This is not the answer you are looking for. January 14, 2008 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Is using the "best answer" function to clarify the original question or to offset the OP's own comments from the pack really the best use of that feature?
posted by FreezBoy to Etiquette/Policy at 8:05 PM (54 comments total)

If everybody did it, it'd be pretty weird. In this case, the asker realized only well into their thread that they had miscommunicated kind of badly ("soundtrack" vs "score"), and so as an ad hoc solution, I don't think it's a real big deal.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:11 PM on January 14, 2008


No. Are edge cases really used to define best pracices?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:12 PM on January 14, 2008


It's not the best use of the feature, no. But until a new feature is implemented to allow the OP to highlight stuff like this, it's a good stop gap. Like cortex just said though, if everyone did it en masse, it'd be weird, but as a temporary and usually only every-now-and then thing, I don't think it's a big deal either.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:14 PM on January 14, 2008


I don't care for "post your favorite" questions.
posted by smackfu at 8:23 PM on January 14, 2008


Worked for Holden.

What's all the more galling is that I had the best answer! Vangelis' Blade Runner score is teh awesome!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:28 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


CHrist, what an asshole . . . . did it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:33 PM on January 14, 2008


I agree with cortex. I think it helped to highlight the original asker's clarifications and helped get the thread moving toward answers that he was looking for... But I think it would be irritating if it became common practice.
posted by amyms at 8:35 PM on January 14, 2008


Alright!!!! I've got the branding iron and the tar and the feathers!!!!!

Huh. What.

Over already?

Damn.
posted by The Deej at 8:35 PM on January 14, 2008


I've highlighted my own post thanking all the posters when it was the kind of thread where nearly all the answers were helpful (brainstorming threads, I guess).

I think it's fine if it stays discretionary.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:41 PM on January 14, 2008


I find it really irritating. It's a pretty effective way of keeping my answers out of the thread concerned.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 PM on January 14, 2008


Is overthinking a plate of beans really a best practice?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on January 14, 2008


Aside from it possibly being irritating, it's probably not a wise idea since people may see the checkmark and think "oh, that's been answered to the OP's satisfaction, they probably don't need my input" and skip over it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


What is the optimal time is for cooking N beans on a ceramic plate of X thickness in a standard 500 watt microwave with a rotating base?

Assume, for simplicity, that beans are black, of equal size, and that "cooking" in this case means warming the beans to an optimal temperature for a majority of potential diners, where optimal is defined as not "too hot" when the beans come out of the microwave and are not "too cold" before all the beans are consumed.

Also, to begin let N equal the average number of beans in a standard can and let X equal a quarter inch. However, please make sure that your answer is also valid for all values of N and X within the constraints of a typical in-home microwave.
posted by Pants! at 9:13 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Other than the risk Metroid Baby notes, I don't see why it would be an issue, really. It's not like anybody who is reading the thread later is going to be totally confused by the non-answer and not be able to figure out that it's a clarification and not a best answer.

I think this does point out that highlighting the original poster in an Ask.Me thread would be a useful feature. I used to have a greasemonkey script or Firefox extension that did that, but I lost track of it somewhere along the way. It'd be a good general function to have.

It wouldn't be good in MeFi, where the poster shouldn't have much more weight in the conversation than anyone else. It would direct us all more quickly to the flameouts in MeTa, but otherwise MeTa's half way in between -- it might be helpful in some threads but not all.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:16 PM on January 14, 2008


I think it's a rather clever use of the available resources.

It would be nice if the OP unmarked their own when they went through to mark the real best answers though.
posted by tkolar at 11:10 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I give myself the best answer in my own questions because I can't stand to see anyone else get it.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


It would be quite cool if the asker's own posts in the thread would be auto-highlighted in some subtle way.

But yeah, edge case. Overthinking. Beans.
posted by Mikey-San at 11:44 PM on January 14, 2008


Beans were only first over-thought in late 1921, when a couple of young Columbia, Harvard, and Yale guys gathered together at a local jazz cafe and talked business over cocktails.

