Great answers are great! January 17, 2007 2:11 AM   Subscribe

Which AskMefi questions have elicited great responses or answers - the sort that just perfectly answer the question, or those where what seems like a long shot is serendipitously answered by the perfect person? Looking at the "metafilterhistory" tag, I found this and this, but are there others?
posted by divabat to MetaFilter-Related at 2:11 AM (49 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not looking for free-for-all experience-sharing questions as such (those are awesome, though; they're the reason I joined MetaFilter) but more of those like:

Q: I'm looking for something referenced by So-and-So in Such and Such, does anyone know what he meant by that reference?
A: I am the person you are looking for. I meant etc etc etc... / I know the person you seek, let me ask them.


Q: How do I get icecream sent to my lover in Far Away Land?
A: I live in Far Away Land. Let me do it for you.

(I remember both cases actually happening on AskMefi previously.)

Stuff that makes your jaw drop, really.
posted by divabat at 2:14 AM on January 17, 2007

Hey, that one doesn't have a metafilterhistory tag. (Makes mental note of dubious effectiveness to hopefully remember to tell Jessamyn or Matt.)
posted by loquacious at 3:26 AM on January 17, 2007

Ice cream delivery.
posted by misozaki at 4:56 AM on January 17, 2007

This is probably the archetypal thread. Yankeefog asks for help finding an address in Shoah-era Vienna. Within half an hour, arco shows up and is on the case. At work at the Holocaust Museum. He's able to find a 1938 Vienna phonebook with exactly the right information, and a whole ton of other research suggestions besides.
posted by Plutor at 4:59 AM on January 17, 2007

There's another one that I can't seem to find: someone looking for more background on a short article (maybe a poem?) in a decade-old issue of a magazine. And someone else shows up and says, "Hey, I work with the guy that wrote that!"
posted by Plutor at 5:02 AM on January 17, 2007

I liked this one and I had hopes for this one but they came to naught!
posted by Jofus at 5:15 AM on January 17, 2007

Plutor - That's the second of the OP's links! :)
posted by Jofus at 5:16 AM on January 17, 2007

And the first.
posted by chrismear at 5:18 AM on January 17, 2007

Crap, I didn't notice that there were links in the post. Don't link the word "this"! It gives no information! It's like linking the word "click here"! See, it's not my fault!
posted by Plutor at 5:33 AM on January 17, 2007

Wow, Jofus, I'd never seen that cheese one before! Thanks!
posted by misozaki at 5:34 AM on January 17, 2007

Plutor writes 'This is probably the archetypal thread.'

Even if every other question on AskMe was My unfaithful girlfriend wants to circumcise our declawed cat with an SUV - if I had a polar bear, would it beat my girlfriend in a fight to save the cat's foreskin? Hope me hive mind! There's [more inside] it would be a worthwhile experiment thanks to that thread.

I was hoping for one of these miracles when it came to Stalin's clapathon on vinyl, but it never came. So I'm gratuitously calling attention to the question here. How rude.
posted by jack_mo at 5:53 AM on January 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Two by "MeFi's Own" asavage: 1 2

And I'll mention my own busted fridge question, answered to perfection (even the estimate he gave me was accurate to within $5) by Mitheral.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:04 AM on January 17, 2007

Post-Preview: Should have done asavage the courtesy of linking to his profile, and also, Stalin's Clapathon is a GREAT band name.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:07 AM on January 17, 2007

Not exactly "jaw dropping", but...t-shirt designer chimes in.
posted by ColdChef at 6:14 AM on January 17, 2007

I enjoyed RMALCOLM's pitch in here, but I think he had yet an earlier comment where his secret identity as a motion sickness researcher was revealed (I couldn't find it).
posted by onalark at 6:16 AM on January 17, 2007

onalark, I think it was this question.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:20 AM on January 17, 2007

Man, now I want to know the answer to jack_mo's question.
posted by loquacious at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2007

