This is ridiculous. April 7, 2008 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Can I get some more clear guidelines about what make an Ask Metafilter question ridiculous?

I thought this question was pretty clear, in that "I don't know how many laws apply to me - how can I find out" AND "What would be the volume of those laws be?" The volume part is extraneous and I could figure that out myself if I knew how to decide which laws applied to me, which didn't and where to find them.

Is it a broad question? Sure it is, but it's a very specific question that is a problem that can be solved. It's a question that no amount of searching on my part could solve, unless I had specialized knowledge of law. This part of the main reason I use metafilter - the wonderful amount of specialized knowledge that is overflowing from this place.

So is it chatfilter?
favorite X?
I'll go first?
no problem to be solved?
open ended unanswerables?
the deal with X?
let's talk about X?

I would say not. But it is how ever ridiculous.

So if ridiculousness is going to be a guideline, I think we might want to start defining our terms here.
posted by __ to Etiquette/Policy at 2:44 PM (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

By it's broadness, it was pretty solidly into chatfilter territory; by the gimmick of volume it was pretty much unanswerable and silly to boot.

If your question was about how to go about locating the text of all laws you think apply to you, you could have framed it a whole heck of a lot better by excising the gimmicky framing and making the question about the only really answerable aspect: how to identify and obtain the text of the laws you were interested in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2008


You didn't actually ask "I don't know how many laws apply to me - how can I find out?" You only asked the volume question, which is kinda silly and has no real answer. I suspect if you had tried the first question you would've had a lot better luck, especially if you had phrased it as "What laws specifically govern the things I do?"
posted by jedicus at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2008


I think the question also misses the fact that all laws would apply. That's the point of laws. Just because you're unlikely to break X law doesn't mean that it's inapplicable.

(Questions of jurisdiction, constitutional issues and diplomatic immunity aside...)
posted by djgh at 2:52 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since your excellent question was deleted, I'm gonna take a stab at answering it here and say 237 pages.
posted by piratebowling at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


PuzzleFilter.
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't think 'this question needs answering' counts as a problem to be solved.
posted by box at 2:54 PM on April 7, 2008


djgh: I think one has to read "laws that apply" to mean "laws that apply to the asker's affirmative acts and, in the case of laws that impose a duty or obligation on the asker, the asker's failures to act."

So, for instance, a law governing sailboat registration would not apply because the asker neither owns a boat nor does the law impose a duty to own a boat. Thus, the problem becomes tractable, if still very difficult.
posted by jedicus at 2:57 PM on April 7, 2008


The volume thing is utterly unanswerable without more information. Paper weight, font size, two-sided printing, blahbity blah.
posted by box at 2:58 PM on April 7, 2008


Quit jerking off and either ask a question that you need answered or go somewhere else is the answer to your linked deleted question. Do you need everything spelled out for you in formal, exact policy or can you live with some common sense?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Is it a broad question? Sure it is, but it's a very specific question..."

huh?
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 3:01 PM on April 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


... no amount of searching on my part could solve, unless I had specialized knowledge of law.

So, you want people with specialized knowledge of the law to go through and sort out every possible federal, state, county, and city law that applies only to you. For free. I can't think of how that's not ridiculous.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:01 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Burhanistan - go somewhere else ? you mean like you?
posted by __ at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


The Congeniality Award goes to: Burhanistan.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2008


oneirodynia: no, but I was looking for suggestions and perhpas things that might be overlooked.
posted by __ at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2008


The answer, with a suitable choice of units, is exactly 1. Now shove off.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:05 PM on April 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


box: For what it's worth, the asker did say "We would assume that the paper is letter sized, half inch margins, 20lb (common photocopy paper.) The laws would be printed on both sides of the sheet, single spaced, 12 pt Arial, with 1/2 inch margins." The volume is pointless to know, however, except perhaps as some kind of visualization of how constrained one is by the law. But even then there is no particular correlation between how long a law is and how much it constrains a person's liberty.

oneirodynia: I'm not sure that a question should be deleted just because it is unlikely to get any answers. There are lots of questions on AskMeFi that do not get responded to at all and even more that are never truly answered.

