightly more scannable page. And, hey, I'm a yeller. Doesn't mean I don't love you, baby.
posted by cortex at 5:51 PM on January 9, 2007


I'm glad you said that. But you're still not coming to the party because you give crappy presents. Also, you're mom wraps them in the Sunday comic strip instead of wrapping paper, which is sort of awkward for everyone.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:55 PM on January 9, 2007


I'm glad you guys agree. Can I use my outside voice now?
posted by The God Complex at 7:57 PM on January 9, 2007


When asking a question the user will be given a 16 x 16 block of pixels onto which they must draw a representation of their question. Once their question is ready they can post it and it will appear in the top left corner of the new Million Dollar AskMe page. Question pixel blocks, or Qicons, will move quickly to the right and down the page as new questions are added to the page. Qicons can be bumped further down the page with single click flagging. Moderators will have a special interface allowing them to delete unsightly Qicons with a single click or even a sideways glance. Qicons can be moved back up the page by favouriting or via a special "donation" to mathowie. Through the POWER OF AJAX, the page will constantly be refreshed without any intervention required by the reader/viewer. Flagging, favouriting and elimination of any and all limitations on questions combined with the near-random Qicon patterns will result in a beautiful shimmering display while eliminating the nasty nasty need for scrolling.

Answers not required.

At random intervals a daemon will grab a screenshot of the page and post it to the MeFi sidebar.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 9:16 PM on January 9, 2007


The lesson here, everyone, is THIS:

You Can't Please All The People All of the Time.

Matt and Jessamyn, if you think you can, trying will leave you sad and disappointed. Jessamyn in particular seems a bit dumbstruck that tyring to fix a problem that some people were loudly and repeatedly kvetching about has created a new problem that a different group of people is now loudly kvetching about.

I don't know what the solution here is. But I do know that the people who make the most noise do not always represent everyone, or even the majority.
posted by evilcolonel at 9:19 PM on January 9, 2007


But you're still not coming to the party because you give crappy presents.

Oh yeah? Well, fuck your shitstain party, I'm gonna stay home, get coked up out of my mind, and fuck a unicorn.

posted by cortex at 11:33 PM on January 9, 2007


Fuck, I just want to know how to pronounce "Qicons" so I can be ahead of the game for once.

Personally, I'd favor "kai-kons", though I imagine most folks would say "kwai-kons".
posted by lodurr at 6:26 AM on January 10, 2007


But I do know that the people who make the most noise do not always represent everyone, or even the majority.

True, however they DO get attention.

Nothing wrong with trying make things better for these people,and I think it's good that Matt and Jess are trying SOMETHING. But this idea just seemed like a bad one, done more as a reaction than really thought out.

Oh well, we'll see how it goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:03 AM on January 10, 2007


Process:
1. Member posts question
2. Other members answer said question
3. Poster identifies correct answer from ongoing discussion
4. Poster clicks "mark as best answer"
5. Poster receives a prompt: "Marking a best answer indicates this question has been answered to your satisfaction and will transfer your post from the main page to the Answered Questions page. Are you sure you want to do this?"
6. Poster commits best answer status. Post is no longer visible on the Ask MetaFilter front page.

Outcome:
1. Questions are immediately retired from the front page as soon as they are answered, reducing the number of visible questions and therefore the speed at which new questions scroll off the front page.

2. Users are hopefully more judicious when marking best answers, as it will remove their question from the immediate stack and therefore garner fewer eyeballs. This is fine for questions that are truly answered.

3. Answered questions can still be viewed via the Answered tab and the archives. Answered questions remain in the RSS feed.
posted by Danelope at 9:43 AM on January 11, 2007


The problem with that is questioners will sometimes mark a wrong or even dangerously wrong answer as best. If you remove it from the front page it reduces the chance that others will be able to correct that mistake.
posted by Mitheral at 9:47 AM on January 11, 2007


Outcome (cont'd)

4. Posters quickly learn not to mark "Best Answer" until the flow of answers peeters out (usually about as long as it takes for the question to age off the front page without being removed.)

