From the Latin "ex" a has-been and "spurt" a drip under pressure October 6, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Pony Filter - Find an Expert

Using tags and accepted answers, it should be easy to get a list of mefi users who are "expert" in a particular subject. Probably best to also have an opt in checkbox in your profile. Additionally, profile could list tags for which the user is "expert" (currently tags are listed for questions asked, not answers given)
posted by plinth to Feature Requests at 8:29 AM (106 comments total)

You think it's one way, but it's the other way.
posted by klue at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2009


I go back and forth on this idea of experts in the community personally. On the one hand, it's clear that there are people with real expertise who you might not know had that expertise unless you did a pretty close read on a topic -- like Mitheral can fix your refrigerator, who knew? On the other hand, there's a sense in which knowing there's an expert in something sort of subtly reduces the value of everyone else's contributions because people wait for the expert to show up. Also, experts are sometimes wrong and/or jerks [actually I'd love to do some sort of analysis on "experts" on AskMe and whether they get flagged more or less than non-experts on certain topics].

We've seen this come up a few times in the past where people basically seem to be asking a question because they know that a certain user has specific knowledge in a tpoic -- arco comes to mind, ikkyu2 also -- but then if that user doesn't comment the question seems a little misguided. Add to this the pressure this puts on the experts -- I know languagehat probably doesn't mind but he's definitely seen as the go-to guy for most word questions -- and I'd love to find a way to sort of surface the experts and at the same time not trun AskMe into more of a "paging My Expert" situaiton than it already is.

Tagging users seems like an niteresting way to go about this but we'd like a way for this to happen where you can basically say what they're good at but not be jerks, if that makes sense. And then what happens if you're the expert on anal fissures or alcoholism? I know some people might not mind this but other people would. I go in circles thinking about this sometimes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 AM on October 6, 2009


This doesn't really seem necessary. AskMe is and always will be a mixed bag. I thought that was part of the whole thing?

Otherwise, you're putting yourself in competition with other sites that are far better at the "expert" thing.

Really, I'm kinda surprised that you're considering this.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2009


I worry that tagging someone as an expert would lead to people expecting them to answer questions about their area of expertise, no matter the time of day or complexity of the issue. This would lead to the experts perhaps feeling more of a responsibility to answer questions than they would like. The opt-in choice seems like a good idea, but I can still imagine super-pushy Askers harping on the experts and stirring up ill will.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 8:44 AM on October 6, 2009


Also, advice should be judged on its own merits, not by the "expert" status of the advice giver. Really, I think you'd be hard pressed to find "expert" answers in AskMe that were ignored or disregarded for want of an "expert" tag.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2009


IANAE, but, I would think this would open the site up to some kind of liability, no?

Also, isn't it bad enough when someone is clearly an expert and someone else invokes their name expecting them to enter the thread without prior consent? (ikkyu2 and languagehat's names come to mind first and foremost).
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:50 AM on October 6, 2009


I would vote no on this one. I can't imagine the appropriateness of tagging someone else (key words "someone else").

What seems to happen is, when someone feels they are the expert, and are willing to help, I see them post the "memail me for help" thing...

Let's let the experts elect to out themselves when they feel led to...
posted by HuronBob at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2009


We didn't do it explicitly for reasons jessamyn states, but we did do it indirectly, by listing a user's most often used tags on their page, so you can see what they are interested in most (I suppose a list of tags on posts this user comments on might be a more appropriate measure of their expertise though).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2009


There's also the problem, which crops up now and again, where nonexperts weigh in on a topic with such vehemence and certainty that they sound more experts than the people who have real first-hand experience in the topic. Their responses get marked "best answer" because they answer unequivocally, not because they're right.

Askers tagging these people as domain experts can help that become a self-reinforcing problem.
posted by ardgedee at 8:58 AM on October 6, 2009


Also with this pony you should be able to offer a reward for the right answer of your question, something like an HDMI cable to the winner.

And then as experts, we could totally get paid to IAADBIANYD (I am a doctor but I am not your doctor). Even if it was like 11 cents or a pair of Brandon Blatcher's dirty underwear.

Or no wait like if your answer was picked as best answer X times in questions with Y flag, automatically you'd be tagged "expert" in your profile for "Y". Same/same with favorites.

And then there could be a "suggest an expert" button too, where it would populate a dropdown list of everyone flagged as an expert in any of the tags on the post.

See, then you'd need good tags.

Also, this is 100% pure snark. Please disregard.
posted by TomMelee at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2009


Why not just have an opt-in invisible. This would alert folks(the experts). I have RSS feeds set up for a couple of tags in AskMe just like a lot of other people likely do. It's because I have an okay level of knowledge about the topics, but really because I like the topics and questions/discussions of them interest me.

