Striving to make answers to vague AskMe questions more helpful and clear September 17, 2010 6:20 AM   Subscribe

In two recent AskMe threads (Non obvious things you shouldn't say to women and a similar about men), vague and general questions were asked. The community response wandered all over the map from very good, to not so good, where individual dislikes were conflated to be something all of certain subgroup dislke (1, 2). I think this is a problem that not only degrades the tone of the site in general and AskMe in particular, but also can confuse the asker. So I'm putting this issue before the community to see if the community views this as a problem and if so, discuss ways to mitigate it.

The problem, as I see it, is that these sort of threads, particualarly when they're about sex and/or gender just turn into venting threads, where people voice their personal dislikes and then assume all or most members of that same group feel exactly as they do about that particular situation. As EmpressCallipygos mentioned, that could make an already vague and general thread even murkier, confusing people who are actually looking for clarity or help when dealing with various subgroups. The problem can occur in other threads, but these are two

The results I'd like to see from MeTa thread are 1) figuring out whether this is an actual problem and if so 2)perhaps a small bit of mod nudging within the threads in therms of keeping them focused and/or 3)a bit of discussion from the community at large on on how to deal with vague AskMe questions as they are, not as we personally may wish them to be or 4) some other way of dealing with the problem. It could be as simple as this MeTa serving as reminder to mentally check yourself before answering in AskMe.

I realize there is no quick fix to this and the problem will always be there to some extent. But in the larger scheme, it would be good for AskMe and the people asking these types of questions if we could focus on helping them instead of making the question about something else.
posted by nomadicink to Etiquette/Policy at 6:20 AM (149 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Eh. If the biggest problem I have in my day is getting annoyed that people are lumping me with all other guys I am doing better than 99.999% of humanity.
posted by dfriedman at 6:21 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


You read that thread and saw that some people were just listing their personal pet peeves that only apply to them. I read that thread and saw the same thing. But the asker can't figure that out for themselves?
posted by smackfu at 6:23 AM on September 17, 2010


I thought they were both stupid, stunty posts that had no plausibly good "best answer", because naturally how can you generalize to 50% of the global population? Inevitably it was going to be list of "shit I don't like" coupled with "well *I* don't mind that shit", with the occasional retort of "people who don't like that shit are overly-sensitive."

They were, therefore, shit questions from which no good could come, and inevitably going to lead to this sort of MeTa handwringing. They should both have been nixed from the outset.
posted by modernnomad at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


I'd like all people with petty, pithy whines ang grievences who are recently popping out of the woodwork to go away. Askme is very carefully and very well modded.
You are not a mod. Live with it.
posted by adamvasco at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Both questions struck me as atypically dumb (for metafilter), but I also found it easy to avoid wasting my time and energy on them.
posted by jon1270 at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm intrigued that the follow-up question about things you shouldn't say to men -- basically the same thing except switching the gender -- was allowed. Based on previous experience, I wouldn't have expected this (though I'm not complaining). Interesting.
posted by John Cohen at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2010


The follow-up question was asked at 4:47 AM EDT. I wouldn't really interpret that as "allowed".
posted by smackfu at 6:37 AM on September 17, 2010


I think there was quite a bit of mod nudging.
posted by h00py at 6:38 AM on September 17, 2010


...basically the same thing except switching the gender -- was allowed.

I'm not really surprised. Imagine the shitstorm that would result if it were deleted and every troll, goblin and owlbear came out of the woodwork to beat their chests about MeFi being a girlzone.
posted by griphus at 6:39 AM on September 17, 2010


What are some not-obvious things you can't/shouldn't say to a mod?
posted by bondcliff at 6:40 AM on September 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Nudge your moist bits, big boy/girl?
posted by h00py at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2010


You read that thread and saw that some people were just listing their personal pet peeves that only apply to them. I read that thread and saw the same thing. But the asker can't figure that out for themselves?

Honestly, if the asker couldn't figure out the question was vague or that context and relationships matter, then yeah perhaps they can't.
posted by nomadicink at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2010


Actually, that's kind of obvious. Strike that.
posted by h00py at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be quite happy to be wrong about that though.
posted by nomadicink at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2010


I don't think that the answers are a problem (whether the question(s) should stand is something I am agnostic about as I am not that invested in the concept of AskMe as a forum for questions that can have objective 'best answers').

If the question stands, then answers to "what 50% of the population are like" will be vague and hit and miss, and the ones that you think are germane may not be the one I think are, and vice versa. Personally I think it is not an issue and one can guess from the question that the answers will be subjective and some of them will seem wrong to you/me.
posted by Gratishades at 6:44 AM on September 17, 2010


What are some not-obvious things you shouldn't say to a mefite?
posted by blucevalo at 6:45 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


If the question stands, then answers to "what 50% of the population are like"...