Just, you know, for history and whatnot.
posted by localhuman at 12:11 AM on January 15, 2008


"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys: I give myself the best answer in my own questions because I can't stand to see anyone else get it.

An odd joke to make, considering that you have no AskMe questions (on this account at least).
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 3:01 AM on January 15, 2008


Yep, the world is pretty much over.
posted by oxford blue at 5:59 AM on January 15, 2008


This strikes me as pretty clever, actually... use 'best answer' to highlight responses in odd cases, and then retract them later when the discussion is over and mark the actual best answers.

Downside, of course, is that people may not look at your thread if it already has a 'best' mark.

Regardless, best answers are up to the poster's discretion; he/she doesn't owe anyone anything. It's THEIR best answer check to use, not yours. Whether or not it's the 'best use of that feature' from your perspective is pretty much irrelevant.
posted by Malor at 7:36 AM on January 15, 2008


Regardless, best answers are up to the poster's discretion; he/she doesn't owe anyone anything.

I'm not sure I agree. It's called "AskMetaFilter," not "play games with MetaFilter where you ask a question of the community but then mark your own contribution as the best one." To me it's the difference between using the site in good faith, as it's intended... and not. If the person is already in possession of the answer he or she feels is "best," then he can just save us the time and not post the question in the first place.

It's not like anybody who is reading the thread later is going to be totally confused by the non-answer and not be able to figure out that it's a clarification and not a best answer.

I was in fact confused, when Furious Fitness did this very thing in the thread seeking mentors, since he doesn't explain why he did it till well into the scrap with fourcheesemac. And it wasn't because he thought his answer was best (ostensibly) but because he wanted to note his own input for some bizarre reason that I can't recall now.

And, this was just on January 1.

So, while I'm sure this is that case where, because I've noticed this phenomenon twice in two days, I assume it happens all the time (what's that called?)... I still think it's bad form for the OP to ever mark his or her contribution as a best answer, for any one of several reasons.
posted by pineapple at 7:55 AM on January 15, 2008


At least part of the problem with that is that Furious Fitness is quasi-incomprehensible and uses decidedly non-standard style in those posts, but I retract my statement and replace it with 'It's not like most people, reading most threads will be confused by a non-answer, unless that non-answer itself is completely confusing.'
posted by jacquilynne at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2008


Yeah, I'm not sure that particular question is a good example of the technique. From the context of the thread, it's very possible that Furious Fitness *did* think those were the best answers. He wrote them, after all.
posted by tkolar at 9:00 AM on January 15, 2008


Just one more reason why "Best Answers" should never be used as a metric.
posted by languagehat at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2008


Is using the "best answer" function to clarify the original question or to offset the OP's own comments from the pack really the best use of that feature?

Not really, but it really makes the extra information stand out. Oftentimes (especially in anonymous updates via mods) there is new information that gets lost in the the thread. Could there be a way to make such information pop out?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:56 AM on January 15, 2008


I think if it's your question, it's your thread, and you can do whatever the hell you want with the "Best Answer" function.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:28 AM on January 15, 2008


23skidoo: Is using the "best answer" function to clarify the original question or to offset the OP's own comments from the pack really the best use of that feature?

Not really, but it really makes the extra information stand out. Oftentimes (especially in anonymous updates via mods) there is new information that gets lost in the the thread. Could there be a way to make such information pop out?


I guess we could all try reading threads before replying to them... but that's just crazy talk.
posted by loiseau at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2008


It's called "AskMetaFilter," not "play games with MetaFilter where you ask a question of the community but then mark your own contribution as the best one."

This only matters if you're playing for a score. "Dammit, he marked his own answer best, he can't do that, it's not fair!"

It's only not fair if you're trying to win. AskMe isn't about winning, it's about helping people. You can help them just as much regardless of what happens with best-answer marks. They aren't a prize.
posted by Malor at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It would be quite cool if the asker's own posts in the thread would be auto-highlighted in some subtle way.