I don't know exactly what the solution is, but there have been a few of you who I have mefimailed when I had major issues and I could recall you answering a previous question on the subject. Almost every time I've done this, people have replied with wonderful help and made me love this site so much more. So thank you for that, even if this pony gets mashed out.
posted by cashman at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2009


Leaving things as they are now lets experts (whatever that means) step in when they feel like it, i.e. have the time and energy and willingness to do so. In short they're in a giving mood and likely to give more because they can do so at their own choosing. Being seen as THE EXPERT and expected to answer could destroy that feeling, especially if they get "WTF" or why didn't you respond/see to my question" when don't respond.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am an anal fissure expert, but I am not your anal fissure expert.
posted by neroli at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


a pair of Brandon Blatcher's dirty underwear

Sorry, I'm exclusive to the Japanese markets until 2011.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:09 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're objecting to the term "expert", then substitute an appropriate, gentler phrase for it (ie, well-versed, knowledgeable, conversant). I'll continue to use it here as it is terse and economical.

How I would implement it:
When users view their own profile, they see a list of tags for threads weighted by frequency and acceptance. Each tag has a check box next to it for meaning "display to others" (and I'd put a "check all/none" control as well).

When other users look at a profile, they see only the opt-in tags.

When a user searches for an expertise they receive hits only on users that have opted in.

What I would use it for: deciding whether or not I would want to memail a user directly for more specific information/advice.

Why I would participate for certain tags: because on many subjects I'm well-versed, and on some subjects I'm certainly expert by any definition, and because I like to help and have gladly answered memail for more information.

Why I think it's a good thing: it helps foster community by providing an opportunity (rather than a mandate) to be helpful.

How I think it would be abused: it's easy to go back and add comments to all the open threads with particular tags just to boost weighting (but that's absurdly easy to filter out).

I would not use self-proclamation (ie, user-authored lists) as a measure of expertise because that is not practically verifiable and trivially abused.
posted by plinth at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2009


Merh. I agree about 90% with jessamyn on this. I value expert opinions, but there is this subtle shift wherein those opinions magically transmute into fact, and all others are neglected, even derided. I'm not into the death of the expert, either. This is a tightrope for me.

I like the expertise that bubbles up from knowing the community. If you have funereal discussions, ColdChef is your guy. Jessamyn (amongst many other librarians here, and there's a lot) are the people to ask about library-related items. We know this because we see them show up in those kinds of discussions; they give broad information which is balanced and takes into account multiple viewpoints, and then they dust it off with a sprinkling of fine detail and surprising facts. On the other hand, I don't know if I would necessarily want to lean on those individuals.

And then you have people who have expertise in things that aren't even remotely related to their dayjobs. And then there's the endless niche things: I guess I'm probably someone you'd want to talk to if you had questions about Kate Bush, but then there could well be someone lurking out there who runs GaffaWeb and makes me look like someone who has a single, ancient cassette of Hounds of Love and not much else.

People hit AskMe — a well-formed lead will attract the interest of people who know what they're talking about (as well as others) simply by virtue of looking in and seeing what the deal is.

And consider if this were implemented — can you imagine the endless debates about vetting whether or not someone had the expertise? Hit that Flash apps for the iPhone thread for a preview.
posted by adipocere at 9:24 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suppose a list of tags on posts this user comments on might be a more appropriate measure of their expertise though

I like this. I am not really an expert on weddings or Japan.
posted by desjardins at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2009


Can I be flagged as A User Who Really Likes To Be The First To Answer The Questions That Are A Bit Like "What's the name of this song I heard coming from a shop window I was cycling past in 1972" But Rarely Finds The Thread Before The Question Has Been Answered And Is Like Dang It, One Day, One Day Soon They Will Feel The Awesome Power Of My Encyclopedic Knowledge Of Half Remembered Tunes And Associated Miscellany.

Also I am quite good at simpler computer problems.
posted by Jofus at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why I think it's a good thing: it helps foster community by providing an opportunity (rather than a mandate) to be helpful.

But can't those "experts" be helpful by simply answering the questions in which they have expertise? i.e., the system we have now?

I mean, I have gotten random memails from people who have liked my comments on [topic] and have further questions about it, but I can see how it'd get annoying if I were a lawyer getting asked all the time for legal advice (which IIRC they mostly can't give). I prefer to just answer the questions I want to answer.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2009


Also, and not to at all discount what you've said plinth, I find that some MeFites end run the AskMe system entirely and directly MeMail/email me their library and/or Vermont questions. While this is flattering and fun in small doses, it sort of deprives the AskMe community of my "expert" answer and if it happens to often it's totally annoying. That all said, I think a way to ID users in some way based on what threads they've commented in might be neat. I like looking at people's tags on their profile pages already. And yeah a non "expert" word would probably be better.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:30 AM on October 6, 2009


My question tags are pretty much all stuff that I am NOT an expert on.

