Hypothetically speaking... October 26, 2009 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Why was this question nixed?

It seems to me that this question is totally fair game in AskMe. It's asking a hypothetical that also touches on some interesting concepts with physics and I've asked plenty of great hypothetical questions (does it burn more, the less, or the same amount energy to cllimb stairs two at a time vs. one at a time, etc) that enforce my love of AskMe.

I guess I'm asking for clarification on the specificity threshold swiffa apparently breached since it seems largely arbitrary.
posted by disillusioned to Etiquette/Policy at 2:16 PM (111 comments total)

OK, that's fucking weird. What's the deal there?
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on October 26, 2009


Hunh. I thought it was a reasonable one. Guess I was wrong.
posted by bonehead at 2:24 PM on October 26, 2009


That's too bad. The answers in that thread were pretty interesting.
posted by zarq at 2:24 PM on October 26, 2009


I didn't flag it, but I reached for the flag button. It was borderline for me. While I thought the phrasing of the question was sort of problematic, the early answers seemed to indicate that the community was capable of providing good answers to an otherwise problematic question. But my first instinct was to reach for the flag, so I can see why others might have done so.
posted by greekphilosophy at 2:25 PM on October 26, 2009


I enjoyed it, personally. Sad to see it go.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2009


Hypotheticals are, broadly speaking, not okay because there are an infinite number of them and even though they can be fun to ask and answer, in our dream worlds we'd really like most of the answers to be useful to other people. That said, a lot of the space-type hypotheticals are really, at their core, physics questions. This one seemed to be taking an oft-asked physics question and adding sort of an arbitrary time limit and a few other questions on it and a bunch of people had flagged it. I sort of headed over to remove the lulzy "oh he could eat his tongue" comment and it seemed like the specificity of what the OP was asking seemed.... overly "answer MY hypothetical" and not "here is a question about space"

Bit of a judgment call, admittedly with the flag queue tipping the balance, to me. We're often a little looser on the hypotheticals.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2009


I also thought it was an answerable question. It was kind of a silly and narrow extreme hypothetical, but nonetheless a specific problem to be addressed and not "chatfilter". Perhaps it needed the obligatory "I'm doing research for a thing I'm writing" disclaimer to keep it safe from the delete button?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2009


My take on it was that swiffa was asking for a short story or something. The hypothetical posed seemed to be kinda dramatic-y.
posted by bonehead at 2:29 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fair enough, I suppose. It just seems a bit odd on the surface as it was largely answerable, even with set values. I think the discussion *is* useful to other people, even if they may not find themselves in space with their spacesuit malfunctioning. I'm not quite sure what you *don't* want AskMe to devolve to, but I'm pretty sure it's not this.
posted by disillusioned at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2009


It was kind of a silly and narrow extreme hypothetical, but nonetheless a specific problem to be addressed and not "chatfilter".

Except that "kind of a silly and narrow extreme hypothetical" is literally one of the definitions of chatfilter: "...made up "what if" science questions. Creating arbitrary constraints and then playing "what if" is not a good use of AskMe."
posted by dersins at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2009


man - my boyfriend and i were just talking about how awesome that question was. with all the "why is my girlfriend mad at me" and "what's the best song?", "what would happen if you removed your helmet on the moon" seemed totally above board. sure, it's a hypothetical, but it's also rooted in science and space - the question is answerable, just probably not something that most people will get a chance to experiment. i wonder if the same sort of question but dealing with deep sea instead of space would have stayed...

:(
posted by nadawi at 2:33 PM on October 26, 2009


If nothing else, I learned from that thread that I should not hold my breath if I know I'm about to be exposed to a vacuum.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:34 PM on October 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


It seems almost like if the question was less specific (ie just the portion above the fold) it would have remained.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on October 26, 2009


if he had skipped the "more inside" would the question have stood? or if it was "how long can a helmet be removed on the moon before you die?"

still so bummed. i was learning a lot in that thread.
posted by nadawi at 2:35 PM on October 26, 2009


I got away with an extremely similar question.
posted by xmutex at 2:36 PM on October 26, 2009


So basically the flag queue trends douchey rules-lawyer? that's not encouraging.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on October 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


My take on it was that swiffa was asking for a short story or something.

