"Harmful" Flag April 22, 2008 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Just a derail-preventing idea ...

... it does tread a bit on Diggish territory, and I know that's not very palatable (to me, either). Still, we already have a pseudo-public-ranking thing going on with favorites, and this might prove even more useful.

It seems like a lot of derails in Ask Mefi threads (including one or two I have participated in) focus on people's concerns that given advice is severely bad or detrimental and shouldn't be followed.

And I was thinking ... why not have a publicly displayed flag that you'd click only if you thought the advice was dangerous? One or two of those might be ignorable, but if the reader saw a high total on that, it might be useful.

The wording would need to be made more compact, but I'm thinking something along the lines of:

Sure, tap-dancing on a cable on the Golden Gate Bridge is a really great way of getting your lover's attention!
posted by Joel Grey at 7:23 PM on April 21 [1 favorite][!][249 thought this harmful +] No other comments.

*click*

Sure, tap-dancing on a cable on the Golden Gate Bridge is a really great way of getting your lover's attention!
posted by Joel Grey at 7:23 PM on April 21 [1 favorite][!][250 thought this harmful -] No other comments.

In other words, same basic mechanism as the favorites.

Yeah, it'd be a new change, and we don't like change 'round here, etc.

It does tread somewhat on digg territory in that it's a means of people en masse publicly demonstrating a negative opinion of a comment. However, favorites are being used by some as a means of people en masse publicly demonstrating a positive opinion of a comment, and few would argue that they're unwelcome or unuseful here.

BUT: I'm just thinking that most derail-"fights" on Ask Mefi seem to stem from "that's fucking AWFUL advice!" moments, and eliminating the rancor involved in such moments by reducing it to a "man, that's bad advice -- *click*" situation might prove useful to preserving a civil flow of discourse.

It's also why I suggested specific wording: "harmful"/"detrimental". Hopefully that'd deflect use of it simply as a negative "I disagree" flag. It'd be asking the user to use it not if they disagree, but if they think said advice could actively harm the reader.
posted by WCityMike to Feature Requests at 10:50 AM (60 comments total)

Saying "that is awful advice" is really the proper response here. A harmful flag is just basically an excuse for people to editorialize. We remove comments that are just flat out jokey not-real advice designed to be a sort of lulzish answer but that might be plausible ["hey, try the chlorine and bleach option, that always works" or, in the example in the thread you're referring to: "hit her"]. We don't want to get into how many people think recreational drug use or infidelity or eating old tuna is or is not "harmful" It builds out an axis on AskMe that doesn't help anything and in fact is detrimental to people using the site to problem solve.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Joel Grey is on Metafilter?!?!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay. Well, since the first post's a "definitely not" from an admin, thread closure's fine. Sorry, just thought it might be a helpful idea. :)
posted by WCityMike at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2008


Anything that's so obviously wrong as to warrant flagging it as such is worthy of one's explanation of why it is wrong...in a comment downthread. If one does it right, there doesn't have to be any ambiguity. Why should we flag an answer as wrong when it is much more helpful to the Asker if we take the time to explain why?
posted by carsonb at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2008


Carsonb, the thought was more that it'd be for, as Jess pointed out, things that could be considered as a legitimate answer if a bad idea. It was a suggested way of measuring exactly how bad an idea was while making it more of an effort to turn it into an argument.
posted by WCityMike at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2008


> Joel Grey is on Metafilter?!?!!

Once I came up with "tap-dancing on a Golden Gate Bridge cable" as the bad idea, Joel popped into my head, as Fred's dead.
posted by WCityMike at 11:05 AM on April 22, 2008


Being able to mark question as "harmful" would be abused, kinda like this recent request here, rendering the "harmful" flag useless. Example:

You should see a counselor/therepist.
posted by Joel Grey at 7:23 PM on April 21 [1 favorite][!][249 thought this harmful +] No other comments.

*click*

You should see a counselor/therepist.
posted by Joel Grey at 7:23 PM on April 21 [1 favorite][!][250 thought this harmful -] No other comments.

posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:06 AM on April 22, 2008


Previously.
posted by Durin's Bane at 11:07 AM on April 22, 2008


The OP should always be able to sift through posts to find what advice they want to follow. Why should several posters or even admin take it upon themselves to determine what is best for the OP as long as it is not obviously harmful? Maybe the OP didn't mention that they are a world class tap-dancing aerialist? If you want to assume that the OP is helpless and only your answer is the best, maybe that is the most harmful thing? Derailing by saying your opinion is better than anyone else's is very arrogant. Answer the question as best you can based on the facts and move on.