Some users do not agree. My wrist was slapped for trying to do that in one of my first AskMe threads. I still think it would be a nice feature.

I don't see how besting an answer to clarify a question is wrong. When the OP posts a question, it is up to him/her to decide which answer is the most helpful. If the OP thinks a particular comment has helped steer the answers in a direction that is helpful, then it's entirely appropriate for the OP to best it. When you post a question of your own, you can use it at your discretion. Let the OPs worry about how to use it. You'll get your turn.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:56 PM on January 15, 2008


Great comment, Malor. I'm going to favorite it.

* Now clicking the [+] *

See...doesn't it feel good?
posted by HotPatatta at 1:01 PM on January 15, 2008


My wrist was slapped for trying to do that in one of my first AskMe threads.

Well, bolding your entire comment isn't exaclty "some subtle way", to be fair. The intent makes sense, but the effect is retina-searing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2008


This only matters if you're playing for a score. "Dammit, he marked his own answer best, he can't do that, it's not fair!"

It's only not fair if you're trying to win. AskMe isn't about winning, it's about helping people. You can help them just as much regardless of what happens with best-answer marks. They aren't a prize.


I never said anything about what is or isn't "fair," nor do I believe that if an OP marks himself best answer, then he is "stealing" it from someone else. Plenty of questions get no best answer mark at all, or maybe every question in the thread gets marked best answer. That doesn't cheese me; those are still, in some way, an indication from the OP of how and whether the body of answers worked out for them.

What I said is that to seek an answer from the community and then reveal that you actually had the answer all along is not using the site the way it is intended.

At the point when AskMe was built, someone clearly believed there was value to allowing the OP to "choose a winner." If you don't agree with the best answer system at MetaFilter, then this would be a great argument toward that.

But we do have that system in place, so until Best Answers are eliminated somehow, what Christ, what an asshole and Furious Fitness did is equal to gaming the current system.
posted by pineapple at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2008


You can only game a system that has winners. You, apparently, firmly believe that a best answer marks a winner, to the point that you state that it's evident that this is the intended design of the site.

I disagree. It's not a game. You don't win by getting a "best" answer. You win by giving a good answer. "Best" answers are to help later searchers, not be little reward coins in your hat.

Yes, I do feel rewarded when I get a best answer; it does feel good. I like it when that happens. But am I owed that? Not on your life. That's an accidental side effect, not the main purpose.

HotPattata: of course I like favorites! But liking them, and being offended by someone who uses them 'wrong', are entirely different. You go right ahead and self-favorite all you like. I promise I won't be upset. :)
posted by Malor at 2:30 PM on January 15, 2008


At the point when AskMe was built, someone clearly believed there was value to allowing the OP to "choose a winner."

Yeah, I'm going to have to go with that being entirely unclear to me. "Best" answer just seems like a way to help people who are searching through the archives quickly spot what was useful to the question asker.

Which is why, as I said before, it would be nice if the user unmarked their own when they went through marking the real "best" answers.

This whole "winner" thing is really alien to AskMe as I understand it.
posted by tkolar at 2:31 PM on January 15, 2008


I get a warm fuzzy feeling when someone marks one of my answers as best. Does that count as winning?

I don't get less of a fuzzy feeling if other answers are also marked, though, so don't care if the poster is misusing it to highlight clarifications.

I wouldn't mind having a tally somewhere of on my user page --even a part no one else could see--of 'best' answers just so I could know when another one had happened (often marking of bests happens long after I've stopped following a thread) so I can experience the warm, fuzzy feeling some more.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:47 PM on January 15, 2008


cortex Well, bolding your entire comment isn't exaclty "some subtle way", to be fair. The intent makes sense, but the effect is retina-searing.

A discreet background effect would be ideal, IMO.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:58 PM on January 15, 2008


tkolar This whole "winner" thing is really alien to AskMe as I understand it.

Ah, tkolar, in that case, you don't understand it. :) The prospect of being picked as "best" is a great motivation to write a good answer. (Of course one ought to write a good answer anyway, but it's nice to be motivated, and it's the closest thing to a prize we have.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:59 PM on January 15, 2008


You, apparently, firmly believe that a best answer marks a winner, to the point that you state that it's evident that this is the intended design of the site.