Besides, commenting a lot does not make someone an expert by any means. I think non-experts are actually more likely to comment a lot as they overestimate their knowledge.
posted by kathrineg at 9:32 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have been breeding UV-fluorescent prairie dogs for 15 years. AMA
posted by Plutor at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it is just a sight thing. I've seen questions go unanswered that I know somebody has the answer to, but you just wonder if they ever even saw it at all. I bet there is a legion of questions out there with one or two non-answers that nobody sees because while some people may go spelunking for unanswered queries to help out, once there are a couple of replies, it is likely assumed answered.

I think the system should be invisible to everyone else, and opt-in. Then mefimail can be discouraged for asking people questions (and I apologize to anyone I've mefimailed a question if it annoyed you). Because then you'll know that if the person wanted to help you, they'd have answered your AskMe, assuming they've chosen to opt-in to that subject matter. You'll know they saw it if they wanted to.
posted by cashman at 9:50 AM on October 6, 2009


If this gets implemented, I would appreciate a corresponding "dumbfuck" checkbox option.
posted by Skot at 9:51 AM on October 6, 2009


If this gets implemented, I would appreciate a corresponding, self-declared "dumbfuck" checkbox option
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:05 AM on October 6, 2009


My question tags are pretty much all stuff that I am NOT an expert on.

Same here. Which is why I asked questions on those topics.
posted by zarq at 10:06 AM on October 6, 2009


I imagine that a lot professionals in the areas of, for example, law and medicine, will not opt in, for numerous reasons (reduced anonymity, perceived liability, dislike of "working for free").

I also imagine that their not opting in will be seen wrongly by some as a sign that they are not in fact experts.

I further imagine that this will discourage contributions from such experts, so that contributions become even more dominated by armchair practicioners.

But maybe this is all my imagination.

There is also the whole problem of categorizing and subcategorizing areas of expertise. Perhaps someone wants to try and predefine them for checkboxes?
posted by exogenous at 10:10 AM on October 6, 2009


When users view their own profile, they see a list of tags for threads weighted by frequency and acceptance.

What does this mean? Would a user see a list of tags for threads they've replied in? Would they be seeing the tags that thread has attached to it or would they be able to add their own tags, even if they aren't contacts? and what do you mean by "acceptance"

Finally, what problem is the site currently having that this would solve? If there isn't a problem, then what sort of positive enhancement would it bring that would be greater than potential negative aspects?

To me it sounds like going a bit too far on the tech end of "using technology to solve social problems" spectrum.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on October 6, 2009


Oh jesus no.

I answer a lot of questions about plants and horticulture, but that doesn't mean that someone who doesn't even have a passing interest but has some aunt who propagates jade plants can't give a better answer to a jade plant question than I can. That's access to specialized knowledge, and it shouldn't pale in usefulness next to someone who has a lot of generalized knowledge. Besides, how many people are going to weigh in if they are just waiting for the "expert" to show up? How often will answers be evaluated based on the label of "expert" instead of the actual goodness of the answer? AskMe is pretty successful because it is democratic. Everyone is much better off evaluating answers for content, rather than the status of the user.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am an expert in everything. Here's my verification:
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2009


The problem, to me, is visibility. I believe there are a substantial amount of folks with expertise in a subject that are not going to set up rss feeds or don't know how, to look for questions their expertise would be valuable on.

Look at it this way - in so many library or NH/VT questions, Jessamyn typically has a fantastic answer, and it is often delivered quite quickly. That isn't chance. Whatever system exists to facilitate that, make that available in some form or other so that other folks here can enhance the answers in their areas the way Jessamyn does in hers. It's all fun and serendipitous when someone just happens along a question they have unique insight into, but my feeling is that this is the exception, or at least a clear minority of the time.
posted by cashman at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2009


(I suppose a list of tags on posts this user comments on might be a more appropriate measure of their expertise though)

Yes, please!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:29 AM on October 6, 2009


I believe there are a substantial amount of folks with expertise in a subject that are not going to set up rss feeds or don't know how, to look for questions their expertise would be valuable on.

MyAsk is pretty straightforward as far as setup goes.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2009


Tagging could lead to some interesting side effects as well; I could well be tagged as an expert in Bourbon, Firearms, and Disorderly Conduct. If someone saw that, they might assume that I'm the kind of person who gets drunk and wanders around shooting at stuff.

And this couldn't be further from the truth, as doing so would be an incredibly irresponsible act;

I wander around shooting stuff while I'm getting drunk. It's far more time efficient, and provides a useful bell-curve of accuracy vs. consumption for later research and study.
posted by quin at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2009


How often will answers be evaluated based on the label of "expert" instead of the actual goodness of the answer?