If the question had been prefaced with "I'm writing a short story about an astronaut on the Moon," would it have stood?
posted by EarBucket at 2:37 PM on October 26, 2009


In any event, this smells like BBQ to me.
posted by dersins at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2009


I saw this at first glance and thought "oh man, kill it" too. Rereading it now, I can see the appeal of the answerable-science core of the thing even if the dressing is kind of silly. We tend to be pretty on-the-fence about these when they brush up against answerability.

It seems like people are more down with this one than Jessamyn or I were really thinking, though. Having chatted with her about it, and in the spirit of focusing on the answerability of the core question and getting over the kind of unnecessarily chatfilter-flavored stuff that in a perfect world wouldn't have made us squint at it in the first place, and with the understanding that anyone who tries to leverage this moment in the future as some sort of "a ha!" precedent rather than us just being big softies today or whatever shall be considered a butthead, let the record show that on this day the mods did decide to resurrect a borderline question due to something resembling popular demand.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2009 [43 favorites]


Just so you know, if I ask any AskMe questions that are a bit oddbeat the chances are it's for a story or something, so go ahead and flag accordingly.
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2009


let the record show that on this day the mods did decide to resurrect a borderline question due to something resembling popular demand.

SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERY SLOPE!



kidding. don't really care.
posted by dersins at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


i was enjoying that thread quite a bit, and had even talked about it with my gal on break. i also enjoyed the linked PDF in the comments (thanks, FishBike!). i think sometimes just being asked to think and discuss something, even something esoteric or "only of use to one person", is reason enough for a post if the subject matter is intriguing. it gave me pause, and gave me a reason to consider something i had not previously considered. i even learned a thing or two in there, and that's always worth the price of admission.

also, i think that "hypotheticals that are only useful to one person" is kind of a lame reason for deletion, honestly. if we actually rigorously applied that metric across ask.me, i'd wager that we'd immediately lose a large chunk of current questions. every relationship question, for example, that deals in any kind of specifics.
posted by radiosilents at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2009


i should preview. i think you guys made the right call. thanks!
posted by radiosilents at 2:42 PM on October 26, 2009


WooHOO!!! let this be my lesson to mark more things as "fantastic post" to at least batter against the bad flags.


actually - that's a procedural question i have - it's been stated before that when you guys are trying to decide about a borderline question that the amount of flags can sway things one way or another - when you're looking at flags, do you factor in people who marked it as favorite or fantastic post as well?
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on October 26, 2009


...let the record show that on this day the mods did decide to resurrect a borderline question due to something resembling popular demand.

Thank you!
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2009


Huzzah!

Few threads have gotten the Lazarus treatment before, I assume. (This is the first I've seen it.)

Thanks, mods!
posted by disillusioned at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those sort of hypotheticals always bother me immensely. The real question is "what would happen if an astronaut took his helmet off for 10 seconds?" But instead of just asking that, an extremely contrived situation is dreamed up, which gleefully ignores reality, which putting on airs of trying to find a scientific truth.

I think spacesuits have nutrition built into them, so that space peeps don't go hungry or thirsty. Besides if a person is that close to death from starvation, then they're not going to be able to do much. Also, the answer probably depends on whether the astronaut is on the light or dark side. And why does it have to be the moon?

If you want to figure out to kill an astronaut, just be straight up about it, no need to beat around the bush, geez.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:46 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a douchey rules-lawyer about chatfilter/hypothetical/mixtape/poll/etc. stuff, and I must admit that I was surprised to see this one deleted. Or, y'know, temporarily deleted. It's got that chewy physics center, after all.
posted by box at 2:47 PM on October 26, 2009


So basically the flag queue trends douchey rules-lawyer? that's not encouraging.

Personally, I find it very encouraging. When MeFites speak up, the mods listen.

Insert semi-obscure nostalgic reference here.
posted by zarq at 2:48 PM on October 26, 2009


actually - that's a procedural question i have - it's been stated before that when you guys are trying to decide about a borderline question that the amount of flags can sway things one way or another - when you're looking at flags, do you factor in people who marked it as favorite or fantastic post as well?

I can't think of a time that something had so many faves and fantastic flags compared to a eye-catching pile of negative flags that it would have come under consideration, really. It's a rare thing that will attract a significant amount of both kinds of attention, and when it comes down to it a lot of negative attention is really the thing we're concerned about.