I thought the question was more "what are the big blind spots and inappropriate stereotypes w/r/t Western socialization of the male gender?" Which can be answered considerably more concretely, and you can see that happening in the thread.
posted by griphus at 6:47 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well as a woman, I find the kind of recreational complaining that those threads are an excuse for to be a truly horrendous pastime, and one of the worst things about the internet and anywhere people that people get together to talk, for that matter. This would obviously not have been an appropriate contribution to the threads, so thanks for bringing it up here. The problem is that so many of the "things you shouldn't say to an X" end up being a) things that nobody here needs to be told not to say because they're so specific to the asshole who said them, but the responder just wants to talk about it anyway; or, even more irritatingly, b) things that nobody here should be told not to say because they're so specific to the asshole who doesn't like to hear them. Still, in every thread like that I feel like people also express a lot of very reasonable and more or less widespread opinions that I and probably other people hadn't really thought about before. And I'm sure other people would not draw the line exactly where I would. I'm not saying it's a total waste or anything. Just that, IMO, that much complaining in one place is... gross.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


mod nudging within the threads in therms

Jessamyn likes to cool things down, cortex prefers to heat things up. The next hire for team mod might be a programmable thermostat.
posted by thusspakeparanoia at 6:51 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


What are some not-obvious things you shouldn't say to a mefite?

Don't be the one to make a beanplating joke immediately after someone's ten paragraph heartfelt outpouring. At least wait until someone's posted a jokey comment because they went off to make tea after typing it but didn't preview before posting.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:52 AM on September 17, 2010


Any question that can be answered by anyone (or 50% of anyone) is going to have a lot of junk answers.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on September 17, 2010


Why are so many women answering in the thread meant for men? I would have really liked to hear from men than from women about men.
posted by xm at 6:54 AM on September 17, 2010


Why are so many women answering in the thread meant for men? I would have really liked to hear from men than from women about men.

Maybe men just really hate those kinds of questions?
posted by Omnomnom at 6:56 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think there was quite a bit of mod nudging.

You are quite right, even some of my comments were delete when I brought up points similar to the ones I mention in this MeTa post.

In terms of nudging, I was thinking something more proactive from the mods with these vague questions and it was 5am in the morning when I was thinking of it. The warm light of day and two cups of coffee have pointed out that suggestion is problematically vague and asking the mods to do a whole lot more work, which I don't really think is needed.
posted by nomadicink at 6:57 AM on September 17, 2010


Why are so many women answering in the thread meant for men?

Where was this stated, or even implied?
posted by griphus at 6:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've have learned a lot from both threads. When posting the follow up thread, I did try to word it in a way that wouldn't cause too much public outcry and controversy. The biggest complaint about the first was that females were getting lumped together; therefore, I tried to be specific by saying "I became curious about some things that might bother some men". I found the first thread enlightening because I had asked the same question before somewhere else. Each person who said something revealed something about their unique perspective. Some were individual complaints while others were broader. It reminds me of C. Wright Mills personal troubles and public issues.

Sure there are some people who were bothered by the questions; however, there were also fantastic responses. I've been studying a lot of female psychology and sociology these days; therefore, these kinds of insights are significant. Also, these inspired much conversation here in Korea as I was able to ask my Korean friends if these same issues applied to them. For one example, most of the girls I talked to mentioned that they do not get told to smile because here most people don't talk to strangers. It has been very interesting to reflect on the differences in culture.

I do have to apologise if my post seemed to vague. Discussing gender and sex is a difficult issue and I really wanted to keep the unnecessary conversation to a minimum.

I do, however, hope the threads do stay alive.
posted by Knigel at 6:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually found both threads pretty fascinating (so far) both in terms of "Oh, look at this fairly universal gender experience that I ALSO find totally irritating!" and in terms of, "wow, if person X gets so pissed off at [normal social interaction], how do they even function in the world?"

And then I wonder how often I'm person X getting pissed off at what others perceive as a normal social interaction. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:59 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that these "what are men / women like" threads are chatfilter at best, and offensive at worst. The thought that there could even be a Best Answer is almost offensive to me (although I concede that answers promoting common sense politeness and empathy in general are good answers). I say they should be thus stricken.

I flagged them both.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:01 AM on September 17, 2010


The follow-up question was asked at 4:47 AM EDT. I wouldn't really interpret that as "allowed".

Yup. Good morning. Quoting myself:

This post was deleted for the following reason: Honestly, the thread this is copycatting was reaaallly borderline and chatty in the first place and a huge pain in the ass to moderate; doing it again for a reflexive now-switch-the-gender sequel seems like not a great idea.

