I have to ask. February 22, 2010 9:50 AM   Subscribe

So this question wasn't framed very well, but did it really break the guidelines to the extent that it needed to be deleted?

There are probably hundreds of "list x" questions. Many of them without an explicit problem to be solved.

Example that is eerily close to the deleted thread -- except for a slight difference in tone
Example
Example

Functionally, the deleted thread was exactly like any "recommend a book" thread, or "recommend a movie," of which there are hundreds. Not to mention most of my AskMefi threads.

I get that the way the deleted thread was written violated the unwritten rule of "manufacture some story for why you want this particular question answered, and your chatfilter will stand."

But even with that understanding, it doesn't sit well with me.

AskMefi questions are precious commodities sometimes. I feel bad for this person having to wait a week to try again, when really all that needed to be done to "fix" the question was reword it to something like this:

"I want to make sure I live my life in a way that fills it with as much happiness as possible.

Share your secrets for long-term happiness (Happiness, aka Contentment)

Be specific. What's *worked* for you?"

(Change marked in bold.) And it would likely stay. Some more filler around the edges would probably help. Maybe an example or two. A please, if they wanted to be polite.

1) Why not explicitly state that the question's function was fine (no more or less chatfilter than hundreds of other threads), but the tone was inappropriate? The stated reason for the deletion seemed misleading, unless one understands what "chatfilter" is shorthand for.

2) Why not communicate with the asker and ask them rephrase the question with the above criticism in mind, so they didn't lose a question? Or drop them a line and explicitly make clear that they can repost it with a change in tone next week? Or say as much in the reason for deletion?

3) I was interested in the question and answers. Would I be violating some rule to repost it with an AskMefi appropriate layer of "reason" for asking it and a less "hey guys lets talk about this" tone?

4) The "this isn't what askmefi is for" line just seems wrong. There are hundreds and hundreds of those types of threads left standing, loved by the community, and totally viewed as appropriate. It's totally what AskMefi is for, if you just tweak the language a bit.
posted by Nonce to Etiquette/Policy at 9:50 AM (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Ahhh c'mon, it got deleted, move on, moveeeeee onnnnn. Sometimes the planets aren't aligned correctly for a question and, alas, it gets taken down. Worth debating? Probably not.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:54 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, I was saving that thread for later! Damn.

I see nothing wrong with it. It's exactly like "Give your favorite" recipe/song/movie AskMe's.

I find them useful and entertaining.
posted by jbenben at 9:55 AM on February 22, 2010


The "Let's harness the power, collective wisdom, and sheer numbers of the Hive Mind and come up with our own How-To list." line was the killer.
posted by cashman at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get that the way the deleted thread was written violated the unwritten rule of "manufacture some story for why you want this particular question answered, and your chatfilter will stand."

You write this as a quote. I realize this is, according to you, unwritten, but where do you get this impression?

Secrets to happiness are about as vague as you can get, I really don't see how that is comparable to something concrete like "products that help you organize your life".
posted by Think_Long at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2010


I cleared this with cortex before deleting it. Both of us felt that it was pretty much textbook chatfilter and the "hey help me make a list" sort of approach made it just feel wrong in addition to the number of flags that were on it. I know it's very close to a question that would have not been deleted, as you said. However we've been clear that phrasing matters [i.e. "what is the problem to be solved" needs to either be explicit or fairly obvious [I want to read a book, for example] and while yeah sure most people would like to be happier, after coming there from the flag queue, I felt it was chatty not question-y. In answer to your other points.

1. usually we link to the chatfilter entry in the faq when we delete similar posts and this time I didn't. The deletion reason is supposed to be shorthand, not an explanation of policy. People can always contact us if they have questions.
2. Communicating with the asker is something we often don't have time or resources to do unless it's a lot more pressing/important. Basically if a question is deleted and then revived when it's already off the front page it sort of doesn't solve a problem for the asker. We used to do more of that, but in the past few years we do less of it.
3. if you reposted it after this MeTa I'd think that was sort of iffy at this point, maybe wait a while to do it, otherwise it seems stunty. But really, if all you want to do is know how people get/stay happy, include why you want to know, what you'd do with the information. That's the chatfilter/not chatfilter division.
4. I'm sorry but anything is okay for AskMe or anywhere on MeFi "if you tweak the language a little bit" because the site doesn't exist outside the realm of language.

