Split AskMe February 4, 2007 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Instead of having this ridiculous two-week wait between questions, which makes the site practically unuseable, why not split AskMe into two separate sites?
posted by interrobang to Feature Requests at 5:54 PM (258 comments total)

For last month, according to the sidebar, questions about "computers & internet" make up 398 (!) of the questions. Questions about "technology" make up 115 of them. If all "technical" questions were put on, say, a gold background, it'd significantly cut down on the number of total questions on the page. And we could get back to asking a question once a week, as god intended.

Here are the totals for last month. Surely these can be subdivided into a left and right brain for ask metafilter:

clothing, beauty, & fashion (52)
computers & internet (398)
education (43)
food & drink (94)
grab bag (58)
health (153)
home & garden (90)
human relations (87)
law & government (73)
media & arts (172)
pets & animals (29)
religion & philosophy (11)
science & nature (46)
shopping (41)
society & culture (51)
sports, hobbies, & recreation (69)
technology (115)
travel & transportation (132)
work & money (181)
writing & language (53)

posted by interrobang at 5:54 PM on February 4, 2007


Well, "technology" + "computers & internet" make up 513 questions out of a total 1943, or about a total of 26%. I think technical questions are too much in the minority for such a site-split.

Besides, creating a second AskMe fragments the site unnecessarily. What are you going to do when someone asks a question like "great examples of technology in literature" or "Help me write my literature-synthesizing program!"?
posted by suedehead at 6:02 PM on February 4, 2007


The animals aren't pulling their weight.
posted by peacay at 6:03 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quick! Lash the turnspits!
posted by loquacious at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2007


Why not 4? Health and Media/Arts ranked pretty high too.

Again, what's needed is a way for the user to filter the categories, so he/she/it can only see the stuff they want to see.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 PM on February 4, 2007


TechMe?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:05 PM on February 4, 2007


These things can be put together as "soft" topics:

clothing, beauty, & fashion (52)
food & drink (94)
grab bag (58)
health (153)
home & garden (90)
human relations (87)
media & arts (172)
pets & animals (29)
religion & philosophy (11)
shopping (41)
society & culture (51)
sports, hobbies, & recreation (69)
writing & language (53)

That's 960 questions, a little under half.
posted by interrobang at 6:08 PM on February 4, 2007


These things can be put together as "soft" topics:

No. Either everything stays up or we get to filter categories on a user basis. While your filtering idea might be great for you, it probably sucks for someone else.

And none of what you suggest matters in terms of the Askme limit. What happens when people start complaining that the tech section scrolls too fast? Should there be a two week limit on Tech questions, but a one week limit on the others?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:17 PM on February 4, 2007


How about a filter rather than an additional site?

Maybe at the top of the page?
posted by filmgeek at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2007


I read via RSS - each and every question - the green is an addiction really.

I find the "Unanswered" question is useless though in the RSS feed - questions with less than <3 answers or no best answer, i>shouldn't show up there for at least 3-6 hours

I stopped looking at the RSS feed for it...because every question shows up.

I think fixing this, makes the idea of unanswered questions much more feasible.
posted by filmgeek at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2007


If AskMeFi was swamped with 500 questions per day, then it really would be useless because most questions wouldn't get answered satisfactorily. I don't see any problem with rationing postings severely, and I don't see the two-week limit being a drawback.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2007


I think more naked girls on AskMe could help sort things out.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Someone needs to make a "summon dame" magic card.
posted by knave at 6:40 PM on February 4, 2007


Ask posts should be one at a time for anyone and everyone, until at least one best answer is marked. The next one in queue "goes live" once the existing one is answered, or until two weeks have passed.

We all get to work collaboratively as a community on a single person's problem all at once, and I think that would be really good for metafilter.
posted by boo_radley at 6:43 PM on February 4, 2007


I don't see any problem with rationing postings severely, and I don't see the two-week limit being a drawback.

I think the drawback is that it's made AskMe flipping boring. There are now stretches of hours when only a few new questions are posted. And the questions are no longer of the "Hey, I've always wondered that too!" variety, but now tend to be more focused on mundane-but-pressing issues specific to the askers.

Seriously, AskMe has been significantly less fun since the imposition of the two week limit.
posted by chickletworks at 6:47 PM on February 4, 2007 [22 favorites]


My favourite filtering is by geography. Posts like
Any good guitar teachers in NYC that won't be too expensive for a student?
for instance are really not relevant for people outside NYC.
So if posts were marked with a geographical relevancy everybody would see the posts that are of interest to them.
posted by jouke at 6:48 PM on February 4, 2007


Practically unusable? Really?
posted by Partial Law at 6:51 PM on February 4, 2007


Where's the stats post about the number of people who actually posted 2 weeks in a row on a regular basis? If I recall, there weren't many people at all.
posted by antifuse at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2007


Yes, practically unuseable. You never know when you're going to need to ask a question. Every once in awhile, more than one will come up in the space of two weeks. The last time I asked a question (which didn't get answered, by the way), it was after the sudden imposition of the 11-day wait. Then I had another one, and all of a sudden, there's a two-week wait.

Also, what chickletworks said--askme is a lot less interesting than it used to be, and it's probably the wait that's to blame. I used to read every single question, too.
posted by interrobang at 6:59 PM on February 4, 2007


What did you ever do before Ask Metafilter? It must have been very difficult living in the wilderness, all alone in the dark void.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:04 PM on February 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


That's hilarious, coming from a guy who needed a bunch of strangers to help him plan a road trip.
posted by interrobang at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2007 [8 favorites]


Why not 4? Health and Media/Arts ranked pretty high too.

The Health one could be called MediFilter. The color scheme I leave to your imagination.
posted by y2karl at 7:09 PM on February 4, 2007


Wow dude, quit making this issue so damn personal. You made your opinion known. We got it. Hooray. Now shut the fuck up and let others who agree with you chime in so this doesn't end up as the interrobang show.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:09 PM on February 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


More importantly, why has the Drudge Report been obsessively pushing the movie "Dreamgirls"?
posted by Dave Faris at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


What this would lead to is several new MetaTalk threads every day complaining that someone asked their question in the wrong half of AskMe. Those of us who are left-handed might get this left-side/right-side-of-the-brain thing mixed up.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2007


Also, what chickletworks said--askme is a lot less interesting than it used to be, and it's probably the wait that's to blame. I used to read every single question, too.

I don't understand this at all. AskMe is less interesting because people no longer ask frivolous idle curiosity type questions -- the very thing I've heard a majority of users here hate -- dumb what if questions -- and the very thing a longer wait period lets people reconsider, is the thing you wish were back.

I don't think it's less interesting and calling something "practically unusable" is hyperbole. In my opinion the change has been good for the site, cutting down lame questions and keeping the flood of new users in check by keeping them to only 2 questions a month or so. I find the feed is much more readable because it doesn't have 57 unread questions when I refresh it every couple hours.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:21 PM on February 4, 2007


The Health one could be called MediFilter.

I propose calling it Go See A Doctor.
posted by baphomet at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


... makes the site practically unuseable

*Clicks AskMe link, browses questions*

Works fine for me. Maybe try deleting your cookies?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:32 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Medifilter: Go See a Doctor
posted by kisch mokusch at 7:34 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Asking turns out to be one of those things you get better at with practice, partly because you have to get over your understandable initial shyness enough to be willing to Ask something important to you, partly because people who answer a lot can get to know you well enough to give you an answer with some depth, and partly because when you have a sense of someone from their previous questions, you really want to help them.

The two week limit has sharply reduced all that; the questions truly have become more pedestrian-- and much more repetitous than they used to be.
posted by jamjam at 7:38 PM on February 4, 2007


I miss being able to ask it once a week. That having been said, Ask Metafilter was exploding at the gills, and that was problematic because Ask MeFi relies as much upon its reader-answerers as it does upon its questioners. Cutting down on question traffic to make it a more manageable daily number was sensible.

The alternative, IMO, is to enable filtering on a category basis, preferably including RSS feeds. (The WordPress blogging software generates RSS feeds for each of its categories, for example, although very obviously MeFi is not WordPress.) This'd let people limit the display of questions to their interests and/or expertise.

Either way, something -- again, at least IMO -- had to be done to reduce the daily traffic of questions to a more manageable number. This was a solution that had the added benefit of making people realize that they had to ration their questions out, and that aforethought has resulted in an increase in question quality, too. So to me, Ask MeFi has actually grown more interesting, because the signal-to-noise ratio has tilted more towards signal and less towards noise.
posted by WCityMike at 7:38 PM on February 4, 2007


(By the bye, someone should totally e-mail that dude who draws unflattering caricatures of MeFites who make stupid comments and lame call outs a link to this MeTa. This one'd be right up his alley.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:46 PM on February 4, 2007


Posts like Any good guitar teachers in NYC that won't be too expensive for a student? for instance are really not relevant for people outside NYC.

What happens if a user lived in New York for several years and then moved away? You'd be losing a valuable resource. What if my brother lived in New York and was learning guitar and could recommend his teacher? What if I move to New York and want to learn to play guitar? What if I knew my guitar teacher had moved to New York? What if I read about some great guitar teacher based in New York on some website while at home in Georgia?

As easy as it is to hop around around the globe, limiting by geography sounds counter productive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:51 PM on February 4, 2007



Either way, something -- again, at least IMO -- had to be done to reduce the daily traffic of questions to a more manageable number.


Yeah, but were questions being less answered? People keep saying it was hard to read, too many threads, but really no one was forcing you read everyone of them.

And I agree that AskMe is less interesting, prompting me to read it less. Your mileage may vary.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 PM on February 4, 2007


And so the two week limit begins its third month of unredeemed suck.

How much longer must this "experiment" continue?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are now stretches of hours when only a few new questions are posted.

Jesus Christ. This problem of yours is solved by getting a job.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't understand this at all. AskMe is less interesting because people no longer ask frivolous idle curiosity type questions -- the very thing I've heard a majority of users here hate -- dumb what if questions -- and the very thing a longer wait period lets people reconsider, is the thing you wish were back.


As I see it, there are two functions of AskMe: entertainment and education. As WCityMike points out, the two are intertwined: in order for people to get the advice they need, other people need to read the site consistently. That's why I think it's problematic that the questions have become, on the whole, less fun. I can only speak for myself here, but since the forntight rule, I've certainly stopped checking AskMe as frequently as I once did and, subsequently, have answered far fewer questions.

Sure, the site may now be better fulfilling the education/ help function, but that can't stay the case for long... eventually people will get bored and their altruism will wear thin and AskMe will atrophy. I mean, come on: is everyone here to fix a stranger's hard drive, or to compare notes on the flavor of vaginas?
posted by chickletworks at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2007


antifuse writes...
Where's the stats post about the number of people who actually posted 2 weeks in a row on a regular basis?

Here you go.

You may have mistaken this thread as one that was meant for intelligent discussion, though. interrobang clearly set out to whine, and he has done so successfully. Now everyone else can jump on him and we can have a merry flame war.

Hint: when the words "ridiculous" and "unusable" occur in a thread topic, it's usually a good time to move along.
posted by tkolar at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


There are now stretches of hours when only a few new questions are posted.
Jesus Christ. This problem of yours is solved by getting a job.


The procrastinating students! Won't someone please think of the procrastinating students?
posted by chickletworks at 8:05 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


I HATE AskMetaFilter. I've said it before, and look! I said it again.

Sorry, I'm too drubk too explain exaztcly why, but there you go.
posted by yhbc at 8:06 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


"If AskMeFi was swamped with 500 questions per day, then it really would be useless because most questions wouldn't get answered satisfactorily. "

If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

I understand both the "too boring lately" and the "but the what-if-Hitler-ate-my-moms are worthless" arguments. Since things obviously can't be solved by more mods (we've ruled that out a million times— Fiona can't even read yet), we need to go all Google and come up with a technological solution.
Simply limiting the number of questions possible is an ugly kludge, and that should be acknowledged. It's like solving speeding by making everyone drive go karts.
So far, we've had user-side filtering proposed (which'd be handy, but Matt seems unsold based on coding time). We've seen myriad site-side filtering proposed (which would eliminate some of the eclecticism we love). We've seen a lot of supposed rebuttals based on the idiotic view that more MeTa whining is both avoidable and a deal-breaker.
It could be argued that AskMe has simply reached the upper limits of its scalability, at least for now. But that comes back to the knockin' the bisquit outta Matt's mouth complaint.
While not a silver bullet, I'd like to see better in-site searching and the deletion of easily-googlable questions. I'd also argue that when someone marks something as "best," it should be knocked off the front page. Not closed, mind you, but if someone's got a "best," it's markedly less urgent, innit? I know that the last time this was suggested, the nattering nabobs of negativism replied that it would be misused by the foolish and the canny wouldn't necessarily employ it (gaming for longer exposure). Both of those complaints are minor, to my mind. A culture of helpfulness should realize the social disaprobation over being an undue burden, and at a certain point, the stupid should no longer be protected from themselves to the detriment of those around them.