The other thread was a nightmare; I think if we had a crystal ball it would have been easy for us to definitively nix it early on, but we (mostly Jessamyn) went ahead and put in the great big pile of stupid effort required to keep it from going extra soft around the middle. Doing it all over again just sounds like a terrible idea.

And no, I didn't delete this because it was about men and men don't get to talk about this stuff. And, yes, had we narrowly allowed a borderline chatty asking-about-men question and someone followed up in the wee hours of the morning with a copycat about women, I'd delete it. Just to preempt the inevitable.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2010


I do honestly think that at least one Mefite has read something in one of the threads and will question one of their blind spots in the future. Just to know that something bothers some people can save a lot of trouble. For example, many people do not know that "Ma'am" can offend some people; however, knowing that there is a segment of the population that does get offended really does help when determining what a good global response should be. Sometimes we add a word in our day to day script that may not be as innocent as we think it is.

I've got to be forthright too, I used to tell people to smile all the time. I haven't for a while; however, after reading that first post, I could see how I might have been coming across. Sure many people might not have minded; however, I could have been upsetting people unintentionally.
posted by Knigel at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2010


This isn't specific to just the men/women behavior threads. For example when somebody asks a question like, "What are things that it's a good idea to spend more money on to get extra quality?" you end up getting tons and tons of bullshit that's really just subjective personal preference. For example someone might answer "Coffee, because the good stuff tastes so much better!" when the reality is that probably a majority of coffee drinkers would be perfectly happy with the absolute cheapest store-brand stuff, so that advice isn't really helpful and it's just an excuse for everybody to list things they like spending money on. Those type of questions bother me because any criteria for answers being right or wrong evaporates, leaving a huge thread full of everybody playing "my turn to talk now!" The result is a lot of useless advice, with many of the answers being completely contradictory.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:15 AM on September 17, 2010


The community response wandered all over the map from very good, to not so good, where individual dislikes were conflated to be something all of certain subgroup dislke (1, 2). I think this is a problem that not only degrades the tone of the site in general and AskMe in particular, but also can confuse the asker.

Well this is hardly unique to these types of questions, although AskMe is a great resource nearly every question is a mixed bag of good answers and bad answers. I don't think there is really a "tone" of AskMe, other than that people come in with a problem to be solved and other people successfully or unsuccessfully offer possible answers.

I thought they were both stupid, stunty posts that had no plausibly good "best answer", because naturally how can you generalize to 50% of the global population? Inevitably it was going to be list of "shit I don't like" coupled with "well *I* don't mind that shit", with the occasional retort of "people who don't like that shit are overly-sensitive."

I agree that women are not all the same and that something that one woman doesn't like is not necessarily shared across the entire population. But there are some things that I, as a dude, do not notice as much as nearly every woman does. I for instance had no idea about the tendency for men to ask random women to smile until recently because I never did that or noticed any other guy doing it, and yet most women seem to have encountered it.

The fact is that living as a woman in the world is not the same as living as a man, because we do not yet live in a post-feminist world where there is complete gender equality (and gender homogeneity, which almost no one wants anyway). When I was younger and was not aware of a lot of the crap adult women have to put up with, the answers in that thread would probably have helped me learn a lot of non-obvious things that I ended up learning little by little over time by listening to women relate their own experiences. Listing those sorts of experiences all in one place has value and helps solve the OP's problem, so I don't see anything stupid or stunty about it.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:16 AM on September 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I respect your decision Cortex, I understand where you're coming from. I'll watch how I present my questions in the future. I liked griphus' wording much better than my own.

Sorry for any extra work that I caused.
posted by Knigel at 7:19 AM on September 17, 2010


This isn't specific to just the men/women behavior threads. For example when somebody asks a question like, "What are things that it's a good idea to spend more money on to get extra quality?" you end up getting tons and tons of bullshit that's really just subjective personal preference.

I agree with this, and the kind that really annoys me is: "I want to explore [the Beatles/Woody Allen movies/etc.]. Which [album should I listen to / movie should I watch] first?" In principle, you could get a perfectly good answer to this. But in practice, what happens is: there are a couple really obvious suggestions. Those are guaranteed to be mentioned early on. But it never stops there. The dynamic of a thread on a website with thousands of users is that someone is going to want to recommend a less obvious choice. And there will be enough people like this that everything ends up getting recommended unless it's universally considered one of the artist's inferior works (and it's easy enough to find this out through allmusic.com or metacritic.com). So you end up with a list of every acclaimed album/movie/whatever this person ever released.
posted by John Cohen at 7:25 AM on September 17, 2010


No sweat, Knigel, I don't doubt your intentions were good in any case.