5. Net throughput on front page continues to grow at nearly the current rate.
posted by lodurr at 9:48 AM on January 11, 2007


The problem with that is questioners will sometimes mark a wrong or even dangerously wrong answer as best.

The implication is that answers aren't marked as "best" until they are borne out. If the poster elects to mark a best answer without independently verifying the results, well, isn't that the poster's problem?

Posters quickly learn not to mark "Best Answer" until the flow of answers peeters out...

I posit that those of us who aren't assholes trying to game the system would have little reservation about acknowledging that our questions have been satisfactorily answered, and shifting focus to yet-unanswered questions. Being a good citizen, as it were.
posted by Danelope at 9:59 AM on January 11, 2007


Danelope, there's a more charitable take on lodurr's (4), and I think he's spot on: right now, there's no mechanical influence on when Best Answer should be applied. The attention your question receives—the time it spends in the brief limelight of recency—is unaffected. You can reasonably think, "well, it's been a bit, and these two are pretty good answers—I think I'll best 'em...", and still expect more and possibly better answers to creep in after.

If clicking Best Answer becomes a literal concession, an admission that you do not expect anything more to come of a question, it's use will likely be reduced to that explicit purpose—only when an Asker has given up entirely on further useful information will they elect to Best.

It's not assholes gaming the system, it's attentive users wanting to get as much useful info as they can.
posted by cortex at 10:12 AM on January 11, 2007


right now, there's no mechanical influence on when Best Answer should be applied.

As stated in the guidelines, Ask MetaFilter questions are optimally a specific question seeking a specific solution. The "Best Answer" feature seems to work best as a means of indicating which comment(s) provided a solution to the question at hand, or information that allowed the author to find the solution.

I believe that this is the intended use, particularly since all questions with a checkmark appear in a tab called "Answered". A question with a checkmark should therefore indicate one that has been satisfactorily answered, and not "comments that didn't address the question but I liked anyway because they're funny". The latter use diminishes the ability for members to focus on questions which have not already been answered, and muddies the water for people who come across that question looking for the same solution.

(This is, of course, entirely my interpretation.)

only when an Asker has given up entirely on further useful information will they elect to Best.

What I'm saying is that the scenario described above reinforces the utility of both Ask MetaFilter and Best Answers, while allowing people who have found their solutions to "get out of the way" of open questions, without completely locking a thread to new input. If you are still awaiting input on a thread, you probably haven't found the solution to your problem, and I see no problem with not marking a Best Answer until you have.
posted by Danelope at 10:43 AM on January 11, 2007


Further, and I'm not sure exactly how to think about this, I know that I click into questions I might otherwise ignore, that have best answer shown on the front page. There are a couple of reasons for this, one having to do with the question being so far beyond my expertise that I'm more interested to read through the answers when there is a best one picked. Just as often, however, I do this with questions that I do know something about, but with answers that seem vague or based on opinion. In that case, the fact that there is a best answer piques my curiosity, and I click through. I've frequently ended up leaving an answer in those threads, especially when I disagree with the chosen "best," and I feel like I've contributed to the discussion.

(Not to be too vague, and it's certainly happened in other circumstances, but in a lot of relationship/human relations/psychology questions I don't really follow the discussion but will click through to read some best answers. Since everyone seems to have an opinion about that kind of stuff, and since most of the opinions rest at the level of anecdote, and further, since my job and area of expertise is psychotherapy, I find myself adding information (and sometimes strongly countering) what had previously just been opinion.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:48 AM on January 11, 2007


Oh, no preview, that further was to cortex' comment.
posted by OmieWise at 10:49 AM on January 11, 2007


If you are still awaiting input on a thread, you probably haven't found the solution to your problem, and I see no problem with not marking a Best Answer until you have.

Agreed, absolutely. There's no problem with not marking. My point, and lodurr's if I'm reading him right, is that right now there's no particular compulsion to wait in marking a Best Answer, and as a consequence people do so without hesitation. Whether or not this is optimal Besting behavior is immaterial—non-malicious, non-gaming users do it in the wild right now.

