A concern about anonymous posting February 8, 2010 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm a little worried that the increasing number of anonymous posts about personal and relationship issues may, if it continues, change the character and tone of AskMeFi. Have the Meta-powers that be ever considered hiving (heh) off the anonymous posts into their own page?

This may be my perception more than anything else, but it seems to me that the number of anonymous posts, as well as the ratio of anonymous to signed posts, has been increasing steadily since I began my Meta-life.

Not that there's anything wrong with posting anonymously, I've done it a few times myself, and have even been advised to change a signed post to anonymous. But anonymous posts tend to have a different quality to them. First because the subject matter by definition tends to be related to subjective personal issues rather than the more objective non-personal issues of signed posts, and second I'm finding them to frequently be (again just my perception and apologies for the snideness) more than a little whiny and self-pitying. And very often the majority of responses tend to be a variation of "go see a therapist."

Today, for example:

I had a miserable upbringing. Other people didn't. How can I come to terms with this?

There also a lot of anon posts that don't fall into this category, like...

I'm applying for citizenship (USA, sending in the forms in the next few days) and also possibly getting married (not to an American) in March. Does this effect my application and/or is it a bad idea?

...and I know its not entirely fair to lump them together. And I realize the anon questions are moderated. But I fear that there's a tipping point somewhere down the road if the ratio of anon/non-anon posts continues to rise where Ask starts to look more like Yahoo or Google q&a sites, and the character of the community starts to shift from one of individuals who have trust in one another because they are both asking and answering questions to one of anonymous interactions.

My thought was that by creating a separate anonymous page, it would maintain the character of the original AskMeFi, while still giving opportunity to ask questions that the asker feels should be anonymous.

If I'm alone in this perception and concern, I happily withdraw the comment and suggestion.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Etiquette/Policy at 10:00 PM (152 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I like it better the way it is.
posted by grouse at 10:04 PM on February 8, 2010 [21 favorites]


My first thought is that the answers aren't anonymous. That alone might keep AskMe from meeting the Yahoo answers fate you envision.

Second, some people probably read AskMe for the anonymous questions. Not everyone uses the site the same way.
posted by MadamM at 10:05 PM on February 8, 2010


I will say on the raw data end of things, ever since just before the past holiday season, we didn't have too many anon posts, on the order of just a handful a day, but as the holidays approached, we watched it sort of grow by an order of magnitude as people dealt with new family and holiday issues. Since then we've still had a bit of a run on anon posts, maybe 1.5x what they were before the holidays and we've had to meter them out so there isn't always anon posts showing on the page. So you may be entirely correct that usage of the feature is up (we could do some real data digging to see on a anon posts/month basis over the previous year if josh or pb was feeling up to it).

On the flipside, if the consensus is that the tone of Ask MeFi is changing and that anon posts are getting more whiny, we could be more selective in what we approve, and turn down posts that will end with mentions of therapy or sound too whiny.

I'm not sure I've seen the tone or tenor of Ask MeFi change much, though anon questions do tend towards relationship and psychology much more than regular questions.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:06 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Incognito beans, meet overwrought plate.
posted by lalochezia at 10:07 PM on February 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mo meta Mo problems
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 10:13 PM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


You can create a custom version of AskMe and choose which categories to include. I've done that. I excluded:

Clothing, beauty, & fashion
Human relations
work & money

and now I mostly don't see the relationship questions.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:17 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, PB -- how about also letting me exclude all anonymous posts?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:18 PM on February 8, 2010


turn down posts that will end with mentions of therapy or sound too whiny

Eh? Wtf?? I mean, really? God forbid someone who needs help with an intensely painful personal problem should get the help they need or commiserate with others! I say clear the space for more questions about what foods we can eat and video games!

It's so weird to even hear the term "whiny" here at all. It's not 1961 and we're not in the locker room. You're not a "pansy" talk about emotional problems. If people who need help can't get help, there's no need for Ask to exist anymore. It continues to baffle me that some readers will happily read 146 questions a week about the minutae of hard drives and X-Boxes and any other kind of bullshit, but are offended that different people have personal problems which overlap to some degree.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:43 PM on February 8, 2010 [76 favorites]


I agree that it seems like anonymous questions have increased. But looking over a half dozen pages of recent questions the strong majority of anonymous asks aren't the type you are griping about. They are practical questions where the asker clearly has a valid reason to protect their anonymity (it's about their job or contains sensitive personal financial information or whatever). I think you're seeing a problem that isn't really there because you happen to find these questions irritating. I've found a great solution to this kind of problem is to not read things that irritate me.
posted by nanojath at 10:47 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, PB -- how about also letting me exclude all anonymous posts?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:18 PM on February 8


That's a good idea. I'd love a show-all-but-anon option so users can decide if we want to see them.
posted by birdherder at 10:54 PM on February 8, 2010


That's so funny because I was just thinking earlier about how AskMe, and MetaFilter itself, has seemed to be getting more awesome lately. And that it has probably been that way since the inception of the site. We are effortlessly entering entropy, I do not fear. I may even welcome it when my head explodes from happiness.

In other words, I really enjoy you and all your problems, whoever you are. Keep on sharin' and asking for help. Makes the world go round.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:55 PM on February 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Whiny ≠ pansy, so lighten up there, Francis. Our culture - and I'll extend this to the Anglosphere - has gotten really, really whiny. I think it'd be great for there to be an AskMeAnon section so it could be ignored.

Call it the Pink. Nah, just kidding. But some other color.
posted by codswallop at 10:57 PM on February 8, 2010


and second I'm finding them to frequently be (again just my perception and apologies for the snideness) more than a little whiny and self-pitying. Today, for example:

I had a miserable upbringing. Other people didn't. How can I come to terms with this?


That's your example of "whiny and self-pitying"? For real? An anonymous post where the OP reports a history of childhood sexual abuse?

Did you even bother to read the question before starting a Meta featuring it or is it that the OP's experiences are of the "whiny and self-pitying" variety in your estimation?
posted by mlis at 11:12 PM on February 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


God forbid someone who needs help with an intensely painful personal problem should get the help they need or commiserate with others!

One of the guidelines for a good ask.metafilter question is that they should avoid Open-ended chatty questions that don't offer a problem to be solved.

Commiseration, while perhaps cathartic, is not a problem to be solved.
Anonymous relationship questions often stray over that (admittedly subjective) line.

I, too, would like to see a lot less anonymous questions that are inevitably going to end in "Dump 'em" or "See a therapist".
posted by madajb at 11:18 PM on February 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Anonymous relationship questions are bad because there is often no right answer. And when there is a right answer, the asker rarely wants to hear it. The only payoff is the drama.

(You do like drama, yes?)
posted by ryanrs at 11:28 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm an avid reader of anonymous questions. That said, I can understand if some people would like the ability to exclude them on MyAsk.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:33 PM on February 8, 2010


God forbid someone who needs help with an intensely painful personal problem should get the help they need or commiserate with others!

I don't think that AskMe is a good place for people to seek commiseration. More like a place to seek answers to questions.

I think Chocolate Pickle has the answer.
posted by pompomtom at 11:49 PM on February 8, 2010


I posted about this (or very similar to this) only a few months ago out of curiosity as to what the official ruling on things is. It seemed the conclusion back then was "If you don't like it, no one is making you read these things. You aside, many people benefit."

I've stopped caring one way or another and tweaking my personal settings to show the things I'm interested in has made Ask a way more enjoyable experience. This said, there are a lot of really valid questions about personal interaction that can be beneficial to the asker as well as future readers (e.g. "What do I do about my partner's [weird habit]?") and it would be nice to not have the community pass by these because they're busy ignoring the other type of this question: DearMetafilter (e.g. "I'm in a bad relationship!").

I don't feel we're close to that point though. Scrolling down the frontpage of Ask right now, I see only two questions that could fit the DearMefi mold (the one above, and another pretty hilarious one).
posted by battlebison at 11:54 PM on February 8, 2010


But looking over a half dozen pages of recent questions the strong majority of anonymous asks aren't the type you are griping about. They are practical questions where the asker clearly has a valid reason to protect their anonymity (it's about their job or contains sensitive personal financial information or whatever).

I did some looking backwards too and came to the same conclusion as nanojath. And had the same solution as Chocolate Pickle, use the personalised my.ask if you don't like the balance of questions. Lots of people don't like human relations type questions in general but that's a different problem I think, and since plenty more people love those questions it's a problem that my.ask was specifically built to solve.

The ability to exclude anonymous questions from my.ask seems like a good addition which would also help solve RandlePatrickMcMurphy's original question.
posted by shelleycat at 11:58 PM on February 8, 2010


I hadn't actually read that miserable upbringing question until now and wow, there are a lot of thoughtful and thought out answers in there. Madamina, in particular, posted an answer which really resonates with me and which I will incorporate into my own arsenal for dealing with my past. That question's so not an example of something we want to avoid but one we should be proud to have here. I hope the anonymous poster also gains something from it.
posted by shelleycat at 12:09 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hmm. I'm a humanrelations anonymous-question devotee. And just today I was wondering about this exact same "tipping point" question. I was also feeling like the answers were lower quality. Most likely, it's just that I'm tiring of those type of questions, but the timing of this question makes me wonder.