I do honestly think that at least one Mefite has read something in one of the threads and will question one of their blind spots in the future.

Which, you know, I hope that too in a make-the-best-of-things sort of way and can totally identify with that feeling as a motivation for posting something. The trouble is that there are a huge number of things in the world that we can hope to see get better that, at the same time, aren't necessarily workable as metafilter posts or questions.

And that's a tricky dynamic that catches people out sometimes when we end up deleting a well-meaning post—I'd point at, more so than askme really, the dilemma of fundraiser or activism posts on the front page of the site. Raising funds and awareness are both things that (generally speaking) I think are good and can do good both directly and indirectly if they work well. At the same time, they're off-target for mefi and really aren't something we think works well here for reasons of both site culture ("throw money/signatures/etc at cause x!" doesn't go ever well) and scaling issues (even if one post could go okay, establishing that type of thing as an okay thing to emulate would lead to bad situations).

So I sympathize very much with anyone who ends up feeling as if they've had a rug pulled out from under them in this sort of situation. It sucks that in keeping this place working the way we feel it needs to we can end up indirectly making someone feel a bit like "that thing you care about doesn't matter", and as far as that goes I just want to explicitly acknowledge that, no, it's not that it doesn't matter, it's just that there's conflicts between what people personally want to accomplish and what the site is and isn't meant for.

Fortunately, there's a ton of resources out there in the world beyond mefi and some decent community support here for things like Projects that can be used as a workable vector for someone's personal attempts to do something activist if they feel like it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:31 AM on September 17, 2010


Why are so many women answering in the thread meant for men? I would have really liked to hear from men than from women about men.

Female Answer Syndrome?

I just saw that the second AskMe got deleted; I wish the first one had as well. That's probably why I would be the least popular moderator in the history of moderation: I think that the chatty-chatty threads should be nuked from orbit, even though they are super popular with a lot of people.
posted by Forktine at 7:47 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


How did that smile answer in the first thread get 257 favorites? That is nuts.
posted by smackfu at 7:49 AM on September 17, 2010


I'd guess it has something to do with being one of those aforementioned examples of things that half of the population never has to deal with and therefore is oblivious to how often smarmy strangers say it to the other half.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:57 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


How did that smile answer in the first thread get 257 favorites? That is nuts.

Why is it nuts? It's something that a lot of men don't realize is happening and which a lot of women have to deal with.
posted by kmz at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


I get told to smile all the time and I don't like it either.
posted by waraw at 7:59 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess there are a lot of unhappy people on MetaFilter. Just surprised me.

(I kid!)
posted by smackfu at 8:01 AM on September 17, 2010


How did that smile answer in the first thread get 257 favorites? That is nuts.

People love to point to being told to "Smile!" as something women have to deal with and men don't. In fact, it gets said to men and women and is annoying regardless of gender.
posted by John Cohen at 8:11 AM on September 17, 2010


I'm disappointed the second one was deleted. I found at least one thing in particular in there that I could handle more gracefully with my husband: the end of a phone call, esp. when he's out of town... if I know or get the impression that there are people around, I can sort of elide the closing remarks with a cheery or empathetic, "Okay! I'm glad/sorry XYZ — call me in the morning!" so he doesn't have to stumble at the end if it's going to be embarrassing to be all "I looooove you!" I don't have a problem if he doesn't say it, but I can make it easier for him so he doesn't have to weigh up the embarrassment against the "good husband" points.

Anyway. I understand why it was closed, but it was still interesting to me, and seemed to be going well. There have been some threads on the Blue that I was sorry to see go, as well... More and more, lately, and I'm just afraid that we are closing an increasing number of threads due to what seems to me to be a really small percentage of the member base. I hate to see all the "we don't do X well" that seems to be becoming so accepted, where X is an ever-growing number of subjects. I'm accustomed to counting on metafilter for a relatively intelligent discussion of hot (or even tepid, but we-don't-all-agree) topics, but so many of them seem to have become subject non grata.

But the people who behave badly and the people who post to Metatalk about wanting threads/topics/discussions closed have a more obvious and insistent voice than the many who are just reading along with interest and not flaming anyone or demanding anything — even though they may be (and usually are) the vast majority.
posted by taz at 8:12 AM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Now how will people know not to call me "hubby"? This sucks.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2010


I understand why it was closed, but it was still interesting to me, and seemed to be going well.

The real problem with these "okay let's do the same question with the genders reversed" is that any thread like this is hell to moderate. In a vacuum where the site is otherwise going well, they can be okay, but two of them going at once where people are cross-posting to both threads is a really bad sitiation.