So, I knew this was sort of going to rankle people but "not framed well" is actually an okay reason combined with a chatty question to delete a post. We can talk about that some if people think that shouldn't be the case, but both cortex and I felt this was just a chatty "I want to talk about X" question and not "I am trying to solve a problem related to X"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:00 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, it really needed to be deleted. So do many others which aren't deleted (Name my adorable kitten!, for instance. Tell me your favorite love song for my mixed tape!). A book recommendation is not in the same category as a broad "what worked for you, metaphysically?" A recommendation has clearly wrong answers (say, a fiction recommendation when someone asks for biographies, or when someone recommended Dalwhinnie--a Highland scotch--in a request for good peat-t Scotches) but this question was going to generate only chatty, equally valid answers about how someone in a possibly completely inapplicable life situation made happiness.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:01 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


So do the posters get a rebate for the week on their deleted post, or is it a "better luck next time!" sentiment?

That kind of question is already answered fairly well in the mefi wiki, I imagine.
posted by lizbunny at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2010


I'd question the whole "precious commodity" assumption. 52 questions a year. 30 more years of lifespan for me (taking account of lifestyle choices). That's 1,560 more questions I get.

I've used 19 so far.

I can afford to have some deleted. Maybe the OP is a lot older than me.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Better luck next time.

Also, apparently it's 'mods on the defense day' so lets all air out our issues. I am upset that my artificial memes have yet to catch on.
posted by Think_Long at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010


So do the posters get a rebate for the week on their deleted post, or is it a "better luck next time!" sentiment?

Better luck next time, often if it comes down to communicating with someone about it in more detail with an offer to vet their redraft ahead of time to let them know if there's anything problematic with it.

The 7-day limit is hardcoded into the site; we'd have to go out of our way to change something to make a "rebate" possible, and since we don't really want to encourage people to feel like there's free do-overs or whatever that's not something we're likely to do.

I know an askme can feel like a precious commodity sometimes, but when you get down to it an attitude of being okay not asking a question on any given day is a much more practical one and it's the one we'd encourage. Askme is a resource, not a necessity.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:12 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


AskMefi questions are precious commodities sometimes. I feel bad for this person having to wait a week to try again

The poster of the AskMe has been a member for almost exactly four years, and has asked 11 questions.

In general, even when people complain about "wasting a question" in their AskMe post, an examination of their posting history will show that they do not use all of the questions allotted to them. This rhetorical ploy overvaluing AskMe questions simply because one cannot ask one at literally any moment, is unconvincing.
posted by OmieWise at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Comment like you don't need favourites
Post like you've never been deleted
And alphabet thread like no one's watching
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Let me ask a question. How could this possibly have been more chat-filtery?

Let's all assemble a list of ways below!
posted by French Fry at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I had to make the decision, I'd have axed it. I feel like list askmes often have criteria that limit the scope. "give me songs that fit [x characteristic] that I can put on a playlist for a party that [x type people] are invited to." is a fairly narrow field to choose from, and people can give you concrete answers that fit what you're asking for. "give me songs that make you happy" has literally the whole of music at its disposal to choose from without offering anything to help narrow it down to something more helpful.

similarly, "I (or a friend) have been blue/depressed/whatever lately, and I'd like to surround myself (or my friend) with things that will remind me (or my friend) of how happy they can be, please give me a list of things that fit [x criteria] because I (or my friend) like X." has a narrow set to choose from, and people can hip you to things you might not have heard about. "give me happy things" creates a set of literally everything that is, was or ever will be within it to choose from. it's just too big.

my $.02
posted by shmegegge at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2010


But people are watching! ALWAYS
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 AM on February 22, 2010


I thought it was a fun question too, and it would have been interesting, BUT I don't think it's a good question for AskMe, and I support the deletion. I think the rigorous "practical question" orientation of AskMe is one of the things that makes it great. Loosen the focus on that, and soon it'll just be satellite principality of MetaTalk - a chat page without a raison d'etre.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2010


Happiness is such an individual/personal thing that I think it's patently ridiculous to believe that you can make a laundry list of things that lead to happiness. One man's "go hiking more" is another's "read more books". Telling an introvert to spend more time with their family will just cause their eyes to roll, and "savor the fine whiskeys and wines" is useless to the non-drinker or recovering alcoholic.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:42 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


To quote the wise words of one Alan Thicke, "What might be right for you may not be right for some."