This is why I think it would work being invisible. Unless the person replying tries to boast about how they saw this question after noticing it on their, let's call it "knowledge page", then nobody would know if they saw it by happenstance, got linked there by a friend, or however else they'd come across it. But once they're there, the interaction would essentially be the same as it is now. And it wouldn't hold any more weight to say that they'd set up their system to be notified when Hyena Cleaning askmes came up.

MyAsk is pretty straightforward as far as setup goes.

That's a general system though, and seems to serve more to show you lots of different questions based on your interests. People have lots of interests, say Movies, that they would like to see questions on. But that doesn't mean they would profess to have valuable insight or insider knowledge on that topic. I think it would be useful to be able to separate that out. But maybe its too much to ask with too little to gain. Or maybe I set up my personal myask to be too broad.
posted by cashman at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2009


I am an expert on tacos in the Mira Mesa section of San Diego between the 15 and Black Mountain road. Please feel free to flag me as such an expert. I await your taco queries about this 4 block area. (I don't know much about burritos though, so please don't ask about those)
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2009


How often will answers be evaluated based on the label of "expert" instead of the actual goodness of the answer?

This is why I think it would work being invisible.


That's different than what plinth was originally requesting though, isn't it? Plinth wanted a list of "experts" generated so that they could be MeMailed or whatever.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:43 AM on October 6, 2009


I think the pony is changing, mutating in some strange way ... is that a baby camel?
posted by adipocere at 10:58 AM on October 6, 2009


I am an expert on matters gasological, octogenetical, myorefractal, and optoroboticalical, and wish this all to be noted in my profile.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on October 6, 2009


That's different than what plinth was originally requesting though, isn't it? Plinth wanted a list of "experts" generated so that they could be MeMailed or whatever.

Oh, my bad. I guess I'm an expert at turning ponies into mush. Sorry Plinth.
posted by cashman at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2009


I don't answer questions on the stuff I am an expert on. Deal with that, world!
posted by smackfu at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2009


My question tags are pretty much all stuff that I am NOT an expert on.

Same here. Which is why I asked questions on those topics.


Yes, definitely. I have yet to ask a question on the things that I'm expert on, but I have answered plenty of them. There was some kind of list a while back that correlated tags with usernames and I don't remember the context, but it was some kind of "most answered" kinda thing, and I only remember this because I was the #2 "expert" on epilepsy, right behind ikkyu2. Since he's gone, I guess I win!

Also: this seems to then get into the "Best Answer" competition wherein two experts enter, and only one leaves.

For the record: I'm an expert in childcare, collage, and sandwiches.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:06 PM on October 6, 2009


Does anybody want to volunteer for an analysis of their commenting history via the Infodump? Something along the lines of top 20 tags of posts you commented on, or top 20 tags of posts you "best answered" on. Just to see what this might look like if implemented.
posted by FishBike at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2009


Does anybody want to volunteer for an analysis of their commenting history via the Infodump? Something along the lines of top 20 tags of posts you commented on, or top 20 tags of posts you "best answered" on. Just to see what this might look like if implemented.

I know someone did something like this once, assembling the top three answerers by tag, or something similar.

Anyway, regarding experts: it's a solution in search of a problem.
posted by grouse at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2009


Instead of "expert" how about "know-it-all" tag?
posted by Cranberry at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2009


The trick, as Comrade Deng Xiaoping tells us, is to be both red and expert.
posted by Abiezer at 12:24 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


mathowie writes "We didn't do it explicitly for reasons jessamyn states, but we did do it indirectly, by listing a user's most often used tags on their page, so you can see what they are interested in most (I suppose a list of tags on posts this user comments on might be a more appropriate measure of their expertise though)."

To be useful it would have to be weighted by the ratio of tags to comments/posts otherwise recurring topics like US politics, piracy, flash games and SLYT are going to be the most common tags for many users.

jessamyn writes "Also, and not to at all discount what you've said plinth, I find that some MeFites end run the AskMe system entirely and directly MeMail/email me their library and/or Vermont questions. While this is flattering and fun in small doses, it sort of deprives the AskMe community of my 'expert' answer and if it happens to often it's totally annoying. "

This has happened to me a few times too. I don't mind, though I imagine the frequency is a lot less than for jessamyn, but I always feel a bit guilty if I don't have time (or inclination for whatever reason) to reply.

cashman writes "I think it is just a sight thing. I've seen questions go unanswered that I know somebody has the answer to, but you just wonder if they ever even saw it at all."

Sometimes you just don't have time to respond. Or there is something messy about the question that means significant effort will be needed to answer. The need to go on for a couple thousands words can put a crimp in my ability to answer.

blue_beetle writes "I am an expert on matters gasological, octogenetical, myorefractal, and optoroboticalical, and wish this all to be noted in my profile."