I felt that most people in the first thread were able to add framing that was like "here are some suggestions, but really you are asking for broad generalizations so this may be only sort of useful" and the OP was, of course, going to have to pick and choose.

Using "well this might confuse the OP" as a metric for pretty much anything is a non-starter.

People who are hyperworried about offending anyone are, yes, going to have their options limited. If people can't look at a thread of divergent responses and make their own personal decisions about how they're going to apply the information they have, we can't do anything about that.

The number of people that came into that thread to vent, to eyeroll and to basically argue with other people's answers, [male and female] in that "help me understand this" way was way too high. I gave a shit ton of mod nudging in that thread and many people picked up on it and many others did not.

These sorts of threads are okay if they're rare. I understand that it can be tough as a member of the discussed group to see a bunch of people saying "well it annoys me when you do THIS" but honestly people have to deal with it all the time on MeFi, there's no "right of reply" and there's no right of having a "well what about if the genders were reversed" question. A few of the reasons people flock to the internet is because 1) they're exceptionally picky 2) they're exceptionally irritable and/or easily offended 3) they're exceptionally socially awkward and rules governed. That thread is a sort of perfect storm of GRAR for those groups of people all of whom we have in large supply here on MetaFilter, with often delightful results, but not in that case.

We remove chatty "black people are like this amirite" types of questions now, for the most part, but for someone who really seemed to have an etiquette question, asking here is fine. People who can't handle that or can't read the thread without getting a "someone on the internet is wrong" headache are welcome to avail themselves temporarily of one of the many other wonderful resources the internet has to offer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:23 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


everything in there is mediocre at worst. this is actual bad advice:

never tell a woman 'hello' unless you're already married to her

if you get caught glancing at a woman's feet she'll resent you forever

women HATE it when you ask them reasonable questions that relate to their job duties
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:28 AM on September 17, 2010


For the record, I've never really felt the urge to tell people to "smile". Until now.

But I want to do it in a completely adversarial way: I want to sidle up to a co-worker, narrow my eyes, and growl "smile" in the same way a Clint Eastwood western might have had him say "draw".

In a perfect world this would lead to seeing which one of us could more quickly get a giant shit-eating grin on our face, but sadly reality fails to understand that there are certain narrative conventions that should be followed just for the look of the thing.
posted by quin at 8:37 AM on September 17, 2010


Has anyone seen Jessamyn in person yet today?

Is the WWII helmet on yet?
posted by zizzle at 8:39 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am currently hiding out in an undisclosed location.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:42 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can understand detractors of the threads who argue that the threads are likely to be inaccurate because of the necessarily idiosyncratic responses and the murkiness of stereotyping.

But let's not pretend that there are not some things - whether biological or cultural - for which the probability of statement A being true is significantly different among men and women (even if, of course, a particular man or woman might completely disprove the statement - Jesus, this caveat is so obvious that I don't think it's even warranted.)

For example - men are generally taller and stronger than women. Men consistently show greater aggression than women, on average. Etc.
posted by kid A at 8:46 AM on September 17, 2010


And at some level, people give inaccurate answers ALL THE TIME, overbroad, over general etc. If your question is "how can I make sure not to piss anyone off" and people say "well this pisses me off" it's a valid data point even if you think it's sort of a bullshit premise.

Again, I didn't like the question, we'll probably be looking harder at that sort of question in the future, but the real problem to me is that people couldn't read other people's answers without getting angry/irritated and feeling like they had to reply. That is a personal problem not a site problem.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:50 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree about stunt-posting a situation-reversed back-atcha post; it's usually an aggressive wanna-fight? kind of thing, but I thought Knigel framed this in a very respectful and non-inflammatory way... and it seems that this was reflected in the comments, unless of course there were a bunch that were deleted.
posted by taz at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


the real problem to me is that people couldn't read other people's answers without getting angry/irritated and feeling like they had to reply. That is a personal problem not a site problem.

If the solution to the problem is "people should be better," that's not a realistic solution and regardless of where you want to lay the blame it is only meaningful to talk about solving these problems at the level of site policy.
posted by enn at 8:57 AM on September 17, 2010


Q: What irritates most members of group?
A1: As a member of the group, this irritates me.
A2: As another member of this group, that doesn't irritate me, so I disagree that it irritates most members.