I always find it funny that many people always selectively avoid facts pertaining to the OP's problem and generalize. The OP typically doesn't write things that have no bearing on their problems so read the entire post a few times to get an idea how their problem differs from others.
posted by JJ86 at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2008


Let's think hard about this one. While a bad idea in all other respects, it does present the opportunity to use a graphic of a skull and crossbones in the interface. This is not nothing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


way of measuring exactly how bad an idea was

That's not even remotely close to the sort of information this would provide. It measures exactly how many people thought it was a bad idea, but not exactly how bad each of them thought it was.
posted by carsonb at 11:19 AM on April 22, 2008


If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We already have a shark with lazer-beam vision named jessamyn who deletes jokey comments. I suspect that if derails were really problematic, matthowie would load up the blue and green servers into the back of his Prius, drive down to the mouth of the Columbia, and throw the who mess into the Pacific Ocean.

But perhaps he is afraid of jessamyn the shark, who lurks, just out of sight, in the deep, dark, sea. In Vermont.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


BTW, I think any response to an AskMeFi post that only says "This is awful advice" is in itself awful and should be bannable. Why start a flame war? Just respond with better facts to the points that the OP brings up and let them decide what is good and what is bad.
posted by JJ86 at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2008


Saying "that is awful advice" is really the proper response here.

What she said...

Anything that's so obviously wrong as to warrant flagging it as such is worthy of one's explanation of why it is wrong...in a comment downthread.

...and what he said...

Carsonb, the thought was more that it'd be for, as Jess pointed out, things that could be considered as a legitimate answer if a bad idea.

...and what you said, except that the current and best solution is to respond civilly in thread to explain why an answer is, while legitimate, maybe a bad idea. Trying to do that instead through a sheer negative-mark count gives less information than an actual followup comment.

The problem with derails in askme is the derailing, not the fundamental notion of responding in thread to previous advice from another user. It's kind of unavoidable that some of those responses will end up either being emotionally/argumentatively charged themselves or will provoke some charged response from someone who disagrees, and that can get out of hand, at which point flags and some cleanup handle the back side of the process.

It'd be great to just not have derails ever in askme, but I don't think this would help make it happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2008


Derails in Ask should be deleted. Anthing that is not deleted is not a derail.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2008


Saying "that is awful advice" is really the proper response here. A harmful flag is just basically an excuse for people to editorialize.

Isn't saying "that is awful advice" the same thing as editorializing?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2008


Isn't saying "that is awful advice" the same thing as editorializing?

Not if you take the time to explain why, no. The example was when someone offers a comment/suggestion/answer that many people would find so terrible as to be harmful. So, saying "that is awful advice, mixing bleach and ammonia will produce a toxic gas that will kill you, not make your teeth shinier." is totally fine.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


The other thing worth pointing out is that this flag probably won't stop people from derailing anyway. People have trouble flagging and moving on with the existing flags, so I don't see any reason why people wouldn't flag and derail with this new flag.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:49 AM on April 22, 2008


Not if you take the time to explain why, no.

Good point, thanks. I guess I would "vote" against the flag for the same reason.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2008


Joel Grey is on Metafilter?!?!!

Well, it's almost impossible to recognize him since the plastic surgery. Or is that Jennifer?
posted by OmieWise at 11:53 AM on April 22, 2008


The man did have a whole book written about his anatomy.
posted by brain_drain at 12:17 PM on April 22, 2008


Isn't saying "that is awful advice" the same thing as editorializing?

Not if you take the time to explain why, no.


I'm SO picking nits here, bit giving an opinion and then explaining why IS editorializing. Most editorials aren't just opinions without explanations. But I know what you mean, jessamyn.

posted by grumblebee at 12:21 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nothing personal grumblebee, but people's compulsions to do exactly what you just did are one of the reasons why keeping AskMe derail-free is such a pain in the ass.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:24 PM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]



It's also why I suggested specific wording: "harmful"/"detrimental". Hopefully that'd deflect use of it simply as a negative "I disagree" flag. It'd be asking the user to use it not if they disagree, but if they think said advice could actively harm the reader.


Ha! You give people way too much credit if you don't think there aren't any bad apples out there that would use "harmful/detrimental" to mean "I disagree"
posted by juv3nal at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2008


I'm confused again. I thought AskMe answers had to be answers. I got caught up in this earlier today, so I'll ask Jessamyn for some clarity: saying "that is awful advice" and explaining why isn't an answer. Is it close enough to an answer that it gets to stand?

Consider your example:

Q: How Do I whiten my teeth?
A1: Try a solution of bleach and ammonia! [Terrible, potentially deadly answer, but an answer.]
A2: No, don't! That is awful advice, mixing bleach and ammonia will produce a toxic gas that will kill you, not make your teeth shinier. [Not actually an answer, but certainly helpful.]

Any idiot (even me) can see that A2 should be left in the thread even though it's not an answer, so that is clearly an exception to the usual AskMe rule of answers only. But how about if A2 were just: "No don't! That is awful advice!"? Would that stay?

We're getting close to my perennial confusion about whether AskMe answers have to accept the premise of the question: see crickets and diazinon.
posted by The Bellman at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2008


aren't are
posted by juv3nal at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2008


There is actually no way to say that someone is being a jerk in AskMe.

The one time I ever posted a MeTa callout, it was because I thought that some commenters were making rather rude assumptions about an anonymous asker. I posted a MeTa thread basically saying hey, let's take the question at face value instead of playing Guess What Disease Anonymous Has. I immediately realized that the MeTa thread was a waste of time, and it was graciously closed within the hour.

Had I said this in thread instead of in MeTa, it would have been deleted after a few people told me to take it to MeTa. When I did take it to MeTa, everyone told me to have flagged it and moved on.

But the thing is, I wasn't asking for the comments to be deleted. I just wanted to express that I didn't think they were a very useful contribution to an advice-giving site, and that people should do better. You may or may not think that I was right in this particular instance, but aren't there times when it may be useful to the asker to know that a lot of people think an answerer is being an asshat?
posted by roll truck roll at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2008


But how about if A2 were just: "No don't! That is awful advice!"? Would that stay?

We don't play "what if" with specific examples, everything is contextualized within whatever is going on in the specific question.

In a general sense, shedding light on other answers in non-combative/non-confrontational ways are usually okay. However, this is rarely what happens. What often happens is that someone says, to use your example, "Only a total fucking idiot would combine bleach and ammonia" and we'd remove it because it was fighty more than we'd remove it because it wasn't a direct answer to the question. And then it would come to MeTa "but that person *IS* a fucking idiot...!!" and on it goes.

Usually the only time this sort of thing comes up is with hot-button questions that have more than one issue affecting the tenor of the answers [this one: anonymous, weird follow-up from OP, fighty answers, misread question] so it's impossible to generalize to how a different question with different answers would be treated. However, regarding the premises/cricket question, if you can't at least be respectful of the OPs perspective whether or not you agree with it in order to give them an answer, then don't bother. This is more clear cut with what kills crickets (there are factual answers, a right and wrong if you will), less clear-cut with religion/faith/relationship questions, but still we muddle through.

This is not something I would think of as "perrenially confusing," just a situation where the guidelines are a little more fluid than just the "no wisecracks" request.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:36 PM on April 22, 2008


Nothing personal grumblebee, but people's compulsions to do exactly what you just did are one of the reasons why keeping AskMe derail-free is such a pain in the ass.

Sorry if I screwed up, jessamyn, but I NEVER would have done that in AskMe. I was under the impression that asides, jokes, etc. are fine on MeTa.
posted by grumblebee at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2008


Well, they're NOT. Take it to Meta--

Um, just take it back.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:55 PM on April 22, 2008


grumblebee, it's not a screw up, don't worry about it. I'm just pointing out that many people have what they feel are very good/important reasons for interjecting their own small-text asides in various places, often in AskMe. It's not off the mark or against any rules in MeTa, but people do it all the time in AskMe as well where it's a lot less kosher.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2008


"So, saying "that is awful advice, mixing bleach and ammonia will produce a toxic gas that will kill you, not make your teeth shinier." is totally fine."

*spit take*
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2008


What you want is high test hydrogen peroxide, that'll have your teeth shiny in no time.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on April 22, 2008


I agree with you, jessamyn. I'm one of the hard-liners when it comes to anything remotely off-topic in AskMe. Truthfully, I don't think you guys are tough enough about culling the one-liners. One of the things I love about the AskMe is the no-wisecracks, on-topic policy.
posted by grumblebee at 2:04 PM on April 22, 2008


48 MetaTalk posts. Jesus Christ, Mike.
posted by 1 at 2:07 PM on April 22, 2008


high test hydrogen peroxide

H2O2: It gets your teeth Rocket-Fuel white!©
posted by quin at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2008


48 MetaTalk posts. Jesus Christ, Mike.

Frankly, I'm willing to forgive him his excesses, as one of those 48 was my birthday callout.
posted by dersins at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2008


H2O2: It gets your teeth Rocket-Fuel white!©

Now with added hydrazine!

