IANAL, but I'll give legal advice anyway. August 28, 2007 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm sure I'm going to get absolutely hammered for this, but...consider it my personal pony request. AskMe should have some kind of "flag" for when an answer given is dangerous. Not simply ill advised, irrational, immature, subject to different discretion, or bad, but simply so wrong it could hurt, in a legal, medical, etc. way, the OP who asked for the advice. Yes, I say this because once again I am angered to see a non-lawyer, posting as such, giving legal advice that has no basis in fact, reality, etc., and as such simply sends the OP in a really bad direction. Again, I'm not talking about debatably bad advice, but answers that are simply so wrong it hurts. It's one thing to give your 2 cents, but another to suggest that a technical legal issue that has no application whatsoever is the right answer. So, I think there should be some kind of user-viewable flag that lets others know educated answerers think an answer is BAD. Since we already have a method to indicate people think an answer is GOOD...
posted by bunnycup to Feature Requests at 8:13 PM (76 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

My most recent reason to think that laymen who post bad legal advice should be flagged as such by people who know w.t.f they are talking about.
posted by bunnycup at 8:14 PM on August 28, 2007


The utility function for what is determined to be dangerous/wrong/etc. can be different, depending on the question, the asker, the answerer, and any spectators. Too many variables, too much noise, too little benefit?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:18 PM on August 28, 2007


It strikes me as a self-correcting issue. You posted a correction.

There's not a decent way to put something like this in place without it being used as some sort of bludgeon against users people don't like. We don't want to have to, as admins, make judgment calls on the rightness or wrongness degree of an answer and so the way the place works is sort of by design.

Additionally, there's also no way to indicate who is an "educated answerer" without people self-identifying as educated in some way, and again that's just another thing to be faked and debated. It's also sort of a sore spot because some of the professionals here would like to NOT be outed as members of their profession for whatever reason and that should be their choice.

I could see some possible situation where someone got bad advice that could have negative health and/or welfare outcomes (we don't accept questions about suicide pretty much for this reason, one person saying "jump" is one too many) but again I don't envision a question like that getting ONE answer and that answer being a bad one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 PM on August 28, 2007


I disagree. The OP can make their decision - if an answer has a flag of, instead of "8 favorites" that says "8 disagree", they can judge the utility of the answer accordingly. They can weight "favorites" or "disagrees" (or whatever you call it) accordingly. But knowing that every SINGLE legal professional disagrees with the suggestion to raise a given legal issue in a particular law case, is certainly of utility to someone with a question about how to bring that case.
posted by bunnycup at 8:21 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Is it considered a derail in AskMe to refute other people's answers? Seems like one should be able to 'take down' bad advice by explaining why it is bad (and preferable offering a better solution).
posted by carsonb at 8:21 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you know, after reading Jessamyn's thgouths, and also Carsonb's, the alternate wisdom of posting an alternate view in the thread is...erm...well a point taken, too.
posted by bunnycup at 8:23 PM on August 28, 2007


Wouldn't the admins need to be subject-matter-experts in everything in order to determine whether any particular answer can be harmful in any specific context? Can't expect them to understand why any ol' random answer is a bad one.

I would just explain why the answer is a bad one in the thread, flag the offending comment as "other" and move on... or something.
posted by yeoz at 8:24 PM on August 28, 2007


There's no way to build something like this. It's not a black and white thing to say something can be "simply so wrong" nor can I envision a system where "educated answerers think an answer is BAD". What is your definition of "educated"? What is your definition of "BAD"?

The system as it is works, if you think answers A, B, and C are wrong, simply make a comment and explain why their suggestions are bad legal advice and the drawbacks associated with following any of their advice.

Ask MeFi can be hit or miss for any number of subjects -- I think your personal experiences are coloring your opinion of legal advice given here. But to all us non-lawyers, there's no way to make some absolute system that points out bad or wrong information. Comments from experts is a great way to do this and lets everyone judge for themselves which advice they should follow.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:26 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your definition of "dangerous" seems to be a bit broad, no? I mean, this is a question about getting a security deposit back, not someone soliciting advice about what to do in the event of a drug overdose.
posted by dhammond at 8:27 PM on August 28, 2007


But knowing that every SINGLE legal professional disagrees with the suggestion to raise a given legal issue in a particular law case, is certainly of utility to someone with a question about how to bring that case.