There's really wrong with those answers, and they meet the AskMe guidelines, but it just gets fightier from there
posted by smackfu at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2010


*nothing wrong*
posted by smackfu at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2010


And the fundamental issue is trying to use AskMe for polling.
posted by smackfu at 9:01 AM on September 17, 2010


If the solution to the problem is "people should be better," that's not a realistic solution

Agreed. But at some level that thread was going okay, it just required heavy moderation. Now that's not something that scales well [i.e. we can't have a bunch of threads going simultaneously that require really close attention over a number of days] but as an outlier thing, it's not a big deal. When someone posts a "okay let's do the same thread only with the genders reversed" [and again, no disrespect to Knigel] it taxes what the site can reasonably provide. When a MeTa thread comes out of an AskMe post, again there is a higher site cost.

And this is just be navel gazing about what affects me and cortex's and my ability to run the site. I know people won't automatically behave better because I said it might be a good idea. That said, in touchy AskMe threads especially, people have to behave better or their comment will get deleted. And it is not really possible for us to give more nudges in a thread to people who will not be listening to them which, I assert, is one of the problems that thread was having. I deleted some flat-out sexist bullshit from people who were just having a laugh and gave one guy the day off. Not happy to have to do that. I'm aware I can't just hope that people behave better.

But I've got a small toolbox and it has very few tools. People on the site are going to have to take responsibility for helping stuff not become trainwrecks if the site is going to keep operating the way it has been operating. I don't give a shit about blame, but I think we need to talk about responsibility. Everyone who had multiple off-topic comments deleted from that thread should think about what responsibility they have to the site versus to their own particular "someone is wrong on the internet" compulsions. And again, I say this as a very irritable person who has to wear a rubber band on my wrist sometimes to stop replying in threads where I am Not Helpful. Take the steps you need to take.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


And the fundamental issue is trying to use AskMe for polling.

See, I don't get why this is BAD. Many questions don't have an absolute answer; many questions are answered by what the majority feels. If you get 50 "please don't command me to smile" answers versus two "I don't mind that," you may either decide that it's not a great opening line, or feel like, "okay, woo! some people like that!"

If I ask for a great free Flash slideshow, it's also going to be a poll. If 10 people out of 13 mention "SomeFantasticSlideShow" app, that's the one I'm going to try. What blogging software should I use? How many people are going to say WordPress? Is it a good answer? I think so. If we are going to demand that all questions have an unambiguous 1/0 answer, we're going to be cutting out the vast majority of Ask Me questions.
posted by taz at 9:16 AM on September 17, 2010


But at some level that thread was going okay, it just required heavy moderation.

I'm a bit unclear on which thread is that thread. I think you are referring to the first one, yes? I'm curious how much moderation was needed in the deleted thread.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:20 AM on September 17, 2010


Why are so many women answering in the thread meant for men? I would have really liked to hear from men than from women about men.

Men post in threads about bras, women's underwear, menstruation, cramps, childbirth (not child REARING, the actual physical birthing), mammograms*, and any number of issues that are completely and solely unique to women. I once had a user send me a memail to chide me when I politely requested that men stop taking over a thread on bras by telling me that i should welcome a man's participation because they have girlfriends who wear bras and sometimes buy bras for those girlfriends.

So to complain about women answering in a thread "meant for men" is really rich.



(*yes i know men can have them but most don't, and yes I know about male breast cancer, go tilt at another windmill)
posted by micawber at 9:22 AM on September 17, 2010


See, I don't get why this is BAD.

It's more about the subtle difference between polling the users vs. asking the users for what the results of that poll would be. If you ask about "most women", that's the latter.
posted by smackfu at 9:22 AM on September 17, 2010


I'm curious how much moderation was needed in the deleted thread.

It was only open for about five hours which was mostly sleep-time in the US. So we deleted some off-topic comments and it got flagged a ton but really you sort of can't compare the two.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 AM on September 17, 2010


See, I don't get why this is BAD.

It's not, in and of itself. But when one is polling about more personal subjects such as gender/sex/relationships etc (and sometimes, yes CMS), things tend to get a bit out of hand. I'm not sure

Everyone who had multiple off-topic comments deleted from that thread should think about what responsibility they have to the site versus to their own particular "someone is wrong on the internet" compulsions.

As one of those people, I admit that my comments questioning another poster were probably a bit much in the context of AskMe. Had I simply made a comment directed at the OP pointing out the variety of responses and the more personal views of others, that probably would have been more helpful and useful to the site, so I apologize for that.
posted by nomadicink at 9:27 AM on September 17, 2010


If the solution to the problem is "people should be better," that's not a realistic solution

Actually, at an individual level it totally, totally is. People should try harder, they should always be making an effort to be constructive in their contributions and to amend their bad habits. And the folks who have been around for a while and who pay attention to Metatalk are in a good position to do just that. A lot of them do so at least a little bit, which is great. Nobody is on the ball 100% of the time, but reasonable people can get pretty close. Closer certainly than folks sometimes do, and asking that they make a personal effort to improve on that front is, in a community powered by individuals, definitely something we do.