Few threads have gotten the Lazarus treatment before, I assume. (This is the first I've seen it.)

Yeah, happens maybe once or twice a year I'd say.

Those sort of hypotheticals always bother me immensely. The real question is "what would happen if an astronaut took his helmet off for 10 seconds?" But instead of just asking that, an extremely contrived situation is dreamed up, which gleefully ignores reality, which putting on airs of trying to find a scientific truth.

I pretty much agree, and I think that's the problematic part of this one's framing that drove our immediate inclination to delete. Stripping away the messy, problematic and distracting dressing and just stating the core question is a good way to significantly improve a question's chance of surviving. In the vacuum of space or otherwise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:49 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeha I found the question mildly annoying too. People are pointing out, rightly I think, in that thread that if the guy HAS to eat this also derails the whole thing. If he's weak from hunger, bla bla.... So the core question is totally okay, the ancillary details turn it into a hypothetical chatfilter question to my read. I'm okay with it being resurrected but still think it's a pretty bleh question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:50 PM on October 26, 2009


Hypotheticals are, broadly speaking, not okay because there are an infinite number of them...

What's the cap on reality-based questions?
posted by carsonb at 2:52 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


They can just email me with the question, as I may be the only MeFite to have actually experienced this. Answer: If you're already a zombie, it's no big whoop.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:52 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Everyone who participates in this can use this thread as one of the examples.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:53 PM on October 26, 2009


Couldn't the asker have just said he/she was asking it for the purposes of writing a book? I see tons of similarly hypothetical-for-book-purposes questions on AskMe all the time and they seem to stay up.
posted by pravit at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2009


Ground control to Metatalk.
Ground control to Metatalk.
Flag the thread and put your flamesuit on.
Ground control to Metatalk.
Commencing countdown; deletion's on.
Check ad-monition and may Dawkin's love be with you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2009 [11 favorites]


Please stop bringing up the "writing a book" loophole. That's how loopholes get closed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:00 PM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Not sure if this is a known issue, but when you resurrect a thread, the tags don't reappear.
posted by gman at 3:00 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeah, it's a known issue. It happens so rarely that we've never really bothered fixing it, though the archivist in me is tempted to get pb on it as an excuse to keep the tags for deleted posts around in the db for future study.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:05 PM on October 26, 2009


This is why I support a fully-funded NASA, so that they can answer questions like this.
posted by klangklangston at 3:09 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


to keep the tags for deleted posts around in the db for future study.

An analysis of the most frequently-used tags in deleted posts would be pretty interesting. On the blue, I'm guessing "youtube" and "politics" would rank pretty highly, BUT HOW WILL WE EVER KNOW?
posted by dersins at 3:26 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The viability of any thread can be looked at from many perspectives. This particular thread seemed to have a lot of factors pulling it in various directions - some chatfilter, some physics, answerable but not probable, etc. I don't think that this thread sets any crazy precedent. The next thread is going to be its own special snowflake too.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:30 PM on October 26, 2009


I joined specifically to ask this hypothetical question.

I guess I came here for the food but stayed for the pie.
posted by pianomover at 4:10 PM on October 26, 2009


And on the eve of the coming of the 100.000th, the mods looked back, and a question was resurrected from the dead with great unholiness.

Behold, for this is the beginning of the end.
posted by Higgs Boson at 4:12 PM on October 26, 2009


BUT IT IS FOR A NOVEL I AM WRITING
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:15 PM on October 26, 2009


If you want to figure out to kill an astronaut, just be straight up about it, no need to beat around the bush, geez.

Yeah, but how do you dispose of an astronaut's body?
posted by felix betachat at 4:18 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You just make him solar powered and out him right back to work.

Jeez, it's like some of you have never bothered to learn a thing about me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:34 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't help but think that this will look good in lewistate's dissertation.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:54 PM on October 26, 2009


Well there was this one time for a laugh we shoved this guy Dave - who never had the greatest sense of humour - through a stargate which took him on a mind-bending trip around the universe where he experienced the infinite. Then he endured the rest of his life as if he was in a surreal room closed off from humanity before appearing to die from old age. We laughed like drains.