Only if you can fill it out to a full pater song.
posted by Mitheral at 12:44 PM on October 6, 2009


Other helpful user tags: "self-important blowhard", "douchebag", "thread shitter", and "hipster".
posted by JeffK at 1:42 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


octogenetical

I was about to memail you until I realized that I read that wrong.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:02 PM on October 6, 2009


Does anybody want to volunteer for an analysis of their commenting history via the Infodump? Something along the lines of top 20 tags of posts you commented on, or top 20 tags of posts you "best answered" on. Just to see what this might look like if implemented.

Sure, but could you use my superhero name so I remain pseudonymous? My superhero name is kathrinez. Thanks!
posted by kathrineg at 2:11 PM on October 6, 2009


I have an idea for a post that I don't want deleted. Somehow, I think that the "deleted post expert" is the wrong guy to ask.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:48 PM on October 6, 2009


Does anybody want to volunteer for an analysis of their commenting history via the Infodump?

Sure I'm game, whatcha got?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on October 6, 2009


Jessamyn misses one important negative aspect to this idea. If your expert credentials are presented up front, it is more likely that your advice will be taken with that weight, opening the door to professional obligations and professional ethics.

I like mathowie's idea of presenting the tags of threads people have posted to. This could integrate all of MeFi, not just AskMe. It works much better than anointing experts because it doesn't introduce the question of professional qualification or credentials at all. It simply shows interest.

Finally, it would be a really terrible idea to integrate best answers into such a system. Best answers are frequently given to the answers askers are looking for, or denied completely because the asker doesn't like any of the answers.
posted by Chuckles at 3:22 PM on October 6, 2009


If labeling expertise within the community was something we wanted to do, the best way would be to create a directed graph, recursively weighted by the number of inbound links each node has. Nobody could vote for themselves, only others. Think of it as PageRank for People (TM).
posted by scalefree at 3:25 PM on October 6, 2009


Anything that encourages people to memail questions directly to people that have been identified as experts needs to be quashed. The whole point of the site is that it's all in the public record, and others besides just the asker can benefit. Going around that and requesting personal snowflake attention robs the community.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:37 PM on October 6, 2009


mathowieAdmin: "We didn't do it explicitly for reasons jessamyn states, but we did do it indirectly, by listing a user's most often used tags on their page, so you can see what they are interested in most (I suppose a list of tags on posts this user comments on might be a more appropriate measure of their expertise though)."

This doesn't really work for me, for the simple reason that this is limited to posts (questions). If I'm an expert on anal fissures, why would I be asking questions about them? Wouldn't I most likely be answering them instead?

A more meaningful way to do this could be "tags occurring on the greatest number of question threads this user has had a best answer in". Or, in parseable English:

-Collect threads containing at least one answer by user N marked as best
-Get the tags on these threads
-Count, sort
-List most frequently occurring ones

I doubt you'd want to go that far, but here's just a thought.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:45 PM on October 6, 2009


"self-important blowhard", "douchebag", "thread shitter", and "hipster"

Guilty on all counts! What do I win?
posted by dersins at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2009


Brandon Blatcher: Sure I'm game, whatcha got?

Here are the 10 AskMeFi tags that you've commented in the most:
relationships: 206 answers
sex: 149 answers
relationship: 128 answers
dating: 120 answers
love: 107 answers
marriage: 77 answers
family: 62 answers
design: 47 answers
work: 43 answers
mac: 42 answers
And here are the 10 AskMeFi tags in which you have the most "best answers":
dating: 5 best answers
GraphicDesign: 5 best answers
illustrator: 5 best answers
Naming: 5 best answers
relationship: 5 best answers
relationships: 5 best answers
advice: 4 best answers
adobe: 4 best answers
black: 4 best answers
children: 4 best answers
I think the latter is kind of what this pony request was about, in which case hopefully an example or two of what it looks like might be useful in this discussion. This is based on the August Infodump's data and considers only Ask MetaFilter stuff.

There are other possible ways to look at this, of course. Highest percentage of answers that were flagged "best answer" might be a better indicator. I just don't know of what, given the debate about what the best answer flag even signifies.
posted by FishBike at 3:55 PM on October 6, 2009


the relationship/relationships thing is giving me the fidgets just looking at it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:57 PM on October 6, 2009


Here are the 10 AskMeFi tags that you've commented in the most

And here are the 10 AskMeFi tags in which you have the most "best answers":


That's pretty fascinating, actually. I'm damn curious what my own stats would look like. FishBike, would you mind terribly? (I'll happily take my answer in MefiMail rather than cluttering up theis thread...)
posted by dersins at 4:14 PM on October 6, 2009


jessamyn: the relationship/relationships thing is giving me the fidgets just looking at it.