I don't think you will always get consensus, or can rely on it without exception. Without patting myself on the back too much, I would consider myself a helpful "expert" on AskMe questions related to computing, and I've often been surprised by answers I initially nodded to myself, thinking that were correct, which subsequently turn out to be badly, wildly wrong.

I could see "expert" interpretation of legal issues being even more contentious, since law is as much about the context of (differing) interpretation and jurisdiction, as it is the art of rhetoric.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:30 PM on August 28, 2007


Alternatively, you could email an admin, explain that the answer is harmful and why, and ask the admin to delete that answer (and related followons) and send an email to the answerer explaining this. If the admin were extra-nice, they could even post to the thread with

[a few answers deleted that people in the know said were harmful]

This would also allow people in the know to both offer some bona-fide of their intheknowness and to remain anonymous from the mob, but not from mathowie & company's baleful gaze.

bunnycup's plan won't work because I know fuck-all about landlord/tenant law, but I can click that motherfuckin' DISAGREE button all day long anyhow. OTOH, imagine how glorious flameouts could become.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on August 28, 2007


Well, how about adding a flag that says, in addition to the existing options of "derail" or "other", "I am a professional in the field and believe this answer is bad" or something similar? And I'm not asking argumentatively, but rather with the perspective of having taken into account the responses so far.

Let me be clear, I don't think the admins should have to weed out and delete "bad" answers, or that "bad" answers should be prevented from being posted, only that those who know "better" (in quotes because no answer is perfect, no matter how educated or well-considered) can flag as such, in the same way they could flag as a great answer.
posted by bunnycup at 8:32 PM on August 28, 2007


Also I think that a plain "I am an expert and I think this answer is dangerously wrong" flag would be too vague to be actually useful. The flagged comment probably contains a whole sequence of statements and assumptions; which ones are wrong? And why are they dangerous? Are other similar answers also dangerous? Why not? In the end I think you'd need to post an actual textual disagreement anyway. Besides, if you want someone to actually pay attention to your opinion, you really ought to argue in support of it, rather than just claiming a vague unassailable authority. So you might as well just do that.
posted by hattifattener at 8:38 PM on August 28, 2007


For someone with a law degree, you're not arguing your case very well.
posted by dhammond at 8:39 PM on August 28, 2007 [6 favorites]


Ooh, we're getting hammered? I'll get the tequila!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:41 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I am a professional in the field and believe this answer is bad"

What if you say you're an expert but you're really a lolcat who got good at grammar? How is anyone supposed to know that your flags are valid?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:43 PM on August 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


The flagged comment probably contains a whole sequence of statements and assumptions; which ones are wrong? And why are they dangerous? Are other similar answers also dangerous?

I am forced to admit that in the back of my mind I saw two serious problems unsolved by my proposal. The above is one of them, and Jessamyn's concern about professionals not necessarily wanting to be "outed" was another. (As was, vaguely, the concern of illegitimate "wrong" flags). I couldn't utterly flush them out adequately in my mind, but think others have.

I guess I'm not trying to argue, but to explore good options. If my own thoughts are, well, not great, I'm open to that too.

All the tequila is over at Bunnycup's tonight, thanks.
posted by bunnycup at 8:44 PM on August 28, 2007


I AM AN EXPERT ON META AND I THINK YOUR IDEA IS DANGEROUSLY DUMB.

Seriously, what stops J. Random Eedjit from using the Dangerously Dumb flag on your posts, Mr. Expert?
posted by ottereroticist at 8:45 PM on August 28, 2007


I don't see how any SME-centric flagging add-on could be more visible and efficient than the current combination of standard flagging and cogent in-thread rebuttals. If you know that someone is giving dangerously bad advice, respond with an explanation of why it is dangerously bad. That, first and foremost, is what the asker is going to see; no amount of extra flaggery or denotation on comments is going to save them if they aren't already reading for comprehension and with grains of salt at the ready.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2007


(I'll have a virtual shot, thanks.)
posted by ottereroticist at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2007


Great idea.