When he came back he turned into a big baby about it.
posted by panboi at 5:06 PM on October 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


On the blue, I'm guessing "youtube" and "politics" would rank pretty highly, BUT HOW WILL WE EVER KNOW?
I can tell you for the month of August 2006 - top three were bush, batshitinsane and flash.
posted by tellurian at 5:18 PM on October 26, 2009


I see the "writing a book" loophole has been mentioned, but when I read this question that's exactly what I thought was going on. The fairly specific set of circumstances and the question about whether this could happen or not looked, to me, exactly like someone trying to research an important plot point. Someone who wants to know if what they have in mind will cause technically well-read members of their audience to think "well, I suppose that could happen" vs. "oh come on!"

I guess from having seen a lot of similarly-worded questions elsewhere (e.g. in some of the sci.space.* newsgroups) for exactly that purpose, I sort of mentally added the "... this is for a book I'm writing" explanation. And in some of those other cases, the askers were fairly well-known authors and the question at hand did make an appearance in a published book. So it does happen.
posted by FishBike at 7:03 PM on October 26, 2009


I blame lewistate for promoting mob rule at metatalk.
posted by Rumple at 7:35 PM on October 26, 2009


I really do not see how that question breaks the rules at all. But then I think that the majority of relationship filter questions are obviously chat filter and should be deleted, but we have about 20 of those a day, so I guess I am just out of sync with the the rest of y'all.
posted by afu at 7:47 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


But then I think that the majority of relationship filter questions are obviously chat filter and should be deleted

Take heart; you are not alone in your correct assessment of assy relationship questions.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:09 PM on October 26, 2009


Yeah, but how do you dispose of an astronaut's body?

Why would you want to do that, thems good eating!

and it's already in a freezer...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 PM on October 26, 2009


The only problem I have with relationship questions is that they usually go on for about 20 pages too long.

Long NSFW story of why I can only have an orgasm standing on my head. [more inside]

Then I click in, read a novella, realize that a lot of mefites do indeed have chickens, and I've got no answers, since I, for one, have never had an orgasm standing on my head.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:50 PM on October 26, 2009


I had the best orgasm I've ever had standing on your head, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:58 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this where I go to get my ass smoking post resurrected?
posted by The Devil Tesla at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2009


Few threads have gotten the Lazarus treatment before, I assume. (This is the first I've seen it.)

One of my threads was raised from the dead, which is probably something I'll brag about to my grandchildren. (Yes, I lead a relatively empty existence.)
posted by dhammond at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2009


oh man, cortex was so spry back then.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:57 PM on October 26, 2009


> But then I think that the majority of relationship filter questions are obviously chat filter

Yeah, there's this weird tolerance for it because people posting RelationshipFilter questions are having a hard time, and we've all been through that, so give 'em a break they aren't thinking clearly, etc. I don't really get it either, but I can't fault human compassion, so it's all good to me.
posted by cj_ at 2:40 AM on October 27, 2009


Oh so THIS is the clemency-granting thread for hypothetical-filter questions.

I would like to hereby submit Bears vs. Monkeys for consideration.

I cite "spry" cortex's previously stated position as supporting evidence.

Thank you very much.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:08 AM on October 27, 2009


Ah, but those were the heady days before I had adopted the mantle of administrative responsibility. And it's monkeys.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:32 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


reading allkindsoftime's links lead me to this: http://ask.metafilter.com/54419/architecture-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-anyone

Which made me think of this: http://www.amazon.com/World-Without-Us-Alan-Weisman/dp/0312427905/

Creepy. Cool. And someone deserves royalties!

And as far as a come back to cortex standing on my head...I've got nothing, but I can confirm he is spry.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2009


cortex,

You were a big softie yesterday, you're being a big softie today. By mathematical induction, can we infer that you'll be a big softie forever?

I was sorry to miss the Denver meetup. I was in Puerto Rico with coqui flu or whatever they call it there.
posted by lukemeister at 7:02 AM on October 27, 2009


I really do not see how that question breaks the rules at all.

The rule against hypothetical questions in the FAQ.

But then I think that the majority of relationship filter questions are obviously chat filter and should be deleted

I don't see why. How are they "obviously chat filter"?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:32 AM on October 27, 2009


I'm not being a softie today, I just haven't had my coffee yet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2009


Brandon Blatcher : If you want to figure out to kill an astronaut, just be straight up about it,

Well, since it has been brought up... I've been luring astronauts into a derelict freighter and then killing them off one by one with murderous robots powered by a portal to hell I inadvertently opened while trying to steal XM satellite radio. It's a little contrived, but it seems to be pretty effective.

