Ask Metafilter questions that can't be answered October 31, 2009 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Questions that can't be answered given the information presented.

Questions, such as this one, can't be answered given the information presented.

The OP anonymously solicits legal advice as to whether short selling a stock given a set of facts is illegal. The question is poorly worded and most of the responses show an utter ignorance about how (1) security law works, (2) the theory of efficient markets, and (3) the realities of limited SEC enforcement.

Please see my response to the question here.

This question ought to be deleted. Alternatively, you ought to have a qualified securities lawyer respond to it.
posted by dfriedman to MetaFilter-Related at 7:11 AM (31 comments total)

Often people don't know that their questions are unanswerable until they ask them. MetaTalk is a better place for the metadiscussion than the thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:14 AM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you want to repost your comment from that thread here, lmk and I can send you a copy, but any petitioning of the mods to remove a thread needs to happen in MetaTalk not in someone's MeFi/AskMe thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 AM on October 31, 2009


I think the problem of people soliciting "lay" legal advice is a separate one from the problem of people lacking the skill of asking sensical questions. Separate the two issues if you intend to have a discussion about them, because the former is an ancient and worn-out argument around here whereas the latter is something that needs exploring.
posted by majick at 7:27 AM on October 31, 2009


*phew*

i thought for a second that you were calling for an end to RelationshipFilter.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:28 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear what you're saying, but absolutes like 'can't' and 'ought' often don't fit so well with Metafilter in general.

I think that's why this section of the site is grey.
posted by Jofus at 7:39 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


This seemed like many other questions people ask about all sorts of topics. Often people leave out things that they don't know are important such as what they mean by "spiritual welfare". Then the good minds of AskMe ask some questions to refine, and deliver answers to the best of their ability. Seems like it worked well here to me.
posted by josher71 at 7:52 AM on October 31, 2009


Seems like it worked well here to me.

"Worked well" in the sense that the answers, taken together, were contradictory and incoherent -- not even agreeing on the standard by which the question should be answered, let alone the answer -- which was an effective way of letting the OP know that he should talk to someone who might know something.

I disagree, by the way, that the question is unanswerable on its face.
posted by palliser at 7:57 AM on October 31, 2009


If you want to repost your comment from that thread here, lmk and I can send you a copy

Who's this new mod, lmk?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:00 AM on October 31, 2009


Who's this new mod, lmk?

Perhaps this was a joke, but I did not know who/what lmk was either. The interweb tells me it stands for 'let me know'......
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:12 AM on October 31, 2009


So, any ideas on which stock we should be buying and short selling?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was a joke, womble, although I did misread that way at first.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2009


I think the answer is lots of speculation.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:19 AM on October 31, 2009


Guys, I'm on the phone with lmk right now and I have to tell you he's pretty upset about this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 AM on October 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


lmk just left a comment on my blog and it was awesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2009


I know more about lmk than you can possibly imagine.

And I think the system worked in this case--it demonstrated to the asker that even though a bunch of smart people couldn't figure out exactly WHAT the problem with doing that was, there were a number of very serious potential problems with it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:11 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Speaking of lmk, I once stood behind him in line at a hot dog stand. I thought about asking for his autograph, but then I chickened out.
posted by Atreides at 9:22 AM on October 31, 2009


70 m4|{3 µp ƒ0r m¥ n00b17µÐ3 1'm wr171n9 7h1$ 3n71r3£¥ 1n £337
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 9:38 AM on October 31, 2009


cortex: Guys, I'm on the phone with lmk right now and I have to tell you he's pretty upset about this.

wait! what?! lmk is a guy! then who was that masked woman at the last meetup?
posted by Kattullus at 9:44 AM on October 31, 2009


I've lost count of how many times I've run into lmk. Really it's become quite tedious to me, but I bet if I listed them all it would be pretty interesting. To you.
posted by scalefree at 9:50 AM on October 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


My guess is that it's hypothetical, driven by the announcement of the Google turn-by-turn driving app. Anyway. If more info would help, the asked can add it by mailing a mod.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:05 AM on October 31, 2009


I hear lmk wears a fedora. And likes taters.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:27 AM on October 31, 2009


A big problem with this question is the poster leaves off location/jurisdiction information. A problem that runs rampant in Anonymous AskMes.
posted by Mitheral at 10:41 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the question does not give enough information to give a perfect answer, you can always give an conditional answer. Like in this case, if it's important whether the info is public or not, give two answers, one for each scenario.
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ehh. People do this all the time, I'm over it.