But I'm willing to bet that much of the recalcitrance comes from no coders offering solutions fully formed, and Matt often has other things on his plate. I might grouse about the necessity of ajax wingdings, but my priorities aren't necessarily Matt's, and hey, I like it pretty fine around here.

I will say, in closing, that it's been a while on the AskMe two-week quarantines, and (as a reader) there just aren't enough questions for me lately. A usuable tag and browsing system might help to deal with the quantity if there was a huge influx, and I think that a lot of what I liked about AskMe was the relatively specialized knowledge evidenced in the better questions, which requires a bigger number of raw questions to ever get to the obscure point.
posted by klangklangston at 8:09 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Put another way, AskMe has grown less interesting in the snark and destroy department. People are now thinking a little harder about what they ask. There's less amusing stream of conciousness, please validate my idiotic behavior, or something just popped into my head and I wanna share stuff. In other words, the easy targets have become fewer. Oh well.

Whether this is due to being hunted to near-extinction or the long wait, is hard to know. Maybe both.
posted by scheptech at 8:09 PM on February 4, 2007



What happens if a user lived in New York for several years and then moved away?

Well, geographic filtering could be optional of course.
And people could set their diameter of relevance for instance.
posted by jouke at 8:11 PM on February 4, 2007


"Put another way, AskMe has grown less interesting in the snark and destroy department. People are now thinking a little harder about what they ask. There's less amusing stream of conciousness, please validate my idiotic behavior, or something just popped into my head and I wanna share stuff. In other words, the easy targets have become fewer. Oh well."

Disagree. I don't think people are thinking any harder, really, about what they ask, and I don't think that you can tie it to the posting limits. Getting deleted makes people think about what they ask far more than just having to wait, and, based on the stats, there's no evidence to support the thought that most people can't just post any damn time they like. There is very little learning built into the system.
posted by klangklangston at 8:13 PM on February 4, 2007


I find the feed is much more readable because it doesn't have 57 unread questions when I refresh it every couple hours.

Perhaps the two-week limit only makes the site better for people who read it through RSS?

I feel that the two-week limit has made the site less interesting. There was always a certain number of boring, mundane, "How do I fix X" and "How do I get my computer to do Y" questions. However, new questions were posted often enough that you didn't have to wait too long to see an interesting one. With the two-week limit, you have to wait much longer for an interesting question.

"What makes a good question" is totally subjective. However, a greater number of questions will increase the probability is greater that any one user will find a question that interests them.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


ack. Last sentence should read : "a greater number of questions will increase the probability that any one user will find a question that interests them."
posted by Afroblanco at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2007


Maybe giving people two questions every 30 days would be a good idea. Then you could ask a random fun question and still have a reserve one left in case you later have something more important to ask about.
posted by washburn at 8:23 PM on February 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Put another way, AskMe has grown less interesting in the snark and destroy department. People are now thinking a little harder about what they ask. There's less amusing stream of conciousness, please validate my idiotic behavior, or something just popped into my head and I wanna share stuff. In other words, the easy targets have become fewer. Oh well.

Have you seen this question?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:23 PM on February 4, 2007


I feel that the two-week limit has made the site less interesting.

I'm not sure how that's possible. And no one here has given (what I consider to be) a plausible explanation, except to say that we have less questions. Well, of course we have less questions. The entire basis for creating the limit was to reduce the volume of questions, allowing more people the chance to see questions without feeling overwhelmed by their sheer volume. In addition, it reduces the level of frivolity (thereby making AskMeFi more useful, and therefore, accomplishing its site goal).

With the two-week limit, you have to wait much longer for an interesting question.

Again, to me, it sounds like people who, on average, refresh AskMeFi 100x/day are upset because they have less questions to look at. But, to me, the average user isn't someone who refreshes 100x/day, but more like once or twice a day. And the average user would ultimately get overwhelmed and frustrated with the experience (and therefore interact less with the site) if they felt like they couldn't keep up. Ultimately, the people IMHO who have the best answers aren't necessarily the "regulars" around here, but those who pop in occasionally and offer some off-the-cuff insight. And I realize that may hurt the feelings of those who refresh the site 100x/day, but that's just the way it is.

And at the end of the day, creating a repository of useful information for the community and answering questions is the goal. To me, reducing the volume of questions achieves that goal. To those who think that there are less interesting questions being posted, 1) Start asking interesting questions; 2) Find some friends who can ask questions; 3) Read other sites to fulfill your internet needs. Seriously, the internet is huge. And to suggest that AskMeFi is less interesting is extremely insulting to those who contribute to it everyday.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:28 PM on February 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


interrobang clearly set out to whine, and he has done so successfully.

No, I set out to try to offer a solution to a problem. Obviously many of you don't see this problem, and for that, I apologize with a time-out. Bye.
posted by interrobang at 8:35 PM on February 4, 2007


As someone who contributes many answers to AskMe, I agree with interrobang that the two-week wait is a serious impediment to its use, and I am optimistic that a better solution waits on the horizon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:35 PM on February 4, 2007


geographic filtering

Agree. There's little more dreary, stunning in it's utter irrelevance, and likely to induce self-loathing for wasting time on mefi than "help find me a good dry cleaner in New York".

JohnnyGunn - thanks, I was starting to lose hope there...

chickletworks nails it - all work and no play make askme a dull read, pure altriuism would not be enough to keep the site going, entertainment is the currency in which askers collectively pay for the service... ok, helping a little is nice too
posted by scheptech at 8:42 PM on February 4, 2007


On the other hand, I like the two week limit because I work a job where I can't - GASP - access the internerds. So, since I can read twice a day, I can actually keep up with Ask without sacrificing hours of precious beauty sleep.

Also, there's been a bunch of stuff I've wanted to ask that I was able to resolve before my two weeks were up, which makes me feel more confident in my abilities as a human.

It is creating an awful lot of MeTa threads though, those are harder to read through. By the time I get to throw my 2c in, the longboat has already come and gone.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:46 PM on February 4, 2007


And to suggest that AskMeFi is less interesting is extremely insulting to those who contribute to it everyday.

It certainly wasn't my intention to insult anyone. In fairness, I include myself in the ranks of people who are asking uninteresting questions. I'm going to post a new question as soon as I'm allowed (in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 15 seconds) and, regrettably, it's going to be boring and mostly only useful to me. Sorry.

(Not blaming this on the two week rule, though. My questions have always been boring and asked out of necessity rather than speculation. It's just there used to be interesting questions from other people to balance them out, whereas now there are pretty much just necessary questions.)
posted by chickletworks at 8:51 PM on February 4, 2007


And at the end of the day, creating a repository of useful information for the community and answering questions is the goal. To me, reducing the volume of questions achieves that goal.

I think it was probably true that there were too many questions on AskMeFi before this limit went into effect; however I'm not sure that "frivolity" was so much of a problem. Sometimes the frivolous questions are more interesting than the "useful" ones. Questions about wireless routers or vacation plans are important and useful to the askers, sure, but not really what most people enjoy most about AskMefi, I think. IMO it's the odd, less useful questions that are often more interesting to read about and consider.

I still vote for this brilliant idea.
posted by washburn at 8:57 PM on February 4, 2007


And to suggest that AskMeFi is less interesting is extremely insulting to those who contribute to it everyday.


Only if they take it personally, which they shouldn't. Seriously, answer questions or don't answer questions, whatever, but don't get your panties in a bunch just 'cause someone has a personal opinion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:00 PM on February 4, 2007


Just another data point: I've also found that I am less interested in the questions lately, and so am spending less time here. (Which is good in terms of, you know, my job. But if it's true of a lot answerers, might be bad for askers.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:07 PM on February 4, 2007


Someone needs to make a "summon dame" magic card.

I am unable to comment again on this until March. I promised. But you can probably guess what I think.
posted by dame at 9:12 PM on February 4, 2007


You know what would be cool? A poll at the top of AskMeFi asking users (anonymously) to voice their opinion. Keep the poll at the top of the site for a week. Only allow unique users to reply to the poll, and only those who had joined prior to the poll being put into place. At least then we might have a better idea of how people feel (as opposed to only listening to the loudest, whiniest MeFites here in the grey.) The question: How do you feel about the flow of AskMeFi questions?

A) Too many questions.
B) Just right, don't change it.
C) Too few questions.
D) I'd really like to sleep with SeizeTheDay.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:15 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hm, calling your own idea brilliant and voting for it is not very convincing washburn.
posted by jouke at 9:16 PM on February 4, 2007


"But, to me, the average user isn't someone who refreshes 100x/day, but more like once or twice a day. And the average user would ultimately get overwhelmed and frustrated with the experience (and therefore interact less with the site) if they felt like they couldn't keep up."

To me, the average reader is someone exactly like me!
(And the idea that the best answers come from the drive-by commenters is likewise unsupported by any real data).

"And to suggest that AskMeFi is less interesting is extremely insulting to those who contribute to it everyday. "

Oh, fuck you, drama queen.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on February 4, 2007


And the idea that the best answers come from the drive-by commenters is likewise unsupported by any real data.

Why? Because like many others here, you engage in the lovely group-think that has the potential to retard an otherwise thriving community?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:18 PM on February 4, 2007


Oh no. Not the groupthink accusation. Give up; you're sunk!
posted by dame at 9:21 PM on February 4, 2007


I don't know, I like the variety these "I hate the new 2 week limit" threads have added to the usual rounds of "I disagree with the reason this post was deleted" threads on MetaTalk.
posted by nanojath at 9:38 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Why? Because like many others here, you engage in the lovely group-think that has the potential to retard an otherwise thriving community?"

You know who else thought the volume of AskMe questions was too high? The Nazis.

Check and mate, my friend. Check and mate.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on February 4, 2007


D) I'd really like to sleep with SeizeTheDay.

Cowboy Neal. You mean Cowboy Neal.

At least then we might have a better idea of how people feel

Or we could just try out the two week waiting period for a few months and see how many questions are posted, how many answers are given, and how many new users make an appearance.

Oh wait, that's what is already happening. My bad.
posted by tkolar at 9:43 PM on February 4, 2007


I did not realize there were so many Bears fans on Metatalk.
posted by cortex at 9:44 PM on February 4, 2007


I don't understand this at all. AskMe is less interesting because people no longer ask frivolous idle curiosity type questions -- the very thing I've heard a majority of users here hate -- dumb what if questions. . .

Post Weed-Pee

Why do zombies like to eat brains?
posted by mlis at 10:01 PM on February 4, 2007


Come now, people. The folks who asked questions 1 week after the new limit went into effect are just now able to post again- surely they'll have something juicy for us.

I think the 2 week thing is a good idea- it forces you to make sure that your question is important enough to you that you are willing to give up your Asking rights for it. I've had plenty of questions for AskMe on my mind over the past few weeks, but I decided to save my fortnightly query for something that I really needed help with. All the other questions I- gasp- figured out for myself.

And that's the real beauty of the 2 week limit. Questions like, 'The bleeding wont stop, what do I do?" and, "I'm being arrested by the SWAT team now, should I get a lawyer?" are becoming less common, as are some of the more mundane TravelFilter questions ("Where can I get decent Ahi in Topeka on a Tuesday night sometime next April?") Basically the complaint as I understand it is that people are complaining about not having enough mundane stuff to iBicker about...isn't MeFi supposed to be about substance? The 2 week limit is forcing people to either figure it out or Google it out, and use AskMe as a more in-depth tool for information access, and I'm pretty sure that's how it was intended to be used.

The geographic filtering idea is a good one- maybe along the lines of US East/Central/West, UK, Europe, Asia, Oceania, with the ability to choose which are displayed for you when logged in (I know, its a pretty pony). I honestly couldn't give less of a fuck where you can get Martin guitar strings in Berlin, and I think that really specialized questions like this could stand to be set aside for a lot of people.

Really though, lets all just take a deep breath and step back from AskMe policy MeTas. I'm glad this thread is open so this stuff can be discussed, but it shouldn't have been made for 3 more weeks. Really, we can't make any good evaluations of the policy until we've had more time to observe it, and I'm sure all the bile people are spewing about it is just aggrivation for Matt becauise he just wants you to give it a bloody chance (and no, 3 weeks does not qualify). So lets all just chill and go about trying to be marginally productive.
posted by baphomet at 10:17 PM on February 4, 2007


I consider myself an average user. I've asked 7 questions since May 2005. I've answered over 150 times. I read MetaFilter, MetaTalk, and AskMefi everyday. The waiting period affects me not one single bit. I don't think the questions have become more boring, and it seems to me the utility of the site has gone up. Fewer questions mean more eyes will see your question, and some of those eyes might belong to a true expert. If two questions a month vs. four questions a month makes the site "unuseable" then I think you may need to look for some other resources for answers to your questions. I still support the two week time limit on questions. It is not unreasonable. So that's my opinion.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:35 PM on February 4, 2007


Ask me is already broken up into topics. If you want to read a particular topic, just click that topic heading.