That doesn't solve the problem of people who are new, or people who are either disinclined to or just for some reason constitutionally incapable of moderating the worse parts of their behavior, but it's a big start. The bulk of the comments in askme are not driveby comments from new clueless users, and neither is the bulk of what we end up deleting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:28 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone in the deleted thread wrote:

men are "afraid" to ask for directions because asking for directions is a submissive act.

Now, you hear this pretty often, but I never really buy it. Are there really a significant number of dipshits who won't ask for directions? I mean, what the fuck else are you supposed to do when you're lost?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2010


That makes sense, smackfu. I'm not sure I agree with your ultimate conclusion (because here the asker could have said "what non-obvious (to me/many men) comments bother you as a woman," and the answers would have been mostly the same, and, I think, still ultimately helpful — despite so many ignoring the "non-obvious" caveat.
posted by taz at 9:36 AM on September 17, 2010


Are there really a significant number of dipshits who won't ask for directions? I mean, what the fuck else are you supposed to do when you're lost?

- consult a map
- look for a map and consult it
- check your GPS
- drive around in concentric circles looking for your destination
- call a friend who knows the area
- give up

I've done most of these. I have a bad sense of direction and I don't like talking to strangers, though I will in a pinch. Calling people dipshits because they don't behave like you do is an almost perfect encapsulation of what's wrong here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:40 AM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Now, you hear this pretty often, but I never really buy it. Are there really a significant number of dipshits who won't ask for directions?

Recently, I've spent a lot of time in rural Georgia (places where phone signal drops for miles) and gotten lost a couple of times. As a black dude, I've been cautious about asking for directions, based solely on some of the nasty looks I and the white wife get from the locals standing around outside as I pull up to a gas station. Thankfully the attendants inside have been quite helpful.

I apologize for being a dipshit.
posted by nomadicink at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do honestly think that at least one Mefite has read something in one of the threads and will question one of their blind spots in the future.

I'm one. I view myself as very egalitarian and cringed to see some things in the Men thread that I have been guilty of. I'm glad they were mentioned- I will be more careful in the future.

I understand the argument that people can't avoid offending people all the time, but I prefer to restrict my offending to deliberate efforts, as much as possible, not simple untargeted cluelessness.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for all the people who have ever asked me for directions while I was jogging. They would have been better off on their own.
posted by smackfu at 10:09 AM on September 17, 2010


I do honestly think that at least one Mefite has read something in one of the threads and will question one of their blind spots in the future.

Same here. I'm way guilty of offering to marry people who go above and beyond when they help me; it never occurred to me that it might bother men.
posted by headspace at 10:15 AM on September 17, 2010


I feel bad for all the people who have ever asked me for directions while I was jogging. They would have been better off on their own.

There was once when I was standing outside my own house and someone asked me directions to the next street over. And I stood there with my mouth open for a good three minutes trying to figure out where in the hell that was. "I think it's... no... it's... no, not that one either... OH! It's THAT ONE! RIGHT THERE!"

I'm the epitome of Eddie Izzard's San Franciscan cab driver - don't know where it is and I've only lived here for four million years. If I have a "hunch" as to where I'm going, I'm invariably wrong. It's amazing I ever get anywhere, really.
posted by sonika at 10:19 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, you hear this pretty often, but I never really buy it. Are there really a significant number of dipshits who won't ask for directions?

I hate asking for directions. The times I've done it I've gotten far more crappy directions than actual help. Last time I was lost I had two different sets of people tell me the same wrong thing.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:22 AM on September 17, 2010


Are there really a significant number of dipshits who won't ask for directions?

I have a horrible short-term memory for spatial orientations, which means that remembering directions is pointless after the first turn unless I chant them in my head like a mantra (which I've learned is equally pointless.) If I don't have anything to take them down on, asking for directions will be nearly as useless as not asking for them.
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on September 17, 2010


You know what the worst thing is? Having GPS and being tasked with navigating for a doubter who will question every turn, eventually decide that the fact that it takes time to travel between two points means you are "lost" and start wanting to ask every local dipshit along teh way for misleading instructions.

Actually that might be a tie with having GPS and being tasked with navigating for a chronic improviser.
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on September 17, 2010


You know what the worst thing is? Having GPS and being tasked with navigating for a doubter

No, the worst is having GPS and relying on it exclusively due to knowing that your instincts are always wrong and having the GPS tell you that your doctor's office is actually in someone's house three miles away from the actual office.

I did have to stop and ask a human for directions - and the human was infinitely more helpful than the GPS. As in, the human directions got me to my doctor's office and not into some nice man's living room.