Do you have something better?
posted by quin at 8:04 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mefimail me under my sock puppet (cortex, but shhh, don't tell anyone!)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2009


I don't see why. How are they "obviously chat filter"?

Because they are unanswerable without actually knowing the people involved, so they just devolve into general discussions about relationships.

I thought that the question in the OP, while poorly phrased, had a clear correct answer based on facts about what happens to a human in a vacuum.

I feel like a hypothetical like "bears vs. monkeys" has more in common with most relationship filter questions than the space suit question, because they is no way to evaluate if an answer is correct or not.
posted by afu at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2009


I don't see why. How are they "obviously chat filter"?

Because they are unanswerable without actually knowing the people involved, so they just devolve into general discussions about relationships.


For questions that are "unanswerable," they sure get a lot of answers!
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:59 AM on October 27, 2009


For questions that are "unanswerable," they sure get a lot of answers!

Welcome to the internet, Jaltcoh. Enjoy your stay!
posted by dersins at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


thanks
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:39 AM on October 27, 2009


Once I farted so loudly that the window screen nearby came loose.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:40 AM on October 27, 2009


Question could have be formatted to ask if the scene in 2001 (movie) was plausible irt survival.
posted by edgeways at 9:53 AM on October 27, 2009


Question could have be formatted to ask if the scene in 2001 (movie) was plausible irt survival.

That misses the point about the plausibility of quickly eating something, though. Bowman just had to make it through an airlock.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:20 AM on October 27, 2009


Afu, you're wrong, the bears v. monkeys question is answerable. It'll just takea lot of work.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2009


The goal of Ask.Me is supposed to be to help people. So, when you're answering a question, the emphasis is supposed to be on "what will help this person the most?" not "what is the correct answer to this question?" Or, at least, that's the way that I understand it. The vast majority of the time, these two different approaches to Ask.Me will yield almost the exact same response... But relationshipfilter is one of the ways that the two approaches can come apart quite drastically.

I think a lot of the people who interpret relationshipfilter as chatfilter are thinking we should be treating those questions from the "what is the correct answer?" standpoint, and, yeah, most relationshipfilter questions don't make it obvious just what the correct answer is. There are so many different assumptions and lifestyle choices and what-have-you that play important roles in deciding what the correct answer to any relationshipfilter question is that almost none of us will ever be able to get it right, completely.

But often times, there is a lot that can be said to help the askee of relationshipfilter, whether you're providing the obviously correct answer to their question or not. A lot of times, relationshipfilter is all about figuring out other points of view, finding new ways to interpret interpersonal data, and understanding the options that are, at least theoretically, available. Relationshipfilter gives the askee a chance to think, and we help with that thinking process by providing information that the askee, in their emotional and one-sided condition, might not see. Maybe we can't ever know if any of us have given the correct answer to that person's very specific and personal problem, but we've at least provided whatever help a group of generally thoughtful and uninvested people can give.

Or, at least, that's how I approach it. I tend to answer a lot of relationshipfilter questions, because they're less about having correct information and more about providing perspective, whatever that perspective might be. It seems like as great a way to help random internet folks as anything else.

Also, OF COURSE monkeys.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:43 AM on October 27, 2009


The goal of Ask.Me is supposed to be to help people. So, when you're answering a question, the emphasis is supposed to be on "what will help this person the most?" not "what is the correct answer to this question?"

Why should those two concepts be diametrically opposed. At any rate, I think a good deal of the answers on relationship filter are just people tossing off whatever comes to mind, and seem like they're trying to relive some high school newspaper fantasy of having an advice column, but I'm a bit jaded.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:46 AM on October 27, 2009


Yeah, I guess. To be honest, I think a lot of the answers relationship questions get are extremely unhelpful. Lots of wish fulfillment and agenda-pushing going on there.
posted by cj_ at 11:51 AM on October 27, 2009


Why should those two concepts be diametrically opposed.