I'm particularly proud of this one.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2007

Here's another one, but it's not of interest to anyone except myself. My DSL modem broke, and I asked about getting one on eBay. Horsemuth offered me a spare one he had lying around, for free, and we were able to meet right along my commute home from work. I still owe him a beer when I'm back in town.
posted by Plutor at 7:16 AM on January 17, 2007

Shoot...there's another one I'm vaguely remembering where the question was about a (very) specific type of researcher, and the very first response was from that type of researcher. (Yeah, not much to go on, but I'm drawing a complete blank...)
posted by inigo2 at 7:22 AM on January 17, 2007

I was trying to find out how to get some Carnegie Deli Pickles as a gift for my wife and thomascrown ended up FedExing me some.

They were the most expensive pickles ever, but it worked out and she loved the gift.

Not exactly "Q) Help me find my long-lost father." A) I am your father", but it was still pretty awesome.

Plus, it's always fun eating food from random internet strangers.
posted by bondcliff at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2007

Well...I asked a question about how best to scan an old book of mine.

The respondent not only works at but also lives down the street from me. So I walked down the street and handed him my book. The result is in the thread. Hooray for rajbot! Perfect.
posted by vacapinta at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2007

vacapinta, that's fantastic. I missed the end of that thread. Glad you got it online, and I love the flipbook format.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on January 17, 2007

Someone needed a screen for a certain type of laptop. Someone had dumped a laptop of that exact model in a dumpster on my lawn just a few weeks before. So I sent it to them. OK, it took me like 3 months to send it, but I did send it. Sorry about that.
posted by GuyZero at 8:41 AM on January 17, 2007

This was a cool outcome to an AskMe, and pretty wild how OmieWise and schroedinger were both looking out for the same dog.
posted by amro at 8:43 AM on January 17, 2007

I asked a question about an obscure 1980s Mexican pop song where all I could remember was a single repeated word (siempre) and parts of the melody.

Clearlydemon not only identified the song, but s/he also helped me track down a copy of it.

To this day, I remain terribly impressed by the mad skillz of clearlydemon.
posted by Sheppagus at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2007

Man, that is fantastic, vacapinta.
posted by cortex at 8:55 AM on January 17, 2007

Kind of a boring tech-question but the first time I was personally blown away by the power of Ask Mefi was my Ultrawideband question.

Ultra-props to Steven C. Den Beste, also wide-props to paulsc (almost 1600 answers and not one question - wish I knew that much ;) and Jack Flash.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:22 AM on January 17, 2007

Greg Nog -- YES! I thought it was something about neanderthals, but I was concerned I made that up in my head...

That one was awesome, though. Q: "Is there a paleoanthropologist in the house?" A: "This is the question of my dreams. I am indeed a paleoanthropologist, specializing in Neandertal and other Middle Paleolithic stone technologies."
posted by inigo2 at 10:18 AM on January 17, 2007

Once, twice, three times a pareidoliac
posted by cortex at 11:12 AM on January 17, 2007

I said, "Oh noez, my computer died and I can't get to my data; please help me find a place in Manhattan that will clone my hard drive before Dell takes it away" (very paraphrased).

A few days later NucleophilicAttack, whose name I'd never even seen before all this, came to my apartment with a tower, a million versions of Linux, and a stack of blank CDs. We stayed up until like 3 AM while he got my computer running and copied my stuff onto his hard drive; then he went away and left me with his tower so I could burn it onto the CDs during the week. And then he came and picked it all up again. (I have refrained from exclamation points here because otherwise this comment would be five pages long.)

He didn't want money. He didn't want dinner or cookies. I suspect he did it for the karma bonus points, which I'm absolutely sure he received -- along with my undying gratitude.

And it won't happen again -- I now have an external hard drive, so backups are easier, and therefore more frequent.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:19 PM on January 17, 2007

I asked this astoundingly bad, unanswerable question, and the many responses were unbelievably detailed and thoughtful. I literally could not choose a "best."