That said, I will defend the general category and think the no-anon option might be a good compromise.
posted by salvia at 12:14 AM on February 9, 2010


It's funny because just today I was thinking how much I'd like to write a "thank you" post in Metatalk but would never dare. So instead, let me write one here.

I have been reading MeFi and AskMe for several months now. I am an avid reader, particularly of anonymous human relations questions. I've never posted a question myself, but reading your replies has changed everything, and has changed me.
Your straightforward, encouraging and sometimes tough replies have helped me see things differently, find the courage to react to things differently and find a firmer grounding in how people with more life experience than me deal with life.

For instance, last week, I finally adressed a problem with my husband that had been festering in me for 12 years. 12 years ago, he brushed my concern off and it has been eating at me and my self esteem ever since. I thought of all the "talk about it / DTFMA" responses I've been reading here, and I thought how ridiculous I was being. Then I talked to him about it, and he reacted in a wonderful, loving and absolutely perfect way.

So yeah, hanging round the anonymous questions has changed my views and made me react in healthier ways and I wanted to say thank you to all the caring people who are taking the time to answer anonymous relationship questions. Thank you.

*embarassed cough*

Ok, carry on.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:15 AM on February 9, 2010 [35 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "Hey, PB -- how about also letting me exclude all anonymous posts"

Sounds like an easy task for Greasemonkey. (No, I don't know how to code Greasemonkey scripts, unfortunately.)
posted by IndigoRain at 12:48 AM on February 9, 2010


A proposal to improve AskMe: What if we started deleting doubles? As someone who has been reading AskMe for four years, the questions I love are questions that are entirely new to me. On the blue, doubles are forbidden. In Ask, people ask the same stuff over and over.

We could allow repeats when people are explicitly building off past advice:
* "What entry level dSLR should I buy? Per this thread, I have narrowed it down to two options, and now I'm interested in your views about how they render colors."
* "How do I deal with my critical mother? Per the eleven threads on negative relations with family members, I instituted a system where I will hang up when she criticizes me. But she has over-corrected and now acts fawning and ingratiating. What next??"
* "Since the last question on short, accessible non-fiction, posted in May 2009, has anything good been released?"

Otherwise, I'm sorry, but there are already fourteen threads about how to make friends: why are those not meeting your needs? We encourage people to search past threads, but there's really no penalty for repeating an old thread. I'm guilty of it myself.

This would certainly be easier to administer than trying to delete "whiny" questions.
posted by salvia at 12:54 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


this anonymous question, and the anecdotes in the reply stream, makes me think we may actually need a way to do anonymous replies. I'm pretty sure there are a few readers of that thread who have helpful stories for the OP, but we're not seeing them because they don't want to tell them with their name underneath.

And yes, not having anonymous answers probably makes the quality better, overall. I don't have a good solution... perhaps only allow anonymous answers to anonymous questions?
posted by DreamerFi at 1:06 AM on February 9, 2010


I'd like to see an option where you can post askme's with a one thread only username alias, so that the OP can respond in thread and still keep their relative anonymity. Maybe a prefix in front of alias so that the username space doesn't get completely exhausted.

Yes, I know there is a mechanism for mods to post mailed in followups, but it seems to be a high bar for some reason.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:12 AM on February 9, 2010


Can we have a way to hide whiny Metatalk posts? All those "Waaaa Waaaa my AskMe is too whiny!" complaints are really ruining my day.

[NOT WHINY]
posted by qvantamon at 2:53 AM on February 9, 2010


OK. Just thought I'd ask.

I should have used more neutral language to describe what I was perceiving about the anon posts, but I'm at least somewhat heartened that the data support my perception.

But since hardly anyone likes my idea I guess I'll go back to the locker room and try not to feel sorry for myself.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 3:52 AM on February 9, 2010


Salvia, your idea really appealed to me for a bit, but then I thought, the two sites have very different functions, and much as I may wish otherwise, Ask.me doesn't exist for me, _except_ when I'm an asker.

As readers, I'm not sure our concerns are worth a hill of beans for ask.me (whilst I feel this definitely isn't the case for the blue). As a questioner, I'm yet to use anonymous, but I see lots of totally worthwhile uses that I would want if I had that kind of question.

The other thing to remember is that plenty of non-anon questions get deleted everyday. Because of the differing approval process, who's to say there aren't more anons than we might think knocked back?

I empathise with your feelings, it's frustrating when someone clearly hasn't used the google option available in the posting structure itself, but if the site exists to give answers, boring and exciting alike, perhaps it's as it should be.
posted by smoke at 4:01 AM on February 9, 2010


Otherwise, I'm sorry, but there are already fourteen threads about how to make friends: why are those not meeting your needs?

Although I don't mean to apply this to you specifically, an awful lot of this kind of criticism of RelationshipFilter/EmotionalLifeFilter questions on AskMe seems to come from the kind of people who, uh, how shall we put it, aren't necessarily well attuned to the nuances between superficially similar but subtly different questions about emotional and psychological matters. Of course there is special snowflake syndrome on the part of Askers, but there are also plenty of people on this site who just seem to seize up when someone asks about whether or not they should dump their boyfriend, etc. Most of those "should I dump him/her?", "how can I make new friends?" questions are plenty different to each other, and often I think the anti-Relationship-Filter crowd would do well to look inwards a bit to figure out why they hate these topics so much.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


Useful organisational suggestions here, though admittedly the subject isn't Internet postings.
posted by Abiezer at 5:07 AM on February 9, 2010


My only beef with anonyme questions are the "Can we ever be more than friends?" questions, which, yes - your relationship is unique to you, but we're a bunch of internet strangers and that question has been asked before. Over. And over. And over again.

Flowchart: Can we be more than friends? -> Is she dating someone else? -> Yes -> NO.
-> No? -> Did someone just die? -? Yes -> NO.
-> No? -> Just call her and find out for yourself.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think it'd be great for there to be an AskMeAnon section so it could be ignored.

Isn't it easy enough to ignore it now? About 95% of the relationship questions on AskMe depress the living hell out of me, so I don't read them. I just pretend they aren't there. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, you know.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:48 AM on February 9, 2010


This is a job for greasemonkey, not the MeFi servers.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:08 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


as the holidays approached, we watched it sort of grow by an order of magnitude as people dealt with new family and holiday issues. Since then we've still had a bit of a run on anon posts, maybe 1.5x what they were before the holidays

I think it's just that time of year. It's easier to be miserable when it's freezing and gray outside. I would imagine that usage always goes up during the winter months and tapers off as the weather gets better.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:13 AM on February 9, 2010


But I fear that there's a tipping point somewhere down the road if the ratio of anon/non-anon posts continues to rise where Ask starts to look more like Yahoo or Google q&a sites, and the character of the community starts to shift from one of individuals who have trust in one another because they are both asking and answering questions to one of anonymous interactions.

Sorry, but this fear doesn't make very much sense with how this site is structured. Even anonymous users are members of this site. The others members of the site respond to them knowing that.

If you don't like relationshipfilter or anonymous questions, just don't spend any time in those threads, but to say that the fabric of the site is somehow being damaged seems overly dramatic.
posted by desuetude at 6:23 AM on February 9, 2010


instead of letting them post as anonymous, we should make them post as ann landers
posted by pyramid termite at 6:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


In Ask, people ask the same stuff over and over.

If that's really the case, the same answer must apply to each instance of a question. Answer it really well once. Then every time someone repeats that tired old question about how to make friends by playing our suggestions (keep 'em coming!) for songs or jokes suitable for grandmothers of cis boyfriends who do or do not realize what anyone would realize about Apple products if they weren't fat or mysteriously lethargic and swollen not that there's anything wrong with that is there?, copy and paste your fantastic method (copyright you) into the latest version of that question, edit for slight variations (actually fat or just a high BMI?), and click Post Comment.
posted by pracowity at 6:38 AM on February 9, 2010


I've added a couple of charts about anonymous questions to my Infodump charts page. The absolute number of anonymous questions is increasing steadily, and the percentage of questions which are anonymous also seems to be creeping upwards from the traditional 5-ish percent to around 10 percent now.
posted by FishBike at 6:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yes, not having anonymous answers probably makes the quality better, overall. I don't have a good solution... perhaps only allow anonymous answers to anonymous questions?

Sometimes it seems like the answers are the things that should be anonymous instead of the questions. A recent BJ thread comes to mind. o_O But then again, people aren't forced into answering.
posted by morganannie at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've seen what mathowie has seen, we're seeing anonyme questions a lot more and ... this is a feeling I get that hasn't been checked out datawise... I feel like they're people who aren't other wise using the site much, new users I guess. Put another way, we see the usernames of the people who are asking the questions [not linked to the questions, we've gone over the mechanism a lot recently so I don't know if anyone needs me to do it again] and I don't recognize like most of them.

Also, questions are getting approved at about the same rate which means there are often a few in the queue. This means more "where's my question" emails, more updates from me and just generally more lag built in. While I don't think deleting the whiny ones in any way solves the problem, being a little more rigorous about what we accept is probably a decent idea.

In other words, questions maybe need to be a little more clear why they're anonymous, need to more clearly be questions [i.e. not just a "here are the details of my relationship ending, how can I go on?"] and need to not be "I was just wondering" sorts of questions from people who use the AnonyMe feature a lot [as I've said before, most people seem to use it once or twice ever. Some people use it every other month].