I'm not sure how you can interpret that from "What I said is that to seek an answer from the community and then reveal that you actually had the answer all along is not using the site the way it is intended." You seem hell-bent on making me into someone that needs to win at AskMe, when I've already stated that I'm not. In fact, when I said "choose a winner" in my earlier comment, I was quoting you. I never even used the word in my prior comment. (You also seem very prone to misinterpret my comments, so I would invite you to review them closely and take them at face value before paraphrasing me or ascribing agenda to me.)

You don't win by getting a "best" answer. You win by giving a good answer. "Best" answers are to help later searchers, not be little reward coins in your hat.

I don't "win" AskMe at all. I answer questions; that's it. Yes, I do believe that there is an added benefit for the community (beyond merely helping later searchers)... and it's the very same that you already stated, which is that for people who care about being helpful, getting the "best answer" nod feels good, and certainly encourages people to strive to give high-quality answers. In fact, IMO that's not just an added benefit but the primary benefit. In My Opinion.

That's an accidental side effect, not the main purpose.

I have never read or seen anything stating that the feature to mark Best Answer was created solely for the purpose of benefiting those who would search the question later, to more easily find the comment(s) selected by the OP. (It seems to me that if that were the case, there would be a solution for when the OP doesn't select a Best Answer?) If this is Official Policy somewhere, then it is; consequently FreezBoy's callout is in fact pointless. And, my take (that it's inappropriate for the OP to ever mark his/her own contribution as Best Answer) is definitely wrong.

But if it's not Official Policy somewhere, then isn't it possible that the purpose of the feature is as incentive for better answering?

And if that's the case, then there's zero point in holier-than-thou language implying that it's somehow dirty or wrong to consider Best Answers anything other than a glorified bookmark.
posted by pineapple at 4:39 PM on January 15, 2008


Pineapple, I'm responding to what you said, which was:

At the point when AskMe was built, someone clearly believed there was value to allowing the OP to "choose a winner." If you don't agree with the best answer system at MetaFilter, then this would be a great argument toward that.

You're saying that because I don't think there's a winner, then I should take it up with the designers of the site, because they clearly disagree with me.

This wording of yours strikes me as entirely unambiguous.

You add, later:

what Christ, what an asshole and Furious Fitness did is equal to gaming the current system.

You're giving it away here again: you can only game a system if the system has winners. Whether or not you're willing to actually admit it out loud (or even to yourself), this would appear to be what's driving your thinking.
posted by Malor at 4:58 PM on January 15, 2008

Whether or not you're willing to actually admit it out loud (or even to yourself), this would appear to be what's driving your thinking.
Do you think you could please stop trying to be in my head? It's totally out of line for you to tell me that there's some aspect of some minor feature on an internet website over which I'm having a problem admitting my own feelings to myself. Really, Malor -- this is just MetaTalk, and you're not my therapist.
You're saying that because I don't think there's a winner, then I should take it up with the designers of the site, because they clearly disagree with me.
Wrong. Fail. My original statement was simply intended to say that the Best Answer feature was built in by the designers (Matt? pb? Jess? whomever), and as a result, it clearly had some intended purpose. I'm sorry that you keep getting hung up on my unfortunate and inadvertent use of the word "winner," which was merely my attempt to reflect your "win" verbiage back to you and keep the conversation relevant. Here, I'll revise so maybe you can process it a little better.

At the point when AskMe was built, someone clearly believed there was value to allowing the OP to choose a Best Answer.
You're giving it away here again: you can only game a system if the system has winners.
Or maybe, just maybe, the answer is even simpler than "pineapple OBVIOUSLY has a major mental malfunction". Are you ready for it? Maybe you and I use the phrase "gaming the system" differently. It's a pretty common phrase but apparently we don't see eye to eye on it. I use it to mean "taking the accepted, stated rules or policies, and using them in a manner other than they were intended in order to realize some goal" (which would clearly be applicable to someone who came to AskMe to seek help from the community and instead marked his own answer as the Best Answer. Case in point: Holden Karnofsky was gaming the system at MeFi, by my definition). You, apparently, use "gaming the system" to mean, "I NEED TO BE THE WINNERRR!!1!!eleven!" That you use a different interpretation of a common idiom doesn't make you right.