(Because I couldn't understand them)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:50 PM on January 17, 2007

For some reason this stuck in my mind as an unbelievably fast response for such an obscure request. But maybe there are alot of Swedish Mefites?

That is a great thread, stupidsexyFlanders. Hypothetical Chatfilter, but a great thread.
posted by Urban Hermit at 1:19 PM on January 17, 2007

This is a great thread.

In the thread onalark linked, in response to a question frykitty asked about how to avoid motion sickness so she could read while commuting, RMALCOLM (a recognized authority in the field) said:

The brain assumes that if there is a disparity between vestibular (inner ear) signals and visual signals, then you probably consumed bad food containing a neuro-toxin, so it generates a reflex to get rid of it.

The disparity in your case is that the vestibular signals (organs of balance in the inner ear) are sensing the vehicle's motion, while your gaze is directed at a book which does not appear to move relative to your head.

I wondered what would happen if the book moved in concert with the signals from the inner ear, so that the disparity was cancelled out. Would that cure the motion sickness? When it occurred to me that if you were reading on a laptop equipped with an accelerometer, and since the vestibular organ of the inner ear is essentially an accelerometer, it might be possible to make the text on the screen move a little bit in just that fashion, and that some laptops already have accelerometers to protect the hard drive (which I also found out about on Meatafilter), I thought I really had something-- until I Googled ["motion sickness" accelerometer reading] and found patent #7128705, titled "motion-coupled visual environment for prevention or reduction of motion sickness and simulator/virtual environment sickness" from Nov. 2002.

Oh well; it was a dizzying ride, to speak of vestibular sensations, the kind of ride I've come to expect from this place. I bet a lot of people aren't using their laptops whle traveling because they are getting motion sick, and four plus years is a long time for laptop technology-- why haven't we seen this?
posted by jamjam at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2007

I suspect it is because displays don't update fast enough for it to look right. There are a couple likely technical hurdles, and one fundamental. First, the response time of the laptop screen, although that timing is getting very, very fast lately. Second is the system latency, while computers are getting very fast, latency isn't improving at the same rate - it may not be improving at all. Finally, you can't do anything about the screen's bezel, and peripheral vision will be able to pick that up.

Odds are that the idea could help some people, and make it worse for others. But, would the people it helped be able and willing to pay enough to finance the development & marketing, and would the financiers perceive it to be worthwhile.. Sure, a lot of money was spent on the patent, but companies love to be able to say "we have 50 patents", purely for marketing reasons. I'm sure technology becomes stranded by patents in exactly this way all the time.
posted by Chuckles at 6:25 PM on January 17, 2007

When it occurred to me that if you were reading on a laptop equipped with an accelerometer, and since the vestibular organ of the inner ear is essentially an accelerometer, it might be possible to make the text on the screen move a little bit in just that fashion

Man. I want that just so I can shake a laptop and have the text jump around like it was loose on the scren.

Embed a word processor in a physics engine, give me a little applet/dialog to control various parameters - such as are the words single physical blocks, or are the letters individual, the tension/gravity settings, snap-to points for formatting, etc - and then I can shake up a document like so much magnetic fridge poetry and do William Burroughs cutups on texts just by shaking the laptop.

I'd love to see a PDA or phone with an accelerometer in it, where objects, icons or windows on the screen were in some kind of physics engine. You could move your icons or windows around at semi random just with a flick of the wrist. I could see a lot of UI stuff where it'd be easier to just "jostle" the window/GUI manager with some random or learned gestures instead of very carefully trying to resize or move windows with a stylus or fingertip. Every try to use a stylus or fingertip while walking or being jostled about in a car, train or bus? People using the iPhone are just going to love that part!

And yeah, you'd need a way to turn the physics engine and sensor off while you were actually working or viewing, but a single ir multifunction button could be on there some where, so you just squeeze the PDA/phone and shake it and release to lock it static again.