__: I don't think it's very productive to bring up Burhanistan's self-imposed time out from several months ago.
posted by jedicus at 3:05 PM on April 7, 2008


Seldom has there been a metatalk thread with a more appropriate title.
posted by dersins at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


The Congeniality Award goes to: Burhanistan.

Indeed. But really, what was he expecting here? Kisses and favorites?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2008


You will get close to 4 correct answers here.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2008


Please direct all kisses and favorites here. kthxbai.
posted by dersins at 3:10 PM on April 7, 2008


DeerAskMe: Can you recommend a good engine cleaner?
posted by Burhanistan at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I usually like this kind of fun estimation question, but I couldn't even think of a way to answer it. You'd have to turn something like the vehicle code into a number of words or characters, which is not very possible.
posted by smackfu at 3:20 PM on April 7, 2008


Burhanistan - go somewhere else ? you mean like you?

So you can figure out how to use a poster's history against them, but you can't figure out why your unanswerable, non-question is ridiculous? I think you're being a disingenuous twerp.
posted by OmieWise at 3:32 PM on April 7, 2008 [18 favorites]


If clouds were made from candy floss how many Fiat Unos would be needed to transport one shaped like a walrus [4cm long if you held your fingers apart in front of your eye]?
posted by meech at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by WalterMitty at 3:49 PM on April 7, 2008


But it is how ever ridiculous. . . So if ridiculousness is going to be a guideline, I think we might want to start defining our terms here.

You might want to try a dictionary; it's actually pretty straightforward.
posted by 1 at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2008


It's HypotheticalFilter, which is generally not allowed (although it was at one point in AskMe's dim past). If it doesn't seem like it's HypotheticalFilter at first, the arbitrary restrictions in your final paragraph pretty much seal the deal. Restrictions that actually relate to the problem ("What's the best way to get from A to B without a car, because I don't own one?") are fine. Restrictions that are thrown into the question just for the hell of it, or solely because the question would be unaswerable without them, are a hallmark of HypotheticalFilter.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2008


It contains "vs." without referencing a court case.
posted by Eideteker at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2008


So is it chatfilter?
favorite X?
I'll go first?
no problem to be solved?
open ended unanswerables?
the deal with X?
let's talk about X?


I'm going to file it under "open ended unanswerables". Seriously, if your question was "How many laws pertain to the following 15 pieces of information about my life", then the question would be answerable, albeit very very hard. As it is, the only person who knows the sum total of everything about you which has a corresponding law is you. Are you divorced? Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you own a gun? Do you have children that you don't know about? Are your parents remarried to golddiggers? Are you gay? Do you have neighbors with fruit-bearing trees? Sweet jesus, I could go on and on and on listing things about your life that pertain to laws which you neglected to detail.

The question is ridiculous because you are the only one who can give us enough information to answer it, and there's no way for us to be certain you're not leaving anything out.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I happen to think the question is fine. You regularly see this kind of thing used as an example of unwieldy bureaucracy.

"The Bible, the guide of our lives, is 1,291 pages and contains 774,746 words. But the Tax Code and its regulations which are referred to by some as, 'a person's worst nightmare come true' is 9,471 pages and over 7 million words." There are various other answers provided on the page linked, but suffice to say, it's a ton of paper.

Unfortunately for the OP, I think the question is also completely, totally, objectively answered with the first two responses. What laws apply to me? All of them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


What specific problem were you trying to solve, and how would you recognize the solution if you saw it? If you can't tell me that, your question doesn't belong on "AskMe".

Specificity isn't the issue. I agree with the deletion and agree with the reason for the deletion.
posted by Class Goat at 4:13 PM on April 7, 2008


Yeah, I'd have to say if you are asking what laws apply to you, that would be every federal, state, and local law on the books. Even local laws in jurisdictions in which you don't live. (Vacationing in Mexico? Well those would apply as well, right?) What you really seem to want to know is what laws matter to you, and that you have to figure out for yourself.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:30 PM on April 7, 2008


oneirodynia: no, but I was looking for suggestions and perhpas things that might be overlooked.