I'll start by flagging this Meta post "possibly harmful".

ooo, you better believe that's a paddlin'! where's your sense of darwinism!?
posted by loquacious at 8:46 PM on August 28, 2007


Caveat emptor, you know. If you are seeking legal advice on AskMe, you are stupid. If you want to bounce some ideas off some common folk and really smart folk, fire away.
posted by mattbucher at 8:47 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's an example of bad/dangerous advice, which was refuted and corrected immediately.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:49 PM on August 28, 2007


Okay, well, if all admins agree and the hive mind is content...good enough for me. Some really good points have been raised in opposition. Sorry if anyone thinks I should have more fight, as a lawyer, but I think this is a pretty good place and I trust the decision-making in place, too.
posted by bunnycup at 8:49 PM on August 28, 2007


Who died and made you a highway expert, bub?
posted by dhammond at 8:51 PM on August 28, 2007


hugs?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:53 PM on August 28, 2007


If you think an answer is irresponsibly wrong, flag it with the usual [!] flag as, like, offensive content or whatever. If you think it is bad enough that it absolutely needs to be addressed immediately, email the admins with an explanation of why. If you solicit legal/medical/etc. advice on AskMe about something that matters it's your own damn fault if you use it as anything other than food for thought in advance of getting real advice from a real professional. If you have some nuanced response against the suggestion post it in the thread. Your feature request is BAD.
posted by nanojath at 8:54 PM on August 28, 2007


The bit about suggesting PCH in the winter as a route for someone's first time pulling a trailer, I meant.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:54 PM on August 28, 2007


If it pleases the court, hugs.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:58 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Counsel for the defendant asks for a hug.
posted by bunnycup at 8:59 PM on August 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


As a lawyer, I expect you to be serving Patron or similar. None of this $5/plastic drum tequila.
posted by boo_radley at 9:00 PM on August 28, 2007


I'm going to allow this.
posted by dhammond at 9:00 PM on August 28, 2007


Court rules Post hoc ergo complectus and drinks served.
/gavel
posted by boo_radley at 9:02 PM on August 28, 2007


It's exclusively Patron here (maybe Sauza when a good case hasn't come through in a while). Round on me for the indulgence, kk?
posted by bunnycup at 9:03 PM on August 28, 2007


Meta should have some kind of "flag" for when I run out of whiskey.
posted by SassHat at 9:07 PM on August 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey. Can mathowie work on a "hugs" function? I would way prefer that to "favorites."
posted by The Deej at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2007


If people who don't know jack shit about a complex question would just shut the fuck up instead of flinging their shit at the walls (a recent idiotic answer claiming herpes is spread by utensils comes to mind), this wouldn't be a problem.
posted by mediareport at 9:09 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


DAMN YOU, admins... quit talking so sensibly! I was already popping my popcorn when I read the OP!
posted by matty at 9:11 PM on August 28, 2007


*hugs matty into submission, waits for police*
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:16 PM on August 28, 2007


WOO OOOH!

This is the Hug police! Stand still every tidy one of ya while I round y'all up. See this badge? That's riyah—it says

HUGS FOR EVERYONE!
posted by saguaro at 9:27 PM on August 28, 2007


Couldn't metafilter recruit subject matter experts to help moderate maybe? I mean, why let non-lawyers flag legal answers as "wrong"?

That said, answering in thread will probably work, since most people read their answers pretty carefully, I think.
posted by delmoi at 9:27 PM on August 28, 2007


kinda depends on where the utensils have been, yeah?
posted by vronsky at 9:30 PM on August 28, 2007


That said, answering in thread will probably work, since most people read their answers pretty carefully, I think.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 AM on August 29 [+] [!]


Hell no, I shoot from the hip and cry about it later.
posted by matty at 9:34 PM on August 28, 2007


I am perfectly happy to accept legal advice from non-lawyers, medical advice from non-doctors, and other advice from other non-experts. I am actually annoyed by the requisite IANA... before any advice, because if I had wanted to talk to an expert, I would have done that instead of ask.metafilter. I go to askme for intellegent, well reasoned, experience-based opinions from real people, and that's what I get there.
posted by serazin at 9:42 PM on August 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I meant to say that people read the answers to their questions carefully.
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on August 28, 2007


Posting "I am an expert and I think this answer is dangerously wrong" is probably way more effective than flagging or emailing an admin. If you are trying to say "I am not an expert and I think this answer is dangerously wrong" then please smoke a toenail.
posted by 31d1 at 9:49 PM on August 28, 2007


I am actually annoyed by the requisite IANA.