Yeah, almost any kind of analysis with the tag data turns up a bunch of funky things like that. It's not perfect, but it's much better than anything else available for determining what a post is about.

dersins: That's pretty fascinating, actually. I'm damn curious what my own stats would look like. FishBike, would you mind terribly? (I'll happily take my answer in MefiMail rather than cluttering up theis thread...)

Heh, if you followed the Infodump threads at all, you'd know I don't mind. Sent. Anyone else who wants to see this, MeFiMail me. Since this is not an Infodump thread, I agree with not cluttering it up with a bunch of reports.

I'd already been thinking of adding something based on tags to the user matching reports next time we do one of those Infodump threads. If this is interesting for individual users, it seems like it might be a good way to find other users with similar interests.
posted by FishBike at 4:39 PM on October 6, 2009


I'm game - infodump me!

And to be crystal clear - the last thing I would advocate is self-avowed conversancy. I would expect it to go even further afield than the profile's gender tag which is notoriously freeform. I expect the results might be interesting or entertaining, but ultimately as useful as a nun's nipple.
posted by plinth at 4:49 PM on October 6, 2009


As for relationship/relationships, with a large enough dataset one could perhaps cluster tags that occur in threads together often?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:58 PM on October 6, 2009


Interesting turn of phrase, btw.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:00 PM on October 6, 2009


So basically I talk about sex and love a lot, but don't know shit and should probably just stick to giving advice about adobe's creative suite, dating and relationships, hee hee.

Considering the high number of answers compared to the low number of Best Answers, that doesn't say much and just looking at the numbers, not the actual advice given, marks me as someone who you probably shouldn't listen about anything involving relationships or love.

How does my number of answers to Best Answers ratio compare to others Mefites, is it high or low? If it's low and in a given thread some who's ratio is higher answers and I answers, does that automatically mean one is better than the other?

And here are the 10 AskMeFi tags in which you have the most "best answers":

But there's an ongoing debate about properly tagging posts, so I'm sure going this is really a definitive answer, more like a helpful guide and there's an implicit assumption and weight given to answers marked best, yet we've all seen Best Answers were the poster was clearly just looking for someone to confirm their vision of the world.

Finally, Best Answers aren't universal. What works for one person may not work another, especially in questions with gray areas.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:21 PM on October 6, 2009


THERE ARE NO GRAY AREAS IN MATTERS OF LOVE, SEX, DATING AND RELATIONSHIPS.

Relationship, on the other hand, is chock full of 'em.
posted by dersins at 5:30 PM on October 6, 2009


On further thought, this feature seems like it would run counter to how Metafilter behaves, i.e. forcing you to read the site and come up with your own opinions about users based on what they've written, not the number of best answers with X tag they've had. It would allow snap judgments to be made based purely on numbers instead of social interaction or least reading.

We should escort this feature request back to its cell, arrange a detail of six men people and take it out behind the chemical shed and delete it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 PM on October 6, 2009


I already hate the "let's wait for known expert X to come along and please answer" thing.
posted by desuetude at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Getting back to the first half of the pony request:

Using tags and accepted answers, it should be easy to get a list of mefi users who are "expert" in a particular subject.

It's pretty easy using the Infodump, yeah. I just finished writing some queries that'll produce a list of users with 1) the highest number of best answers associated with a specific tag, and 2) same but by percentage of answers marked as best answers. The former actually seems to produce the most intuitively correct lists.

If anybody would like to see these lists for a specific tag... well, I'll pick this up again tomorrow and see if anybody nominates a tag... and also see how many people have said they totally hate the idea of seeing an example posted here in the thread, since the comments are kind of leading in that direction right now.
posted by FishBike at 6:23 PM on October 6, 2009


1) the highest number of best answers associated with a specific tag

That would interesting information to see, but it also sounds like a step down the "I have more Best Answers than you" road.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 PM on October 6, 2009


I think it must also be taken into consideration that sex/relationship(s)/dating/love questions are often anonymous and so will not get a best answer.
posted by tellurian at 7:22 PM on October 6, 2009


Brandon Blatcher writes "'I have more Best Answers than you'"

Ya I'd really like this feature to not come into existence. Favourite whoring is bad enough.
posted by Mitheral at 8:55 PM on October 6, 2009


and also see how many people have said they totally hate the idea of seeing an example posted here in the thread

FishBike, I love what you have been able to wring out of the infodump data, but this just seems like industrial grade slippery slope. Please don't. AskMe is not a contest or a sporting event-- we don't need to see a scorecard.
posted by dersins at 10:24 PM on October 6, 2009


Opinion seems pretty clear on this, and I think you guys are right about this being a bad idea.

(click click. BLAM!)