You may apply this principle to both Happiness and Ask MetaFilter.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2010


So I guess this is a good place to ask if the question I asked this morning is okay. It wasn't framed like "help me make a list" but essentially it's open-ended enough to become one. I realized right after I posted it that it's not really possible to mark it "resolved" because there will always be other answers that haven't yet been contributed.

That said, it seems like a valid use of AskMe; it wasn't intended to be chatfilter in the slightest and I'd really like for it not to be deleted. I'm just curious about the shades of gray that separate my post from gb77's, and what the mods' thought processes are when axing or not-axing posts that fall within that territory.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:57 AM on February 22, 2010


Winsome: That question is awesome and will most probably not be deleted.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2010


I think cashman is right. Different phrased, it may have survived.

This question is similar, but the 'problem' is both more defined and identified with the poster, while the deleted AskMe is looking to start a group project.
posted by BigSky at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2010


I'm pretty sure they will have discovered the hapiness that they seek by next week and will disable their account.
posted by fixedgear at 11:15 AM on February 22, 2010


"I'm writing a book about achieving happiness and contentment in one's personal life. As part of my research for this book, I'm assembling a list of techniques that have been used in literature, movies, and history that were effective in maximizing the happiness of the user. Information on techniques that you have used personally with success would be welcome as well. I'm looking for specific approaches that have been used, not platitudes. Again, this is for a book. That I'm writing. Thanks. "
posted by brain_drain at 11:45 AM on February 22, 2010


To quote the wise words of one Alan Thicke, "What might be right for you may not be right for some."

So, like, I was fixin' to get all pedantic and shit and be all like, haha, wrong 80's sitcom, LOSER, but then I looked up the wiki for Diff'rent Strokes and saw that holy shit, Mr. Growing Pains himself really did help write that theme song! And a bunch of others!

And really, the fact that you inadvertently turned my own tendency towards insufferability into a teaching moment for me, especially one involving 80's trivia minutia, makes me so very glad you're back, Sys Rq.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, thanks. Also, you're welcome. (It's what I do!)

PS: Andrew "Boner" Koenig is still missing.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2010


> Yes, it really needed to be deleted. So do many others which aren't deleted (Name my adorable kitten!, for instance. Tell me your favorite love song for my mixed tape!).

I agree with both statements. We need more deletions, not less.
posted by languagehat at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Secrets to long term happiness? Don't sweat the petty deletions and don't pet the sweaty deletions.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:21 PM on February 22, 2010


Q: Why is this different from a "list your favorite books" question?

A: because everyone knows what books are, and more-or-less agrees on the definition.
posted by freebird at 1:42 PM on February 22, 2010


Happiness is such an individual/personal thing

Exactly. And hell, my opinions can vary on something within just a couple of days:

Question: How can I be Happy?

quin's response (Monday) Buy a cat! Cats are awesome and will make you happy!

quin's response (Wednesday) Don't buy a cat! Cat's will eventually break in and kill one of your birds, this will make you sad. Buy birds! They are sweet and will make you happy!

quin's response (Friday) Don't buy birds! They are noisy and will occasionally do horrific things like try to eat one another! Don't buy birds!

quin's response (Sunday, on finding peacefully sleeping cat curled up on pillow) Buy a cat, they are easy to forgive!
posted by quin at 2:26 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


brain_drain: for real? My answer would be something like "write your own damn book already".

I mean, there is a limit to what AskMe will do for your book. Otherwise I would have posted this long ago:

"I would like to write a book (fiction). What kind of book would be successful? Also, can you sketch out an example plot that would work in that genre? What would the characters be like? Plz have rough draft on my desk by Monday."
posted by jacalata at 3:48 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The secret of happiness is that, when your post gets deleted, you let go and move on. The alternative, termed "attachment" by Buddhists, is the cause of suffering.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"How can I be happier" is a legitimate question, with a problem to be solved, albeit one that requires additional information from the asker (why are they unhappy, or at least less happy than they think they should be) to answer well.

"What makes you happier" is chatfilter and pollfilter.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2010


I suppose you can add "You'll get no joy posting chatfilter" to the list.
posted by Abiezer at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


How to be happy? In the words of the Fabulous Freak Brothers, it's better to have drugs and no money than money and no drugs.
posted by klangklangston at 8:01 PM on February 22, 2010


I would like one of those two please.
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fall down seven times, get up eight.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2010


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