Then that's what you should have asked. Asking for "How much space, if printed up, would all the laws that apply to me take up?" requires someone with a thorough knowledge of: everything pertinent about you, every federal, state, county, and city law (including civil codes, vehicle codes, building codes &c.) pertaining to where you live, your business, &c.; collating all those specific laws that apply to you and determining how many words, spaces, diagrams, &c they consist of; and then converting all that into "letter sized, half inch margins, 20lb (common photocopy paper.) The laws would be printed on both sides of the sheet, single spaced, 12 pt Arial, with 1/2 inch margins. "

People pay lawyers to sort out the specific bits of laws that apply to them in very specific instances. It's expensive, and it takes many, many hours of work. You're asking for every single law anywhere that might apply to you, and then you want them converted into a volume. Does that really seem like a reasonable question for AskMe?
posted by oneirodynia at 4:37 PM on April 7, 2008


Perhaps you should have specified that this is for your MFA thesis.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2008


Process of elimination: start breaking them one by one, any that have negative legal effects should be marked as "applying to you".
posted by blue_beetle at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2008


When something gets deleted, and all other explanations fail to give you insight, just give yourself this reason: It's mathowie's site, and he and his admins can delete whatever they want. It goes better if you picture them sticking their tongues out at you as they do so.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:47 PM on April 7, 2008


I don't see what's so bad about the question. Seems like it would be pretty straightforward to get a rough estimate: total word count of all federal laws + state laws + county + city. So what if it's impossible to get a totally exact answer; there's plenty of information to be had. Is nobody else curious about this?
posted by equalpants at 4:49 PM on April 7, 2008


Is nobody else curious about this?

no.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:57 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to know which laws don't apply to me, so I can taunt the people to whom they do.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:38 PM on April 7, 2008


Can I get some more clear guidelines about what make an Ask Metafilter question ridiculous?

No. But a clearer guideline is that the question needs to be reasonably answer-able, a criterion that your question does not meet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:41 PM on April 7, 2008


Seems like it would be pretty straightforward to get a rough estimate: total word count of all federal laws + state laws + county + city.

You're supposing a very simple definition of law. My miniscule four units of junior college law 101 (highly recommended, BTW) has taught me thus:

Every federal agency's rules and regs are law. FBI, FDA, BATF's rules all apply to you. This applies at every level - state and local too. DMV? OSHA? There's probably secret laws that apply to you but you're not allowed to know what they are.

Every previous case in your jurisdiction can apply as precedent to varying degrees (some not at all; but this depends on what you're trying to prove). Joe Blow v. Horse Manure Factory, 1885? It might apply depending on the case.

To the original poster: go ask Lexis or something how big is their database, perform a rough conversion from file size to pages of text. But it's a meaningless answer which will be wrong tomorrow.
posted by meowzilla at 6:00 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only law that applies to me is the law of diminishing returns. There. How much space did that take up?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:13 PM on April 7, 2008


I have carefully compiled a list of all the laws that apply to you .. you may have to print it out to get an idea of paper usage.

(It may take a while to load.. it's a lot of text!)
posted by xorry at 6:17 PM on April 7, 2008


The question is impossible to answer due to the unknown factors, as 23skidoo said.

It may be answerable by you if you looked at at all the laws and determined by yourself if they applied to you, but you knew how to do that already. If you were unsure about whether a particular law applied to you, that would be a proper question for the site.
posted by demiurge at 6:18 PM on April 7, 2008


It's hysterically funny that you didn't like the judgment of your "law" question.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:21 PM on April 7, 2008



Can I get some more clear guidelines about what make an Ask Metafilter question ridiculous?