They're not, not at all. Like I said, the vast majority of the time, both ways of approaching Ask.Me will yield the exact same response to a question. If someone asks a straightforward factual question, there will be absolutely no difference between whether you're trying to be helpful or if you're trying to provide the correct answer. It's just that some of the time, like in many relationshipfilter questions, what response you give will depend on which approach you take.

The most obvious example is when it seems pretty clear to you that the only rational action for the askee is to DTMFA. But, of course, very few people ever respond well to "Honey, just DTMFA!" It may be a correct answer, but it's not a very helpful one.

To be honest, I think a lot of the answers relationship questions get are extremely unhelpful.

That's probably true, too. I actually think that a lot of the unhelpfulness in answers to relationshipfilter questions stems from people behaving as though they are providing a correct answer, as opposed to providing helpful advice. It's just really easy to be on a soapbox and ignoring what is actually most useful for the askee when you think of yourself as providing what you take to be the obviously correct answer, as opposed to just one viewpoint or opinion which may or may not be correct, depending on information we may not have.
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2009


The goal of Ask.Me is supposed to be to help people

Where was AskMe when I needed a Reuben sandwich, huh, HUH?! I looked behind to see where it had gone but I only saw one pair of footprints. That's when I knew AskMe was carrying on back at the beach house and probably smoking up all the stash.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:48 PM on October 27, 2009


A bunch of people just giving an opinion on something that can't have a correct answer is the very definition of chatfilter as I understand the term. That's fine with me, I'm lukewarm on that policy, just sayin.

They crack me up, though. I frequently wonder if some of the people giving advice have even dated before. Then there's the DTMFA-over-the-most-trivial-stuff crowd, I don't know what to make of them. I think those threads are a mess, personally, but if they make people feel better to vent about it on the internet, I don't see the harm. I mostly skip them.
posted by cj_ at 1:32 PM on October 27, 2009


I like reading the relationship posts where the person thinks they are going to get support and comfort and opinions validated, and maybe even enough facts to go back and win that argument with the unreasonable other, only to have the entire community rally to crush that person's dreams and hopes. Ok, maybe not really, but these threads seldom go the way the poster thinks they will.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2009


Yay! Metatalk works! Someone get the camera!
posted by not_on_display at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


We have cameras!

Um, except me.
posted by Night_owl at 2:17 PM on October 27, 2009


A bunch of people just giving an opinion on something that can't have a correct answer is the very definition of chatfilter as I understand the term.

You are incorrect in your understanding of what is going on relationship AskMe questions and to paint them all as chatfilter and impossible to answer sounds so ridiculous I'm pretty speechless at the moment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on October 27, 2009


God damn it, I have had one of these questions burning a hole in my cranium for three years now but haven't dared to AskMe it because it has a hypothetical element -- although it's very realistic and probably has a fairly well defined real answer. I just don't have the math/physics to take the numbers and equation-mojo them into the answer.

And just when I was working up the nerve, moonhelmet has to go and bogart all the hypothetical-AskMe tolerance for the forseeable future. Harumph!
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:06 PM on October 27, 2009


Ask it now!
posted by Burhanistan at 3:08 PM on October 27, 2009


Here, I mean.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:08 PM on October 27, 2009


I'm a manly man's man who can easily endure 10 seconds of vacuum. What spacesuit should I buy? I mean I don't want to get a chick's spacesuit obviously...
posted by panboi at 3:37 PM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Avoid the soviet fighter pilot pressure suit - people would totally think you were some kind of fetish freak.
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on October 27, 2009


When we become an established space traveling species, kids will dare each other to jump from airlock to airlock naked.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:49 PM on October 27, 2009


"Yay! Metatalk works! Someone get the camera!"

A deleted thread gets resurrected, several metalk thread have gone well (though I don't understand what's currently going on in the dissertation one), and a declawing cats post survived on the blue.

This is Bizarro Metafilter!
posted by cjorgensen at 3:59 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


> You are incorrect in your understanding of what is going on relationship AskMe questions and to paint them all as chatfilter and impossible to answer sounds so ridiculous I'm pretty speechless at the moment.

Oh, please. Most relationship posts don't even have an actual question in them, just a long-winded rant describing one side of a story. A bunch of people give their opinion and the asker marks as best answer the ones that validate the conclusion they had already reached. The ones that have the pretense of asking a question (like "is he into me?") are imminently unanswerable by strangers. If this isn't ChatFilter, I honestly don't know what is.