Other then that, a way to filter by category would be nice.
posted by delmoi at 11:12 PM on February 4, 2007


I think the limit is fine, also. Would I like the potential to ask more questions? Sure. In fact, I'd kinda like askmeta to really be "answer all of maxwelton's boring questions so he doesn't have to think at all" but I don't see that happening. So two weeks is fine.
posted by maxwelton at 11:17 PM on February 4, 2007


Most of the time I read or post on Askme these days is when a new article with an interesting title pops up in my RSS reader. I hardly ever just go to the page and read the questions. I understand Matts Idea about the sites "utility" but filtering out all the interesting "chatfilter" makes for a boring read. Obviously there can be chatfilter that's boring, but not all of it is.
posted by delmoi at 11:19 PM on February 4, 2007


I too find the ask.me page less interesting, and as a result spend less time there. *shrug*
posted by stray at 11:21 PM on February 4, 2007


I wanna ax 8 questions tomorrow. Everyone cool with that?
posted by The Deej at 11:21 PM on February 4, 2007


Why do zombies like to eat brains?

MLIS posted this, apparently, as an example of the sort of trivial question that we ought to discourage. But notice that *18* people favorited it. After a quick check, I don't think that any question now on the AskMe frontpage has been favorited so many times.

This sort of question is actually pretty interesting (I mean, it'd be fun to write a book on zombies, wouldn't it?), and a nice change from the usual "how do I do X in photoshop?"/"where can I get gluten-free muffins?"/"what's this lump on my arm?"/"how do i deal with my difficult boss/SO/tenant?," etc.

So, what I mean to say is: MORE ZOMBIES!
posted by washburn at 11:33 PM on February 4, 2007


I think that most of the opposition to the two-week waiting period can be summed up as thus:

1) There was no problem to be fixed. AskMe was fine before the two-week limit.

or

2) There is a problem to be fixed, and that problem may be addressed through "soft strategies," and not the "brute force" strategy of setting a 2-week limit on posting.

I think that, time limits notwithstanding, the nature of AskMe is going to change. The growing pains that we're experiencing are due to the format of the site itself. Although we have a new sort of community, we're still using the same old basic tools. The AskMe software is still more-or-less a group blog.

I think that, on the whole, AskMe will need to become more of an interactive experience. With hundreds of posts popping up every day, you just can't apply the same "blog" metaphor anymore, whereby you slowly scroll down the screen and read all the undifferentiated happenings of the day. Users should have easy ways to filter out certain content. Users should be able to apply weights to certain tags, and create a formula to determine what kinds of questions they like. Maybe we could even have some sort of auto-suggestion algorithm that would try to reccommend questions to you based on your interests. (and then you could tell the filter whether it was right or wrong for each suggestion, and that would modify the filter's parameters) Maybe you could have a set of "preference presets" that you could set up, kind of like a Pandora Radio Station... "Hmmm... Today I'm in the mood for my 'personal problems' feed... Then I'll check out all posts where people want to fix their computers."

I'm really just throwing out ideas here, but you get my point. What we have with AskMe is an exciting and vibrant community, one that is screaming out for a creative way to deal with its own success. I think that we should get crackin' with some of that web 2.0 stuff that we're all so good at and try to come up with some innovative solutions.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:17 AM on February 5, 2007


MetaFilter: Random (though honest) morons, now with added zombies.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 12:19 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Really though, lets all just take a deep breath and step back from AskMe policy MeTas.

I am in love with this sentence and wish to have its children.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:33 AM on February 5, 2007


What sgt. said. And the 29 questions from Feb 4 of last year don't strike me as noticeably less boring than the 49 questions from Feb 4 of this year. I wonder if the folks who are complaining that AskMe is suddenly so much more boring might not have reached the same limit on AskMe's entertainment value *without* the two-week limit. Sometimes you just need to take a break for a bit and come back refreshed, and this might be one of those times for those folks.
posted by mediareport at 12:47 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


(_-~~/ Presenting Jimbob's Revolutionary Plan for Ask.Metafilter! \~~-_)

Maybe "weblog" just isn't the best visual format for a site like Ask.Metafilter - that whole "Reverse Chronological Order" thing kinda sucks when you get a new post every 5 minutes.

We have tags. Why not put them to some use?

Everyone can define a set of tags they're "experts" on, on their profile page.

When you hit Metafilter (any page, blue, grey, whatever) the database checks your "expert tags" against tags on questions that have been asked since you last hit the site, and you get a box at the top:

There are unanswered questions in the following categories that you may be able to help with: strippers, cocaine, woodworking

Each of those "tags" will link you to a list of recent questions with those tags.

This will help focus ask questions better towards people who know the answers. It will make the speed at which questions "drift" off the page less relevant. And it shouldn't really be terribly difficult to implement.
posted by Jimbob at 2:59 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, practically unuseable. You never know when you're going to need to ask a question. Every once in awhile, more than one will come up in the space of two weeks.

I have a brilliant solution to your problem:

1) Open your word processor of choice
2) Type your question into it
3) Save your question in a file called "AskMe Questions.txt"
4) When your 2 weeks are up, return to the file. Post the question.

If your question is *that* urgent, you can always take it to MeTa and beg for someone to post it for you. But really, those "I need an answer TODAY" questions are very few and far between.
posted by antifuse at 3:49 AM on February 5, 2007


Maybe AskMe is becoming less interesting for reasons other than the two-week posting limit. Maybe the honeymoon is over. Maybe we've burned through all the interesting topics. Maybe the meteoric rise of AskMe has hit its zenith and now we're seeing the inevitable waning of it.

Seriously, what an enviable position. Too much content, and people crying to post more of it, and traffic levels so high, it dwarfs the rest of the site. AskMe is the monster that ate Metafilter, and Matthowie is blessed.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:35 AM on February 5, 2007


Why is "week" the unit of choice for question limits? Maybe 10 days would be a more appropriate balance.

If only the calendar were metric... when will we learn?
posted by logicpunk at 4:52 AM on February 5, 2007


It's ironic that a website called MetaFilter allows you to filter the posts in such a limited manner.
posted by Plutor at 4:56 AM on February 5, 2007


This whining is so US-centric. The complaints of "AskMe is too busy" were never true in the UK. It's only "too" busy at peak US times. The rest of the time, it ticks along quite nicely.

Since the ban, it's gotten really slow over here. There are times you'll get 2 questions an hour, if that.

What might work is instead of capping questions, try capping the rate. Users get one question a day, but there are only, say, 20 questions allowed every hour.
posted by bonaldi at 5:42 AM on February 5, 2007


I don't understand this ["askme is a lot less interesting than it used to be"] at all. AskMe is less interesting because people no longer ask frivolous idle curiosity type questions -- the very thing I've heard a majority of users here hate -- dumb what if questions -- and the very thing a longer wait period lets people reconsider, is the thing you wish were back. I don't think it's less interesting and calling something "practically unusable" is hyperbole. In my opinion the change has been good for the site, cutting down lame questions and keeping the flood of new users in check...

Well, there's not much point my voicing my opinion, because Matt's made up his mind and nothing's going to change it (note that "a majority of users" = "users who agree with me" and "idle curiosity type questions" are equated with "dumb what if questions," the only such questions that a majority could be said to hate), but just as another data point, I too find it less interesting. Furthermore, I basically don't ask questions any more because I'm worried something "important" will come up in the next two weeks. Sure, you say, that's how it's supposed to work! See, we've cut down on questions! But (I respond) that's why the site is less interesting. Yeah, people are finding out about their computer problems, but the site (it seems to me) is not nearly as interesting to people who don't have a question that needs answering that day. But what the hell, some of us like it less now and some like it more, and Matt's in the latter group, so I guess there's no point bitching about it. But don't go away mad, interrobang—a lot of us agree with your assessment of the problem, if not necessarily with the proposed solution.
posted by languagehat at 5:51 AM on February 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


the questions are no longer of the "Hey, I've always wondered that too!" variety, but now tend to be more focused on mundane-but-pressing issues specific to the askers.

I think that has a lot more to do with the boring one-off question askers who join the site simply to ask where they should vacation, etc.

I liked AskMe much better when there were more questions about why librarys make people want to poop and less questions about technical nonsense. However, I think answers to ALL questions wouldn't be as useful if the site was segregated by subject. The site works because people have lots of random knowledge beyond their strong suit. The site would suffer if all the techies spent most of their time on a TechMe sub-site.
posted by necessitas at 5:56 AM on February 5, 2007


Figuring out ways to scale AskMe until it turns into Usenet would be a mistake, IMO. I like the fact that it's an information resource, as opposed to an information firehose, and have no objection to controlling its growth by brute force rate throttling.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 AM on February 5, 2007


There shall be no separate but equal on this site! All information on one page!

I find myself really conserving my questions, and if I'm doing it, someone else is probably doing it to (shout out languagehat).

I would greatly enjoy some sort of system that allocates several questions per month with no restraints on when those questions may be used in a month.
posted by geoff. at 6:25 AM on February 5, 2007


MLIS posted this, apparently, as an example of the sort of trivial question that we ought to discourage. But notice that *18* people favorited it.

People are entertained by novelty. That's not surprising. However, this comes back to the argument that AskMe should be primarily interesting for readers, and that is, I think, a misconception. AskMe needs to be useful for the asker and, in the best case, for future readers with similar problems.

If AskMe is relatively dull but useful, we're in better shape than if it's exciting and whimsical and useless. It's called "Ask", not "What If LOL".

Has it gotten perceptibly less interesting at some point? Noted. Have you got an objective metric for that? How long have you been reading it? Have you considered the possibility that people burn out on things? That you may have personally lost some of the shine on a site that itself has remained essentially static over time?

Any long time reader will see, more and more, question that they have already seen, or questions like those they've already seen. It's going to happen; it's going to get repetitive; it's not a problem with AskMe unless you presuppose that it's AskMe's job to entertain you rather than answer questions for askers.

If Joe User needs help with a question, I guarantee he doesn't care whether or not you are entertained by it; he just cares about getting a helpful answer.

So there's the nasty inescapable truth: AskMe can work very well and not change a bit and you can still fall out of love with it. Perhaps, as Dave Faris said above, the honeymoon is over. The green was never into monogomy, and if you need to break up with it, that's okay.
posted by cortex at 6:33 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


if you need to break up with it, that's okay
Uh, no, it isn't. If all the people who like to be interested in things leave AskMe, only dullards will be left to answer.
posted by bonaldi at 6:46 AM on February 5, 2007


"Basically the complaint as I understand it is that people are complaining about not having enough mundane stuff to iBicker about...isn't MeFi supposed to be about substance? The 2 week limit is forcing people to either figure it out or Google it out, and use AskMe as a more in-depth tool for information access, and I'm pretty sure that's how it was intended to be used."

That's a total straw man. The questions that I'm seeing fewer of are the random scholarly ones, though I'll admit to probably feeling the effects of confirmation bias.
We've always had the majority of questions be mundane ones, and as they're the biggest percentage, as the site scales up, their growth is the most apparent. But the two-week limit seems to have discouraged a lot of the "What are the best papers written on women's roles in Beowulf" stuff (to invent an example). The obscure expert is what AskMe used to excell at. Now the utility we offer is much less unique, and much more "Why doesn't my iTunes work?"
And, again, speaking from personal preference toward the prior at the expense of the latter, I think the only way to solve that is more modding and a better defined mission.
But lo, the bitching that will come. And Matt's never been one to withstand bitching on MeTa well.
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 AM on February 5, 2007


Cortex, what about the point that intersting is what gets answerers looking? I'll answer NYC questions, but that isn't why I look, you know, and if all it were were things like that, then I wouldn't be around to answer, no?
posted by dame at 6:56 AM on February 5, 2007


"There are unanswered questions in the following categories that you may be able to help with: strippers, cocaine, woodworking"

You must have the world's most interesting workshop.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:00 AM on February 5, 2007


Uh, no, it isn't. If all the people who like to be interested in things leave AskMe, only dullards will be left to answer.

On the other hand, if a small, rolling subset of long time Ask readers burn out while new folks constantly join the crowd, something resembling balance will be maintained.

Do you believe that the last 10000 or so people to join the site are dullards? The last 1000? If not, how is that a reasonable argument?

I think it sucks—I truly do—that AskMe has lost some luster for longtimers. I also think it's inevitable, and, given that Metatalk tends to be the venue of the outspoken and the oldtimer (and, of course, the outspoken pre-flameout oldtimer), we'll see the very individuals who are struggling with their affection for the green talking about it here. It's a general phenomenon with personal, and hence personalized, fallout for specific members.
posted by cortex at 7:00 AM on February 5, 2007


Wait, so we all happened to get burned out at exactly the same, that time coincidentally being the same time that the limit changed?