I'm still getting up, I'll be keeping an eye on this thread closely to see what other people think.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2010


Maybe an additional field to the anonymous question where the poster is explicitly asked to justify to the mods why they're doing it anonymously? It might make some people hit the back button and not bother trying anonymously, and at the very least, the mods will know rather than have to guess why it should be anonymous, or give an easy out to not post it as anonymous.

Failing that, there could be a queue of anonymous posts, and a hard limit for the number that can be in there. A suggestion for the limit would be where we were before the jump in the holidays. Maybe even display the best guess approximate wait time for an anonymous post to appear on the composition page. If someone sees that it's going to be 2.3 days until their question shows they might decide to use their name. Perhaps tie the hard limit to the log of users (log instead of linear relationship to account for sock puppets).
posted by nobeagle at 6:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anonymous relationship questions are bad because there is often no right answer. And when there is a right answer, the asker rarely wants to hear it.

I don't agree with the unstated premise here ("must have a single right answer" is not a requirement of a good AskMe question; I don't see anyone complaining about "what should I see in Brussels" type questions, even though those don't have a single right answer either), but even if I did, this seems to apply equally to anonymous and non-anonymous RelationshipFilter questions, while it does not apply to anonymous non-RelationshipFilter (e.g., financial, job search) questions. So even if it were a valid criticism, it would be an argument against RelationshipFilter questions, not anonymous questions per se.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:03 AM on February 9, 2010


For me, the issue is that people are posting lame AskMe questions. Why on earth was this anonymous? Painfully overwrought bean plating about a fundamentally simple question of landlord-tenant law, with a groin-grabbingly simple answer.

Yes, I realize that the need for anonymity is in the eye of the beholder. But back in the day, we had questions about serious things like picking up girls while wearing goddamn Fedoras and faking a British accent.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:27 AM on February 9, 2010


Part of the other thing with the AnonyMe questions is that we sometimes know more about the questions and askers than the general population. I emailed back and forth with the OP of that question Admiral Haddock and it was clear that the answer didn't seem simple to them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:31 AM on February 9, 2010


I don't see anyone complaining about "what should I see in Brussels" type questions

I would like to complain about that type of question.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:46 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I excluded:

Clothing, beauty, & fashion
Human relations
work & money


..and now you're naked, lonely and broke.
posted by jonmc at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


jessamyn: "...as I've said before, most people seem to use it once or twice ever. Some people use it every other month."

In defense of those who use AnonyAskMe frequently: some of us have accounts under our real names, which makes it trickier to ask legal, financial, emotional, or medical questions without revealing things we would rather keep hidden from nosy friends or employers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:55 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Part of the other thing with the AnonyMe questions is that we sometimes know more about the questions and askers than the general population. I emailed back and forth with the OP of that question Admiral Haddock and it was clear that the answer didn't seem simple to them.

Of this I have no doubt. And, as I wrote above, I recognize that the need for anonymity is in the eye of the beholder. And yet it still strikes me as a needlessly anonymous question, while we're on the topic of the proliferation of anonymous questions.

Meanwhile, I am still flabbergasted that the recent nanny tax question was not asked anonymously in first place or subsequently anonymized on the request of the poster. But, as they say, the best way to get out of a hole is just to keep on diggin', right?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:56 AM on February 9, 2010


A proposal to improve AskMe: What if we started deleting doubles? As someone who has been reading AskMe for four years, the questions I love are questions that are entirely new to me. On the blue, doubles are forbidden. In Ask, people ask the same stuff over and over.

I hate this idea.

Every askme is unique, and sometimes the answers given to one question don't quite fit someone else's situation.

I'll give you an example from my own life: our nanny told us that she's pregnant this morning. There's one excellent thread on this subject which was posted in August. However, it doesn't ask or answer some of the questions *I* have on the subject, and the circumstances the asker outlines are different than mine.

So I'm going to do some research on my own, then my wife and I are going to sit down and chat with her to get a firmer idea of what she'd like to do and how we can support her goals and perhaps try to mesh her needs with ours. And then I'll probably have some questions to ask.

Your policy would require the mods to make a value judgement as to whether my questions had been adequately answered in a previous thread. But I've already looked and found them lacking. I realize that Team Mod takes deletions on a case by case basis, but if they decide the other thread should be good enough for me, then I suppose I'm out of luck.

Or, perhaps someone has a great suggestion to make, but wasn't a member (or wasn't active) when the last question was posed. Perhaps they didn't even notice that it had been posted the first time!

AskMe is an incredibly helpful resource. Why should we limit its usefulness?
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ask is heavily moderated. Why not ease off on the moderation and let the flames winnow out the weak askers?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:14 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


On a related note, I think one day a year (say, October 1, 6 months after April Fool's Day) the site should be completely unmoderated. I think that would be a highly entertaining train wreck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can somebody old explain to me how people solved problems before we had the internet? Because I don't get it.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:17 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


In defense of those who use AnonyAskMe frequently: some of us have accounts under our real names...

Can't one use a sockpuppet for this? As long as you're not using one to get around the 1-question-a-week limit, I was under the impression that having a sockpuppet for this purpose was ok. Am I wrong?
posted by k8lin at 8:24 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why on earth was this anonymous? Painfully overwrought bean plating about a fundamentally simple question of landlord-tenant law, with a groin-grabbingly simple answer.

Obviously, the answer wasn't apparent to the asker. That doesn't make the question lame or stupid, by the way. Sometimes a person may be too close to their own situation to see the forest for the trees. In this case, the asker is a foreign student who is unaware of the nuances of landlord-tenant law in the country in which they are temporarily residing.

By the way... while I agree with you that the question' was way too long, it could not be summed up the way you said it could in that thread. A good, helpful answer would require a deeper understanding of the asker's situation. And indeed, the details which were added into the question garnered additional suggestions which appear to be helpful.
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on February 9, 2010


Can't one use a sockpuppet for this? As long as you're not using one to get around the 1-question-a-week limit, I was under the impression that having a sockpuppet for this purpose was ok. Am I wrong?

Yeah that's okay, though again we'd prefer people's use of the AnonyMe feature was rare. So a sock puppet that you use for this once or twice, fine. One that you're using to be anonymous regularly, less okay. Our general feeling is that you need to have one identity on the site and a side account for the occasional anonmymous question or answer is fine. If you're using it to participate regularly, then that's not really kosher.

This isn't something we're going to put rules in place for, but we have spoken to people who seem to use the AnonyMe feature or sock puppets excessively and asked them to maybe ease back some.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2010


Let's all work on limiting the amount of JudgeMe out there and then maybe people will start feeling like this is a safe space to say things? Maybe let's treat the disease and not the symptom?
posted by greekphilosophy at 8:31 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Obviously, the answer wasn't apparent to the asker.

Again, of this I have no doubt. And, for the avoidance of doubt, my original post in this thread was somewhat tongue in cheek; I personally have no issue with the anonymous AskMes, though I do think that it is somewhat unbalanced to ask anonymous questions and not be able to give anonymous answers (notwithstanding the fact that I, for one, don't link to my real-world identity). But I suppose that's what sock puppets are for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2010


If that's really the case, the same answer must apply to each instance of a question.

Sure, people do this. But the site is not supposed to be a help desk with form letter responses.

[commenters] aren't necessarily well attuned to the nuances

I agree, and this is one reason that despite the "unique snowflake" character of our lives, some amount of deletion to reduce duplication might be appropriate.

But I've already looked [at past questions] and found them lacking.

It sounds like you are pretty far ahead of the cases I'm thinking of. In fact, the only changes I'm suggesting are that people do that research and reflect it in the question. Supposing you hadn't done that, and you just rehashed 95 or even 100% of the same ground rather than focusing on what made your situation different, would a deletion make sense to you then? It's a gray area, definitely. But even if just a few repeats were deleted, spurring people to more assiduously use the knowledge base of AskMe and to have their question add something new, seems to me like a benefit for askers, commenters, and future info-seekers.

Or, perhaps someone has a great suggestion to make, but wasn't a member (or wasn't active) when the last question was posed.

I agree this is a concern. On the one hand, we don't use "new discussants" as a reason to allow repeat FPPs. On the other, the discussion IS the point on the green, whereas on the blue, the point is the links. Maybe it could be okay to rerun a question after a while has passed, again with some acknowledgment of past discussions. I do tend to think that we would still get a fair number of similar-but-slightly-different questions, which would allow new commenters a chance to also revisit some of the earlier advice.

I empathise with your feelings, it's frustrating when someone clearly hasn't used the google option available

Yes, thanks, though actually what has me commenting on it is not the fleeting moment of frustration, but a more pervasive sense of "seen it, seen it, seen it" as I look at questions.

If we want AskMe to be the answer-finding version of Best of the Web, we should make threads feel more like THE thread on "things to do in San Francisco," rather than "another thread about things to do in San Francisco." We already encourage people to search, so maybe a next step would be to let people flag those questions that clearly didn't?

I realize that the goal is not "interesting reading" but "helping the user find answers." But some attention to the way that repeat questions get tiresome could reduce commenter attrition, improving answer quality. (I think of some of the great relationship-filter advice givers who still use the site but rarely answer those questions anymore). A No Doubles policy could also get the asker more actively engaged with past advice, leading to a more sophisticated dialogue with commenters.
posted by salvia at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2010


Can somebody old explain to me how people solved problems before we had the internet? Because I don't get it.

You asked someone just as clueless as you, usually. Anyone with any actual knowledge would be too embarassing to confront with a question you would go anon with on the freaking internet.

In Ask, people ask the same stuff over and over

Has AskMe changed so much that a prominent problem is no longer people half-reading questions, slotting them into the seemingly appropriate pigeonhole, and giving their stock answer to the category, ignoring all detail and nuance? Actually, game warden addresses this well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I solved this problem five years ago by no longer reading AskMe.
posted by Eideteker at 8:42 AM on February 9, 2010


Is there any way I can block MetaTalk posts complaining about anonymous AskMeFi posts?
posted by inturnaround at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2010


Let's all work on limiting the amount of JudgeMe out there and then maybe people will start feeling like this is a safe space to say things? Maybe let's treat the disease and not the symptom?

Hear, hear. The "safe space" aspect of AskMe is something about which I feel pretty strongly. I feel like posting as "desuetude" here is anonymous enough for my purposes, personally speaking, which is why I don't mind discussing my thoughts on facials or how to find a threesome or which of my partner's body parts I wash in the shower and a lot of other information that I wouldn't necessarily post under my real, Googleable-by-future-employer name.
posted by desuetude at 9:04 AM on February 9, 2010


The anonymity is a convenient shield against the onslaught of unpleasant answers that users know are going to come. If you know that your identity isn't going to be attached to something you do publicly, then there is by definition less accountability. The internal filter that says "Is this really a question worth asking?" gets weakened or ignored because, what the heck, the post will be anonymous!

People are asking anonymous questions that they already know the answers to, because they want their unsustainable ideas about their relationships or jobs to be validated. They know in their hearts that they don't have a leg to stand on, but as a last-ditch effort, they'll make what amounts to a hail-mary pass into the interwebs just to see if there is anyone out there who will offer support.

Furthermore, the inability to make anonymous follow-up comments without going through a moderator is a convenient way of excusing oneself from having to answer difficult follow-up questions. Not only does this make it easier to avoid thinking about the answers to those questions, it further facilitates the core rationalization that leads to posting rhetorical questions in the first place.

It's very nice of Metafilter to provide a platform for people to confess their most closely-held irrational ideas and then watch from behind bulletproof glass as everyone else battles it out over what they meant and whether there is some parallel universe in which those ideas could possibly have merit.
posted by bingo at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2010


People are asking anonymous questions that they already know the answers to, because they want their unsustainable ideas about their relationships or jobs to be validated.

While I'd say this definitely does happen, I think it's also less than clearcut and mercenary validation-seeking in most of the cases where that kind of dynamic is present, and that part of the problem that arises with those questions is the handful of too-overt responses that those threads sometimes yield from folks focusing too much on the I Deny You Your Validation angle.

That's a fraction of the responses to a fraction of questions, some of it manages to lean to the permissible side of the tough-love fence and others get deleted. But there's definitely some problematic stuff in both directions with that sort of thing. And it absolutely, positively not confined to anonymous questions, so I'm not sure it's that useful of a distinction in any case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2010


Supposing you hadn't done that, and you just rehashed 95 or even 100% of the same ground rather than focusing on what made your situation different, would a deletion make sense to you then?

It would depend on the situation, but I still don't think it's a good idea for the reasons I outlined earlier.

I agree this is a concern. On the one hand, we don't use "new discussants" as a reason to allow repeat FPPs. On the other, the discussion IS the point on the green, whereas on the blue, the point is the links.

Exactly. Two different animals.

Maybe it could be okay to rerun a question after a while has passed, again with some acknowledgment of past discussions. I do tend to think that we would still get a fair number of similar-but-slightly-different questions, which would allow new commenters a chance to also revisit some of the earlier advice.

We're allowed to do this already. Near (but not exact) duplicate question redundancy is usually allowed in Askme if enough time has passed between questions, precisely because the answers may be different the second time around.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on February 9, 2010


I am tired of all the lycanthropy questions on AskMe.
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've often avoided asking personal/tricky questions anonymously as I've noticed that people tend to be more harsh in their responses to anonymous questions. Perhaps this is just confirmation bias on my part, but anonymous questions that I've read get much more moralizing in the answers than very similar questions asked non-anonymously - even though the commenters themselves aren't protected by anonymity, the idea that they're answering a "non-person" turns up the "Someone's WRONG on the internet!" meter to 11.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are quite a few complaints going on in this thread. It seems to me that the easiest and/or most effective and direct solution that addresses all of them is NOT to change some way the site works, but rather for each person here to work on changing their attitude towards the issue. Don't like anonymous questions? Don't read 'em! Need a way to remove anons from the front page? Use MyAsk, create a greasemonkey script, or rally around the need for somebody else to create one! Feel like AskMe is redundant? Look for the nuances, or the reasons why a particular person might feel the need to ask a question for themself! And most other complaints? Practice tolerance and move on! Find the solutions you seek...they're out there.

Also, data point: I've asked several anonymous questions (some relationship filter, most not). I didn't use a sockpuppet because A) I don't have one, B) I don't want to create one, C) there's a system in place already for asking anonymous questions and I prefer to use it. The replies to my anonymous questions have ALWAYS been life-changingly helpful and I've heeded most of the advice given. I've listed to you all, and I'm not some whiny, confirmation-bias-seeking person with a problem that's been covered a thousand times before.

My data show that for 100% of the questions I've asked anonymously, the anonymous asker listened and learned from the advice given. Many of the questions from this data set were NOT relationship filter. Many of the questions were similar to previous questions, but contained important details that made the question unique and necessary to ask. Some of the questions may seem like they'd be perfectly fine to ask un-anonymously, but additional information not directly relevant to the question necessitated anonymity - this was usually detail that would bog down or unnecessarily lengthen the question if included. The asker assumed that the readers trust the asker's judgment with respect to need for anonymity.

We are individuals and I relish the fact that not all our problems are exactly the same. We can learn a lot from both the similarities and the differences in every detail of our delicate snowflake designs. ❅
posted by iamkimiam at 9:29 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


People are asking anonymous questions that they already know the answers to, because they want their unsustainable ideas about their relationships or jobs to be validated.

I don't think this is exactly true. I think that soome people are drowning in emotion, they get that they aren't in any position to think logically, and need a hand. Additionally, there are a lot of anonymous questions about abuse and depression, and they need help because they are lost and confused and afraid.
posted by anniecat at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Charge X dollars per anonymous question and donate the extra cash to a good cause. If every anonymous question was a donation to hungry people, who could complain? People might even try harder to give good answers to anonymous questions, no matter how lame they thought the questions were, if they thought good answers would encourage more donations.
posted by pracowity at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


True doubles have always been deleted from AskMe (e.g. 1 2 3 4 5). In order to qualify though, it has to be pretty much exactly the same question and with no reason to suspect that something has changed since the last time it was asked, such as new models of a product line being released.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would be impractical, if not impossible, to delete human relations doubles, as it would rely on the moderators' memories and would ultimately be a judgment call. It's not like the blue, where URLs and tags can be checked for duplicates. No offense to our lovely moderators, but is it really their place to decide whether your question about your grandma was sufficiently like my question about my grandma?
posted by desjardins at 10:00 AM on February 9, 2010


I've often avoided asking personal/tricky questions anonymously as I've noticed that people tend to be more harsh in their responses to anonymous questions.

I've noticed this too. It's as if the bar is arbitrarily and unfairly set higher for them.

Although when I've asked an anonymous question, responders have been very polite and helpful. So I suppose one's mileage may vary.
posted by zarq at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2010


I am tired of all the lycanthropy questions on AskMe.

You're tired? I haven't had a decent night's rest since I contracted it.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


And, for the avoidance of doubt, my original post in this thread was somewhat tongue in cheek; I personally have no issue with the anonymous AskMes...

Ah. OK. :)
posted by zarq at 10:07 AM on February 9, 2010


Ask is heavily moderated. Why not ease off on the moderation and let the flames winnow out the weak askers?

We already have people flaming questions and taking them to MeTa because they have a vaguely-related-but-not-really-on-topic point they'd like to beat to death.....
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on February 9, 2010


I have asked anonymous questions in the past (and one in the past six months that I can't for the life of me remember--can my pony be having us be able to find our own anonymous questions?). Like zarq and iamkimiam, I've found the answers to be helpful. I do think, though, that the output is directly dependent on the input.

By their very nature, anonymous AskMes often attract people who are in distress and the questions meander about, without much clarity on what is being asked. I think this is much the case with the post about tenant internet use I referenced above. And, as is often seen, a poorly-worded question on a hot button topic leads to argumentative threads as other users try to parse the post.

Nonetheless, I don't think that the answer is deleting doubles or some of the other ideas upthread--everyone's question is different, if just to them. And the multiplicity of questions allows each and every one of us the opportunity to be the first to write DTMFA in a thread.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:17 AM on February 9, 2010


The anonymity is a convenient shield against the onslaught of unpleasant answers that users know are going to come. If you know that your identity isn't going to be attached to something you do publicly, then there is by definition less accountability. The internal filter that says "Is this really a question worth asking?" gets weakened or ignored because, what the heck, the post will be anonymous!

I disagree. I feel like the bad behavior in AnonyAskMes is usually on the responder side. People seem to feel justified in providing an onslaught of unpleasant, dismissive, or downright hostile answers because the answer isn't around to set them straight in their tangents of massive projection or whatever.
posted by desuetude at 10:22 AM on February 9, 2010


People seem to feel justified in providing an onslaught of unpleasant, dismissive, or downright hostile answers because the answer isn't around to set them straight in their tangents of massive projection or whatever.

Yes, exactly. Glad I'm not the only one who has noticed it. I kinda wondered whether or not that was just in my mind.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:28 AM on February 9, 2010


Since it hasn't been asked in nearly six months, the story and/or film you are thinking of is "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


salvia: “A proposal to improve AskMe: What if we started deleting doubles?”

Yeah, we already do this, so I don't know how we could change here. Maybe you're asking that we get more strict in what counts as a double? Either way, I know jessamyn & co already delete ask threads if the questions are just repeats of previous questions. This has especially happened, if I recall correctly, with the yearly onslaught of "what x-mas present?" questions, and a few other seasonal ones.
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2010


Ah, well, apparently we do delete double posts. Why, there is even a flag for it. Join me in flagging ones that make you sigh in boredom. (And then in moving on.)
posted by salvia at 10:31 AM on February 9, 2010


I disagree. I feel like the bad behavior in AnonyAskMes is usually on the responder side. People seem to feel justified in providing an onslaught of unpleasant, dismissive, or downright hostile answers because the answer isn't around to set them straight in their tangents of massive projection or whatever.

Desuetude, I don't disagree with your assessment. However, for me, it root issue is that the anonymous questions often lack both self-awareness (despite--or perhaps because of--all of their navel-gazing), and are often poorly written, containing extraneous facts and omitting necessary ones.

One example (that I don't think is going poorly, FWIW) is this one on arranged long-distance marriage. The OP has omitted the cultural background, which seems like a fundamental detail in getting advice. One poster has ventured a guess, but who knows? I don't deny that this is a sensitive topic, appropriate for an anonymous post, but it does not seem to me that the person will get any worthwhile advice without additional information, though I am not the arbiter of these things.

Without a continuing guiding presence of the OP (either non-anonymously or via the mods, which is cumbersome), the threads just sort of fall apart. People seem to get simultaneously zealous to "help" and frustrated with the poster. At least, that's what I'm seeing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:34 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This has especially happened, if I recall correctly, with the yearly onslaught of "what x-mas present?" questions, and a few other seasonal ones.

That reminds me. I should really Ask for a few Halloween costume suggestions this year.
posted by zarq at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2010


Just realize that a lot of people use AskMe as their soap opera replacement.
posted by smackfu at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just realize that a lot of people use AskMe as their soap opera replacement.

Heck, it's like a PB&J sandwich of soap opera and college newspaper advice column for many. The fact that there are actual humans on the other end of the computer might or might not be relevant.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2010


That reminds me. I should really Ask for a few Halloween costume suggestions this year.

Right now the magic word is TAXES.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:46 AM on February 9, 2010


Just realize that a lot of people use AskMe as their soap opera replacement.

I thought that was what MetaTalk was for...
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm just thankful that MetaTalk has the anonymous option so I can safely point out just how much hot air is coming from the mouth of...

whut!?

Never mind. Moving along. We're walking... We're walking...
posted by Babblesort at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2010


I think AskMe is pathos. MeTa is bathos.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2010


Heck, it's like a PB&J sandwich of soap opera and college newspaper advice column for many.

Exactly. It's like Ann Landers except YOU get to write the responses!
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2010


Right now the magic word is TAXES.

You know... last year y'all posted a notice on the "post a question" page of AskMe regarding Halloween costumes which I believe directed people to search before they posted.

Would it simply make sense to leave one up all the time? It could change by season:

January - April: Taxes, Valentines
June - August: Vacations / Travelfilter
September - October: Halloween Costumes
November - December: Holiday Gifts

Or change with the latest trending data.... Or perhaps just say, "These are the most popular topics that have ever been asked. Click them to see posts on the subject before you post."

This isn't a Pony request. Just wondering if something like that might make your jobs easier.
posted by zarq at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm just thankful that MetaTalk has the anonymous option so I can safely point out just how much hot air is coming from the mouth of...

whut!?

Never mind. Moving along. We're walking... We're walking...


I happened upon a user profile the other day which said "I really, really, really HATE [MeFi User]." in super-tiny writing.

So, you know... GYOFP. :)
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2010


The OP has omitted the cultural background, which seems like a fundamental detail in getting advice. One poster has ventured a guess, but who knows? I don't deny that this is a sensitive topic, appropriate for an anonymous post, but it does not seem to me that the person will get any worthwhile advice without additional information, though I am not the arbiter of these things.

Without a continuing guiding presence of the OP (either non-anonymously or via the mods, which is cumbersome), the threads just sort of fall apart. People seem to get simultaneously zealous to "help" and frustrated with the poster. At least, that's what I'm seeing.


It's not your anonymous question, though. Whether or not the answers are worthwhile in your opinion are at least tertiary, unless you have a similar concern, in which case they'd be secondary. (I don't mean this as an attack on your opinions; I reminded myself of this, too.)

jessamyn has pointed out over and over that it's not a burden or a problem or a breakdown in the system for the mods to post follow-ups and additional information in anonymous AskMes. And on the other end of things, when people guide their questions too much, it's irritating and derails the thread.
posted by desuetude at 11:06 AM on February 9, 2010


a breakdown in the system for the mods to post follow-ups and additional information in anonymous AskMes.

Except that you lose your anonymity. That's kind of a bummer.
posted by smackfu at 11:08 AM on February 9, 2010


It's not your anonymous question, though. Whether or not the answers are worthwhile in your opinion are at least tertiary, unless you have a similar concern, in which case they'd be secondary. (I don't mean this as an attack on your opinions; I reminded myself of this, too.)

I have no illusions about it; that's why I said I'm not the arbiter of these things and it seemed like he wouldn't get great answers--hopefully, he gets the help he needs. I was just venturing a theory as to why these threads get off track.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2010


"I think AskMe is pathos. MeTa is bathos."

I'm D'Artagnan!
posted by Eideteker at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


There are quite a few complaints going on in this thread. It seems to me that the easiest and/or most effective and direct solution that addresses all of them is NOT to change some way the site works, but rather for each person here to work on changing their attitude towards the issue. Don't like anonymous questions? Don't read 'em!

Just as there is an Ask culture and a Guess culture, there is a Tolerate culture and a Change culture. This isn't really about Metafilter per se, but a general outlook on life. My ability as a user to discuss what isn't working for me, and theoretically have an effect on policy, is part of the appeal of Metafilter for me to begin with. We can indeed all decide to ignore whole categories, or "flag it and move on," but after a certain percentage of my time is spent doing those things, it starts to wear on my. It affects my mood, and my feelings about the site, and my desire to link to it or recommend it to others.

Anyway, I'll just continue to complain whenever I feel that it's appropriate.
posted by bingo at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the anti-anon crowd are also failing to understand that posting anonymously doesn't only protect the OP's identity; it protects the identity of the people around them who might be involved or implicated in the question in some way. I have asked a few anonymous questions regarding complicated medical or financial matters because I did not wish to out my particular family member or friend as [having cancer/declaring bankruptcy/etc.].

Where I come from, this is called being considerate and discreet, but I'm fascinated to find out that, in fact, I'm just a whiny special snowflake who is looking validation.
posted by scody at 11:42 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


grr, looking FOR validation please let me have a 3 minute edit pony please
posted by scody at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2010


If anonymous questions were relegated to some other subsite aside from AskMe, that would just cause the savvy users to spring for sock puppets so they could be effectively anonymous while still showing up on the green. Any questions that show up somewhere aside from AskMe are not going to get a lot of answers -- didn't that happen with TravelFilter?
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:04 PM on February 9, 2010


Whenever I ask a whiney question, I always use the whiney tag as a courtesy to those who might want to skip over it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:09 PM on February 9, 2010


I hear what you're saying bingo, and I agree with you. I think that site policy discussions are great and helpful and allow users to be an active part of defining the community. It is the crux of what makes this place meaningful for so many. And it does get tiring to constantly shield yourself from the annoying things that go along with being a participant here.

I guess my original point is that the easiest change comes from within. I don't find Tolerate culture and Change culture to be mutually exclusive. Personally, I've found that working on being less bothered by things that are out of my control (like the way people behave and the annoying things they do) is more effective than putting my energy towards trying to make the public places I visit reorganize in a way that's most pleasing to me*. There's a point where this can be done, and a limit to how much can be done, and why it should be done...but after that, we just have to let go and accept it I guess. A good example to me is a restaurant. We can work together to change policies that are harmful (ex. a no-smoking indoors rule), but it starts getting fuzzy around things like 'no talking very loudly' or 'no discussions of X'.

We have choices in how we react to things, from the action level to the emotional level and such. It doesn't seem that way a lot of the time, and I have to constantly remind myself of it. I've really been working on noticing when I'm getting worn down by something, and then trying to find new ways to preventing that from happening...whether it's a new way of ignoring, or a new way of orienting to something that allows me to say "hmmpf, interesting" rather than "GAWD NOT AGAIN I CAN'T STAND IT IT'S SO FRUSTRATING!!!"

*Especially when I consider that what's pleasing to me is a moving target, ie. always changing.

Also, I realize this post reads like I'm reacting to, or refuting, things you've said (or didn't say) upthread, bingo. I'm not, I agree with you and I'm just generally elaborating on my stance of 'here's how I try to deal with the annoying stuff on MetaFilter and in life'. Just wanted to make that clear.

posted by iamkimiam at 12:38 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


a breakdown in the system for the mods to post follow-ups and additional information in anonymous AskMes.

Except that you lose your anonymity. That's kind of a bummer.


Pretty sure that mailing the mods from a throwaway (or alternate e-mail address) is fine for this, as long as you're not being jerky about it.
posted by desuetude at 1:01 PM on February 9, 2010


Except that you lose your anonymity. That's kind of a bummer.

Pretty sure that mailing the mods from a throwaway (or alternate e-mail address) is fine for this, as long as you're not being jerky about it.


Don't the mods know who posts the anonymous questions anyway? I always thought that the identity of the posters was visible to the mods on their end.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:34 PM on February 9, 2010


We don't know by default. The db doesn't store a record of it. We can through some concerted effort figure out who posted what; a question is not fundamentally anonymous to us in that sense, though it is to the general viewing public, but the large majority of the time anonymous questions are just as anonymous to us as they are to everybody else.

Practically speaking that goes even for folks who send us updates under non-throwaway emails, because we frankly don't care who asked what and forget it as soon as we're done handling a request. A short memory and a lack of prurient interest is a handy thing in this job.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:38 PM on February 9, 2010


Don't the mods know who posts the anonymous questions anyway? I always thought that the identity of the posters was visible to the mods on their end.

Nope.
posted by desuetude at 1:40 PM on February 9, 2010


Neat! I always thought they were watching over our every move. I hope to ask anonymous questions in the future that will be sufficiently prurient for even Cortex's curiosity to be piqued.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:50 PM on February 9, 2010


I found out a lady I'm in a long distance relationship with has been on MeFi for quite some time, I wonder if I've ever advised anonymous her to dump me.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:28 PM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


You know, if you filter out anonymous questions by some technical means because (for whatever reason) you find them to be noise instead of signal, consider this: someday someone who needs real, genuine help in the thing that you know more about than anyone else in the world will post anonymously, and you will miss your chance to be in the sidebar (er, um, I mean to help someone in need.)
posted by davejay at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2010


man, I was actually just thinking about the reverse of this:

how anonymous relationship questions kinda bring out the worst in some of the people who answer them. I mean, people in pain looking for something to help them re: a relationship is fine. I don't think I'd ever ask strangers on the internet for that help, myself, but that's me. the world don't move to the beat of just one drum and all that. but what has bothered me more and more recently are how many times I notice someone who really just wants to jump in and call somebody an asshole, or tell them their SO is an asshole. and worse, the people who just want to fight with other answerers about who's the asshole in the situation. for every person who gives thoughtful advice that seeks to empower the asker to solve their problem (and you know who you are!), we have someone who just lumps awful judgment in there (and sadly, you probably don't even know who you are.).

i don't know how much work the mods need to do in anonymous relationship threads, deleting and whatnot, and I hope it's not that much. but christ, I sometimes feel like they must be total headaches to have to deal with.
posted by shmegegge at 3:03 PM on February 9, 2010


I am tired of all the lycanthropy questions on AskMe.

you'll change your tune once you've read mine...
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2010


I am really troubled by this. When people complain or seek reassurance, that can sometimes annoy the listener. That's fine, but those people still need help. If you're annoyed by them, ignore them. But to say that they shouldn't be allowed to seek help because they irritate you is, frankly, heartless. Some people are so socially isolated, immature, desperate, or miserable that they lose their sense of proportion and can't really judge how their words sound to others. They're in pain, they lack objectivity, and they may reach out for help in unproductive or off-putting ways. They still need help.

I would be deeply disappointed to see AskMetafilter turn into a community that only helps people we "like" by some subjective standard. Or a community that only helps people with some minimal level of social skills. Or only helps people who are good at phrasing questions about their problems.

Look, I personally have incredible difficulty asking for help. There have been times in my life when I have been desperate, paralyzed, exhausted, confused, and lacked all perspective. There was no one around me to whom I felt that I could turn. I turned to this community. My anonymous questions were over-long, disorganized, and probably pretty whiny. I really needed help, though, and I received it. I did my best to write decent questions, but how much can you demand from someone who is desperately unhappy or afraid or lost?

Can we just cut people a break when they're struggling with something? I think the only thing that should matter is this: either we can help them or not. If we can, we should at least try. And if you don't like anonymous questions, or human relations questions, stop reading them. Why do you have to ruin it for everyone else because you have a pet peeve? Maybe you're whiny! Ahh! Stop whining about anonymous askers!

Oh and: thanks, metafilter. You've helped me enormously over the years. Because of your perspective, objectivity, kindness, patience, wisdom, and care, I have been significantly helped at several difficult points in my life. I appreciate it more than I can say.
posted by prefpara at 4:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


If you want to delete anything as doubles, delete the eleventymillion "how do I motivate myself/stop procrastinating/stop surfing metafilter" questions. Those questions are not special snowflakes, and anyone who's figured out the answer is no longer here.
posted by desjardins at 4:46 PM on February 9, 2010


I don't mind Anony questions at all. There are a certain type of them that tend to irk me, but they don't cause me any harm other than having to skip over them or hit the back button. I don't care enough to limit the number of them.

I find a lot of the Anonyme questions are more relatable than the technical ones, and even if a particular situation doesn't apply to me/I don't have any advice on it, it can still be interesting and informative to read the responses of others. (ex. the callout or not callout thread)

There are other times when the poster seems to be having the exact same problem as me and when I look at the page it's like, "Awesome, I can't believe someone posted this at the same time I'm going through it! Yay advice!"
posted by biochemist at 4:55 PM on February 9, 2010


A short memory and a lack of prurient interest is a handy thing in this job. Someone want to cross-stitch this for me?
posted by crush-onastick at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2010


I would love a separate relationship/personal drama site - then I could choose not to go there.

When I first discovered AskMe, it seemed (to me) there were many more questions that the group could benefit from. Now there are so many personal specific relationship questions (anon and named) that AskMe becomes more "Dear Abbyish" than it ever was. And most of them just can't be answered. We don't know the asker, we don't know the people they are writing about, we have no background, no history (especially on Anons). Seems to me at times people use AskMe for their own personal vent - writing out their own problem to get empathy from others and then asking a question that - as others have stated - they don't really want to hear the answer to anyway.

I'm really not a cold-hearted bitch, and people should get help with their problems, but I don't feel that AskMe is the right place for all the specific personal stuff. AskMe isn't about discussions, it's not the blue, it's about Answers. I think a lot of people blurr this line and we end up with more chatfilterly questions than there should be.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:22 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


So... is relationshipFilter girlzone?
posted by smackfu at 6:09 PM on February 9, 2010


hm. Some valid concerns here, but some that also seem similar to the complaints I heard at my liberal arts college: the parties were sooooo much spunkier with better music and bigger orgies with more obscure poets and stronger acid. And I'll admit, even I bemoaned some of the changes that took place in the 4 years I was there. It's fine to try to guard the 'integrity' of something you love so much.

But as a new member who (yes) asked her first question (yes, a RelationshipFilter one) anonymously after reading all the related threads, got meaningful and helpful responses, posted another question that people seemed to enjoy reading and contributing to, and was feeling pretty optimistic about this new community, it kinda sucks meandering over to the gray for the first time to see some of these judgments.

I couldn't agree more with prefpara's comment. And I'll just add that I'd seen AskMetaFilter before whenever querying google about some stupid thing I was wondering about, but I didn't actually become a member until I found myself in a situation where I felt lost, alone, and needing some wise words from strangers on the internet. Maybe this can help explain why a lot of the anonymous Qs come from unrecognizable names. (I personally happened to have stayed for the cat reclawing advice).

On the other hand, I really think that the moderation of MeFi and AskMe contribute to its high quality. I noticed that at the bottom of AskMe threads there's a list of related questions. Perhaps before the poster sends off the question to the mods, there could be a similar list of related questions, with a reminder to give them a lookover in case it's already been covered. I also think having to justify asking that question (and doing so anonymously), and being able to filter them out are good ideas that should be explored.
posted by inkytea at 8:11 PM on February 9, 2010


Many of the relationship questions on AskMe are more like stuff you'd read on LJ or Bebo or Vampirefreaks. A much higher proportion of the anon ones are total cruft and their only appeal is narcissistic and voyeuristic, with a dash of righteousness thrown in occasionally. Not too righteous, mind you, because if people contribute anything too pointed or direct they are often flagged down or carpet bombed into submission by the tidal wave of logorrhoea contributed by the MetafilterDrama junkies who are experts at mapping their personal subjectivity onto every potential relationship on the planet. If the goal of AskMe now includes providing a warm and fuzzy, vaguely admonitory space sufficient to encompass an internet carnival sideshow of repetitive vapidity then that should be made more explicit.
posted by meehawl at 9:01 PM on February 9, 2010


I like 50-cent words too! Verbose ranting is ranty!
posted by desuetude at 9:09 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe the problem is not that the posts are anonymous, but that the anonymous posters tend to be - as data suggests - new to Ask or MeFi and just posting specifically to ask this one question rather than participating in an ongoing sharing of knowledge, and so are less aware of and interested in the formal or informal norms.

Maybe the solution is to target that more specifically by not allowing an anonymous post for the first month or two, rather than just one week for a regular post. Or anonymous posting only after 2 or 3 or n other posts, questions or comments. Or some other indicator that the poster is interested in more than just this one burning question.

Or: How do we know the Asker really loves Ask and this isn't just a one-post stand? We have had bad experiences in relationships and don't want to get burned again.

posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:32 PM on February 9, 2010


I've been intermittently preoccupied with this thread all day (I know! so dull for the drama brigade, right?) and I guess I'll just chime in now to say that if the OP feels comfortable publicly classifying a question about emotional, physical, and sexual abuse as "whiny" - then, clearly, you suck at human relations. So filter it out! Problem solved.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's just make an educational quiz out of the FAQ and require people to go through it before posting stuff.

For example:

1. A poster creates a post entitled, "This is my website! Look how cool it is!" and then links to a blog that they have kept since the tubes were first opened. The most likely outcome of this post is.

a) Many favorites. Everyone loved Geocities!
b) Sidebarred! The Best of the Best of the Web!
c) Flameout. My blog is about cat declawing. That makes some people mad.
d) Banned. Permanently. Self-linking on the front page of MetaFilter equals DEATH.

2. My favorite celebrity just died! Quick! Before someone who liked them more comes up with a thoughtful, delicate, amazing multimedia biographical post, I should slap up a link to the AP article saying that they just kicked the bucket. This is a good idea.

True or False

3. My post involves Sarah Palin. This is a good idea.

True or False

4. Last week someone posted a great introduction to unicellular sealife. Lo and behold, I have run across an amazing article on unicellular sealife! I feel it is special and I will craft a new post in order to tell MetaFilter about it. The most likely outcome is:

a) Four snarky comments from my friends in the lab. Three favorites.
b) Cortex will delete this post, making a terribly witty joke about one cell, one post.
c) Cortex will delete this post, sighing audibly and telling me to put it in the open thread.
d) I will be sidebarred and probably given a Pulitzer. They give Pulitzers for MetaFilter, right?

5. Avast! I see there be a double post floatin' on the Blue! I should:

a) Make a snarky comment in the thread!
b) Flag it and move on.
c) Make a snarky comment in the thread, then flag it and move on.

And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum, for each of the subsites. Addressing issues such as jokey answers in AskMe, derails in MeTa, meatspace outings, cyberspace outings, the importance of including pictures of your kittens in ANY question about them, you know - the important stuff. I mean, the FAQ is great and all, but it's hardly interactive. And creating something like that would be a great way to put the newbie energy to productive ends, rather than letting it leak out via dumb self-links, stunty posts, and awkward and unhelpful AskMes.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe the problem is not that the posts are anonymous, but that the anonymous posters tend to be - as data suggests - new to Ask or MeFi and just posting specifically to ask this one question rather than participating in an ongoing sharing of knowledge, and so are less aware of and interested in the formal or informal norms.

Not a bad idea at all. You can't post an FPP without having commented several times, right? I can't remember if you have to comment before you submit a question to Ask, but even so, a wee extra participation barrier for Anonymous Ask seems like it would be within the spirit of the current policies.
posted by desuetude at 10:09 PM on February 9, 2010


I'm not down with the waiting period. Not only are people suffering, as explained above, but we don't know how long the recent signups read without having a login. A more nuanced approach that doesn't deal with every new poster the same way would be better.
posted by salvia at 10:52 PM on February 9, 2010


Also, doubles deletion opportunity ahoy!

That is a classic opportunity: a general question, on a broad topic that has been covered many times before, written by someone not likely to be in emotional distress. Let's start flagging and deleting questions like that.
posted by salvia at 11:13 PM on February 9, 2010


Are we on a witchhunt for questions "we" think are boring? Sheesh.
posted by desuetude at 11:21 PM on February 9, 2010


If you're annoyed by them, ignore them. But to say that they shouldn't be allowed to seek help because they irritate you is, frankly, heartless.

Decisions like this have to be made in many aspects of life. For example, homeless people are rarely allowed to wander into restaurants and solicit customers for money or food. In some cases, the fact that they are not allowed to do this probably means that they starve to death. But that doesn't make the proprietors or the diners "heartless." It just means that they exercised their right to create and function in an environment that is not driven by pity.
posted by bingo at 11:37 PM on February 9, 2010


...to say that they shouldn't be allowed to seek help because they irritate you is, frankly, heartless.

1. I didn't say that. I don't think anyone here has.

2. I am not heartless. I don't think... well I don't think many people here are.

clearly, you suck at human relations.

3. I'm rubber and you're glue.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 2:50 AM on February 10, 2010


For example, homeless people are rarely allowed to wander into restaurants and solicit customers for money or food.

Oh good grief. Anonymous askers paid their $5 just like you did. This is their home too. If you don't want to read anon questions, then don't read them. FFS.
posted by headnsouth at 2:58 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


That is a classic opportunity: a general question, on a broad topic that has been covered many times before, written by someone not likely to be in emotional distress. Let's start flagging and deleting questions like that.

salvia, I don't want to pick on you here but you've been pushing on this Delete The Doubles thing a bunch in this thread and your comment over in that askme is a kind of problematic manifestation of the whole thing. I'll leave it in the thread for the sake of the legitimately helpful "here are some previous threads" aspect but please avoid the pushy "so why did you waste our time with this?" sort of tone and framing if you're going to do that sort of thing in the future.

We are not going to suddenly start deleting a much more broad scope of "doubles" in askme. We disagree on (a) how clear-cut most examples are and (b) whether the concept of double deletion even applies to askme in any case outside of the rare single-factual-answer-to-trivia-question type things that occasionally recur.

Again, it's fine to add a helpful and polite "here are some previous applicable threads" comment to an askme post. It's not okay to try and bully the post toward deletion by using a comment like that to make a point or rally the deletion/flagging troops.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:23 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


A couple of ways to avoid this (I've searched the thread but not skimmed it, so please forgive any duplication): set up My Ask Mefi with relevant areas of interest, & make / ask for a Yahoo Pipe to filter out the anonymous questions, then subscribe the feed it produces.

The Pipe should be fairly easy, & I could do this if there's interest. I'm a bit time-constrained right now though.
posted by Pronoiac at 7:36 AM on February 10, 2010


desuetude: "I like 50-cent words too!"

Eponystericaliser, thy name is deseutude.
posted by meehawl at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2010


set up My Ask Mefi with relevant areas of interest

Some Ask Me enhancement that would be nice:

1) A button/link to check all the categories would make it easier to deselect just one.
2) A way to exclude tags. (So you could exclude "nsfw", for instance.)
3) A way to exclude anonymous questions.
4) A preference to make the My Ask tab be the default for AskMe instead of Recent Posts. Maybe this can be fixed by Greasemonkey?
5) A line of explanation of how the tag filter intersects with the category filter.
posted by smackfu at 8:05 AM on February 10, 2010


I'm surprised by people saying that these questions are unanswerable. I get feedback about my answers in anonymous posts--questions, thanks, clarifications if they think I got something wrong. Generally about once or twice a week. People are being helped.

Oh and for all the LOL PINKFILTER LADYFILTER OMG most of the people who have contacted me are male. Men have feelings and relationships and families too.
posted by kathrineg at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2010


We are not going to suddenly start deleting a much more broad scope of "doubles" in askme.

Just wanted to emphasize this. It doesn't solve an existing problem on the site to delete more doubles and we disagree on how similar a double needs to be to be a double [my candidate would have been the "help me find more music for the gym"].

AskMe has a lot of moderation that is determined by flagging but some that is determined more by fiat [i.e. it's set up to be one way and we on Team Mod sort of want it to be that way] and only deleting pretty much identical questions, and not other doubles, is part of that.

Add to that, the "emotional distress" part of the equation is not part of the "do we delete this or not" equation. I know it's sort of rough [and makes me feel a bit Rainmanish explainig it this way] but "my question is really important" is not really a good starting point for why the rules should change. We've seen this with peopel who need an "emergency" extra questions among other things.

Some people don't search well. We ask people to search the archives but it's not a mandatory part of posting a question that you make sure it hasn't been asked before.

MeFi is a wonderful gang of irritable, opinionated and nitpicky people [among their many other fine qualities] and I know how much it bugs people that parts of the site are THIS way when they'd prefer them to be THAT way, but I'd hope they can also understand our reasoning and at least try to live with it.

I'd personally like to get a little more rigorous on the AnonyMe questions but I'm not sure what form that would take and we've been talking it over in Modland as well as here. Other major changes to how AskMe works are unlikely.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:32 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


On a related note, I think one day a year (say, October 1, 6 months after April Fool's Day) the site should be completely unmoderated.

I'm making a note on my calendar to go to Costco for a palletload of popcorn on Sept. 30.

posted by gimonca at 9:01 AM on February 10, 2010


We are not going to suddenly start deleting a much more broad scope of "doubles" in askme.

I hear you both saying this, and cortex, I hear you on the "don't be peevish in questions" point.

But to be honest, I don't get why it wouldn't be good policy. And Metatalk is where people talk about what would and wouldn't be good policy in an open back-and-forth way. So to have both of you just say "hey, to be clear, the answer is no" without any reasoning kinda surprises me.

Up above, I was saying "here is why I think it is good." One or two people said "here are reasons why it might not be good." In my view, some of the reasons they gave could also be reasons it would be good, and I feel like I responded to a few of those, but obviously, that was just the beginning of a discussion that could occur if others were interested. Then the conversation ended when someone said "actually, doubles do get deleted," and me realizing that there was actually a flag for them. At that point, I felt sheepish and figured, "ah, duh, I'm asking for something that already exists," it's just a gray area about how it's applied.

But apparently that was a misunderstanding on my part because what you're saying here is that actually, no, it's not a gray area, there is a clear line about what gets deleted or not, and that line has been determined by fiat. In that case, I'm back to being curious about why people don't think it'd be a good idea to move it over a few inches. (Slightly fewer questions. More sophisticated questions that build upon what's already there so that old questions inform new ones rather than just being buried under the latest version of the same question.)

desuetude implied it's because I think these questions are boring, but that's not it. (I mean, kinda, but I'm pretty good at ignoring questions I don't like.) After reading and commenting on Ask for four years, it's a suggestion I honestly think could make the site better. It's a suggestion I make in good faith and with no hostility toward any one particular thing or person. If I'm missing something big about how to make a suggestion and have it be received in good faith, maybe someone can shoot me a Memail or something.
posted by salvia at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2010


I don't get why it wouldn't be good policy.

We won't delete doubles because unlike in MeFi where you can say "this exact thing has been linked to before and here are the guidelines for what gets deleted as a double [same thing linked within the last few years]" there is no corresponding exact assessment of what is a double in AskMe. This means that hypothetically deciding "We are going to delete more double posts in AskMe" comes along with having to decide exactly what is a double post, which means that we have to make judgments on individual posts and sameness or differentness to other posts and that puts us in a positon that we don't want to be in. Right now there's very little judgment that happens if a double gets deleted in AskMe. That works for us.

People don't like getting their questions deleted. Deleting more questions causes problems that affect not just us and the asker but the people who have already answered and don't like to see their efforts vanish. Add to this that it doesn't solve any major sitewide problem [i.e. most people are not saying "there are too many questions in AskMe" even this thread is not about that] and it's a non-starter.

I didn't go over all the specifics because I feel like this has been asked before and we've sort of explained the "Why a double in AskMe is not at all the same as a double on MeFi" but maybe not or maybe it was a long time ago or maybe it's good to bring it up again. And, the larger issue is that with a site this size changing moderation policy is a Big Deal not a small one and so there needs to be a compelling reason to do it, not just no huge compelling reason not to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:42 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


But to be honest, I don't get why it wouldn't be good policy.

Because it would involve us implementing and enforcing what amounts to a new arbitrarium that would take a lot of people using the site in good faith by surprise, and it would involve us having to start making a lot more judgement calls about just how double is double and telling people who disagree that their question is sufficiently a repeat that they can go stuff it, essentially.

Askme has a utility function that makes it very different from the blue: people are asking questions because they want/need an answer, not because they thought it was an interesting new question to share with the group. That utility is one of the primary things we try to be attentive to and supportive of in the way we deal with moderation of and policy-making for Ask. From our perspective, "delete more stuff as doubles" is not something that would improve things.

And Metatalk is where people talk about what would and wouldn't be good policy in an open back-and-forth way. So to have both of you just say "hey, to be clear, the answer is no" without any reasoning kinda surprises me.

I'm not trying to be a jerk about this or anything, and I agree that it's fine to jaw about this stuff in metatalk (and my problem above is confined pretty much entirely in you letting the talking-about-it-here thing turn into agitating-about-it-in-the-green), but "the answer is no" is kind of an okay response to "institute an arbitrary change" even if we didn't go into great detail. We don't shift how things work here suddenly or without a lot of discussion and community buy-in; lots and lots of suggested changes get "no, not gonna happen" and not necessarily a whole lot else when they come up. Not super satisfying, I know, but as much as we explain some stuff to death we can't guarantee we're always going to do so for everything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:43 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bet... I bet you could let people flag a question as a double and then let them link to one or more earlier questions that they believe make the most recent question a double. If they can't provide actual links, they can't submit the Double flag.

You could then display these suggested double links at the bottom, mixed in with the current Related Questions links. Put an agree/disagree button (it's a list, I guess) next to a suggested double link that asks "Double?" so anyone else can set a flag to agree or disagree that the displayed link is a double for the current question.

Then sort the doubles and related tags links into one list weighted by how similar the tags are and how many people think the link is a double (some links will have similar tags and be flagged as doubles). The most likely to be close matches would sort to the top of the Related Links list.

Nothing would have to be deleted. More useful information would be added to the system. The Related Links list would be more reliable. Complainers about doubles would be able to blow off a little steam by showing the world all eleven earlier instances of the same question, but that would have a positive effect by adding to the Related Links list. If their suggestions were bad, people who disagreed about some of those eleven instances could flag them as such and push those suggestions back down toward the bottom of the Related Links list. And if the displayed Related Links list was a finite length, weaker suggestions might not be displayed.

And then invoke the unicorn routine.
posted by pracowity at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2010


Some Ask Me enhancement that would be nice:

2) A way to exclude tags. (So you could exclude "nsfw", for instance.)
3) A way to exclude anonymous questions.


You can do these using Yahoo Pipes.


4) A preference to make the My Ask tab be the default for AskMe instead of Recent Posts. Maybe this can be fixed by Greasemonkey?

Use a bookmark.


5) A line of explanation of how the tag filter intersects with the category filter.

I never use the category filter, but I don't know what this would say or where it would go.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2010


Eponystericaliser, thy name is deseutude.

Spelling being another thing sadly fading into desuetude.
posted by desuetude at 2:22 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


You can do these using Yahoo Pipes.

And get an RSS feed? Yes it's a "solution" but kind of half-assed. If I wanted RSS, I'd read via RSS.

I never use the category filter, but I don't know what this would say or where it would go.

The question is whether you get the intersection of the selected tags and categories or the union.
posted by smackfu at 2:33 PM on February 10, 2010


You can do these using Yahoo Pipes.

*tries to decide between making a Daniel Pipes joke or a Yahoo Serious joke*
posted by scody at 2:41 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your responses make sense, thanks for taking the time, and sorry it took me hours to get back to respond.

"the answer is no" is kind of an okay response to "institute an arbitrary change" even if we didn't go into great detail. We don't shift how things work here suddenly or without a lot of discussion

That makes sense, though I guess I expected the answer to be "uh, that'd take a lot more discussion," not "the answer is no, it's not worth discussing." That felt like kind of a heavy smack-down, especially in a forum where the discussion is kinda the point. But just to be clear, I'm not trying to personally appeal for some arbitrary, instantaneous change that imposes my will without buy-in on the other 14,999 active participants. I can see where you might've gotten that idea, though, because in that during the interlude where I thought, "oh wait, is the policy to erase doubles? (how did I miss that??)" I temporarily did think that the issue was enforcement, which is a mod-oriented appeal, so I think I can see where you'd be coming from.

This MetaTalk post is fundamentally about AskMe's quality and character, and whether people feel like it's slipping, and whether limiting anonymous posts would be a way to keep them high. Many people don't want to limit anonymous posts, because of the way that anonymity protects people's friends and families, professional identities, etc. A different approach that would treat anonymous and non-anonymous posts equally, while addressing the influx of new users, would be to ask that posts be aware of how their question fits into and builds upon the knowledge base already here.

To me, it's like how some forums have "stickies" or FAQs and expect that people have read them, which allows most discussions to start at a slightly more advanced level. It's nice when everyone in the discussion knows what has been talked about in the past, just like jessamyn said that AskMe doubles had already been discussed here. When people have some sense of past discussion, it makes you feel like you're part of a community. When they don't, it feels more like a random drive-by question, "random person asking a random question from whomever happens to be around," which is fine, but perhaps a bit less community-building than the alternative.

I agree that "double" could be a tricky line to draw. I'm not sure it's that much trickier than "chatfilter" or "unhelpful snark," which are deleted to make the site better. I would see this as a pretty minor shift, actually -- I'd imagine that its main impact would be that people would more often explain "I looked at this past question and..."

Anyway, I hope this makes sense as it's the middle of the night, and I already found one horrendous typo. I did want to get back to you and also try to remember the response I typed earlier today before my computer crashed.
posted by salvia at 2:40 AM on February 11, 2010


This question is a great example of the worst of the lot as described above. Whiny, cowardly, and rhetorical, it is not at all an actual question, but a groveling, sniveling plea for other users to coddle the OP and tell him that, gosh darn it, he's a good person.
posted by bingo at 3:37 PM on February 14, 2010


This question is what I was talking about.
posted by bingo at 3:38 PM on February 14, 2010


I think that's an incredibly uncharitable read of that question. My take is: "I'm trying to figure out why people aren't responding to my personal ad. I read this book. It seems to say weird stuff but might be applicable to me. Can you help me out with this?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:40 PM on February 14, 2010


Having given it another look now after spending less time on mefi for the past week, I guess you're right. At the time, it was hard for me to believe that the OP was completely unaware of Metafilter's history with PUA threads, but I guess it's possible that he was. I re-read the question and asked myself: "Is he actually leaving himself open to the possibility that someone is going to say "Are you kidding? That book should be your new bible! Suck it up!" and I guess he is, a little bit.

Note that I am definitely not endorsing the PUA stuff, which I haven't read and mainly know about in the context of mefites bashing it. It's just a question of whether questions are actually... well, questions.
posted by bingo at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2010


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