Under your proposal, folks would may quickly become less likely to mark a Best Answer early, and so the net effect would be significantly reduced as people become more conservative about Besting. It's not that it's a bad idea, it's that it's likely to be self-defeating: it'll modify Besting behavior more than it does the appearance of the front page, all because of a shift in behavior by benign users.
posted by cortex at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2007


"If clicking Best Answer becomes a literal concession, an admission that you do not expect anything more to come of a question, it's use will likely be reduced to that explicit purpose—only when an Asker has given up entirely on further useful information will they elect to Best."

So? I've had questions that do have a best answer, and I mark 'em as such, when they're answered conclusively. The "What's that movie/book/tv show?" would be an excellent example of this. When it's marked best, boom, take it off the page. And sure, some folks will wait just a little longer to make sure, but most won't, their questions having been answered (we do these well and fast).
It would both make besting functional (as opposed to aesthetic, which it is now), and reduce question load. That it might not be the silver bullet is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
posted by klangklangston at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2007


cortex reads me right. I should have been clearer: I was thinking about normal usage, not gaming.
posted by lodurr at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2007


Not all users will treat "Besting" (geez, take a break for a few weeks and then invents a whole new lingo) in the same, idealized way.

If you want people to use an application in a particular way, and if the application won't scale or function for other users unless everybody uses it that way, then you've better damn well make it instrumentally difficult to use it any other way.

And while you're at it, you should create behavioral incentives to use it the way you want -- and not the way you don't want.

If you tie archiving to besting, you're doing two things:
  1. You're inviting people to demote their own posts, which is not something people are likely to do
  2. You're setting up a sort of instrumental expectation that they'll monitor their posts and "best" them. If you don't "best" one answer, then the post stays on the front page until it ages off.
One additional outcome I could imagine: A lot of irrelevant or poorly-formed questions end up staying on the front page. How would that happen? Well, if questions that get answered fall off the page quickly, what's left are questions that don't get answered. On Ask, a lot of the time when a question doesn't get answered, there's a good reason -- and more often than not, afaics, the reason is that the question is poorly-formed. So, if the besting-to-archive solution worked to decongest the front page, it would also tend to reduce the quality of the front page.

I would also argue that the premise is mistaken. It seems to me that the front page increases in information value as the quality of information increases. And information that contributes positively to knowledge -- e.g., a question plus high-quality answers -- is of higher quality than information that simply poses questions, or which poses questions juxtaposed with poorer-quality answers.

Again, I think the first proper response to the filled-up front page problem is information design. The tab system is good, but it's not really sufficient for the volume of traffic and the demans that users are placing on it. I think clever people should mock up designs and sennd them politely and privately to matt. Whether he's decided this is what's necessary right now or not, it will be necessary sometime, and probably sometime soon. That's true more or less independently of things like how and how quickly you age or filter stuff off the front page.
posted by lodurr at 12:38 PM on January 11, 2007


What lodurr said, again. I'm not saying the proposal is not good—all else aside, I find the idea of Best Answer being used in a more definitive and meaningful way—but rather that the proposal may not actually accomplish the very thing it sets out to accomplish. The better people understand the system (while retaining self-interested optimism about future answers), the less it will actually be used.
posted by cortex at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2007


OmieWise writes "I know that I click into questions I might otherwise ignore, that have best answer shown on the front page. There are a couple of reasons for this, one having to do with the question being so far beyond my expertise that I'm more interested to read through the answers when there is a best one picked. "

I also do this, I mostly read all the questions that interest me and mostly ignore who posted it and whether it's been bested.
posted by Mitheral at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2007


"If you want people to use an application in a particular way, and if the application won't scale or function for other users unless everybody uses it that way, then you've better damn well make it instrumentally difficult to use it any other way.

And while you're at it, you should create behavioral incentives to use it the way you want -- and not the way you don't want. "

Yeah, behavioral incentives would be right there— don't use it wrong, because it penalizes you.

" 1. You're inviting people to demote their own posts, which is not something people are likely to do
2. You're setting up a sort of instrumental expectation that they'll monitor their posts and "best" them. If you don't "best" one answer, then the post stays on the front page until it ages off."