Will my husband be safe in Yemen

Answer: No, maybe yes

Answer: Yes, maybe no

Answer: Possibly

Answer: Possibly not
posted by mattoxic at 6:35 PM on April 7, 2008


Your question was ridiculous because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the structure of "laws".

You seem to be thinking only of legislation (statutes), which are the printed, codified laws, as enacted by Parliament / Congress.

However, on top of that you have laws that exist only through case law, ie the recorded judgments handed down in court. Examples include not only Common Law actions like torts, but also the wealth of case law that interprets & applies the legislation.

Using MetaFilter as an example, the "statutes" could be seen as akin to the guidelines, eg in the FAQ.

The "case law" would be all the accumulated precedent from the admins' rulings, and from MetaTalk threads.

I suggest that you really need to come to grips with this concept of precedent & rethink your question.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:39 PM on April 7, 2008


You're asking for every single law anywhere that might apply to you, and then you want them converted into a volume. Does that really seem like a reasonable question for AskMe?

It's a nice reversal of the old GIGO.

Where there can only be GO, it was GI in the first place.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:42 PM on April 7, 2008


the obvious answer to your universal (but also specific) question is (and always is) 42

and to be environtmentally friendly, I'd switch to recycled paper and 10 pts font.
posted by ddaavviidd at 6:43 PM on April 7, 2008


It's hysterically funny that you didn't like the judgment of your "law" question.

Brandon Blatcher has a point.

Also, it's interesting that you're here because you ran afoul of unwritten Metafilter law. Which applies to you. And which, being unwritten, is of unknown length. Which makes your question unanswerable. Which fits a deletion criteria. Which means your question was deleted for one of the written Metafilter laws. Which... causes a contradiction...and--
*universe explodes*
posted by salvia at 6:49 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


meowzilla: Yes, I know about federal agencies and case law; that's why I said "rough estimate". My point was that although we can never know exactly how much law applies to him, there are plenty of subproblems which *are* answerable, like: how long is the tax code? How long is Texas's criminal code? How long are the texts of various judgments which apply? Some of these things can be answered, and would be interesting. Hell, most of the comments in this thread explaining what's wrong with the question, including yours, would have made good answers to the question.
posted by equalpants at 7:24 PM on April 7, 2008


Can I get some more clear guidelines about what make an Ask Metafilter question ridiculous?

Brazil nuts.
posted by blacklite at 7:51 PM on April 7, 2008


I agree that __'s question has brought up a lot of interesting comments in this thread which may be helpful, but that is because we (and we doesn't include __) have given all benefit of the doubt and stretched the ridiculous deleted question into a semi-answerable one. However, I think that the original phrasing of the question and the ensuing metatalk bitch-session shows that the poster doesn't have the slightest idea what they're asking.
posted by meowzilla at 8:04 PM on April 7, 2008


However, I think that the original phrasing of the question and the ensuing metatalk bitch-session shows that the poster doesn't have the slightest idea what they're asking.

Agreed (except I think "doesn't have the slightest idea" is a little overstated, maybe). Now if only there were some place where the poster could go to ask a question and have the gaps in his knowledge filled in...

Sorry, not trying to snark at you or anything. I just think it's a little bizarre that sometimes askers incur the MetaWrath for knowing too little. That's why they asked, isn't it?
posted by equalpants at 8:14 PM on April 7, 2008


Well, I went to all the effort of calculating the answer only to find that the question had been deleted and all the details vanished into the ether when I clicked "post"! So I'll just summarize here: the answer was one cubic furlong. Give or take a few percent, but I'm confident that's pretty close. It sounds surprisingly large, but I'm not going to type it all out again at this time of night so you'll just have to take my word for it. IANAL.
posted by nowonmai at 8:36 PM on April 7, 2008


120 dB, same as in town.
posted by lore at 11:57 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Entropy. Murphy's. Diminishing Returns. etc etc.
posted by waraw at 8:03 AM on April 8, 2008


« Older BIRTHDAY PONY?   |   Huffington Post, Lifehacker, Metafilter Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments