This is not my beautiful country October 12, 2009 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Location-specific questions in AskMe: could we please talk about options for this again?

I know from posting and reading questions that even when the poster very specifically states that their situation has special conditions because of their location, responders will often carry on with advice that is completely unhelpful (or worse) because they assume that the poster has all the same options and resources that is typically available for them. The one that made me grit my teeth and get all stomach-clenchy most recently has been cleaned up, but the deleted answers were insulting and just horrible. Did the people who provided completely ignorant and judgmental responses (along the lines of "if you can't care for your animals properly you need to not have animals") just not read the question? A quick hook up with a search engine will provide clues about how many SPCA-type organizations/facilities/services are available in most of Africa, or even just small-animal veterinarians at all (hint: not a lot), as well as a lot more information on the conditions for dogs and other animals in many African countries (hint: pretty fucking desperate).

So, it would be nice if we could actually help the person who is trying save the lives of these particular dogs instead of insulting them from a position of superiority (ie: living in a country that provides obvious, easily accessible, low-cost options).

My thought is that perhaps a check mark box that askers can click for questions that are location-specific (Is this question location-specific? What does this mean?), with a notation along with the more inside ([Location-specific; more inside]) on the front page, and perhaps a reminder above the comment field (This question is location-specific, so please keep this in mind when answering.).

Or maybe there are other, better solutions? I know that an obvious observation is that many people will still not pay attention, but I'm asking if there a way to increase the number who will.
posted by taz to Feature Requests at 1:56 AM (70 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Do we think the people that ignore "I live in Africa" as the first four words of the post change their mind if there was a little location-specific reminder?

But maybe that's a bad example. A better example would be the numerous questions asked by people that live in "other" countries who don't bother to mention they live in England when asking questions that will have different answers depending upon locale. I think I'd prefer that all ask-mes are marked up with the country of the asking person, if they provide it in their profile. It would make it a lot easier to leave good answers without having to check people profiles, and would probably also encourage people to actually put a location in their profiles to boot.
posted by floam at 2:32 AM on October 12, 2009


If someone's going for the soapbox instead of answering the question, that's flaggable.

And if someone's response indicates that they haven't fully read the question, you can flag it for removal.

By analogy: If the post mentions "I've already tried x," & a response is just "you should try x," then they clearly haven't fully read the question & you can flag them & the mods will remove it. (Some searching doesn't turn up a cite, unfortunately.)
posted by Pronoiac at 2:40 AM on October 12, 2009


Also, along the lines of marking up questions with the asker's location, wouldn't it be cool to be able to tell My Ask you want to see questions from anybody asking within 50 miles of you? I bet we'd get more answers (just because I doubt most people bother to read every single post there is, but now we'd have some more questions hitting the radar of people that turn this on), and I think answers from somebody that lives in the same city as you would have a better top-notch:noise ratio than the average answer.
posted by floam at 2:47 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


As you already stated, the bad answers were flagged and deleted. The existing system works. What improvement could any new system offer? Are those several hours during which a vituperative comment from Judgy McJudgerson manages to survive before deletion really that unbearable?
posted by Rhomboid at 3:11 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The asker in that question is nothing like explicit enough about what access to vets and other animal services they might have, and "I live in Africa" is pretty vague. Better posting guidelines could solve this problem.

On that note, there's far too much junk on the Ask page and the Guidelines page is almost all about questions that might be deleted. Both could do with a serious rationalisation.
posted by cillit bang at 3:40 AM on October 12, 2009


taz to feature requests: Or maybe there are other, better solutions? I know that an obvious observation is that many people will still not pay attention, but I'm asking if there a way to increase the number who will.

No. There might be a way to increase the number of people who will pay attention, but this isn't it.

You're talking about a specific problem: lots of people aren't reading the questions. What you want is to force them to read the questions. Putting something else on the page for them to read isn't the way to force them to read the questions; in fact, I think it'd have the opposite effect, unfortunately. Because, of course, 'location' isn't the only specific and necessary bit of information people consistently miss; they often ignore sex of the poster, age, race, the fact that the dog's already been circumcised, the fact that the wife is okay with the gay threesome, whatever. So if you wanted to inform the people reading the questions of all the salient facts they might miss, you'd have to break the entire question down into bullet form and then feed it to them before and after the question. And of course inevitably you'd be missing some tiny bit that's in the question.

I think a better solution would be to go in the opposite way, frankly. People seem to skip over stuff, I think, because of the overload of facts delivered to them. Metafilter is pretty fantastic about adhering to a simple, careful, thoughtful design motif that's unobtrusive, but maybe AskMe needs something more stark even: less 'more inside,' less favoriting buttons and times and dates and links on top. I guess I don't think there's any way to do that practically, but it would be a better direction to move in than drawing peoples' eyes away from the question – which is all a location note, or any more clutter around the question pages, would do.
posted by koeselitz at 3:48 AM on October 12, 2009


People are talking about stuff like they're on 56k dialup. Even if it might superficially be noise, it can contain useful advice. It seems that a lot of us are treating Metafilter like it's a 1995 BBS. Why are we always asking to get rid of this, or regulate that? It's a text-based website. Most - if not all - of us have a scroll wheel on our mouses. Our browsers have search functions. Unless you're a mod, there's honestly no real reason to want to regulate content or the display or classification of content. I jump into AskMe to see if there's anything I can help with, I scroll down maybe twenty posts, nothing, I go back to what I was doing. But a relationship question in South Africa is as valid as a relationship question in the Ukraine, and a "should I eat this?" is pretty much universal. I just...people just need to relax!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:45 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I lost my scroll wheel to the Treaty of Westphalia you insensitive clod!
posted by Rhomboid at 5:30 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I too am (usually) scroll wheel-less. Track pads just ain't the same, somehow.

What about if you just pull the location info into the bottom of the post? That way, those who will read it will read it and pay attention to what it means in the context of the question, those who won't (or don't care) won't and nobody has to re-invent the wheel.
posted by dg at 5:46 AM on October 12, 2009


A good way to make sure people pay attention to the important parts of your question is keeping it above the fold, not burying it in the [more inside] part. People see something they think they can help with on the front page, and click on the more inside to comment: at this point, their brain is already engaged in composing the comment, crucial information is very likely to be lost if not clearly presented.

There's two threads on the green right now where the asker has composed the question in such sub-optimal manner. In one, the asker essentialy wants to set up a filtering proxy and a request-processing system for their employer's network. The catch is that they can't set up any server, mentioned as an aside in one of the sub-questions. In the other one, the asker wants to type Turkish accented characters: the last line on the more inside mentions that installing the Turkish keyboard layout is out of the question. I actually fell for it in the first one, and I'm guessing people will soon come up with step-by-step instructions for installing a Turkish keyboard in the second one, particularly if the thread gets long enough for people to comment without reading all the answers.


In this sense, I would suggest pointing this problem out in the New Question page, and moving the More Inside box away from the main question one, perhaps to the bottom of the page, to reinforce the fact that this is not one continuous piece of text: The front page content needs to be specific enough to allow people to filter through questions and find the ones they think they can answer.

As an added thought, I found out today I have been living in an "other" country all these years, and it's not even England! I don't know if having a little flag next to my posts to help people from "normal" countries ignore me would be a good idea.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:49 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some of it is people not taking the time to actually read all the words in the question, and I'm not sure if there is an actual fix for this (other than encouraging people to write better questions).

But a lot of it comes from people who are well-meaning, but honestly haven't traveled or experienced enough to understand how things are different in one place versus another. You see this a lot in DIY-type questions, where people will give answers that are meant helpfully, but are embedded so fully in their own context that the answer isn't actually relevant to the questioner's situation.

This is what happened (well, plus a lot of nasty judgmentalism) in the doggy thread linked above -- a lot of the people answering simply didn't have the ability to provide an answer relevant to a situation unlike their own.

By this point, this is a pretty firmly entrenched aspect of the site, and isn't going to change unless you can wave your magic wand and change the user demographics. It doesn't reflect malevolence or even small-mindedness -- it simply reflects that most people (and most users here) have a very limited ability to comprehend the realities, opportunities, and limitations of being in a place they have never lived. You see this geographically (eg the doggy Africa question) and socially (eg anything involving class or especially race).

Add in the tendencies towards "smart but socially awkward" of so many of us here, and you don't exactly have a perfect recipe for empathy, understanding, and cross-cultural awareness. Call it a feature rather than a bug, I guess, because I can't imagine it changing.
posted by Forktine at 6:18 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure this is really a location specific problem so much as a no one ever reads the question or the articles before posting problem, and in your example thread I know it's just a this is a question about animals problem.

Most pet related question I've seen here have turned into an omg you're a terrible person who doesn't deserve to own pets screamfest.

Lots of flagging, lots of moving on, and lots of muttering to myself about people never reading questions.
posted by Arbac at 6:24 AM on October 12, 2009


Do we think the people that ignore "I live in Africa" as the first four words of the post change their mind if there was a little location-specific reminder?

They are actually the first four words of the "more inside". The full question outside is "How can I stop my dog from getting pregnant?" which is really too short. That's more like the title. Like Dr Dracator says, people really underestimate how important the outside vs the inside is.

It's especially a problem when the "more inside" is limiting conditions on the outside question, so that you can't answer the question properly without the more inside. My suggestion for question askers is that all your important conditions should really be on the outside, with explanations inside.
posted by smackfu at 6:29 AM on October 12, 2009


How do you actually enter a response to a question without seeing the "more inside" first? Am I missing something really obvious (not a snark)?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:44 AM on October 12, 2009


le morte, if a comment has already been made on the question, folks will often click on the "# answers" link, which takes you to an anchor that bypasses the "more inside," particularly if the "more inside" is long and there's a long thread of comments after it. That's how many people miss the "more inside" and limiting text included therein.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:48 AM on October 12, 2009


it doesn’t seem like a huge problem to me. Whenever I have needed a location from the asker, I just ask them and they respond. If the answers they are getting are not location-specific, other responders will call them out on it. If the answers are judgmental (or talk too much about dog periods) then we can flag them.

THE SYSTEM IS FLAWLESS
posted by Think_Long at 7:03 AM on October 12, 2009


I would have thought that if people are going to bypass all the other answers and just start typing, there's really no hope for them other than slapping on a dunce cap and making them sit in the corner.

There may nevertheless be a case for adding features that will help prevent mistakes, though, even if we can't prevent every instance of gross stupidity.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:10 AM on October 12, 2009


but the deleted answers were insulting and just horrible.

Frankly, I think this is a large part of the problem. Not only are people disregarding relevant information that needs to be taken under consideration when answering, they are also feeling the need/right to be nasty, overbearing, and self-righteous toward the OP.

In this question, those types of answers got deleted and the thread cleaned up. But that's not always the case.

I'm wondering if dealing with the nastiness better (by more flagging and/or moderation) could help with this problem.
posted by Ouisch at 7:15 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure there's an easy solution to this problem. But I do agree that location, in particular, is an issue ignored by many answerers who think their experience is universal, when it sometimes isn't even applicable to every state, let alone other countries. It's more than just not reading the question, in my opinion.

I'm glad that no one has responded to this MeTa in a "this callout is stupid and you're stupid for making it" sort of way yet. I wonder if this is due in part to jessamyn's recent exhortations to stop doing that, or if it has mainly to do with taz's careful framing (including the fact that this is a feature request, not a callout).
posted by grouse at 7:19 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that no one has responded to this MeTa in a "this callout is stupid and you're stupid for making it" sort of way yet.

Yes, this is another endemic problem of the site.
posted by Ouisch at 7:24 AM on October 12, 2009


On that note, there's far too much junk on the Ask page and the Guidelines page is almost all about questions that might be deleted. Both could do with a serious rationalisation.

It's on the to do list for this month now that cortex is back on the desk.

And yeah the real problem is judgey answers, not so much the location stuff. I mean in this case the location stuff was the jumping off point but even if you lived in Boston, people should not be starting off with that "you're a bad person for even asking this question" stuff.

Put another way, the irritable/irritating thing happens a lot. People were responding to the question with extra spleen because they were irritated [and not reading carefully] and people got really ticked off by that because they were irritated by it. I don't mean to be too northern-hemispherist about this, but shorter days seems to be making people just a little fussier than usual.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on October 12, 2009


You're going to get resistance to this because it's yet another attempt to solve a social problem by adding a web-2.0 doodad. This works nowhere that I've seen. All you get out of it is a bunch of useless doodads. I love this site because it has exactly what is necessary and solves the rest of the problems with social standards, and moderation when people persist in ignoring those.

I mean, the first sentence of asker's post was "I live in Africa." It simply does not get more clear than that unless someone isn't even reading the question or doesn't care because they get off on castigating people.

I'm also uneasy about the idea of singling out non-Americans.
posted by cj_ at 7:51 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


And yeah the real problem is judgey answers, not so much the location stuff.

I believe this question, though it's framed as specific to location on AskMe, really ties into this other thread about the fear of reactionary verbal abuse, site-wide. I really kind of think there should be less tolerance for downright nastiness on Metafilter in general, across all the subsites.

I don't know how exactly this could be accomplished, but I imagine through some combination of moderation, increased use of flagging, and community members stepping up to say, "Hey, that's not okay, and I have flagged your comment."

This has been a really big issue, at least for me, on the site. I suspect other people may feel the same way, and if enough of them do, I'd like to see something change.
posted by Ouisch at 8:01 AM on October 12, 2009


"Hey, that's not okay, and I have flagged your comment."

While I totally agree with you about the nastiness issue site-wide, the problem with "hey that's not okay and I flagged your comment" is that people leave this stuff in longer comments, so when/if we remove the original comment, we're in an awkward position about whether to remove the comment where someone was complaining about the original comment.

Nastiness in AskMe is pretty much not okay and we encourage people to flag it when they see it. I can be the heavy and email people and say "hey your comment was helpful but also too plain old nasty please feel free to repost a less nasty version and we're all good" which is often better than debating people's nastiness in-thread, at least in AskMe.

As far as the rest of the site, we're really only looking at MeFi and MeTa. MeTa has historically been the "we don't delete anything" part of the site. We've been finding, however, that people use this as sort of an free-snark-zone permission thing and I think we've seen this part of the site ramp up in nastiness as a result. So, we've been talking about it. While I'm of the opinion that it's a better idea to sort of discuss people being jerks rather than sort of hide it and talk about the idea of people being jerks, realistically if people ar afraid to use MeTa because they think people will excoriate them if they don't phrase their question exactly right, that's a site failure, as I've said before.

However, changing how we moderate MeTa is a big change, not a small one, so we've been talking amongst ourselves -- more now that cortex is back, last month was really a sort of triage month in a lot of ways -- and it would be good to see what people have to say here as well.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:08 AM on October 12, 2009


How about geotagging location-specific posts? I'm sure we could think of great uses for that.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:34 AM on October 12, 2009


I'm glad to hear that y'all are thinking about changing MeTa moderation. As much as I love this part of the site (it's often the best part, now that I actually know lots of mefites), I've really been bothered lately by the way some folks seem to have such a kneejerk reaction of shitting on other mefites well-intentioned questions, callouts, and suggestions.

But let us still be silly, okay? Some of the most creative, fun things I've seen on MeFi have been late in MeTa threads, when the topic at hand has been resolved, and people let loose with comment fables, poems, songs, etc. If that part of the MeTa free-for-all disappeared, it would be a huge loss.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:05 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


But let us still be silly, okay?

That's pretty much a given. Honestly, we approach the notion of altering moderation practices with a lot of trepidation and the only thing that would have a chance of pushing us in the direction of making a change is concern about the overall health and healthiness of the site—as far as that goes, it's really only the worst of the worst behavior that we're thinking about here, where people will seem to as Jessamyn says treat the relative Wild West ethos here as an excuse to be really, really awful to one another.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:20 AM on October 12, 2009


Oh, good. I'm glad that's how y'all are approaching it.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:25 AM on October 12, 2009


I'm glad to hear that y'all are thinking about changing MeTa moderation.

Totally agree with ocherdraco here, and I am also really glad to hear you all are taking this under consideration.

As far as actively deleting MeTa comments goes, I'm not sure if that's necessarily what's needed -- I was thinking more along the lines of moderation by popping into threads and responding to nasty comments more, to send a message like, "That's not really appropriate here. Please stop."

I know you do a lot of this already, and I think it has a really positive effect when you do. I also know you're probably strapped for time and manpower, but I think, if there's a way to do more of that kind of stuff in MeTa, or on the blue itself (to get around the awkward comment-deletion-after-response issue) would really benefit the community as a whole.
posted by Ouisch at 10:26 AM on October 12, 2009


if a comment has already been made on the question, folks will often click on the "# answers" link, which takes you to an anchor that bypasses the "more inside," particularly if the "more inside" is long and there's a long thread of comments after it. That's how many people miss the "more inside" and limiting text included therein.

If true, this would be an obvious fix. But I just tested it (Firefox, Chrome and Safari on OSX 10.5) and clicking the "# answers" didn't take me to the first answer, it took me to the more inside. This was for questions with several dozen answers.

Maybe it is a Windows thing?
posted by Rumple at 10:32 AM on October 12, 2009


Maybe it is a Windows thing? (Rumple)

I think it's a Metafilter Scroll Tag thing.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2009


I believe it's if you click the (# new) link.
posted by Ouisch at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2009


On the secondary topic at hand, I'm not sure I perceive a problem in MeTa these days. Sure some people are dickish, but it is good to know who the dicks are. And if they are too dickish, then I trust the moderators judgment in deleting their dickery. And if the dicks then leave in a huff, then I am ok with that too. If the dicks have to go sit in the corner for a week of time out, then that is hardly going to kill them, or us.

I mean, the mods are the site's greatest asset in many ways. They have demonstrated pretty great judgment almost all of the time. If they want to bump the dickfilter up a notch, I am all for it.
posted by Rumple at 10:47 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The answers aren't just for the asker, you know.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2009


jessamyn: "and it would be good to see what people have to say here as well."

I think I'd be happy to see certain types of comments deleted from MeTa, specifically the kind where people get all GRAR about posting to meta in the first place. for example, when someone's like "did this shit really need to go here? flag it and move on." or "this is a bad callout and you should feel bad for posting it" which seems to get nearly daily use, unfortunately. otherwise, if we're just talking about people being jerks, I'm of a mind to say that it's better for someone's jerkitude to be on the record, rather than memory holed. I don't like it when someone has a consistent problem with civility, but no one who hasn't witnessed it when it first happened would know because the offending stuff is missing. on the blue and green, it makes perfect sense to delete it, obviously, but at least in meta I tend to feel like it should be around for reference.
posted by shmegegge at 10:54 AM on October 12, 2009


And if the dicks then leave in a huff, then I am ok with that too.

The problem is not the absence of dicks, per se -- it's that the dicks actively drive non-dickish members, or would-be members, away from participating in the site.
posted by Ouisch at 11:03 AM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Except that sometimes, making a MetaTalk post versus "flag it and move on" does not serve anything except to up the drama level. I might amend that to "flag it, move on, and give the mods at the very minimum twelve hours to look at it; eighteen if it is a weekend; two days if there is a holiday in there." I might push it to three days if pb suddenly screams "Festival!" and begins smashing things with a cane.

Sometimes, there are lousy callouts, and maybe people ought to know, "Yeah, that's a lousy callout." Otherwise, they will continue to make lousy callouts which resolve nothing but do create more tension for the users, more work for the mods, etc. Not every flag requires the level of introspection and thrashing MetaTalk posts can come to. People make mistakes and a feedback loop helps rectify that. This applies not just to jerky comments in the Blue but at all levels, including "OMG THAT PERSON IS A HUGE JERK WITNESS THEIR JERKINESS CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" posts. Not that I am stumping for a self-referential flagging of flags (yo dawg I heard you like flags so we put a flag on your flag so we can criticize while we criticize); MeMail me for specific examples.
posted by adipocere at 11:14 AM on October 12, 2009


Some call-outs are pretty damn stupid though, you have to admit. Seems like there's these streaks where people get the impression this part of the site is for rallying the community to crucify someone they have a minor disagreement with. I see the backlash against that as a feature, not a bug. I mean, this isn't 4chan, do individual people really need to be shamed by thousands of other random internet strangers in its own dedicated thread? If they are a huge problem for the site, and maybe their behavior reflects a larger problem, that makes sense.. I guess. I sorta trust the mods to have this on their radar already, but maybe it's useful to hash out just how big of a problem it is. However, I see these kind of justified callouts as rare, and I don't see much of the "you are a bad person for posting this" noise in them when they do happen.

I would say that fear of being called out here is more chilling than fear of being told your call-out could've been better handled.
posted by cj_ at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2009


To clarify: I am sometimes very reluctant to disagree with anyone on certain topics which have been staked out as sacred ground. I would be mortified to find a thread here dedicated to me and thousands of people saying how awful I am, even if they are just random internet people.

But surely if you are going to start such a thread you're prepared for a fight, no?
posted by cj_ at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2009


cj_: "Some call-outs are pretty damn stupid though, you have to admit."

sure, but let me just make the distinction that I'm not saying comments should be deleted for saying "I don't agree with this callout." I'm talking more about the totally excoriating shitpiles that will happen when all of a sudden people decide that today's major activity is being the wittiest/bitingest/douchiest person to pile on somebody for a callout. so, again, something like "this is a bad callout and you should feel bad" or whatever. I put FIAMO in there, as well, because I happen to believe that it's a completely useless thing to say, steeped in basic ignorance of what metatalk is for. but hey, not everybody will agree with me on that and that's ok.
posted by shmegegge at 11:24 AM on October 12, 2009


But surely if you are going to start such a thread you're prepared for a fight, no?

You've just identified the very worst thing about MetaTalk. People start a MeTa thread because they're concerned about an issue and want to hear what other members have to say. The tendency of MeTa commenters to treat every call-out/complaint as a "fight" and filibuster it out of existence is the very worst thing about this community.
posted by cillit bang at 11:30 AM on October 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'd agree that stating your case more civilly is always a better option than sarcastic dismissal. I just dunno if I agree it's a huge problem. People that post callouts seem to be looking for a fight in the first place. I could be wrong about that.
posted by cj_ at 11:31 AM on October 12, 2009


People that post callouts seem to be looking for a fight in the first place. I could be wrong about that.

I can see how this seems this way. The way I think I'd put it is that "people that post callouts are upset about something" I think some people see that as an affront, possibly, that if someone is upset there has to be some resolution that involves some sort of punishment of someone else or something. Alternately sometimes people see this as a challenge and reply "You're upset about that, you SHOULDN'T be upset about it"

Mostly what it shouldn't be is a fight. Sometimes this happens, where there's a few people getting into a really annoying back and forth pissing match and we say "take it to metatalk or email" hoping they'll take it to email butusually watching them take it to metatalk.

And then there are the usually quickly deleted MeTa threads which is someone just totally so pissed off at someone else that they use MeTa to yell at them. That's not that great.

What we like, when we can shape things, is the sort of "hey this feels a little off to me, does it feel off to other people? what could we do?" sorts of questions. People have something that bugs them. They'd like to see if it bugs other people. If it's a large-ish issue, maybe we can all think of something to do about it.

We corral spleen-venting in AskMe and we're even a little tight with it in MeFi so I think for some people who either enjoy being sort of outwardly aggressive about these sorts of things, or who just don't have a filter to keep themselves from being that way, MeTa is pretty much the last outpost. I think it's less that people are looking for a fight, but that they're not NOT looking for a fight, if that makes sense. And yeah I do agree, sometimes people come to MeTa when really they should have just flagged the comment and moved on, but there are nicer and less nice ways of saying that. Again people don't need to "be nice" specifically but if they could err on the nice side of the nice ------- asshole spectrum, that would make MeTa work a little more as advertised.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:39 AM on October 12, 2009


Whilst judgmental 'answers' are indeed the main problem in this case, others (koeselitz, Dr Dracator et al) have pointed out that the AskMe posting form facilitates, perhaps even encourages, the hiding of crucial information in the [more inside] section which, evidently, many people don't read. I think that if the form is being rewritten, it might be a good idea to try to make it even more obvious that you should put the question in the box marked "your question" and only use the optional "extended explanation" box if you have a really long question.
This seems like a fussy point to make, but I have seen people refer to the above-the-fold section as the "teaser" - and there does seem an increasing tendency for even fairly short questions to not make sense until you read the "more inside". As I type, 37 of the 40 questions on the front page use [more inside], and of the first 10 I clicked on, 4 had only one or two sentences more inside them. It would be better for people to phrase the whole question concisely on the front page, where possible.
I would like to see an extra click required of the poster to make the "more inside" box appear when requested, rather than having it sitting there by default, all empty and demanding to be filled.

Also, I hadn't seen the dancing pumpkins until now; nice!
posted by nowonmai at 11:50 AM on October 12, 2009


That's a personal pet peeve of mine, where people essentially say nothing in the above-the-fold part of their question. For example, their post might consist of just "Car buying question" with the entire substance of the question relegated to the [more inside]. I think they do this because they want to be sure people will read their post carefully, and by offering zero relevant details in the above-the-fold part you essentially guarantee that people either read all or nothing of your question. Either that or they're hypersensitive about putting too much in their above-the-fold so they overcompensate and put almost nothing there. Whatever the motivation, it's infuriating and I wish people would knock it the fuck off.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:57 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they want to bump the dickfilter up a notch, I am all for it.

TMI, Rumple. TMI.
posted by dersins at 12:07 PM on October 12, 2009


It's especially a problem when the "more inside" is limiting conditions on the outside question, so that you can't answer the question properly without the more inside.

You shouldn't be answering the question if you can't be bothered to read the whole thing. That's like responding to a sentence that hasn't been
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:08 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


But surely if you are going to start such a thread you're prepared for a fight, no?

You've just identified the very worst thing about MetaTalk. People start a MeTa thread because they're concerned about an issue and want to hear what other members have to say.


There is a very real difference between saying "there is a lot of racism in this thread and I am uncomfortable with it" and saying "Klang sure is being and asshole here, AMIRITE?" If you're posting the second, you should be prepared for a fight.

I think that jessamyn is right in that, "people that post callouts are upset about something." But some, to quote James Coburn in Payback, "that's just mean, man!"
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:29 PM on October 12, 2009


There is a very real difference between saying "there is a lot of racism in this thread and I am uncomfortable with it" and saying "Klang sure is being and asshole here, AMIRITE?" If you're posting the second, you should be prepared for a fight.

I think many times people post something similar to the former and some people act as if they had posted the latter.
posted by grouse at 12:32 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just not clear how the community is dealing with those who posted the offending comments in the first place. If people clearly knew that obvious assholes were getting their posting privileges revoked/banned, people might be more comfortable flagging and moving on.
posted by meowzilla at 12:49 PM on October 12, 2009


There is a very real difference between saying "there is a lot of racism in this thread and I am uncomfortable with it" and saying "Klang sure is being and asshole here, AMIRITE?" If you're posting the second, you should be prepared for a fight.
I think many times people post something similar to the former and some people act as if they had posted the latter.


That's definitely true. Unfortunately, what is also true is that many times people intend to post something similar to the former, but what comes out bears more similarity to the latter (especially in cases where the poster has very strong feelings on the topic in question), and people frame their responses accordingly.
posted by dersins at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2009


I think many times people post something similar to the former and some people act as if they had posted the latter.

I think even that's giving too much credit. It's become a habitual "This person's making a callout? Let's shout them down", a lot like the "This FPP looks like it's going to be deleted? Image thread!" parties of old.
posted by cillit bang at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


cillit bang, that's exactly what it feels like to me.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:05 PM on October 12, 2009


To be clear, I'm not arguing for less civility so much as saying there might be some cause-and-effect here, stemming from the perception that some of the callouts veer into the weirdly personal. I find calling out specific people distasteful, and I think a lot of the time when it's framed as "this is a problem with the site I'm concerned about," it's done somewhat disingenuously. On reflection, maybe it's not fair or accurate to say they are hoping for a fight. I think they are hoping people overwhelmingly side with them and upset when it doesn't go that way. I'd like to think someone would be prepared for a fight if they are going to make a public display of shaming someone though.

How much of that is my own perception I don't know, I'm willing to admit I'm wrong about what the intent is. But tangentially, I often wonder what the value is in calling out specific comments, even when they're egregiously stupid or offensive. Take the awful "black gash" one for example. First of all, I wouldn't have even seen that if it weren't posted here. Second of all, it makes it problematic to delete the offending comment once it gets its own thread without confusing everyone and instigating a derail about censorship. Third, it wasn't about the site as much as it was about the guy, and I think the google/blog stalking bears that out. Is this really valuable or necessary?

Anyway, that's just one type of thread that gets poor reception and they are thankfully less frequent lately, so maybe it's moot. The other kind -- where someone is airing their pet peeve like the @-convention, links to huffpo/daily mail, or whatever -- I wish people would take their own advice and ignore it if they don't care.
posted by cj_ at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2009


I love it when people put stuff like "car buying question" and that's it. Lets me know which ones I can skip more easily. I know zero about cars. Or protons. Or how to use Excel. I don't need to read those.
posted by josher71 at 1:34 PM on October 12, 2009


"People are talking about stuff like they're on 56k dialup."

Dial-up here currently running at 50.6Kbps. *throw me a pity party*
posted by Catch at 2:19 PM on October 12, 2009


... if we're just talking about people being jerks, I'm of a mind to say that it's better for someone's jerkitude to be on the record, rather than memory holed. I don't like it when someone has a consistent problem with civility, but no one who hasn't witnessed it when it first happened would know because the offending stuff is missing. on the blue and green, it makes perfect sense to delete it, obviously, but at least in meta I tend to feel like it should be around for reference.
Second this. One thing MeTa is good for is exposing the bullies and arseholes who otherwise go under the radar because the effective and mostly invisible moderation.
posted by dg at 2:59 PM on October 12, 2009


One thing MeTa is good for is exposing the bullies and arseholes who otherwise go under the radar because the effective and mostly invisible moderation.

Oh, totally agreed there. But "moderation" doesn't always have to equal deleting comments. It could mean stepping into a conversation to enforce community standards of conduct verbally. Which, though labour-intensive (sorry about that, mods), actually seems to have a really good affect on conversations when employed.
posted by Ouisch at 3:07 PM on October 12, 2009


effect
posted by Ouisch at 3:07 PM on October 12, 2009


On the location-specific thing, I'm not sure it would make a difference - as in the post you linked, the location couldn't be much more obvious - because sometimes it seems like people are just going to assume the world works exactly like their corner of it, down to specific brand names or agencies or norms or just companies not/shipping there. I imagine being outside in a major city in the US feels like this to some extent. I KNOW being in Europe feels like this. I can only begin to guess how much of a pain in the ass the assumptions are from outside developed countries. For the people doing this, it'd take a paradigm shift, not a check-box.
posted by carbide at 3:20 PM on October 12, 2009


I'd really like to get rid of the notion that metatalk is a supposed "nerd thunderdome". This might be just me, but I feel like that attitude has led to an increase in rancid comments posted here because people think they can just say whatever they want to, no matter how classless.
posted by dead cousin ted at 4:24 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Catch: Dial-up here currently running at 50.6Kbps. *throw me a pity party*

You think that's bad? I don't have any internet at all.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:11 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, there, I unplugged from the router I was using for a walkthrough. Familial remote hardware troubleshooting is such fun: "So, the router's plugged into itself? Huh. That's not good, no."
posted by Pronoiac at 5:12 PM on October 12, 2009


There is way too much blaming the OP in general in AskMe. Telling someone they wouldn't be in situation FOO if they'd been a better person prior to FOO does not answer their question unless the question is how to avoid FOO in the future. Yet it happens all the time. I know I've been guilty of it in the past so I've made a conscious effort to think "Am I answering this to be helpful or to scold".

And while "I live in Africa" is location information it's not good location information (IE: Africa is a big place; conditions in Cairo, Cape Town, Abuja, Addis Ababa, Kinshasa, or Santa Cruz de Tenerife are probably quite different from each other). To the point I wondered if the OP was stunting AskMe. Still many of the answers were overly judgmental IMO even if the OP happened to live across the street from an NSPCA branch.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is way too much blaming the OP in general in AskMe.

Totally agree and, in fact, the green is where I've seen a lot of the nastiest (but sometimes just-under-the-radarish) stuff on Metafilter.

I've seen mods have to jump in and delete comments telling the OP to "stop whining" when it was a totally neutral-seeming question like "How do I cook with this ingredient?"

I've, personally, been lectured (and subsequently piled on) for being "too sensitive" when I was upset about an accusation that I didn't love my family. Which wasn't a very helpful answer in the thread in the first place.

The thing that bothers me is that it seems Askers are often held to a much higher standard than answerers. While I recognize that framing and wording of a question are important in order to get relevant answers, I've encountered a problem where:

1) if I try to keep my questions succinct, people either complain that I haven't given ENOUGH detail, or else they give answers that are irrelevant in the light of some detail I've had to leave out for the sake of brevity, and then

2) when I DO try to include all the details I think might be relevant to the question in order to improve the quality of answers, people complain that I've written too much.

It's like you can't possibly ever do it right, and when people complain about such tangential issues, those comments are often left to stand. If they're early enough in the thread, they can set the tone for subsequent comments.

It's gotten to the point where I am actually kind of scared to use AskMe.

Maybe this makes me "not resilient enough" and/or "too sensitive," but I've had several AskMe experiences that seriously, seriously upset me. It felt like being on the end of verbal abuse that I would NEVER encounter in daily life. And I don't exactly live a protected, sheltered existence where I'm surrounded by nicey-nice people all day.
posted by Ouisch at 10:50 AM on October 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've often wondered if moderation would work better if, instead of nuking the comment from orbit, the comment was replaced with a (usually canned) deletion reason and retained the offending commenter's username and post time.

I could see it as a competition for the trolls, but it could help when a later comment says "...interesting point...that was a shitty comment, userX". It would also help those of us who don't obsessively refresh metafilter every 4 seconds to understand why a user has a huge hateclub when we've not seen a single bad comment. We could see 15 deleted comments from userX in a single thread and understand why there's so much tension in the thread, even if userX isn't mentioned.

I hope there isn't a real user named "userX"
posted by double block and bleed at 2:02 PM on October 13, 2009


> I love it when people put stuff like "car buying question" and that's it. Lets me know which ones I can skip more easily. I know zero about cars. Or protons. Or how to use Excel. I don't need to read those.

On the flip side, I hate "clever" titles. I scan AskMe in an RSS reader that only shows the title, looking for stuff I can answer or am interested in. When it's some jokey pun that gives no indication what it'll be about, I just skip it. If people are doing that to get attention, it sure doesn't work on me. Seems like you'd attract more of the people you want by saying "MY ITUNES IS BROKEN HALP" or whatever.

I noticed recently that you don't actually see the title on the frontpage, which kinda threw me. This is the first (and possibly only) thing you see in the RSS reader. Pretty big disconnect. Is this why people use jokey titles, because they think no one sees it until they click on it?
posted by cj_ at 5:15 PM on October 13, 2009


Is this why people use jokey titles, because they think no one sees it until they click on it?

Yes. People used to create questions that were incomprehensible to people reading the site, because it went something like:

title (not seen): Can I buy a car for less than $50000?

front page: I have a tight budget since Daddy has cut me off from the trust fund this summer, and I recently crashed his car and he won't let me use his other one. Any ideas?


To discourage this, when previewing your new question, you don't even see the title.
posted by jacalata at 10:31 PM on October 13, 2009


The title is there when you preview—it's just in tiny gray letters after the rest of your post.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:12 AM on October 14, 2009


An inverse problem on the location-specific question is when location matters to the answer and askers fails to specify their location. This arises often in legal questions, when answers are very likely to vary based on jurisdiction. So please, please, if you are asking a legal question, include relevant geographic information. (For Americans, this includes state and city.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2009


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