I hope this doesn't break my promise. But I am interested in how my friend here is making sense.
posted by dame at 7:06 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cortex, what about the point that intersting is what gets answerers looking? I'll answer NYC questions, but that isn't why I look, you know, and if all it were were things like that, then I wouldn't be around to answer, no?

It's a reasonable worry. I, personally, haven't found AskMe significantly less interesting over the last couple years. I also wasn't, and never have been, a steady hardcore reader. Some days I'll read most of the front page; on rare quiet weekends I might read much more; most days I read a few questions or none at all. The experience hasn't changed for me. That's anecdote vs. anecdote, I realize, but I'd wager that a lot of people who don't speak up in these conversations are the people who are pretty much okay with things. Not much motivation to complain.

Bits of whimsy and sheer novelty still sneak in now and then; and fascinating, contentious mind-bogglers seems to go by (and even get called out) on a weekly basis. I'm not seeing the drop in curious-factor, but I wouldn't expect to: it's a deeply personal perception. You take interest in what interests you; in what you've seen before; in what your personal feedback loop leads you to see as interesting or deserving of interest. It's normal, it's natural, and it's almost certainly guaranteed to end with you losing some interest.

Turn it around, though: what could we do to guarantee that, say, 95% of long-time AskMe readers would not get a bit bored or lose some of their interest in the site? What's the tactic?
posted by cortex at 7:07 AM on February 5, 2007


Wait, so we all happened to get burned out at exactly the same, that time coincidentally being the same time that the limit changed?

No, we all started talking about it and doing a bunch of self-examination when the issue became visible. And we all started engaging in some seriously biased self-perception—which is natural, it's how humans work—and built up a tremendous perceptive feedback loop among the sub-sub-core of mefites who engage in vocal shenanigans on Metatalk.

I could be wrong, but I think that's about it. It's been x years since Ask came a long, a lot of people have had a chance to quietly and without really considering it lose some interest, but recent constant discussion of it has brought about a period of mass self-reflection, if you will.
posted by cortex at 7:09 AM on February 5, 2007


There are currently 16 questions on the front page of Ask that interest me. Eight interesting questions per day is about all of the time I'm willing to spend reading AskMefi anyway.

Is the complaint here that AskMefi is more boring, or that people want to ask more questions? I'm sensing that it is more the latter than the former.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:16 AM on February 5, 2007


The complaint, Roger Dodger? You think there's only one? Hah!

My complaint is that the two-week rule broke my iTunes. Also, it makes it impossible to cash a U.S. check at a U.K. bank and figure out when the new invisible MacBooks are going to come out.
posted by veggieboy at 7:29 AM on February 5, 2007

Furthermore, I basically don't ask questions any more because I'm worried something "important" will come up in the next two weeks.
Didn't there used to be a once a week limit? Did you worry about posting before for fear something more important might come up over the next week?
posted by Karmakaze at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2007


Afroblanco, what you outline is basically what Yahoo Answers is -- a giant tag-based random question portal with a hundred different views of the data and no way to see stuff in a blog style format.

But I don't want to build that, I'd rather see this simple default recent questions format instead of a giant Q&A quagmire.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:48 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I basically don't ask questions any more because I'm worried something "important" will come up in the next two weeks.

I'm sure someone has already suggested this, but how about letting users stockpile their questions? Limit the total to like 2 or 3, but if a two week period passes, and they haven't posted one question, they get a freebie. If 8 weeks pass, they have the ability to post 3 in a row and then no more for 2 more weeks. Or somehow tie it to responding to others. If, for example, you get 10 comments legitimately marked as "best answer," you get a free message.

I guess the last thing we want to do is alienate the very people who adore and can't live without the service provided.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:05 AM on February 5, 2007


Karmakaze writes...
Didn't there used to be a once a week limit? Did you worry about posting before for fear something more important might come up over the next week?

This kind of gets to the heart of it, doesn't it.
posted by tkolar at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2007


It is the tragedy of the commons. And it isn't fixable.
posted by LarryC at 8:34 AM on February 5, 2007


I think AskMe has gotten less interesting over the past few weeks. However, I think that is because it was entirely too interesting around the holidays and this is sort of a mid-course correction and it will level out again at a pretty normal amount of interesting real soon now. I don't have much of an opinion about the rest of this except that calling the site unusable and calling the two week wait ridiculous sounds more like posting-before-coffee than any sort of objective assessment of anything.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2007


Did you worry about posting before for fear something more important might come up over the next week?

Not really. I'd consider this a personal quirk except that a lot of people seem to feel the same way. One week = a reasonable amount of time; two weeks = forever. Nobody claimed it was rational.
posted by languagehat at 8:39 AM on February 5, 2007


dame wrote...
Wait, so we all happened to get burned out at exactly the same, that time coincidentally being the same time that the limit changed?

Yep.

Specifically, you (that is to say, the small cadre of old timers who can't seem to let this topic go) were happily sailing along with the conviction that you were the core of Ask Metafilter, that it is was yours, and that it would always be that way.

Suddenly Matt demonstrated that:

a) He had a different view of the future than you, and...
b) He was more than capable of yanking the rug out from underneath you.

Like most people who have had the rugged yanked out from underneath them, you have become (correctly) disillusioned. The site is no longer "your" site, and as your identification with it has dropped, so has your interest.

You'll either get over it or you won't. Fortunately, new folks are coming along all the time and will more than make up for the old-timers who wander away from the site. Unfortunately, a certain percentage of them will come to over-identify with AskMe and we'll be having this same damn discussion with them next year when Matt decides to change the background color from green to fuchsia.
posted by tkolar at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Um, okay, you are crazy.
posted by dame at 8:44 AM on February 5, 2007


Did you worry about posting before for fear something more important might come up over the next week?

Nope. A week seemed like a good comprise since we can't have unlimited questions (which is fine). Two weeks between questions seems unreasonable to some, especially since the reasoning offered for the change sounded shoddy at best.

Have you considered the possibility that people burn out on things?

Have you considered that when people say they're bored with Askme they might actually be bored?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:45 AM on February 5, 2007


> Have you considered the possibility that people burn out on things?

Have you considered that when people say they're bored with Askme they might actually be bored?


We must disagree on terms, because I'm assuming you're making a distinction there but I'm not seeing it. Boredom with a previously entertaining thing is a symptom of burnout, from my perspective.
posted by cortex at 8:56 AM on February 5, 2007


What languagehat said. Both times.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:58 AM on February 5, 2007


I wasn't going to add a me-too, but so that Matt can more accurately assess what "the majority" think: I agree very much with what languagehat and chickletworks said. AskMe is less interesting to me nowadays (maybe it is not a coincedence that I am in Europe as well?), and I think that that's a pity because I used to really like it.

languagehat said:I basically don't ask questions any more because I'm worried something "important" will come up in the next two weeks. Sure, you say, that's how it's supposed to work! That's the point I never got about AskMe complaints. You have a question and answer site, but do not actually want people to ask questions. They should only use it for "important" questions, and the two week limit should enforce that, but if people complain that an important question might come up before that, they are flamed with "you should not ask important questions to anonymous strangers on the internet anyway".
posted by davar at 9:07 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about a two week limit on uninteresting questions?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:14 AM on February 5, 2007


How about we just go home and spend time with our families?
posted by wheelieman at 9:23 AM on February 5, 2007


That is totally orphanist.
posted by dame at 9:27 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


because Matt's made up his mind and nothing's going to change it (note that "a majority of users" = "users who agree with me" and "idle curiosity type questions" are equated with "dumb what if questions," the only such questions that a majority could be said to hate)

languagehat, I find your conclusion here really disingenuous. "majority of users" means a year or more of metatalk posts saying something to the effect of "can't we do something about the zillions of questions being posted to ask mefi?!" When I say majority, I mean it. It was the majority opinion that after 3 years (and as early as 1 year after), the sheer number of questions was too much and that was pretty much a unanimous opinion. That you read my response that way really undermines the rest of your argument.

I'm not making this up to suit my view, there's a metric assload of complaints in metatalk that there are too many questions that something. must. be. done. So we did something, and it seems to have leveled off the growth of questions per day, which I think is a good thing even though they might not be as quirky as they were before the holidays.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:28 AM on February 5, 2007


dame wrote...
Um, okay, you are crazy.

My couch disagrees with you, and IT IS ALWAYS RIGHT!
posted by tkolar at 9:29 AM on February 5, 2007


I think I spotted your sanity sticking out from between the cushions.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:35 AM on February 5, 2007


I don't think I would rely on AskMe for something "important". Doctors lawyers, contractors, government officials, they are all there for a reason. Plus it's not terribly hard to find someone to post-in-proxy if you really need to.

Incidentally, there is an awfully lot of questions for a practically unusable site.
posted by edgeways at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2007


the problem with askme is the front page. it doesn't make sense for a resource about asking things to be presented in a format that discourages asking things, but most importantly it doesn't make sense for a learning resource that is growing in size the way askme is to continue to be presented in a digest format. It doesn't scale. What will you do next year? a month limit when the front page is running as rampant as it was before THIS increased limit, even with a 2 week limit on questions? Askme right now is designed to be accessed by a front page which must exist in a tremulous interstitial space between scrolling too quickly from too many questions asked OR not having any scrolling problems at all at the cost of a smaller readership or an ever increasing question time limit. think about this. every user who joins the site, which should presumably be a good thing, is an added stressor on a system which will potentially have to reduce its usefulness in order to continue running for his having joined.

of course, the fron page and digest format is why people are addicted to askme. it creates this narrative of sorts for helping people and learning fascinating things. so how do you maintain that? fuck if i know, i don't do this for a living. but i STRONGLY fucking suggest finding out, because the system has stopped working.

askme doesn't scale. fix it or kill it, but right now you're holding out for the possibility that some magic number of users asking questions won't be exceeded on a daily basis, whether it's because old users are disappearing or because all users are able to ask questions less and less often. surely you see that askme is going to keep growing and that this magic number won't change, right? That more and more you're going to be forced to either keep expanding the time limit on questions or discourage people from using the site in some other way? honestly, does this even make the remotest sense in the long term? part of askme's charm is that it's a smallish (by internet standards) clique of dedicated users, but it can't remain that way if it's to stay in operation at all, because people keep joining, and closing askme to new memberships would kill it. the same thousands of people aren't going to be constantly asking fascinating questions forever. part of askme's lifeblood is new users. it's time for a new format.

of course, i almost never read askme, so take that as you will.
posted by shmegegge at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


mathowie:"majority of users" means a year or more of metatalk posts. Isn't your own argument usually that only a tiny percentage of users reads metatalk? And I presume an even tinier percentage actually participates in those threads? I think it is very possible that the "majority of users" had no problems whatsoever with AskMe. That's why they didn't go to metatalk to whine about it.
posted by davar at 9:54 AM on February 5, 2007


davar, in email, IM, metatalk, and in person, I didn't meet more than one or two people that said Ask MeFi was great with a zillion questions. Everyone else would tell me there were too many.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:56 AM on February 5, 2007


Matt, is there a principled reason why we can't stockpile questions in the manner that crunch...er, Dave Faris suggests? I've heard others suggest it also, in the many many threads on this issue, and I think, "that sounds like a decent compromise" but it never seems to gain any traction in discussion.
posted by Kwine at 9:56 AM on February 5, 2007


I agree that AskMe has gotten boring lately. I also agree that there were previously too many questions. And I also agree with jessamyn that the questions were actually getting really boring before the two-week limit was imposed, and I also agree with cortex that it's more than possible that my boredom is more burn-out than objectively true.

I agree with everyone!

But I would urge people complaining about bad questions now to go back and look at older questions right before the time limit was imposed. Like I said, it may just be that I was stressed out and tired of answering the same thing over and over, but I do remember being uninspired to answer much, or with any depth, for a month or two there.
posted by occhiblu at 10:03 AM on February 5, 2007


Matt,

Just curious, have you gotten a lot of positive feedback from the AskMe limit change?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2007


Lots of good points.

You have a question and answer site, but do not actually want people to ask questions.

Bingo.

Yes, lots of people were complaining about "too many questions," though I never really grasped what the big deal was. I don't think, though, that that translates into being thrilled with a two-week limit. And like the man said, what's next, a year between posts?
posted by languagehat at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


"davar, in email, IM, metatalk, and in person, I didn't meet more than one or two people that said Ask MeFi was great with a zillion questions. Everyone else would tell me there were too many."

Hold on, your logic is that it must be a majority because no one complained about things being fine when they were fine?
Ya, that's totally sound, y'know.
posted by klangklangston at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2007


Matt, is there a principled reason why we can't stockpile questions

The stockpile is a pain in the ass to implement.

Just curious, have you gotten a lot of positive feedback from the AskMe limit change?