BANG!
posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2008


We used to put that on cuts to watch 'em bubble. Are you not supposed to do that anymore either?
posted by klangklangston at 2:38 PM on April 22, 2008


Hydrazine?
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2008


I just saw this AskMe question:

What can the colour, smell, composition of your urine in the mornings tell you about yourself?


...and didn't even enter the thread for fear of the temptation to respond with a joke that would not help the poster find an answer.
posted by languagehat at 3:12 PM on April 22, 2008


I think this is a really horrible idea. As it is now, I see a lot of AskMe threads turning into big agreefests, with very few contradictory/divergent opinions for fear of any subsequent piling on. All this would do is further (if not completely) squelch the already rare opinions that fall in the margin.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 3:49 PM on April 22, 2008


[flagged as harmful]
posted by Artw at 3:55 PM on April 22, 2008


Maybe this pony is in the wrong stable. It should be implemented on the feature requests MeTa category so faithful readers can express disdain and inform posters that their ideas are crap without having to use their keyboards. Saves us some time, saves you some face.
posted by carsonb at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2008


Simply pressing a button to disagree is a passive and/or lazy form of giving advice. Writing well thought-out reasoning against bad advice takes more effort, but is much more useful to everybody. When deciding to build features into the site, I feel we should consider whether the feature will encourage the former or the latter.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:05 PM on April 22, 2008


You let me know when we decide what features get built and implemented on this site.
posted by carsonb at 4:07 PM on April 22, 2008


We used to put that on cuts to watch 'em bubble. Are you not supposed to do that anymore either?

[rolls eyes]
posted by limeonaire at 4:08 PM on April 22, 2008


We used to put that on cuts to watch 'em bubble. Are you not supposed to do that anymore either?

Don't worry, you're still free to use it to clean out your belly button (bonus points for achieving 'science fair baking soda volcano' effect) ...
posted by zeph at 6:04 PM on April 22, 2008


FFS, no.
posted by desuetude at 8:00 PM on April 22, 2008


I actually don't think this is a horrible idea. But I agree with jessamyn that plenty of people will generally pipe up to say when something is a really bad idea. And we don't want to deprive anyone of that. However, there are a lot of people (such as myself) who probably would not post such a comment, but would click a "dangerous idea" button. That button would certainly get abused, however.

How 'bout this: "Dangerous" as a flagging reason? Or maybe "breaks the guidelines" already works, since the powers that be are good about checking the flag queue.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:19 AM on April 23, 2008


[249 thought this harmful +]

This also lacks useful context.

249 out 300 viewers?
249 out of 5,000 viewers?
249 experts in the field who were to busy to comment?
249 people who just don't like the idea?
posted by R. Mutt at 7:46 AM on April 23, 2008


1: "48 MetaTalk posts. Jesus Christ, Mike."

Could be worse.
posted by WCityMike at 8:16 AM on April 23, 2008


Also, just a suggestion to my fellow Mefites: if an admin shoots it down in the first post and the suggestion-maker withdraws it in the second post, the remaining 535 messages need not be a pile-on of "sirrah, this idea sucketh to the same degree that yon brown-haired wench Monica did service our prior king."
posted by WCityMike at 8:19 AM on April 23, 2008


Aw man. You are missing the whole point of MetaTalk!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:41 AM on April 23, 2008


Also, just a suggestion to my fellow Mefites: if an admin shoots it down in the first post and the suggestion-maker withdraws it in the second post, the remaining 535 messages need not be a pile-on of "sirrah, this idea sucketh to the same degree that yon brown-haired wench Monica did service our prior king."

FFS, no.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on April 23, 2008


I say we make WCityMike king of Metafilter for a day!

Then burn him in a big wickerman.
posted by Artw at 9:33 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, just a suggestion to my fellow Mefites: if an admin shoots it down in the first post and the suggestion-maker withdraws it in the second post, the remaining 535 messages need not be a pile-on of "sirrah, this idea sucketh to the same degree that yon brown-haired wench Monica did service our prior king."

A suggestion to my fellow Mefites: if you want to avoid a pile-on, run your crazy idea by the admins before posting it to Metatalk.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:35 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I say we make WCityMike king of Metafilter for a day!

Then burn him in a big wickerman.


YM "strawman." HTH.
posted by dersins at 10:21 AM on April 23, 2008


Good catch.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2008


I'm sick of these ad strawminem attacks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:29 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


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