What bothers me more is the people who say things like "I think my doctor/professor/SO was out of line when they did X, am I right?" and then a big thread ensues where the huge majority of people say that the OP is wrong. At which time the OP marks the two answers out of a hundred that agree with their initial position and say "Thanks, I think my doctor/professor/SO was indeed out of line".

And then I hate when I get my comments deleted pointing out that they've just wasted everyone's time.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on October 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


What did you think of the movie Crash?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:44 PM on October 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


lmk has just MeMailed me to inform me of forthcoming Metafilter innovations.

I'm shorting BoingBoing.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:31 AM on November 1, 2009


Multivac fell dead and silent. The slow flashing of lights ceased, the distant sounds of clicking relays ended.

Then, just as the frightened technicians felt they could hold their breath no longer, there was a sudden springing to life of the teletype attached to that portion of Multivac. Five words were printed: INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:57 AM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


In my experience, most askers of legal questions fail to provide enough background information. At the same time, sadly, far too many answerers with inadequate legal knowledge jump in with both feet to try to answer. In general, I think legal questions are not a particularly good AskMe topic. Not saying we should ban or restrict them, just recognize that their utility is probably not all that high.

I wonder what the results of an "AskMetaFilter questioner satisfaction" survey would look like broken down by category. I'd be willing to bet that the shopping and computers categories would be pretty strong, legal relatively low, and relationship all over the map. But I'd still rather see such a survey than guess!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2009


This is the nature of asking questions. If the person knew, they'd know.

One of the great things about MeFi is the depth and breadth of the participants. There is everyone from everywhere here, and that includes experts and first hand experiences on almost every subject.

Which is awesome. But a drawback is that people often don't prepare their questions very well because they a) don't know what they don't know, and b) assume that someone who knows better will fill in the missing parts.

There are tons of questions that can't be answered as asked. That's why MeFi allows followups. Even for anon questions.

And quite a number of people in that thread posted the obligatory and reasonable "Talk to an attorney". Where that thread became really unfortunate was about halfway through then people started attacking each other. I think the question was a perfectly reasonable question for someone to ask. The responses... not so much.

(I think most of the Looking For Legal Advice Q's are really of the "I know the answer but someone else just tell me so I can move on." family of questions. Like "Should I dump him/her?")
posted by Ookseer at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2009


Ask questions do have the least quality control of anything on Metafilter. FPPs and MetaTalk posts can be mocked, as can comments on the blue or grey. Comments on the green are competing for best answer. But a bad AskMe, if it isn't deleted, can draw a lot of friendly chat and speculation. People can criticize the poster (semi-politely), but not the question. I realize that the motivation is supposed to be the desire for an answer, but we get a lot of repeat questions, dumb questions (I still remember the one that was "what's my cell phone cancellation fee going to be?"), and questions that are just people venting, where the desire for an answer is not enough to make sure a question is a good use of the community space.

It seems like perhaps a tightening up of the guidelines around what gets deleted could help. Besides questions without enough info, I'd say we should delete questions that cannot be answered by Metafilter (e.g., how many months are left in your cell phone contract), and doubles. Near-doubles might be okay if they move the ball beyond earlier questions. ("I understand from past questions that the recommended approach to dealing with critical parents is to set limits about how much criticism you'll take before you end the conversation. In this case, I'm having trouble figuring out how to do this because...")
posted by salvia at 3:16 AM on November 2, 2009


I would argue that "...far too many answerers with inadequate legal knowledge jump in with both feet to try to answer" could be shortened.

For all types of questions, far too many answerers with inadequate knowledge jump in with both feet. Hell, too many people with insufficient reading of the question itself throw their two cents in.

"I wonder what the results of an "AskMetaFilter questioner satisfaction" survey would look like..."

As someone who participates heavily and puts a tremendous amount of faith in it, personally I wouldn't rate my experience as an asker (of both my questions of record and my anonymous questions) very highly. There've been several times where I've wished there were a "Didn't even try to read the question" flag I could mark answers with, and have them queued for removal or hiding. Answers from low-comprehension readers are Ask's biggest flaw -- the dumb jokey stuff gets removed, but the dumb answery stuff stands.
posted by majick at 4:01 AM on November 2, 2009


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