To be clear, I'm not complaining about them, obviously they are a big hit, and I'm pretty lukewarm on the whole chatfilter guideline. I'm just unconvinced there's a substantial difference between these and the ones that get axed besides the subject matter. My mind could be changed with a compelling enough argument, but apparently your speechlessness rules out anything like an actual discussion of the topic.
posted by cj_ at 4:38 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have cameras!

It was a film camera anyways. Hard to believe...
posted by smackfu at 5:40 PM on October 27, 2009


I don't think that the stricture against hypothetical questions should be a part of the site at all. "Hypothetical" isn't a clear word. Two different readings of "hypothetical question" -- both plausible readings of the term -- are often conflated, and neither is all that problematic.

(1) The first reading is about the content of hypothetical questions. Hypothetical questions ask what would happen in situations that are unlikely to actually occur. (More formally, they invoke subjunctive conditionals with a distant antecedent.) Here, 'hypothetical' is contrasted with 'actual'.

(2) The second reading is about the asker's motivations. Questions are hypothetical when they are not meant to serve a practical purpose; they are asked purely out of interest. Here, 'hypothetical' is contrasted with 'helpful'.

These should be distinguished. They can come apart, and often do. An example of a question that is hypothetical in the first sense but not the second: "I have such-and-such a life insurance policy... if I die of a hypothetical pre-existing condition that I don't know about, would my family be able to collect?" An example of the second but not the first: "I'm not in medicine, but I'm curious about the way that placebos work. If a doctor were to tell a patient that they were taking a placebo, would that person still experience the placebo effect?" Both of these questions seem OK to me.

When people here talk about hypothetical questions, they often have the first definition in mind. For example, see jessamyn's comment that "hypotheticals are, broadly speaking, not okay because there are an infinite number of them" (which is kind of a strange reason; I don't really see why the number is relevant). But most of the time when discussing why hypotheticals are bad, they invoke the second sense. See Ms. Saint's comment that "the emphasis is supposed to be on 'what will help this person the most?' not 'what is the correct answer to this question?'"

I don't think the first sense is problematic at all. I can understand why people think that hypothetical questions in the second sense are bad. But I have never been a fan of a rule that requires the mods to ferret out the intentions of the asker. Questions should stand or fall based on their content alone, and not the hidden motivations of the person who puts it out there. Anyway, a lot of the questions on AskMe are pretty clearly asked on a whim and out of nothing but academic interest, and there usually doesn't seem to be anything wrong with that.

There's obviously something bad about questions like "what would happen if Obama declared war on Iran?" but the problem is not that they are hypothetical (in either sense). It's difficult to say what's wrong with them. (Sometimes people say that the problem is that these sorts of questions are unanswerable, but I think that misses the mark too.) I'm not sure exactly how to characterize why they are bad, but I think that there's an answer lurking out there somewhere.
posted by painquale at 11:09 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love it that the Metafilter admins are often willing to admit error and reverse a decision. It is like the internet except run by grown ups.
posted by LarryC at 11:41 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a manly man's man who can easily endure 10 seconds of vacuum. What spacesuit should I buy? I mean I don't want to get a chick's spacesuit obviously...

It's not so much the spacesuit you wear, as the fedora you accesorise it with....
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:33 AM on October 28, 2009


> There's obviously something bad about questions like "what would happen if Obama declared war on Iran?" but the problem is not that they are hypothetical (in either sense). It's difficult to say what's wrong with them.

Nah, I can tell you what is wrong with that question: It's going to start a flamewar, which (a) results in a lot of angry/upset people the mods have to answer to and (b) reflects negatively on the site, because as entertaining as a good flameout is, nerds calling each other hitler is only a feature of crappy websites.

You'll occasionally see questions that are genuine, yet contentious enough to get a callout, and the moderator opinion is "we kept an eye on this to see how it would go, and it went better than we expected, so we let it stand, after deleting some shitty comments." It seems obvious to me the goal here is to have civil, useful, and interesting threads moreso than enforcing strict guidelines.

What I still don't understand is the resistance to open-ended hypothetical questions, even if they are inoffensive in nature. The only explanation I've seen is a slippery-slope argument that I'm not really wowed by as yet.
posted by cj_ at 4:50 AM on October 28, 2009


> a declawing cats post survived on the blue.