I wouldn't go as far to say I am actually annoyed by it, but can't we just assume that everyone is not a lawyer or a doctor unless they specifically say so in their answer? If there's a legal concern, perhaps a brief disclaimer on the AskMe posting page would alleviate those concerns.
posted by dhammond at 9:58 PM on August 28, 2007


bunnycup, do you specialize in landlord/tenant law?
posted by lalex at 10:10 PM on August 28, 2007


I'm drunk!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:28 PM on August 28, 2007




i'm sorry if this is an idiotic question, but i am a humble layman, without the benefit of a six digit education in the highly mysterious field of law:

the asker was talking about filing in small claims court, right? doesn't that make it a tort claim? so then doesn't the question of who's liable for what come into play?

there was no mention of any roommates, but i think nakedcodemonkey's only mistake was that he misinterpreted the "other tenant" in this question as a roommate or other co-signer on the same lease. (see the use of "co-tenant" in his response... as i interpret this question, the other tenant was just some other guy who moved in after the asker left.)

in that light, his suggestion to check for joint & several language in the lease before filing in small claims court is totally reasonable and actually a good idea, isn't it?
posted by sergeant sandwich at 11:26 PM on August 28, 2007


We need [>:(]

Yes, I realize this is probably the same as the admin's delete link
posted by Deathalicious at 11:54 PM on August 28, 2007



HUGS FOR EVERYONE!


Crapflooder.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:20 AM on August 29, 2007


↑ with hugs, ↓ with shots.
posted by philomathoholic at 1:02 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Drugs, not hugs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:21 AM on August 29, 2007


A few points:
  1. Frequently people write things here that are totally wrong about all sorts of subjects. The advice here is worth what you paid for it. There's a reason people pay hundreds of dollars an hour to consult with a lawyer rather than paying $5 to ask a question on Ask MetaFilter.
  2. Subject matter experts shouldn't whine that non-experts are allowed to participate here. I don't whine when laypeople post the same sorts of wrong information over and over again in evolution threads. It can be helpful if someone is questioning your credibility generally or falsely ascribing a belief to your profession, but it can also be a crutch that prevents you from providing an answer persuasive enough that your own personality need not be brought into it.
  3. Experts can make mistakes too. This is why it is more convincing to provide some sort of reference that people can look at, so they can see just how right you are independently.
  4. I am not convinced that nakedcodemonkey's answer is wrong. I am decidedly not an expert in this field, but I think it is exceptional to claim that "jointly and severally liable" doesn't have anything to do with a landlord/tenant contract, given that it does in many other common law jurisdictions. A New York judge ruled that it meant what I think it does. I even spoke to a lawyer with years of experience practicing in New York who could not explain what bunnycup meant. I would be happy to retract this if bunnycup could use that expensive legal education to point me to some sort of reference I could use to enlighten myself.
  5. I am not convinced that nakedcodemonkey's answer, even if totally wrong, is really so harmful as to need special treatment. Some really harmful legal advice might include "try to explain the extenuating circumstances to the cops, and they might understand and not charge you" or "you can always sue for the money in a couple of years."
  6. Even totally harmful answers benefit from debunking, especially when others read the same thread along with bad advice elsewhere on the Internet.

posted by grouse at 3:22 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think I'm going to make a real-life flag with a sandwich on it or something, for use in these kinds of situations.

"Man, I love spinners. Should I get them?" "*waves flag* Yes, totally."

It's gold because it's useful in so many situations.

"These fireworks are going to take too long to set off individually."

"Do these pants make me look fat?"
posted by Plutor at 3:50 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


AskMe should have some kind of "flag" for when an answer given is dangerous.

Are you a professional webmaster, forum or site administrator or moderator? If so, please list your references.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:33 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't see how any SME-centric flagging add-on could be more visible and efficient than the current combination of standard flagging and cogent in-thread rebuttals. If you know that someone is giving dangerously bad advice, respond with an explanation of why it is dangerously bad.

doesn't that logic also apply to things like anti-semitic comments, which, i thought, were deleted? (serious question - i think you're right and i don't understand why some "offensive" things are deleted when argument would work better).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:01 AM on August 29, 2007


Bunnycup, I think you're giving WAY too much legal advice on the internet, personally. You'll notice that no other Mefi lawyer actually chimed in on that one.
posted by footnote at 6:07 AM on August 29, 2007


Anti-semitic comments aren't routinely deleted, but throwaway off-topic noise comments (especially those that are exceptionally racist sexists or trollish-seeming) will sometimes be, especially if they're derailing an otherwise decent thread. Things that are flagged "offensive" cover a wide range of topics from plain old swearing (usually ignored) to sneaky-goatse (usually removed) and a bunch of stuff in-between.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:10 AM on August 29, 2007


ouch, footnote.

FWIW, I now understand what bunnycup was getting at.
posted by grouse at 6:12 AM on August 29, 2007




Anti-semitic comments aren't routinely deleted

ok, thanks (it was just my memory - i don't have an example - so i must be mistaken).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2007


bunnycup writes "Sorry if anyone thinks I should have more fight, as a lawyer, but I think this is a pretty good place and I trust the decision-making in place, too."

Hey, knowing when to settle is just as important as knowing when to fight.

Seriously though, if you are an expert, you'd be able to support any rebuttal of a nonsensical answer with references. If somebody chooses to then accept the nonsense answer in preference to the supported one, then there's no helping them anyway.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:41 AM on August 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


One local morning radio station substitutes "hug" for "fuck" whenever they would like to curse on the air (for example, "Dick Cheney is a power-mad motherhugger").

With that in mind, this thread becomes a lot more entertaining.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2007


Hug off and smile.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:38 AM on August 29, 2007


bunnycup: as one of the recent purveyors of "bad advice" which you slammed into (even though it was fundamentally to ask her lawyer) I'm with some above that a) you can just respond in a thread and b) there's an implied "run this by your expert" in professional-related fields. Also, please don't post qualifications from other's profiles on question pages (especially when they aren't right).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:46 AM on August 29, 2007


If I were a lawyer, I might get a Burr in my ass over this (like Benevides).
posted by breezeway at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2007


de minimus non curat lex. my bill is in the mail.
posted by bruce at 9:12 AM on August 29, 2007


If people who don't know jack shit about a complex question would just shut the fuck up instead of flinging their shit at the walls (a recent idiotic answer claiming herpes is spread by utensils comes to mind), this wouldn't be a problem.

Seconded, but unfortunately not likely to happen. I avoid getting involved in a lot of reasonable medical question threads because the advice is often so frighteningly wrong/bad/dangerous that to get anywhere near it would require a hazmat suit. I like the idea of a flag, but there's no way I can see it not just resulting in a lot of abuse and more headaches from the admins.
posted by docpops at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2007


Has there ever been a good explanation why the person who asks the question is considered in any way qualified to determine what the best answer is?

In most cases, that is 100% back asswards.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:51 PM on August 29, 2007


This is why I often don't award 'best anwer' flags on questions I ask -- sometimes (often?) the reason you are asking is because you don't know what the best answer is.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:35 PM on August 29, 2007


Point taken, and I've done the same as stavros a couple times I think;but I'm curious if "in most cases" is really accurate. What's the breakdown of questions for which the asker is incompetent to judge vs. those where they're competent to judge but lack data?

(For example, "identify this" seems like the sort of question that leads to answers the asker could objectively mark as best. Relationship drama, sure, not so much.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:53 PM on August 29, 2007


Well, based on the number of MY answers that are marked "best," the askers do seem to have some accurate ability to judge.

(har har just kidding)

I think 99% of times when an asker marks "best," especially on relationship threads, they are indicating that "this answer most parrots back what I wanted to hear to justify my own conclusion".
posted by bunnycup at 7:25 AM on August 30, 2007


"I think 99% of times when an asker marks "best," especially on relationship threads, they are indicating that "this answer most parrots back what I wanted to hear to justify my own conclusion"."

This is the best answer to my query.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:22 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


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