I've gotten a bit yeah, and my own (and jessamyn's) opinion as well. The backlash feels like it's coming from the same 5 or 6 names again and again, so despite the metatalk posts, it doesn't feel like a majority of users.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2007


the sheer number of questions was too much
ONLY IN THE USA! It fucking crawls along the rest of the time now.

How about you only enfore the limits 9-5 PST, and let the rest of us roam free?
posted by bonaldi at 10:24 AM on February 5, 2007


Here's the deal with the change: it was done to help with scaling problems and yes, the site could handle a hell of a lot more questions (and yes, actually encourage questions!) if I completely redid it to be more like Yahoo Answers.

But they have a staff of 50 (my guess). We have 2.

The site is limiting due to the design and that's sort of baked-in. As it becomes too much, old members will fade away, maybe new users will slow down on signups and there will be some equilibrium. We'll never get to 200 questions per day in the current interface and frankly, I don't ever want to get there. If I did want that kind of growth, I'd go out and hire 40 people and look for a million in funding to pay everyone's salary.

I want to keep Ask MeFi feeling small and personal with a single front page where you can see everything going on. Major changes to that interface would de-personalize it and that's when your answers really start to suck, when people don't give a rat's ass and just answer to hear themselves speak.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:31 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah the whole group blog format isn't the best presentation method for ask.me. And all of what shmegegge said. (Except the fix it or kill it part -- please fix it) When the user base doubles again we are going to be in the same situation as we were.

So what should be the proper presentation method for ask.me questions? Google Answers was close I think... the only thing I would change is that a few of recently "answered" or "most favorited" would show up on the navigation page.
posted by bigmusic at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2007


i say we shut the bitch down and go back to being all about the links. and the discussion. and the snark. and the flameouts. yeah. snark and flameouts.
posted by quonsar at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2007


For the third time, what shmegegge describes is Yahoo Answers. If you want that, go there:

http://answers.yahoo.com/
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:34 AM on February 5, 2007


Matt, did you even read schmeggege's comment, or do you just have the "Go to answers.yahoo" on your clipboard and use it whenever you feel defensive?
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 AM on February 5, 2007


Yeah, I read it. I read the part about completely revamping how it works or killing it as the only options. Also, the part about how they never read the site anyway.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:44 AM on February 5, 2007


klangklangston, do you even read matt's answers, or do you just whine incessantly?
posted by tkolar at 10:47 AM on February 5, 2007


By the way, for those of you who miss the good old days, September 30, 2006.
posted by tkolar at 10:55 AM on February 5, 2007


Can someone who thinks AskMe is notably more boring than it was 6 weeks ago please at least *attempt* to quantify what they're talking about?

Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 10:57 AM on February 5, 2007


shmegegge: "of course, the front page and digest format is why people are addicted to askme. it creates this narrative of sorts for helping people and learning fascinating things. so how do you maintain that? fuck if i know, i don't do this for a living. but i STRONGLY fucking suggest finding out, because the system has stopped working."

The trouble is: the format (which you call 'digest format') isn't just "why people are addicted to askme" or a way to "create a narrative of sorts for helping people and learning fascinating things." Although that comes close, it should be noted (and I think Matt was trying to say this upthread) that this is what sets ask.metafilter apart from other Ask... sites: there's a contiguity to the page, and everybody looks at all of the questions. The quality of Metafilter in general has to do with the diversity of the readership; this is even more true in AskMe, where people are depending on different viewpoints for their answers. It might very well make sense to divide the front page tagwise if all of the questions were on the lines of "how do I replace my video card," and I can understand that that's where interrobang's line of thinking is leading.

But a really large chunk-- I'd say at least half-- of the questions on ask.metafilter aren't "specialist" questions. They're questions like "what do I do to help my parents through their divorce" or "should I choose a religion for my child, or should I let him/her choose on their own" or even "what should I do in San Francisco next week," all of which emphatically are not "specialist" questions, at least in any quantifiable way. In fact, I'd say the really powerful moments on ask.metafilter so far-- the ones that I can remember and think were really cool-- weren't the ones where a person who knew they were really great at something answered; rather, they were instances where somebody said, "hey, I recognize the difficulty you're having / song you're looking for / book you read when you were twelve" and chimed in with their own bit of knowledge, quite often collaborating with others who were similarly helpful but knew something about a different aspect.

ask.metafilter doesn't exist as a network to link those with questions directly to those who are specialists in the field. In fact, I have a feeling that's one of the reasons why Google Answers tanked; at least, that's the feeling I got when I read jessamyn's commentary. It's really more designed to link all of those who have small bits of any given puzzle to those who have questions. The trick is, all those people probably don't realize all of the bits they have when they customize their user pages.

In short, I agree that scalability is a huge problem. I think the limit on the number of questions was the best solution mathowie had at hand to that problem. The difficulty is that any other solution that we can think of kind of changes the site in a fundamental way. Separating subjects by tags, in particular, would really destroy the quality of ask.metafilter, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: do you even read matt's answers, or do you just whine incessantly?
posted by wheelieman at 11:00 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The sense of entitlement some of you have is pretty intense. It's obvious that Matt has given this all a lot of thought and has come up with the working solution that he is willing to live with for now.

Please feel free to register your own domain names, code your own site, attract your own hive, and make the rules as you see fit.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2007


AskMe is fine. The new time limit is fine. I see little change in the volume or type of questions that interest me. If I didn't scan MetaTalk occasionally, I wouldn't have even noticed the change took place.
posted by event at 11:13 AM on February 5, 2007


"davar, in email, IM, metatalk, and in person, I didn't meet more than one or two people that said Ask MeFi was great with a zillion questions. Everyone else would tell me there were too many."

I kinda like a zillion questions, not like Yahoo or anything, but it seems like we were getting lots of good, diverse questions with the once a week limit. I myself, know that every other Sat. at 10 is my question time. I can deal with that, but once a week was much more fun in general.
posted by stormygrey at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2007


Having the categories available as individual RSS feeds would be greatly appreciated. (Just wanted to echo what was stated way upthread.)
posted by achmorrison at 11:26 AM on February 5, 2007


koeselitz: Thanks. That's kinda the answer I wish I would have gotten from Matt.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2007


Agreed. That was a cogent argument, koeselitz. For me, what makes AskMe interesting isn't finding what I was looking for, but rather the unexpected discovery, stumbled over. And that's usually how I discover the odd thread I can actually be of use in, too. When I need AskMe to be useful, I generally have no trouble searching or sorting by tags to find the relevant subjects. But then I'm not a heavy asker, either, so my data point is limited in that regard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:39 AM on February 5, 2007


We keep having this discussion and I still cannot for the life of me figure out how it could possibly take a person with a normal reading speed more than a minute or to to scan a days worth of questions and pick out the interesting stuff. Can someone help me with this? I really want to see the other side of this argument but it's just not making any sense to me at all.

As I've said before, my preference (since it seems like Matt is listening) would be for a two question per calendar month limit with a minimum period of 24 hours between questions.
posted by teleskiving at 11:46 AM on February 5, 2007


i say we shut the bitch down and go back to being all about the links. and the discussion. and the snark. and the flameouts. yeah. snark and flameouts.

Matt, can you set ask.metafilter.com to autoforward to the grey for quonsar's account?
posted by cortex at 11:54 AM on February 5, 2007


I want to keep Ask MeFi feeling small and personal with a single front page where you can see everything going on. Major changes to that interface would de-personalize it and that's when your answers really start to suck, when people don't give a rat's ass and just answer to hear themselves speak.

I think we have a fundamental difference of opinion here.

I am not of the opinion that the blog format is responsible for the high level of quality that we associate with AskMe. AskMe is great because of the people who use it. I know that if I post a question to AskMe, it will be seen by a bunch of educated and thoughtful people. Likewise, I know that if someone gets out of line and says something really stupid or snarky, their post will be swiftly deleted.

Attracting a user base is the hardest thing for a community to do. Fortunately for us, AskMe already has an incredible user base. I don't think that changing the format or interface will change this.

And I'm not saying that we have to go whole-hog and completely abandon the blog format. I just think that adding a few features would solve many of problems that the two-week-limit was supposed to address.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:05 PM on February 5, 2007


Since we are offering anecdotal advice, I would comment that I've actually used AskMe more in the last month that I ever did. I am fine either way and defer to those who have a strong preference. I consider AskMe to be a completely different site to which I am not attached or in which I am not invested. But I've actually contributed more recently in giving answers (you can see on my posting page). It seems a bit more manageable and more like something where the help is worthwhile. Before it kind of felt to me like a beast I couldn't (or didn't want to invest the time into) handling. So I kind of like the slowed-down pace. But as I said, I will certainly defer to the preferences of those that are big AskMe fans. It is extraneous to my Metafilter experience while it is the primary factor in others. So, do what you may.
posted by dios at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2007


Instead of having these ridiculous MeTa posts complaining about the time limit of AskMe, why not let Matt run the site the way he sees fit and stop all this useless whining? This issue has come up multiple times lately and Matt's response is always the same. Guess what! He's not going to change his mind! And he's said so! Enough already! Jeezy creezy.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 12:22 PM on February 5, 2007


I vote in favor of a Non-Binding Resolution to Oppose this Surge-Protection System.
posted by yeti at 12:31 PM on February 5, 2007


Nathanial Hörnblowér: Instead of having these ridiculous MeTa posts complaining about the time limit of AskMe, why not let Matt run the site the way he sees fit and stop all this useless whining? This issue has come up multiple times lately and Matt's response is always the same. Guess what! He's not going to change his mind! And he's said so! Enough already! Jeezy creezy."

Well, I think interrobang at least offered a solution. He maybe shouldn't have included the "unusable" bit, since it's a touchy subject, but it doesn't seem to have caused any flamewars or anything. It's not so bad that we talk about this, even if we talk about it often; mathowie's not our dad, he's the moderator, and he (presumably) values our input. And, as I kind of said, I think if any of us have any really functional solutions to the scalability problem, he'll be the first one to want to hear them.
posted by koeselitz at 12:34 PM on February 5, 2007


Not that fathers don't value input; gech, that came out wrong. I meant that this isn't a case of "mathowie said it, so we just have to do it, so let's just shut up" so much as "mathowie would like a solution, but he doesn't think this is one. Any more ideas?"
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 PM on February 5, 2007


okay, to be clear about a couple things:

1. i never suggested making askme more like yahoo or google. i appreciate that matt did indeed read what I said, but I think he was reading more of what he expected to read than what I was actually saying. it's understandable, considering the nature of metatalk and threads of this kind. my only point was that if there is a drive to "fix" askme (and changing the time limit on posting questions is ample reason for me to think there is that drive on mathowie's part) then that fix needs to happen in a way that will scale, and none of the current options do that. i said i don't know what the solution is, and mentioned that it was important to maintain something of what people like about askme, namely the community feel and that narrative aspect i mentioned.

2. i did read askme once. i got tired of it. i used the phrase "i never read" askme incorrectly, perhaps. i meant it to say "i never read (present tense) askme, anymore," not "i never read (past tense) askme, ever."

3. if this is how you want askme to work, where the overflow of questions discourages some users and through some sort of natural selection maintains a workable status quo, then STOP FUCKING WITH IT. that's already how it works. and if you'd say to people "i want askme to be annoying enough to keep the numbers of users small so that it doesn't turn into yahoo or google" then just say that the first time. what is this, bizarro world? do one thing, intend something else and say something entirely other to the public? whee! i wonder why we get so many metatalk complaints about askme policy!

look, askme is great and that's due to you and jessamyn rocking it hardcore for years. good on you. stop acting like you need to appease us and do what it takes to make the site run the way you want to. this 2 week thing feels, and I think justly so, like a tacked on token effort to shut some people up when all you'd really need to do to shut people up is every once in a while say "sorry, that's the way I want it to work. here's why. hope this is okay, but if it's not I hope you can understand why it's not going to change." hell, draft a form email for when you get emails about it. that way, you barely have to think about the inconvenience of explaining it again.
posted by shmegegge at 12:38 PM on February 5, 2007


It's Raining Florence Henderson writes "For me, what makes AskMe interesting isn't finding what I was looking for, but rather the unexpected discovery, stumbled over. And that's usually how I discover the odd thread I can actually be of use in, too. When I need AskMe to be useful, I generally have no trouble searching or sorting by tags to find the relevant subjects."

Yes, yes, yes! This is why I'm opposed to all attempts to break the page up into different categories. I think serendipity is one of the most powerful positive forces in AskMe. Very well said.

I do have to concede that although I don't understand it very well myself, languagehat has a valid point about the difference between the one- and two-week question time frames. Many people seem to have a subjective reaction that inhibits them from asking questions in the two-week model. Since this is a debate about subjective reactions (there's no objective reason that more questions on the front page is bad), that has to be taken into account.
posted by OmieWise at 12:42 PM on February 5, 2007


Just to balance out all the complainers, I thought I'd add in my support to the two-week limit. And since event already used the exact words I was thinking, I'll just repost them here:

AskMe is fine. The new time limit is fine. I see little change in the volume or type of questions that interest me. If I didn't scan MetaTalk occasionally, I wouldn't have even noticed the change took place.