(I'm claiming copyright on this idea, barring prior art or language, which is likely.)
posted by loquacious at 6:52 PM on January 17, 2007

Hey loquacious, Steve Jobs here. But please, call me Steve-o Jobby Jobba Jerba the Steve Steve (all my friends do) (although I'm thinking about asking them to stop; it just takes them so long to god-damn ADDRESS me). Just wanted to let you know that we love your idea and we're working on it right now. Except this "move your icons around at semi-random just with a flick of the wrist bit" is causing us some trouble. The physics engine is so, shall I say, REAL LIFE-ISH that the icons break through the barriers of the device and fly across the fucking room. The Woz got pinged by the Safari compass just this morning, and he's still crying in the corner. Any ideas, hive mind?
posted by Milkman Dan at 8:01 PM on January 17, 2007

Get him a faster Segway.
posted by chrismear at 8:15 PM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hate you, Milkman Dan.

By the way, I replaced the rum and coke you carry around in your coffee thermos with yak piss, ispropyl alcohol and rye ergot. I wouldn't go near your truck for the next week or so, neither.
posted by loquacious at 8:23 PM on January 17, 2007

Thanks, loquacious. I thought I detected a mild bouquet of well-exercised Himalayan richness in today's joe.

And are you just warning me not to go near my truck because you're scared I'm going to find out that you accidentally let my war-trained kitty-cats loose? Because I'm not upset. They had homing beacons attached and they've been taught to turn into auto-detonating grenades once they "charm" their way into their "new owner"'s homes.
posted by Milkman Dan at 8:36 PM on January 17, 2007

Well, I must admit that that's more creative and elaborate than the way you were just flinging the kittens skyward with that souped up waterballoon launcher.
posted by loquacious at 9:06 PM on January 17, 2007

Wouldn't the solution then be, fix the book or laptop onto the bouncing around vehicle? Like, rest your hands on the dash on the passenger side, or something? Then your book/laptop wouldn't be steady relative to your head.

I've never gotten motion sick reading in a vehicle, and never really thought about it. Turns out, though, now that I read this today and think about it, that I habitually hold the book resting in my lap when I read. So, that checks with that theory.
posted by ctmf at 11:43 PM on January 17, 2007

The problem with the book being steady relative to the car is a bad thing, because it's the stuff outside zooming past that causes the sickness.

On a shinkansen, for example, I can be not reading anything at all, and looking out the window can cause an immediate, distressing rush of nausea.
posted by that girl at 5:24 AM on January 18, 2007

And are you just warning me not to go near my truck because you're scared I'm going to find out that you accidentally let my war-trained kitty-cats loose? Because I'm not upset. They had homing beacons attached and they've been taught to turn into auto-detonating grenades once they "charm" their way into their "new owner"'s homes.

*looks at cats even more nervously than usual*
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on January 18, 2007

If latency of any sort were the problem you think it would be, Chuckles, accelerometers would not be able to protect the hard drive the way they obviously do.

The real problem with latency would be in the human being, and to compensate for that you would have to artificially delay the response of the computer to match the delays built into us, but that would be trivial by experiment, and might even warrant a user-operable tuning feature.
posted by jamjam at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2007

Presumably, a laptop detects the absence of acceleration, when it goes into freefall, so there is plenty of time to react. Really, that is the only way to do it, because even if sensor latency isn't an issue, it takes some time for a drive to get into park.
posted by Chuckles at 11:13 AM on January 18, 2007

Perhaps it won't be as impressive to hardware techies as it was to me, but I thought this diagnosis of a computer problem by flabdabet was incredible and read like a mystery novel.
posted by painquale at 11:14 AM on January 18, 2007

I think the ones that have to do with (tobacco) pipe smoking have elicited some pretty good answers -- thoughtful, detailed, precise, helpful. Goes with the territory.
posted by pax digita at 6:24 AM on January 23, 2007

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