Enriching the "new answers" field? December 22, 2009 4:21 AM   Subscribe

Ask.meta pony - how about tracking followups from the OP in "new answers"?

I like to hop onto Ask.Meta as a distraction from Uni or work, finding answering a couple of questions a very welcome change of pace.

Frequently, however, OP doesn't provide enough information. Those trying to help push a query or two back inthread, which are counted as answers. This is not a problem but how about enriching the field tracking responses to include a flag indicating if OP had followed up in-thread? Frequently this would be a response to a query, and for those who had raised a question this would allow them to see from the main page that OP had posted something in thread.

Currently we see
posted by Mutant to law & government at 3:25 PM - 13 answers (2 new) +-
The proposed functionality would display
posted by Mutant to law & government at 3:25 PM - 13 answers (2 new *) +-
If OP, myself in this case, had followed up in-thread as one of the new comments. Any character could be used in lieu of the asterisk.

NB: I can't properly type the plus / minus thing.

This functionality would break for anonymous questions, where The Mods follow up (if at all), but would seem to add value to properly attributed queries. It would allow those who were tracking a question and who had posted a followup query to OP inthread to see if their question had been (possibly) responded to.
posted by Mutant to Feature Requests at 4:21 AM (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

That's actually not a bad idea, but I think the asterisk would be a little confusing unless it was a link to a FAQ entry explaining what the asterisk meant. Perhaps instead of "x answers" the site could say "y answers, z followups" where x = y + z.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:42 AM on December 22, 2009


I like this idea and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by dogmom at 6:44 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see and understand the motivation, but this strikes me as a sort of fiddly and opaque solution to a problem that could be solved by just bookmarking those threads that (a) you're interested in but (b) feel the asker hasn't provided enough information in and (c) expect they will with some existing system (favorites, literal bookmarks, whatever).

As you say, this wouldn't work for anonymous questions (unless we premise in addition some explicit mod bit-twiddling in those cases, which, no), and it also wouldn't distinguish between useful followups from the asker and not-so-useful ones.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:47 AM on December 22, 2009


Yeah, I agree with this.

I posted a pretty turbulent human relations thread a few months back. Since then the situation has taken an interesting turn. I was going to do a long follow up but I didn't feel it was worth the energy or time, because I had a feeling no one would read it. And I felt that a MetaTalk follow up would be inappropriate and just attention-whorish.
posted by Askiba at 9:00 AM on December 22, 2009


For what it's worth, Askiba, the folks who answered your thread (who are most likely to have an investment in the question) will see a new response from you pop up in Recent Activity.

Folks who have favorited it can see it pop up in the "My Favorites" tab of Recent Activity even if they never commented.

You can also add the "resolved" tag to the question if you've added "this is answered / as answered as its gonna be" information to the end of it, which will make it show up on the Answered tab of AskMe.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:05 AM on December 22, 2009


Can we have an FAQ to deal with the "no one is probably reading this thread anymore" meme that pops up occasionally? It'd be nice just to link to something describing Recent Activity and the likelihood that people are still reading the thread without having to explain it again.
posted by grouse at 10:29 AM on December 22, 2009


Ah. Thanks cortex. You learn something new every day.
posted by Askiba at 11:05 AM on December 22, 2009


Launchpad's Answers system has an explicit thread status, "unanswered," "needs information", "answered" and "solved". Requests for more information can explicitly mark the thread "needs information" by the requester, and the state is reverted to unanswered . For technical support it works well, but for the diversity of AskMe questions I'm not so sure.

Within the adhocracy of MeFi, perhaps a pair of greasemonkey scripts could be made; one to add a button to post a comment to askme with some specific leading markup like Request For Information:, and one to highlight threads based on the relation of marked info requests and OP followups.
posted by pwnguin at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2009


For what it's worth, Askiba, the folks who answered your thread (who are most likely to have an investment in the question) will see a new response from you pop up in Recent Activity.

Folks who have favorited it can see it pop up in the "My Favorites" tab of Recent Activity even if they never commented.


I don't see why these mechanisms aren't enough. You can follow the threads you want to follow already, if you're waiting for an update then favourite it or answer it then check back later.

I often see people asking for more info when more info isn't at all necessary, generally followed by perfectly adequate answers with the information given. Any mechanism to mark something as needing more info is going to get messy as people debate the mark (I know I'd be calling people out on their pointlessly nosey 'tell us more' replies if it was made official in some way), then you have the debate as to whether more info has been given or not (sometimes the poster comes back and follows up with something else instead). It's all subjective and messy. Whereas right now each user can decide on a case by case basis if they want to ask for/give more info and when or if they want to follow a thread more closely to see if said info appears. Having each user make their own decisions for something subjective makes sense, lets leave it like this.
posted by shelleycat at 1:38 PM on December 22, 2009


I often see people asking for more info when more info isn't at all necessary

You know, that should probably say "I occasionally see people" etc. It does happen more often that the asker leaves out something genuinely important like jurisdiction, is asked for it, provides it, then good answers ensue. But it's a sliding scale and I definitely see questions down the other end where someone asks for more info just because they're nosy or something and it's answered by others just fine without the extra details. Too much detail often leads to a derail anyway.