I'll also add that I'm still confused by people who worry that they'll "need" to ask another question before their two weeks are up. Who are these people that have NO OTHER resource in their lives for dealing with their problems?
posted by web-goddess at 12:51 PM on February 5, 2007


Afroblanco writes "I feel that the two-week limit has made the site less interesting."

It wouldn't surprise me me if there is some selection bias occuring here. I haven't noticed a decrease in quality/interestingness just an apparent drop off in volume. Especially in the wee hours of the morning local time. Come on all you people in the upper end of GMT+, get asking. Once we have a couple more months (or even better a year) of the new limit we should run a blind test:

1) take ten random runs of 50 questions each pre and post increased limts.
2) have selected users rate each of the 20 sets of questions for interestingness
3) Profit! Have some data on the relative interestingness.

There are a lot of uncontrolled variables (like time of the year, maybe people are more interesting in the summer) when comparing pre and post increased limits.
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2007


shmegegge: "this 2 week thing feels, and I think justly so, like a tacked on token effort to shut some people up when all you'd really need to do to shut people up is every once in a while say 'sorry, that's the way I want it to work. here's why. hope this is okay, but if it's not I hope you can understand why it's not going to change.'"

Doesn't it feel more like an attempt to solve the real problems of scale that you described?
posted by koeselitz at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2007


shmegegge, the 2 week thing was a stopgap measure. Not a perfect solution nor step 1 in a complete overhaul. It was a small change meant to curb the growth that seemed out of hand. Everything seems to be about absolutes with you and your interpretations of my behavior and statements, when the truth is everything is a compromise.

As to the rest of your last comment, you seem to be asking that I put my foot down, but in my experience the times I've done that have been met with even more resistance and complaints.

The best idea in this entire thread is the one on letting people set pet topics or favorite tags on their user page, and giving them a filtered view of ask mefi. A combo of me, jessamyn, and jjg came up with that idea a couple weeks ago and I'd like to do it. You'd sort of subscribe to tags and your user page would show which ones you are subscribed to (readers could assume you have expertise on those topics). Then there'd be a tab on mefi and ask mefi and whatever new sites come out, marked my tags or favorite tags, showing just the most recent posts with that tag.

I track the RSS feed for art on mefi and tivo on ask mefi and it occurred to me that I could add 3-4 more (portland, cycling, etc) and I'd love to see an ask mefi front page filter like that.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:10 PM on February 5, 2007


Can someone who thinks AskMe is notably more boring than it was 6 weeks ago please at least *attempt* to quantify what they're talking about?

Say there are three kinds of questions:
1. pressing (real-world problem, time limit), specific:
How do I fix this clearly-described thing in my computer or car?

2. non-pressing (general, just curious, usually no time limit), but specific:
I have a weird physical oddity, or I've noticed this phenomenon, is there a name for it?
I want to remember the name of a book, song etc but my search terms aren't working; anyone know it?
What salad greens keep longest?
Does anyone know what this painting is?
What are the best resources on learning to be an effective lecturer?
What is it like to be a white westerner living in Ghana?

3. non-pressing, non-specific (too general to give good answers):
I'm worried that my friend doesn't like me, what do you think?

In my perception, since New Year's there have been proportionally more Type 1, somewhat fewer Type 2, and many fewer Type 3.

I think the site works great for Type 1, but generally with Type 1 it's very black-or-white whether you have the specialized knowledge to answer. If it were all Type 1, I would visit less often, I think -- this is what I've been noticing since New Year's. With Type 2, there's a bit more room for idle trivia, googling around to see if you can find an answer, and there's more likely to be a "hey I've been wondering that too" moment. That's what keeps me coming to read every day.

I'm glad to see less Type 3 questions.

Today there have been a number of Type 2, so maybe my general observation isn't totally on. At any rate, I think it's a good idea to keep the limit for now and see what happens. But if the site tends too much toward Type 1, I think the number of answerers will go down.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:27 PM on February 5, 2007


Then there'd be a tab on mefi and ask mefi and whatever new sites come out

Ooooh. A tantalizing carrot! Do tell, mathowie. Whatcha got up your sleeve?
posted by grateful at 2:06 PM on February 5, 2007


pictures-of-elbows.metafilter.com

Nothing but pictures of elbows. Elbows all over the place. Elbows, elbows, elbows.

Elbows!
posted by cortex at 2:10 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


WTF?!! Needs more knees.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2007


LobsterMitten's probably got it: I don't know many people who come to read the Type 1s -- we all come for the Type 2s, and while we're about we help out on the Type 1s.

Question limit = fewer throwaway Type 2s.
Fewer Type 2s=fewer Type 1 answers.
posted by bonaldi at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have suggested repeatedly that one way to cut down on repeat questions just might be to put a link to Frequently Asked of Metafilter on the new posts page. Yes, I know most people don't read the FAQ on any website. But if it cuts down even by a handful of the same old, same old question, wouldn't it be beneficial? There are great websites on that FAQ that can help people, and then they wouldn't have to "waste" a question on AskMe. It might help free up AskMe from being a "help me with Firefox/iTunes/my computer" site to having more diverse questions.

FAQ of Metafilter is not my site but I have added several sites to it.

So is there any reason it's not being seriously considered? Do you (Matt/Jess) feel like it will direct too much traffic away from AskMe?

Even if it only prevents one stupid mix tape question, well... it might prevent the one question that might drive a member insane. (I'm not talking about me here - I'm talking about all the users who compain about YET ANOTHER FREAKING POST ON THE SAME STUPID TOPIC.)
posted by IndigoRain at 2:21 PM on February 5, 2007


Matt,

Is the wait or see period over and the two week limit now official?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:14 PM on February 5, 2007


I'll also add that I'm still confused by people who worry that they'll "need" to ask another question before their two weeks are up. Who are these people that have NO OTHER resource in their lives for dealing with their problems?

Surely we can discuss this without pointlessly insulting everyone who has a different opinion.
posted by languagehat at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2007


"Surely we can discuss this without pointlessly insulting everyone who has a different opinion."

Wrong. Dolt.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on February 5, 2007


Is the wait or see period over and the two week limit now official?

No, I'll make it official when there's enough data to show whether or not anything changed. Sometime this month we'll probably have enough to go on.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:24 PM on February 5, 2007


Surely we can discuss this without pointlessly insulting everyone who has a different opinion.

This is Metatalk. It's all about the pointlessly insulting.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:41 PM on February 5, 2007


Having the categories available as individual RSS feeds would be greatly appreciated. (Just wanted to echo what was stated way upthread.)

Ditto. Both more useful and less annoying than rss-ing tags. Questions are required to have a 1 to 1 relation with categories, but tags aren't, so if you're following a few tag feeds, you could end up with a lot of duplicates. You can also miss stuff you're actually interested in if the tagging is poorly done. That's much less likely to be the case with categories because they're general enough that most askers aren't going to pick an inappropriate one.
posted by juv3nal at 3:43 PM on February 5, 2007


How about just posting Paulsc's home phone number, then we can just ring him up when ever we have a question?
posted by vronsky at 3:46 PM on February 5, 2007 [3 favorites]


I know this is a community site, with community policing and community standards, but there sure is a whole lot of bitching and entitlement in this thread for what is, essentially, a free site. Yeah, I know most of us paid our $5, but divide that by the number of days you've had your account and then tell me how much it costs you to have posting privileges on Mefi. You'd think Matt took away your first born child. But keep on keeping on. I bet if you bitch long enough, Matt will do exactly what you want him to do.

On another note, I'd also like to see a filtered page view of selected categories rather than specific tags if that type of thing is going to be implemented...
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2007


Surely we can discuss [the fear issue] without pointlessly insulting everyone who has a different opinion.

Ok, I'll try: Some folks' apparent fear of being caught unable to ask a question in a pinch during the two-week waiting period is an irrational red herring that should have no impact on how the site is managed for the simple reason that there are MULTIPLE and EASY ways that situation can be worked around.

This has been said over and over and over again, but many of the folks who continue to complain about the two-week limit also continue to ignore the existence of an easy solution to their completely unnecessary fear. I gotta wonder, languagehat (and I'm asking because you're here and generally reasonable, not because you're one of the folks that do it), why is that?
posted by mediareport at 4:30 PM on February 5, 2007


I think there is a goldmine in the askme archives that could be used more effectively if they were indexed. Every question would get classified by topic and/or subtopic (more than one if appropriate) and would get summarized in a sentence or less that is connected to a link to the question.

There are now just under 57K questions in AskMe. Does anyone else think an index would be useful and want to work on this?

This would be helpful for people like me who read AskMe unevenly and can't really go back and catch up after missing a few days. I can often check a particular category, but I still miss interesting questions from categories I don't have time to check, so I feel there is alot of stuff in old AskMe I'd like but will never get back to now. I'd be willing to work on an index if people thought it would be helpful and if the work was split into manageable amounts, but probably won't tackle this if it's just for me.

Anyway, to get back to the thread at hand I have found alot of the recent questions to be less interesting overall but I agree with jessamyn that we probably had alot of crazy fun hijinx because of the holidays. I am hopeful that Valentine's day will bring the crazy back.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:32 PM on February 5, 2007


This has been said over and over and over again,

Dismissing complaints because they've been asked repeatedly is silly because the reason AskMe went to one question every two weeks is because people were complaining.

but many of the folks who continue to complain about the two-week limit also continue to ignore the existence of an easy solution to their completely unnecessary fear.

Nope. The rational offered for doing the change seemed...irrational. Everything seemed fine to some folks, so they resent/don't like etc the change.

Sure no one will die or have their life ruined because of the limit change. But AskMe is an excellent resource and it's understandable if people find their access diminished.

and Matt, there are plenty of forums and hell even USENET that have personal feel and community to them. The single page format isn't the only way.

but there sure is a whole lot of bitching and entitlement in this thread for what is, essentially, a free site.

It's not bitching or a sense of entitlement. Really. Simply put, the rational given for the change don't make sense to some people.

Some folks' apparent fear of being caught unable to ask a question in a pinch during the two-week waiting period is an irrational red herring that should have no impact on how the site is managed for the simple reason that there are MULTIPLE and EASY ways that situation can be worked around.

Not as easy as hitting the next page button if things are scrolling too fast. Oh look, there's multiple next page buttons too!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 PM on February 5, 2007


Dismissing complaints because they've been asked repeatedly is silly

I wasn't dismissing the complaints because they've been repeated; I was noting that the solution to the fear about emergency questions had been mentioned repeatedly, but the fearful folks keep on pretending that their fear is a serious problem with the way the site is set up, rather than a serious problem with their own avoidance of the simple solutions.
posted by mediareport at 6:38 PM on February 5, 2007


Kinda like avoiding a "next page" button, eh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on February 5, 2007


Surely we can discuss this without pointlessly insulting everyone who has a different opinion.

I may hold you to that. Jerky Jerkison.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:14 PM on February 5, 2007


mediareport, I think the people who are reporting this fear are reporting it in this spirit:
a. Here's a psychological fact about me - I worry that I will waste my question on something non-pressing, and then have a pressing question I can't ask.
b. SO I am less likely now to ask fun, just-curious types of question.
c. Fun questions are part of what keeps answerers reading.
d. If there were fewer answerers, people would get fewer answers.

They're not saying "woe is me, I can't solve problems, please hope me". They're saying "I notice this trend in my own thinking -- don't waste questions, so don't ask fun questions. I mention it, since if other people feel the same way it might lead to less good answers for everyone."
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:03 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


That is, saying "I disapprove of that psychological fact about you!" is beside the point. If this really is a psychological fact about the effect the two-week rule has on people, the site has to deal with that fact, regardless of whether the fear is justified.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:06 PM on February 5, 2007


It's not bitching or a sense of entitlement. Really. Simply put, the rational given for the change don't make sense to some people.

The thing is, Metatalk gives us a very convincing illusion that we are allowed to contribute our opinions, and that our opinions matter. They really don't, unless they coincide with Matt's. And while I'm not implying that Matt is an inflexible despot, it's pretty much his place to do with as he sees fit. He doesn't need to give you any rationale, and the fact that some people think they deserve it is where the false sense of entitlement comes in.

We may offer our ideas, suggestions, opinions, and pleadings, but unless he is inclined to act on them, what remains doesn't amount to much more than fruitless onanism, petty one-upsmanship, and snarky impertinence. And just because we have the ability to bring a complaint to Metatalk thread, 99 times out of 100, it doesn't mean we should.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:09 PM on February 5, 2007


Kinda like avoiding a "next page" button, eh?

Well, yeah. I hope you don't have me confused with someone who complained about there being too many questions hitting the front page of AskMe. For the record, I didn't, and don't think it was a problem for exactly the reason you wrote. But I also don't mind the 2-week rule, think it just might help the site, and think the complaints about it are slightly more hilariously overblown than the complaints about too many questions.