I ain't never killed a query that didn't need killin'.
posted by FishBike at 5:33 AM on October 7, 2009


> I already hate the "let's wait for known expert X to come along and please answer" thing

Me too. Bad idea. Let democracy do its thing.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a pharmacist but I don't even read health questions because they are usually booooring and I'd much rather read about your screwy relationships (not an area in which I have any useful information). So if you do not recieve a satisfactory answer send mefi mail, we can talk!

Be warned that if it does happen to be a topic I find interesting, you may end up with far more information than you wanted. Also, I will not identify the pill you found in the used trailer/car you just bought, even if you think your baby/dog may have eaten one. Though I suspect y'all are bright enough to just fucking google the imprint instead of calling my pharmacy every damn Saturday night with goofyass stories. It's like ShouldIEatThisFilter except with drugs instead of food. Does every purchase of a used car or trailer in Kentucky come with a free unmarked bottle of pills hidden inside? Apparently so.
posted by little e at 9:43 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I will not identify the pill you found in the used trailer/car you just bought, even if you think your baby/dog may have eaten one. Though I suspect y'all are bright enough to just fucking google the imprint instead of calling my pharmacy every damn Saturday night with goofyass stories. It's like ShouldIEatThisFilter except with drugs instead of food. Does every purchase of a used car or trailer in Kentucky come with a free unmarked bottle of pills hidden inside? Apparently so.

It's not just Kentucky. I dated a pharmacist here in NY for a number of years who used to field similar calls -- mostly from people whose family members had transferred pills into unmarked containers.
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on October 7, 2009


Yeah, these are...not that innocently obtained, it is safe to assume.
posted by little e at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2009


But little e, what if I need to know if I can absorb it effectively through my mucous membranes??? WHAT THEN?!!?!?
posted by kathrineg at 11:01 AM on October 7, 2009


Yeah, these are...not that innocently obtained, it is safe to assume.

Either that or the excuses being given just seemed more realistic. ;)

In your place, I'd be likely to try and have some fun with the situation: "Those? Oh, they're toxic radioactive isotopes. Very dangerous. Yes, yes. Even handling them will probably make you permanently sterile. You're wearing lead, right?"
posted by zarq at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2009


Heh, our policy was to give them the phone number for poison control center, but Erowid probably would have been more helpful. I kept offering to write an article for the newsletter on "ways to get high that do not involve your friendly local pharmacy staff", but for some reason my boss didn't like that idea. *grumble grumble* kids get off my lawn and go smoke weed or something
posted by little e at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2009


...but for some reason my boss didn't like that idea.

Killjoy. :)
posted by zarq at 11:36 AM on October 7, 2009


We just added an Interest Areas list to profiles for folks who have ten or more answers. We thought it would be a good way to show what types of questions people are answering. They're based solely on tag frequency, with the most popular tags removed. We played around with different levels of filtering and found that the list was much more interesting once you get past tags such as "relationship", "mac", and "internet". It's not ideal for people with less than 100 answers or so, but it should give some summary of the questions they've recently answered.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:29 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interest areas: portland, fashion, recipe, party, recipes, name, oregon, shoes, sports, newyorkcity

OMG I am such a girlie-man!
posted by dersins at 2:01 PM on October 9, 2009


anxiety, friends, psychology, parenting, NYC, gradschool, toddler, fashion, breakup, surgery

It's like you can see into my fashion surgery breakup soul
posted by kathrineg at 2:18 PM on October 9, 2009


We just added an Interest Areas list to profiles...

Neat!

Though now that I see the list for my own profile, it's apparent that it's more along the lines of what I'm interested in that people also ask about a lot. Kind of the intersection of my interests with mefites in general.

At some point, would it be possible to find out which tags were dropped for being too popular? Because for the user matching stuff that sometimes happens, it might be cool to try matching users by their overlapping Interest Areas.
posted by FishBike at 2:35 PM on October 9, 2009


At some point, would it be possible to find out which tags were dropped for being too popular?

We might be able to add that to the infodump. A while back cortex ranked all Ask MeFi tags by frequency on a scale of 0 to 10 and we used those "rarity scores" at My Ask for recommendations. For Interest Areas we're using all tags that have a score of 3 or higher. It might be possible to reproduce those scores.

And the data is a little messy with upper/lower case issues so we probably need to make some decisions about whether we clean that up for public use, or leave the mess, or include the rarity scores with the current tag data at the infodump. So I'm not sure offhand, but we can probably include them at some point.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:14 PM on October 9, 2009


Man, my list is just junk. All the topics I really post in are getting thrown out by the popular tag filter.
posted by smackfu at 5:52 PM on October 9, 2009


My interest areas:

Interest areas: reading, friends, breakup, death, baby, boyfriend, etiquette, boston, christmas, pregnancy

Amazingly insightful. Except for Boston. I'm not really "interested" in it, I just used to live in it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:57 PM on October 9, 2009


Here's my crummy perl script to get your full list: interests.pl. Needs commentdata_askme.txt and tagdata_askme.txt from the Infodump.

(Probably has a bug or three in it.)
posted by smackfu at 5:58 PM on October 9, 2009


Mine are: China, china, Chinese, chinese and 'the most populous country in the world' or something like that. But I'm such a renaissance man in real life, honest!
posted by Abiezer at 6:00 PM on October 9, 2009


I'm not really "interested" in it, I just used to live in it.

We had some back and forth on this because we didn't want to call it "expertise" and weren't sure what else fit. I like interests because it's more or less accurate and doesn't imply a bunch of stuff that is not accurate the way "expert" would.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:01 PM on October 9, 2009


Why not make it a profile field, and allow people to override the computer generated interests by specifying a non-blank value?
posted by smackfu at 6:06 PM on October 9, 2009


We just added an Interest Areas list to profiles...

Thanks, pb! Very cool.

My list reads: portland, accounting, dance, fashion, taxes, sports, fun, divorce, allergies, party

Quite accurate, with the exception of "sports." I know how that keyword got included in the list, though: I answered a few AskMe questions on selecting a good sports bra. If anyone searches on "sports" and happens to stumble across my profile, I'm sure they'll move along quickly after discovering that there's nothing to see there.

I do have to wonder about "fun," though - is that even a useful keyword? It would never occur to me to include such a common word in a search.
posted by velvet winter at 6:18 PM on October 9, 2009


smackfu, that far right column is filled with things that are computer-generated and the far left column is mostly free-form text fields. You could add your free form list of interests to your "blurb about you" right now. If the auto-extracted list is troubling we could add a profile preference to remove it, but we haven't had that request for the other Top 10 lists before and this is very similar to those.
posted by pb (staff) at 6:22 PM on October 9, 2009


Heh. "Troubling"? I just don't think it's very accurate, for me at least. By excluding the popular tags, you're excluding my real interests. I guess the algorithm works for most people.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 PM on October 9, 2009


Are the interests tags listed in any particular order?

Also, is there a cure for the sudden onset of depression from realizing that my mefi-generated list of interests makes me sound like a complete and total nerd? server, webdesign, Windows, javascript, electricity, spam, electronics, search, css, hosting Really?!? 1813 answers and that's what it comes down to?
posted by Rhomboid at 8:18 PM on October 9, 2009


Are the interests tags listed in any particular order?

Yes, they're in order of frequency. So "server" is the most frequently used tag on questions you answer.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:24 PM on October 9, 2009


Oh, also: from the FAQ entry it sounds like the interest areas are calculated from all questions in which we have commented, not just those where our comments were marked as best answer. Is that the case? So it really is a lot more 'interest' than 'expertise' then.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:26 PM on October 9, 2009


Yes, it's all questions. Best answers don't figure into interest areas at all.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:31 PM on October 9, 2009


It's cool but I really wish we could disable it. It sort of looks like we want it to be there or have picked those but I'm a little depressed that toddler and parenting are listed as interests of mine. I guess they are, that's what I do for my job, but it's just not how I would choose to portray myself on this site.
posted by kathrineg at 9:53 PM on October 9, 2009


It's cool but I really wish we could disable it. It sort of looks like we want it to be there or have picked those but I'm a little depressed that toddler and parenting are listed as interests of mine.

If people really hate it we might work on a way to turn it off, but since it's clearly under a list of computer-generated other lists, I don't think it will seem too much like something that you've created. Taht said, a lot of other sites do have these sorts of lists where you type a bunch of words and they're made into hyperlinked tags, so maybe our perception of how people see these is wrong.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:05 PM on October 9, 2009


Well, to me it wouldn't be an issue if it were more clear that it were computer generated, I know you think it looks clear and others might as well, but I'm hinky about it. Great thought and great intentions, though, and thanks to the creators. I admit I was horribly curious to see what came up when all those words got crunched.
posted by kathrineg at 10:20 PM on October 9, 2009


NYC, party, theater, teaching, newyorkcity, english, publishing, etiquette, death, boston

Well, that is me, isn't it? New York City, parties, theater, publishing, etiquette, death.

...

Wait—death?
posted by ocherdraco at 8:38 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the title of the list might be "Ask MeFi Interest Areas"? That would make it more clear that it isn't sitewide (one might expect a general "interest areas" list to include tags from our posts on the blue).
posted by ocherdraco at 8:40 PM on October 10, 2009


Except, of course, that our tags from MeFi are already there, so it would be weird to assume that. Never mind.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:08 PM on October 10, 2009


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