I'll remind you again: your exact words -- and the first time there was language introduced in this conversation about "winning at AskMe" -- were:
It's only not fair if you're trying to win. AskMe isn't about winning...
Since I have clearly stated that I'm not trying to "win AskMe," and since everything else since that seems to be you hung up on trying to make my position into something that it's not, you really need to drop this "winner" thing.
posted by pineapple at 5:21 PM on January 15, 2008


pineapple wrote...
In fact, when I said "choose a winner" in my earlier comment,

When you said "choose a winner" in your earlier comment, you specifically chose that quote including the word "winner" and stated that the creators of AskMe wanted people to be able to choose one. There was no ambiguity.
posted by tkolar at 5:21 PM on January 15, 2008


Yes, you're right. I chose that QUOTE. Of MALOR'S. His quote. His words about winning. And yes, there was obviously ambiguity; you said so earlier in the thread yourself, and also I wouldn't have to still be explaining this if there weren't confusion.

I was stating that the creators of AskMe wanted people to be able to recognize a top answer -- and therefore Malor's comment that "there is no 'win' in AskMe" isn't the cut-and-dried case, or else there wouldn't be this über-favorite feature. That's why I put choose a winner in quote marks. Go back and look at the comment.

Regardless of how tkolar and Malor read it then, I'm clarifying it right here and now, and how I was experiencing the conversation was thus:

ME at 9:55 am [paraphrase]: I don't think that marking your ownself Best Answer is using the site as intended, i.e. it's gaming the system. [Notice zero use of the words "fair" or "win"]

MALOR at 1:44 pm [exact words]: "This only matters if you're playing for a score. 'Dammit, he marked his own answer best, he can't do that, it's not fair!' It's only not fair if you're trying to win. AskMe isn't about winning, it's about helping people."

ME at 4:05 pm [again, paraphrasing since I'm in my own head and know what I was intending]: I'm not talking about what's "fair" or who "wins." I'm saying I don't think it's right to game the system: "At the point when AskMe was built, someone clearly believed there was value to allowing the OP to 'choose a winner.'"

[I mean, I'm sorry, but to me it's patently clear that the words "choose a winner" were to illustrate that I disagreed with Malor's idea that there is no possible way to choose a winner at AskMe, and that the ability to choose someone's answer as best is a feature, not a bug. Apparently, what was clear to me is not so clear to others.]

MALOR at 4:30 pm [exact words]: "You can only game a system that has winners." [Again, I'm convinced thoroughly that this is a result of Malor and me using this phrase in two very different ways.]

ME at 4:39 and 5:21 pm [paraphrasing]: I'm not talking about winning! Stop with the winning!

MALOR at 4:58 pm: But you said the word "win," you said "choose the winner" [madness ensues].

It's clear that my comment at 4:05 pm is causing y'all lots of consternation and confusion, for which I apologize. But I can't explain this repeatedly for all eternity, so my explanation is simply going to have to stand. What you read and what I meant are different, and what I meant was

The creators of AskMe wanted people to be able to recognize a top answer -- and therefore Malor's comment that "there is no 'win' in AskMe" isn't actually the cut-and-dried case, or else there wouldn't be this über-favorite feature.
posted by pineapple at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2008


There is value in choosing a winner - it promotes participation.

It's not precisely on point, but it's close, and anyone who hasn't seen this before really should, it's probably the most enlightening 45 minutes you'll spend in some time: Luis Van Ahn - Human Computation. It's about how you can get humans to solve problems that humans are good at, and computers aren't good at, by making the process of solving the problem fun.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:57 PM on January 15, 2008


The creators of AskMe wanted people to be able to recognize a top answer

Well, demonstrably they wanted more than that, because you can mark multiple answers as "best". In fact, the ability to recognize a single "best" answer seems like an unavoidable degenerate case of what I believe they were actually doing, which was giving the asker a way to mark which answers turned out to be useful for them.