Ok now?
posted by mediareport at 10:11 PM on February 5, 2007


fair enough, mathowie. I suspect that whatever impression I gave about everything being absolute came more from feeling misunderstood and attacked than my actually feeling that way. But hey, I've been unreasonable and snarky before so maybe that's it, too. point is, it seems to me that askme seems to run the way you want it, so maybe it doesn't need fixing, but rather explanation (probably repeatedly, unfortunately.) either way, I hope I didn't come off as attacking you. That wasn't my intention. And I hope you can see where my viewpoint was coming from.
posted by shmegegge at 10:24 PM on February 5, 2007


Metatalk: fruitless onanism, petty one-upsmanship, and snarky impertinence.
posted by tkolar at 10:26 PM on February 5, 2007


The thing is, Metatalk gives us a very convincing illusion that we are allowed to contribute our opinions, and that our opinions matter. They really don't, unless they coincide with Matt's. And while I'm not implying that Matt is an inflexible despot, it's pretty much his place to do with as he sees fit. He doesn't need to give you any rationale, and the fact that some people think they deserve it is where the false sense of entitlement comes in.

I don't know about that. I'd say he knows precisely when it's his job to put his foot down and do things his way, but that he's also taken user opinions to heart often enough. I don't think it's a sense of entitlement that always motivates people making suggestions or complaining, but rather a justified impression that sometimes mentioning things helps. People get carried away, obviously, but there's more here than just agreeing with what mathowie already knew or uselessly imagining a false sense of entitlement.
posted by shmegegge at 10:27 PM on February 5, 2007


For what it's worth, I actually find AskMe *more* interesting now that I can actually keep up with the RSS feed. Before the new year, I was definitely burning out and just marking AskMe as read in Bloglines without reading anything. It would be a regular occurrence that I'd open up bloglines and see in the order of 100 new questions in the feed. After 8 hours. So, there's at least *one* person who doesn't find the site boring after the 2 week limit was instituted.
posted by antifuse at 1:41 AM on February 6, 2007


He doesn't need to give you any rationale,

Of course he does if he wants the site continue. Not me personally, but yeah, when Matt makes changes he does need to explain why, which he does do 'cause he's a decent enough guy. Users don't always agree with him, but he at least explains why he's doing something. If he didn't, metafilter wouldn't be where it is today.

and think the complaints about it are slightly more hilariously overblown than the complaints about too many questions.

cool.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 AM on February 6, 2007


Some folks' apparent fear of being caught unable to ask a question in a pinch during the two-week waiting period is an irrational red herring that should have no impact on how the site is managed for the simple reason that there are MULTIPLE and EASY ways that situation can be worked around.

This has been said over and over and over again, but many of the folks who continue to complain about the two-week limit also continue to ignore the existence of an easy solution to their completely unnecessary fear. I gotta wonder, languagehat (and I'm asking because you're here and generally reasonable, not because you're one of the folks that do it), why is that?


See, you think "there are MULTIPLE and EASY ways that situation can be worked around." I don't, and a lot of other people apparently don't either. I presume you're referring mainly to the two work-arounds that keep being mentioned in this context: 1) buy a sock-puppet and 2) ask another member to post your question. But I'm not about to spend $5 to ask a question I can ask for free under my own name, and I'm not about to ask somebody else for a favor when I can ask the question myself. The problem is not that we can't ask questions, the problem is that the two-week limit makes us unreasonably cautious about asking any questions at all. You don't think that's a problem? Fine, it's not a problem... for you. But it's generally not a good idea to sneer at other people's problems unless you're pretty damn sure you'll never have any yourself.
posted by languagehat at 6:50 AM on February 6, 2007


Curious,

How often do users ask other users to post a question for them. Not asking for names, but is it a regular public thing? How does a user even go about doing this?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on February 6, 2007


Brandon - I haven't seen one recently, and I'm too lazy to go look, but generally it's done here in MeTa. And only for extremely important questions.

And languagehat: How often do you have a question whose answer you can't wait 2 weeks to find out? Has it ever happened? If so, what percentage of all your questions asked fall into that category? I still don't see why people can't just throw their "I can't ask it right now but I want to eventually" questions into a text file and ask them when they're allowed to (that's another solution to the problem that seems to be much overlooked).
posted by antifuse at 7:56 AM on February 6, 2007


Brandon, it also happens via email sometimes. User A knows User B and asks for a hand.

There's likely know way to find hard stats, because (a) some questions may not mention the "asking for someone else" angle; and some that do may be (and probably usually are) asking for someone who isn't a mefite.

It sounds like it's not that common, which is probably a good sign.
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2007


And as an example of the MeTa rougt antifuse mentions:

This thread led to me asking this question.
posted by cortex at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2007


How often do you have a question whose answer you can't wait 2 weeks to find out?

I have no idea. I don't make lists (and create Word documents and order the items according to priority and all that other stuff that's sometimes suggested by people with far different ways of being than mine); I just know that every once in a while I think of some question that seems interesting at the time, think "Hey, I could post that to AskMe," and then "Better not..." Imagine if there were a two-week wait between MeFi posts; I suppose it wouldn't make much difference to some ("I never post anyway!" "I just create a Word document with all my post ideas and order them according to priority..."), and it would totally paralyze others. We're all different. I just object to people acting as if everybody should be just like them, and if they're not, they're simply being unreasonable.
posted by languagehat at 8:24 AM on February 6, 2007


Brandon, it also happens via email sometimes. User A knows User B and asks for a hand.

Also see: every drug related question ever. People sure do have a lot of "friends" with questions about drug use.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2007


Friends don't let friends post drug related questions to AskMe. Anybody got some Doritos?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:50 AM on February 6, 2007


I've had a friend post for me because I had two the same day, and they were both kinda pressing. I mean, would I have died? No. But they were beyond my Google ability and the people I had asked didn't have any answers. AskMe answered them both in a few hours.
posted by dame at 8:57 AM on February 6, 2007


Of course he does if he wants the site continue.

I don't think he gives rationale because of any obligation other than that he's a nice guy, and maybe feels defensive over people second-guessing him and trying to impose their will on him.

The site wouldn't be the same without him chiming in as he does, but it would certainly continue. There's way too much hot air for it just to collapse.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:03 AM on February 6, 2007


Oh, and:

I may hold you to that. Jerky Jerkison.


Please do! I certainly didn't mean to imply I was innocent in that regard. It's only human to lash out at those who disagree with us, especially if they're doing so in ways we consider silly/pigheaded/combative; when I've done it, I've usually had it pointed out to me, and I've tried to apologize whenever it seemed called for. Note, however, that people often mistake vigorously expressed objection to their ideas for a personal attack on them. "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" is not the same as "You are a dumb poopyhead." And if you don't understand that, you're a dumb poopyhead!
posted by languagehat at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2007


Note, however, that people often mistake vigorously expressed objection to their ideas for a personal attack on them. "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" is not the same as "You are a dumb poopyhead."

It's true, and it'd be cool if people would take attacks on their ideas with more grace and coolheadendess.

On the other hand, there's also a difference between "that's the dumbest thing I ever heard" and "I disagree with that on these grounds", and you have been prone to moments of considerable vigorousness lately, dude.
posted by cortex at 10:27 AM on February 6, 2007


languagehat wrote...
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" is not the same as "You are a dumb poopyhead."

What the ...?

Yeah, I suppose they're syntactically different in a way that only a grammar-fiend could appreciate, but they're both equally nasty.

Christ, if this is what passes for tact in these parts, no wonder threads devolve so quickly.
posted by tkolar at 10:29 AM on February 6, 2007


Christ, if that's what passes for reading comprehension in these parts, no wonder threads devolve so quickly.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2007


Christ, if that's what pass for something something obscure music preference something.
posted by cortex at 11:25 AM on February 6, 2007


Christ, you know it ain't easy,
You know how mild it can be.
If that's what passes for snark in these parts,
They're going to devolve me to sleep.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2007


I know you're working fast, Flo, but the meter is way too crowded on those last two lines. How about this?

"If that's what passes for snark here
They're gon' devolve me to sleep."
posted by cortex at 11:32 AM on February 6, 2007


Well, sure - that's how you'd sing it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:34 AM on February 6, 2007


Oh yeah? Well you better pick up a French edition of Mavis Beacon, buddy, because you need to work on your touche typing.

ICE BUUUUUUURN
posted by cortex at 11:36 AM on February 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is ICE BUUUUUUURN so funny? This is a phenomenon I can't quite explain. There's no reason for it to be a funny thing to say, but it always makes me laugh.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2007


lh: Note, however, that people often mistake vigorously expressed objection to their ideas for a personal attack on them. "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" is not the same as "You are a dumb poopyhead."

Actually it is the same. It's called a transfered epithet.
"things you hear" can not be dumb since they are not thinking organisms. So it's just shorthand for "you're dumb for saying that".
posted by jouke at 11:54 AM on February 6, 2007


jouke wrote...
"things you hear" can not be dumb since they are not thinking organisms.

Don't be silly. "Things you hear" can not be dumb because you wouldn't be able hear them speak if they were.

Duh.
posted by tkolar at 12:02 PM on February 6, 2007


heh
posted by jouke at 12:06 PM on February 6, 2007


Actually it is the same

Actually, it's not the same. But like I said, a lot of people have a hard time understanding that.
posted by languagehat at 1:00 PM on February 6, 2007


Wouldn't that seem to indicate that, if you find yourself in disagreement with someone, you might want to take a probable "over" reaction into account? I don't think you can blame only the person whose idea is being called stupid for being emotionally tone deaf.
posted by occhiblu at 1:22 PM on February 6, 2007


If the givens on the server side are that the internal MetaFilter database fields not be modified and that time-based restrictions per user remain, then means to allow users another question outside the hard-coded time period mostly fall into the category of a second-chance lottery offer. The lottery odds can be dynamically manipulated to keep extra question counts to acceptable limits (e.g. an offered lottery question has a one in twelve chance to make to AskMe, a one in fourteen chance next week). Those irrational types should love the gambling aspect, too. Since the approach is rules-based and separate from the database, coding effort would be minimal and external to low-level MetaFilter ops.

Lest anyone fall in love with the idea or think I've lost my grasp of reality with such an imbecilic suggestion, it's clear that the odds of a second-chance lottery actually being implemented here are slim and none, and slim just left town.

However, should there be a sufficiently strong demand, external solutions might arise that are more formalized than the casual "ask a buddy" system. For example, it would be simple to create an anonymizing server which allowed groups of members to IM trade questions with identity IM verification against the canonical MetaFilter profile pages. Toss in a short list of server rules to cover abuse, rejection, and resubmission, no big thing.

Makes me sad I came on too late to see how the short-lived Plutor question server worked. But it should be the same basic concept, with protection against anyone uncovering and (possibly) shutting the users down unless the server was compromised, or there was a spate of pattern posting, or some such. It would be a predictable grass-roots response to what people see as burdensome restrictions -- if enough people really do see them as burdensome, as currently debated. Of course, many problems would remain including the need for question-askers to decouple their ego and personal involvement from the traded question. Still, annoying the hell out of the admins behind questionable anonymity is a generally a bad idea and on that basis alone I'd have to recommend against the scheme.

Incidentally, if user participation keeps going up, and the admins want the question counts to remain stable, the only way that's going to happen is by incrementally increasing the waiting period until everything hits a catastrophic collapse point. Thats already been pointed out by others one way or another, but it's an important enough detail I thought to repeat it.
posted by mdevore at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2007


re: the 'dumb' thing..

Yeah, alright, it's not identical, but by the same token, jouke's dissection is not without merit. There's the technical demarcation line but (particularly on the tone deaf internet) there is also a kind of a comprehension cloud where many people will perceive it as a personal attack. It may not make them right per se, but if you are saying 'dumb' about someone's ideas or talking points, then you're either naive or blinkered if you think there is only a small chance that it will cause offence. Many people will find that to be a personal attack. Part of an abrasive style. The LH style that is loved and feared.
posted by peacay at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2007


Ok, lh, I'll leave it at your "is too" rejoinder.
posted by jouke at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2007


Wouldn't that seem to indicate that, if you find yourself in disagreement with someone, you might want to take a probable "over" reaction into account?

I'm not sure what you're saying, but I'm sure you're not claiming that ideas are equivalent to the people who put them forth. Now, in some refined surroundings, it is the custom to express all disagreement in as polite a fashion as possible, with many circumlocutions and preemptive nuggets of humility (or pretended humility): "While I admire the daring of your suggestion, and am hardly in a position myself to provide a significantly more compelling hypothesis, I must animadvert to the effect that you may be relying to a greater than ideal extent on hypotheses that may not bear extended examination (though I could of course be mistaken)..." As far as I can make out, MetaFilter is not and never has been such a place; if it were, I wouldn't hang out here. One of the glories of MeFi is the fact that poorly thought out ideas get shot down with maximum efficiency (and frequently with considerable humor). I myself have had the rug pulled out from under my half-baked ideas more than once, and emerged a better person for it. But then I grew up with two argumentative brothers, and have tended to hang out with people for whom "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" is just normal conversational byplay. Your mileage may, as they say, vary. But while I try to rein in my more over-the-top bursts of indignation, I am not about to try to make sure that even the most sensitive plant among our little hothouse company could not possibly get its little tendrils in a twist.
posted by languagehat at 1:47 PM on February 6, 2007


Languagehat is so my imaginary boyfriend.
posted by dame at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2007


annoying the hell out of the admins behind questionable anonymity is a generally a bad idea and on that basis alone I'd have to recommend against the scheme.

Thanks. We had other problems during the short life of the question server. People who got a question deleted (one that wasn't theirs to begin with) were annoyed that they now had to wait to ask again, and people who had someone else ask for them then followed up in-thread with replies -- the biggest downside to having someone else ask a question for you -- and wound up confusing people and making their end-run on the rules pretty clear.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2007


languagehat, you are entirely too smart to actually believe that there are no shades of gray between "asshole" and "hothouse flower trailing delicate tendrils of preciousness," and you are entirely too talented a writer to actually believe that the act of communication ceases the second the person who's speaking or typing stops. You may draw the line between "asshole" and "flower nourished only by spring dew" differently than I do, which is fine, but I'll assume the rest of that was mostly facetious.
posted by occhiblu at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2007


Languagehat is so my imaginary boyfriend.

You too, huh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on February 6, 2007


Languagehat is so my imaginary hothouse flower trailing delicate tendrils from his asshole.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2007


I'll assume the rest of that was mostly facetious.

Well, yeah. I enjoy my own rhetoric to the hilt.

*scratches ass*

Hey, what's that tendril doing there?
posted by languagehat at 2:41 PM on February 6, 2007


languagehat is my imaginary librarian. Every time I want a book that's on my shelf, I imagine that I ask him vague questions about its content and he goes "ah, yes! Yes, I believe I know just the one...excuse me for a moment, off to the stacks..." and disappears, whistling, into dusty archives before returning with book and smile well-paired.
posted by cortex at 2:41 PM on February 6, 2007


Cortex is my imaginary—well, you don't wanna know.
posted by dame at 3:25 PM on February 6, 2007


Yeah - I do.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on February 6, 2007


Everybody who is griping about the two-week limit, can apparently live with it since they haven't 1. left the site and 2. started their own AskMe-style site where they can do what they want.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:31 PM on February 6, 2007


Everyone's obviously happy with Bush since they haven't left the country or founded their own yet.
posted by klangklangston at 3:33 PM on February 6, 2007


Yes, because not petulantly stomping off or deciding to devote one's free time to creating a clone is total submission, and there is naught 'tween the twain. Are you four or do you just make up tautologies like you are?

IRFH: Run this through the decoder bbbb wwww uuuu qr ghedswte.
posted by dame at 3:34 PM on February 6, 2007


Wait, I meant to say, that's the dumbest thing I've ever hear. Can I have a do-over?
posted by dame at 3:38 PM on February 6, 2007


My AskMe clone was named Ass Madam Felcher. It sucked.

HA! cortex got p0n3d! Imagine that!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:51 PM on February 6, 2007


I was a rather infrequent asker even before the new limit was introduced -- I was "underutilizing" my question quota by a factor of about 50, so with the new limit I should still have a safety factor of 25. If my questions are randomly distributed, and I keep my posting threshold the same as it was before, I think it would take a long time before I would ever run up against the 2-week limit. Even so, I've experienced the same uncomfortable feeling languagehat describes, when considering posting a question with the 2-week limit in force (and have refrained from so doing as a result.)
posted by em at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2007


This is Metatalk. It's all about the pointlessly insulting.
You idiot, there is a point to all this insulting. We just haven't figured out what it is yet.
posted by dg at 7:41 PM on February 6, 2007


Actually, it's not the same. But like I said, a lot of people have a hard time understanding that.

Agreed.

Dismissing Silly Ideas:Insulting People Directly : : 2 Week AskMe Limit:End of Everything Good and Decent in the World
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:45 PM on February 6, 2007


if ((TodaysDate-DateofLastMeTaPostOnExactSameTopic) >60 ){ ok you can continue }else{ you will now receive a punch to the face }

I didn't want to start a new thread on the whole thing, because I'm probably missing something obvious, but trying to post the above as a comment in this thread, which had obviously been closed while I had the comment preview box open, brings up some error about something being declared twice or some such crap. I din't know whether it is because of the contents of the comment being interpreted as some kind of command or just because there is no "pretty" error message for this circumstance. Now I have got that off my chest, I feel better.
posted by dg at 8:39 PM on February 6, 2007


Certainly, leaving the country can be compared to leaving a website.

Are you four or do you just like making up asinine decoding systems instead of making your insults outright?
posted by IndigoRain at 8:55 PM on February 6, 2007


dg wrote...
Now I have got that off my chest, I feel better.

Fair enough. Now, if you can explain why...

int a[4] = {0, 1, 2, 3};
char b[4] = {0, 1, 2, 3};
int c = 3;

if (c[a] == c[b]) {
printf("True");
}



... always prints "True", I will give you a shiny new penny.
posted by tkolar at 9:14 PM on February 6, 2007


I think it would be handy if you could be allotted one question per two weeks and that you could stockpile a certain number of questions -- sort of like some companies allow you to do with sick days. Perhaps the two-week wait wouldn't be so bad if you still had one or two "get out of jail free" cards.
posted by acoutu at 9:53 PM on February 6, 2007


You know what this endless discussion reminds me of? Aesop's fable about the man, the boy, and the donkey.
posted by russilwvong at 9:57 PM on February 6, 2007


... which is to say, no matter how the issue is decided, there will be a vocal group of people who don't like the decision. There's no way for mathowie to please everyone.
posted by russilwvong at 10:02 PM on February 6, 2007


You'd sort of subscribe to tags and your user page would show which ones you are subscribed to (readers could assume you have expertise on those topics).

Wouldn't this REDUCE the functionality of the site? Most people aren't casually interested and/or don't self-identify as experts in the subjects where they might provide the best answers.

For instance, I don't have any expertise pets & animals, and I don't have enough of an interest to select it as a subject/tag to follow. However, if someone on the front page asks about Cornish Rex ownership, I'll be able to provide a great answer. Likewise, I once asked a question about which version of the bible is best to read (for interest purposes not religious purposes) and why particular denominations favor one version over another. I got a bunch of informative replies from people who would probably never think to list bible or religion as a tag to follow and would probably not have seen the question if they read the site through tag-based feeds.

Obviously, I know that tag feeds wouldn't be REQUIRED. Also, I am aware that, to a certain extent, people already do this. However, encouraging people to track only the subjects that directly interest them is tantamount to discouraging the "hive mind" by limiting the answer pool to self-styled queen bees (for any particular subject). Most of the answers in the Health category reveal that answers provided by most self-styled general medical and/or specific medical condition experts are not effective (and sometimes downright scary!).
posted by necessitas at 12:27 AM on February 7, 2007


I thing bonaldi has a great point here. Certain times of day are much less busy than others; in particular, things are pretty quiet before the east coast of North America shows up for work, and after the west coast leaves work. Why not give people two questions per two weeks, but one of which has to be asked in "off-peak" hours? Would that be too difficult to implement/keep track of?
posted by louigi at 5:40 AM on February 7, 2007


Why not give people two questions per two weeks, but one of which has to be asked in "off-peak" hours?

Sounds like a great idea to me.
posted by languagehat at 5:51 AM on February 7, 2007


What are peak hours? Aren't they different for everyone around the globe? What happens if peak hours change? Can a user shift his peak hours by changing his time zone and thus get around it? and won't people still be complaining because one of their questions STILL wasn't seen by enough people? And what happens when everyone asks their peak hour question during peak hours, won't it put us right back where we are i.e. who can't use the Older Questions button?

Sounds like hell to code but I'm not coder.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2007


Peak hours would be something like 9-9 Eastern time, from when the East Coast shows till the West Coast leaves.
posted by dame at 6:46 AM on February 7, 2007


I'm kind of new here, but I just discovered the new sort by popular favorites. This may be a good way for those who want to sort out the "interesting" questions. Questions about where to get good bagels may be relevant to some people but they are unlikely to be marked favorites by a large number of users. Of course this works better if people use the favorite tag to mark threads they think are interesting. Personally, I don't use favorites at all. But I'm kind of a MeFi neophyte compared to most people who read MeTa threads, especially this far down. =)
posted by jefeweiss at 7:18 AM on February 7, 2007


It's really, really late in this thread, but everybody stop what they're doing and listen. I have an idea.

What makes large volumes manageable (encyclopedias, the whole of earths' species is taxonomy. Good taxonomy makes it easy to manage large amounts of data. Breaking it up into smaller groups, and groups of groups. It's worked before, and this is the solution here.

Tags and folksonomy are swell in a good warm-belly feeling kind of way, but not in the face of droves of new, unexperienced users every day, who need their questions answered now- "no time to read the guidelines, I've gotta know who sang that song in that thing, stat!"

Forcing each user to supply a minimum n tags is a solution, and could be a short term alleviation to the clutter, and help in classifying AskMe data in a more usable form. In addition, serving that user old questions that match n tags or more before letting them post a question would help.

In order to get older AskMe posts up to snuff, we once again need to suggest a task force of taggers. This could be done in a Mechanical Turk style, where users with the ability to tag would be given random old questions, and could assign or modify tags to them.

Finally, if we are going to relegate AskMe to tag-based classification, then the ability to navigate these tags needs to be improved. Simply saying, "but we've got tags!" and providing a basic interface is skirting the issue, and an incomplete solution.

This isn't a complete solution by far, but I want to channel the collective energy into a structured, real-world solution, instead of yelling at each other, and punishing the people who rely on the subsite.

If anyone wants to engage me on this matter, I'd love to discuss it in depth. Respond here, of course, or email me at the address in my profile.

(Matt: I know all this is a lot of code, but always feel free to tap into your user base for things like this. I think this stuff is the key to getting AskMe under control, and making it usable for askers and answerers.)
posted by potch at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2007


Forcing each user to supply a minimum n tags is a solution, and could be a short term alleviation to the clutter, and help in classifying AskMe data in a more usable form

That might help in the long term to help people search for previous questions, but it isn't going to reduce the amount of questions asked each day. Without reduced volume, new questions will continue to fall off the front page within hours.

In addition, serving that user old questions that match n tags or more before letting them post a question would help.

That isn't going to reduce volume, either. My pet theory is that even when people search and find similar questions, they think their own question is a unique snowflake and still needs to be asked (hey, I am guilty of this, too).
posted by necessitas at 9:05 AM on February 7, 2007


Forcing each user to supply a minimum n tags is a solution

If you do that, you'll have users just filling out non topical tags, just to get it over with.

Tags sound great in theory, but they're a mess in reality since peple use them differently.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:29 AM on February 7, 2007


necessitas:
The goal to cut down on questions is pose AskMe as a search first, ask second. Put a tag search prominently on the front page- both for askers looking for answers, and answerers looking for questions to answer (quite a mouthful). Make the ability to ask seem like an after-the-search option. It would help reduce the flow, and keep older questions from going stale as quickly as they do.

Brandon:
I agree that tags are difficult to get working in an organic environment, but to suggest that AskMe stop using them would be considered heresy. People would use them differently, but with community tagging, the tags would homogenize. An appeal to the community to help out on the tagging would be hard to make convincing, though.
posted by potch at 5:12 PM on February 7, 2007


but to suggest that AskMe stop using them would be considered heres

Didn't suggest that. Forcing users to use a minimal amount of tags would could create problems though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2007


Ask MeFi was great with a zillion questions.
posted by smackfu at 8:31 AM on February 8, 2007


Is it RSS users who have a particular problem with lots of questions? Maybe because a standard RSS feed doesn't have 50 posts per day, so the readers aren't optimized for it. Like if you have to click on every question to read past the title, I can see that being a source of complaints that there are WAY too many posts.

OTOH, just reading the front page in a browser takes a minute or two. Maybe if you step away for a few days it takes some time to catch up, but in general, it's not a burden at all.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on February 8, 2007


Brandon Blatcher writes "If you do that, you'll have users just filling out non topical tags, just to get it over with."

Like those stupid news readers that used to enforce minimum character counts in posts.
posted by Mitheral at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2007


Didn't suggest that. Forcing users to use a minimal amount of tags would could create problems though.
It's inelegant, but it could be solved by community tagging. I know it's silly to say its our responsibility to make sure some poster makes his post correctly, but I think a little community maintenance would take the pressure off of Matt and Jess.
posted by potch at 1:51 PM on February 8, 2007


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