Clearly different people have different tolerances for this, otherwise no one would ask when I think they don't need to, so it makes sense to keep the solution individualised to allow these tolerances to all be valid. Hard coding something in draws a line, then we argue about where the line is drawn, when really the line is beside the point.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 PM on December 22, 2009


Maybe a literal solution to Mutant's problem here would be to have a followup area (like a second "more inside") that the OP can add to at any time. It would appear at the top of the post, since it's part of the question.

But that kinda breaks the flow of the conversation, and the current system works fine for me.
posted by mmoncur at 10:07 PM on December 22, 2009


Different pony:

Finding responses from the OP on anonymous posts. It's kind of hard, I end up command-F + 'cortex', 'jessamyn', until I hopefully get lucky, or try searching for "from the OP", which is sometimes there. It'd be nice if mods simply had a way to add a comment from the Anonymous account itself so that they're easy to find in a standard way.
posted by floam at 11:44 PM on December 22, 2009


My motivation in suggesting this was to render information available at the highest possible level, and in a consistent manner.

Bookmarking, as suggested, doesn't suffice to this end as I can see, by looking at the highest possible level (i.e., the ask page), if additional "answers" (in italics as sometimes an answer isn't an answer) have been added.

But I can't see if any of those additional answers (responses) were provided by OP.

Also bookmarking forces me to "poll"; that is, click through then peruse to determine if OP had answered a query put forward. Of course we wouldn't know if OP had provided an answer to a query (as opposed to comment, etc) but this would still provide more information (i.e., one of the response was by OP) at the highest possible level, the top ask page.

Anonymous questions were never proposed to be included in this mechanism, but anonymous questions already are inconsistent in many ways e.g., floam's observation, or an answer to an anonymous question can't be favourited (and mods don't entertain manual favouriting), or anonymous can't directly respond in thread.
posted by Mutant at 3:40 AM on December 23, 2009


Finding responses from the OP on anonymous posts. It's kind of hard

We have gotten pretty consistent lately about using a

[small text in brackets bit to denote]
A blockquoted response from the anonymous asker
So it may be as fast as anything to just scroll down through the thread looking for the visual bump, if that's any help.

We don't have any specific plans to change how anony updates work at the moment; the last thing we talked about was just creating a little admin button specifically to automate the generation of that little small/blockquote structure to save us ten seconds of typing when we need to make one.

Which isn't to say the anony system might not get a structural facelift at some point, but it's not really something we've been taking about lately.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:29 AM on December 23, 2009


Bookmarking, as suggested, doesn't suffice to this end as I can see, by looking at the highest possible level (i.e., the ask page), if additional "answers" (in italics as sometimes an answer isn't an answer) have been added.

I look at this and try to think what general problem is solved by the proposed changed and whether, if it's meaningfully extant, if it's sufficiently problematic that it justifies adding some visual cruft to the UI.

I mean, again, I understand I think specifically what you see yourself getting out of it. But the solution seems kind of cart-before-horse: you want to know whether there's been comments by the original askers of questions before you've even established that you are interested in the question?

That's what it is about the objection to manually polling threads that doesn't really strike me as much of an objection. Tracking a thread you're specifically interested in the development of to see if the asker comes back is pretty doable with a number of existing features, and fits as far as I can tell the typical pattern of engagement for a lot of askme readers and participants. Tracking the specific "has there been an update of any kind by the asker since I last refreshed the index of askme" status, not so much, and tweaking the UI and adding code under the hood specifically to track that seems like not worth doing, particularly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on December 23, 2009


But the solution seems kind of cart-before-horse: you want to know whether there's been comments by the original askers of questions before you've even established that you are interested in the question?

Apologies, I thought this was clear; I am interested, have read the question and perhaps I've even raised a query in thread. Its just that I can't see if OP had responded inthread from the top level (i.e., Ask) page. There isn't anything more to it that that. Presently if OP does respond or comment in thread, its shows up as an "answer". Which, of course, it isn't.

Sure I could see details on "recent activity", but sometimes others raise the same query I was thinking of and I don't post my question since they already have.

I really don't feel strongly about this, just thought it might add value since it would be easy to tell from the top level page if OP had contributed one of the "answers".
posted by Mutant at 8:06 AM on December 23, 2009


Sure I could see details on "recent activity", but sometimes others raise the same query I was thinking of and I don't post my question since they already have.

Then, again, bookmarking that specific thread or dropping a favorite onto it to track via the My Favorites tab on Recent Activity seems like a pretty good solution for tracking it that already exists, yeah?

I don't mean to imply you're angling hard for this or whatever, sorry if I have come off as strident, I'm just trying to be clear about why making a change to the UI of the front page of askme seems like significant overkill in this context. It solves a very, very niche problem, incompletely, at the cost of changing how the site looks and having to put work in under the hood to make it happen.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:13 AM on December 23, 2009


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