I realize you feel grossly misunderstood, but I don't think that's really the case. You keep saying things like "game the system" and "top answer" which indicate to me that you think that an answer being marked the best is an award of some kind. And you don't seem to be the only person who thinks of "best answers" this way.

Clearly then the system is being used that way. That does not, however, mean that it was designed for that.

Last but not least, an extended argument over what the "creators of AskMe" intended when they added the "mark best answers" features is a truly silly activity. Allow me to cut it short:

Hey matthowie/jessamyn! What was your intent in adding the "mark best answers" feature to AskMe? TIA.
posted by tkolar at 6:59 PM on January 15, 2008


Hey matthowie/jessamyn! What was your intent in adding the "mark best answers" feature to AskMe? TIA.

I needed a way to show mathowie that I was better than him. However, I believe in the death of the author, so it doesn't really matter what I think, meaning is use and blah blah.

Seriously, this is verging into nutso territory. I disagree with a few assertions most notably

- You cannot game what can't be won. Nonsense. People gamed the tag system. No one wins at tagging.
- Best Answer = win. People use best answer all sorts of ways. I can't even remember why we decided to do it but I htink we saw it being used in other AskA type sites and figured it was a good idea. It lets the OP give some feedback, it highlights good answers for later, it makes the best answerer get a little frisson of "gee, I helped someone" If it was supposed to be "win" we would never allow more than one. That said, it's annoying when someone marks everything as best. Make of that as you will.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:15 PM on January 15, 2008


Jessamyn, I'm not aware of any uses of 'gaming' that don't imply gaining something... ie, winning. If they were 'gaming' the tagging system, weren't they trying to get a particular result, ie, win?

The word has a 'win' connotation that's so deeply buried that I just don't see how it can be used without that implication. If you're gaming a system, it's to get something, no?
posted by Malor at 7:33 PM on January 15, 2008


It's often used in a general sense to mean 'achieve a particular end via indirect means'. There doesn't necessarily seem to be a real connotation of 'win' in it anymore.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:36 PM on January 15, 2008


Yeah to me win is "be the best" not "come out ahead of or differentiate yourself from others" so it's all a semantic quibble really. When quonsar & co/ added a ton of quonsar tags making the quonsar tag the biggest on the top tags page, that's not "winning" tags, that's just using the system to achieve a result that you desire but isn't built into the system to deliver, generally.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2008


Thanks for the input, Jessamyn.

tkolar, that users used a feature in a way it wasn't intended is standard practice. Everywhere. Ever.

If you don't like extended discussions about the workings of the site, you're in the wrong part of it.

Lastly, thanks for being yet another person who is okay with the MeTa approach of "I can't parse what you're saying, therefore I will tell you what you really meant (as opposed to claiming any responsibility for my own role)."

And to be explicitly clear, avoiding further confusion, that was "thanks" where "thanks" is an idiom word meaning "I appreciate or am grateful to you." And it was meant with sarcasm. As in, I'm not really thanking you.
posted by pineapple at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2008


Anybody feel like a margarita?
posted by flabdablet at 7:49 PM on January 15, 2008


The one who "games the system" can be said to have "won" their particular end, if they got it. Example: every time you play a particular computer game online, you get a score point if you lose and three if you win. The first person to 1000 score points can trade them in for a prize. It being a great deal easier to lose than win, players may repeatedly concede games at the earliest opportunity, and thus accumulate points faster than if they had won every match. So although our gamer of the system loses every match, they won the overall prize.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:55 PM on January 15, 2008


A margarita sounds goddam fantastic, flabdablet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:05 PM on January 15, 2008


What can I say, pineapple? You've left me speechless.
posted by tkolar at 8:13 PM on January 15, 2008


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