The only reason I can think of that that's still there is that no current flag applies to it. I wanted to flag it as "noise," but we don't have that any more. At any rate, it's a mind-bogglingly stupid and pointless post. "Hey, everybody, look: cats!" Bah.
posted by languagehat at 7:27 AM on October 28, 2009


We still have "noise" for comments though!
posted by smackfu at 8:28 AM on October 28, 2009


Plenist

Look it up.
posted by pianomover at 9:10 AM on October 28, 2009


Yeah I think we don't mean "hypotheical question" so much as "idle thought experiment" question and I agree, it's muddled. The faq says "Open-ended unanswerable or hypothetical questions" and we could probably tighten it up some.

So, we don't want to see historical hypotheticals like "What if Hitler won...?" and we don't want to see "Imagine a world where people had toes instead of fingers..." but the ones that are more physics-based [a perfectly reflected sphere in a mirrored room and you turn the lights on] seem more okay and this one, like I said, seemed borderline to us.

At some level these are guidelines, so we're unlikely to be able to achieve something that's perfectly enforceable and explicable but maybe we could do better than what we have at the moment. We'd really like to not have to, as LarryC says "ferret out the intentions of the asker" but then we're left with the "what is the problem you are trying to solve" question for a lot of questions where the problem may be implied but certainly isn't stated.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:13 AM on October 28, 2009


a perfectly reflected sphere in a mirrored room and you turn the lights on

I'm currently taking bids to install one of these in my house, FYI.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I still don't understand is the resistance to open-ended hypothetical questions, even if they are inoffensive in nature.

I'm guessing it's a matter of focus and AskMe's mission, which is a place for people to get answers to as opposed to philosophy class/bullshit session.

That and I doubt the mods want to deal with every hypothetical under the sun, from "why are we all here?!" to "If I were an alien and lived off sunlight, what would it taste like and would it be fattening?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2009


I doubt the mods want to deal with every hypothetical under the sun, from "why are we all here?!"

This is a good example of a question that isn't a hypothetical question getting lumped into the hypothetical category. There's definitely something bad about this question, but it's not its being hypothetical.
posted by painquale at 2:10 PM on October 28, 2009


I would LOVE to see the emails and IMs flying (blasting off?) between the mods about now. :)

FWIW, I loved the original question. It reminds me of something that would show up in a segment on NPR's Science Friday - you know, one of those things that we've all probably wondered about but didn't really want to know the answer to because of what Mr. Woodcock taught us in 6th grade science class. Yet it turns out that you don't actually just go kablooey when your space suit has a tiny little rip in the left pinky finger.

So that only leaves one final astronaut question unanswered.....
posted by webhund at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2009


I would LOVE to see the emails and IMs flying (blasting off?) between the mods about now. :)

as usual, it's about what you think.

*cortex [8:16]: yeah, dumb comments in there
*cortex [8:16]: that ******** guy is a weirdy
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:16]: and ******** is also a weirdy!
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:16]: and ******** is all over the place being jerkish today
*cortex [8:17]: I BLAME THE WORLD
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:17]: flu anxiety
*cortex [8:17]: H1N1 is the loneliest number
...
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:33]: oh hey I need that animaged gif with the thing and the eyeballs falling out and the headdesk
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:33]: you have?
*cortex [8:34]: heh
*cortex [8:34]: no, but i can google if you want
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:34]: I have tried, if your google is better I'd be obliged
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:34]: am still googling
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:35]: found it
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:35]: I mostly has to ask you I guess
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:35]: http://ninjela.com/img/blog/headdesk.gif
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:35]: win!
*cortex [8:35]: http://media.photobucket.com/image/typing%20gif%20rage/Nman77/typing.gif
*cortex [8:35]: typing gif rage
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:35]: yay
jessamyn@gmail.com [8:36]: headdesk did it for me
*cortex [8:36]: ah
*cortex [8:36]: good call

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:06 PM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


*cortex [8:17]: H1N1 is the loneliest number

I nominate cortex for cloning. Everyone should have one. maybe two!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 PM on October 28, 2009


I see that bears vs. monkeys has not yet been reanimated. WTF.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:51 AM on October 30, 2009


« Older technorati linking   |   Meeting. Again. Yay. Newer »

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