1. Unless, say, the culture of AskMe expects it. When you've found that long-lost song of youth, you should totally best it and be done with it.
2. This ultimate negative outcome is EXACTLY how things are today. If the worst-case scenario is no change, and the best case is alleviating some of the AskMe pressure, how, exactly, is that a bad thing again?

Some people would use this for good. Some people wouldn't use it at all. A tiny minority would use it foolishly, but it should be as simple as unmarking a "best" answer to fix. Where's the downside?
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on January 11, 2007


Unless, say, the culture of AskMe expects it. When you've found that long-lost song of youth, you should totally best it and be done with it.

The question of how much of the intended effect this would have can be seen then in terms of what proportion of questions are likely to promptly receive a definitive, recognizable best (rather than merely best-so-far) answer. That would include "what's this song/book/movie" or "how do I solve specific tech issue"—the song is positively IDed, the computer begins to behave correctly—but not those questions with more subjective or nuanced answer sets.

Some people would use this for good. Some people wouldn't use it at all. A tiny minority would use it foolishly, but it should be as simple as unmarking a "best" answer to fix. Where's the downside?

The most obvious downsides are:
A. the effort required to implement (seemingly smallish, in this case)
B. the friction/training/administrative-headache results of making a change that unexpectedly affects the visibility of Askers' questions.

It becomes a question of how much benefit there is versus the costs of A and B.
posted by cortex at 4:26 PM on January 11, 2007


"but not those questions with more subjective or nuanced answer sets."

The asker has direct control over this. They shouldn't slam their dicks in the oven.
Both A and B seem pretty small, given that it would be easy to make the "best answer" able to be unmarked, tossing the question back into the queue wherever it was before (obviously, supplanted by some newer questions).

Again, I'm not seeing a downside that a single MeTa "new feature" thread wouldn't solve.
posted by klangklangston at 5:37 PM on January 11, 2007


OK, nothing too radical this time.

Allow the user to set the number of questions they see on the front page. Don't clutter the AskMe page with this - put it on the Preferences page. Just a simple select box or set of radio buttons where the user can choose between 50, 100 and 150 questions. 50 is the default. Remember to adjust the "Older questions" link at the bottom of the longer pages.

People who want more questions or don't want to go to the next page can get more. People on dial up don't get crushed by a new longer default page. People who don't care won't even know.

Also on the Preferences page

"Show answered questions [ ]"

The checkbox is checked by default, allowing for the normal display of questions. Unchecking the box will remove answered questions from the main page and archive pages. Maybe even category pages. Answered questions can still be easily acessed via the "Answered" tab on the main page.

Tags. Remove the tags from the sidebar and and make a new "Tags" tab and a special tags page.

Recent Posts | My Favorites | Popular Favorites | Answered | Unanswered | Tags

There's a lot of potential in tags, but it will never be realized in the confines of the sidebar. Now there's room to play. An example:
- on the new "Tags" page have three columns or sections;
- in the first you have the 20 most popular tags in the past month;
- in the second you have the 20 most recently used tags;
- in the third there is custom space for the member to build a list of her own 20 tags of choice.

Categories. Now that the fab tags are out of the way the more drab categories are brought to the top. For me the single biggest problem with categories is that once I click in to one I have to come back to the main page to move in to a different category. Deploy the sidebar onto each of the category pages allowing for easier navigation between categories.

Then bring over the navigation tabs from the front page to the category pages and tweak them so that they show only the favorites/answered/unanswered/etc for that particular category. Obviously, a lot more work here.

Clean up the headings so that

"Questions in the grab bag category."

becomes

"Grab Bag Questions"

Now they match the title tag text. And capitalize the title text while were there. Or not.

More friendly and functional. For those who want to focus on a few specific areas and avoid the fury of the front page, I think these changes could make a big difference.

These ideas are focused on the reader/answerer and don't address the question issue to any real degree. But hey, that's being worked on already.

Not overly complicated, expands on existing elements and you don't have to worry about how to pronounce Qicon.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:48 PM on January 11, 2007


and you don't have to worry about how to pronounce Qicon.

Make up my mind, damnit!
posted by lodurr at 6:00 AM on January 12, 2007


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