Dear Google Maps: Please, for the love of Dog, don't put towns in lakes or doctor's offices in people's houses. There are idiots depending on you.
posted by sonika at 10:38 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Returning to the topic, I found these questions (including the one about older people) very annoying. Take this sort of stuff to MetaChat, please!
posted by Carol Anne at 10:44 AM on September 17, 2010


Jeez people, octobersurprise clearly meant are there really dipshits who won't ask for directions because they think it makes them less of a man. Can't we all agree that THOSE people are dipshits?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:49 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't we all agree that THOSE people are dipshits?

...no?

Male status issues may be stupid but to think that you can opt out of them is to misunderstand the nature of the thing, and I don't think it's stupid to want to save face. People will treat you differently depending on whether you are assertive or submissive even in these stupid little things.
posted by enn at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK. Both threads were chatfilter. However, that one was allowed to stay, and one wasn't weirds me out.

Even if you have other reasons for closing the thread (but not the other), it reinforces the double-standard that many people perceive to exist here.
posted by schmod at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2010


Honestly, if it's only me that can agree that those men are dipshits, I'm OK with that. I don't have unlimited sympathy for every little trivial hardship that people inflict on themselves according to Two and a Half Men. In real life, I've never met a man who was too macho to ask for directions (and I'm from the Caribbean, where machismo is a deadly force), because it's ridiculous and guys know that. If this were something that a significant number of men really struggled with, maybe that would overcome the sheer stupidity of it. But I don't think it is; I think it's a stupid, borderline-misandrist stereotype television made up, and defending people who live their lives according to it isn't standing up for men, it's standing up for fools who deserve to stay lost.

At the same time, I know what you mean. Men, like women, are under pressure to be a certain way, and it sucks and it's a problem. We shouldn't be dismissive of that. There are lots of times when we need to be understanding, I just don't feel like this is one of those.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:42 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if you have other reasons for closing the thread (but not the other), it reinforces the double-standard that many people perceive to exist here.

Some people are going to have to accept that context and timing matter and are very important and have always been two important pillars of "what can get deleted" sitewide.

We've been as open and transparent as we can talking to the people who believe there is a double-standard here. I think we're also incredibly consistent in that asking the "okay what if the genders were reversed?" question coming on the tail end of a totally problematic [flags and bannings and MetaTalk] question is likely to lead to deletion. No matter what the asked-about genders are of the first and second questions.

While we're definitely keeping an eye open to the concerns of people who feel that there is a double standard, leaving up a heavily flagged and problematic question just so we won't be perceived as having a double-standard is not how we operate.

If people want to make a case for the site being moderated with bias, as I've said plenty of times in the past, make that case, don't point to decisions made on individual super edge case situations and decide that that's where you're going to start making your argument. Or you can, but it's not a great place to start. As mods, we need to not moderate the site out of fear that someone might perceive bias in our actions and thus we overcorrect to avoid fighting and backlash. We're available for explanation and discussion, but we're not going to not do our jobs because we're afraid it might look bad, even though that would actually make our jobs probably easier in the short run.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:50 AM on September 17, 2010


Even if you have other reasons for closing the thread (but not the other), it reinforces the double-standard that many people perceive to exist here.

Anyone who wants to insist on ignoring what we, as really painstakingly transparent mods, say about what we're doing and why we're doing it in favor of some interpretation that favors their pet perception can, well, enjoy their interpretation I guess but we're not going to spend a lot of energy worrying about what they think. Our focus is much more on helping this place work and not go in problematic directions than it is on pleasing the unpleasable.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:17 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


> If this were something that a significant number of men really struggled with, maybe that would overcome the sheer stupidity of it. But I don't think it is; I think it's a stupid, borderline-misandrist stereotype television made up

You are wrong. Sorry you had to find out this way.
posted by languagehat at 12:24 PM on September 17, 2010


Thanks for the information, but I was actually already aware that not everybody would agree with me.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2010


Oh hey! I so rarely get to trot out my own personal anecdotes because I'm usually keeping the peace but... I'm in a public library right now [doing work, not working as a librarian]. And here is my "I never thought these stories were true" moment as it affects both the old people thread and the "how to not talk to women" thread.

I'm at one of those big library tables and this nice older man sits down next to me [nice = says hi, is otherwise keeping to himself]. He does offer me a piece of gum which I take. We work next to each other quietly for an hour. As he is leaving he says, apropos of nothing "You know that since you accepted my gum you'll have to marry me..." smiling etc. I laugh because I know how this game goes and I hold up my left hand with convenient ring [which I swear I put on because I was going to the library] and say "Sorry, spoken for!"

He says "That's okay you're wearing that anti-Doug nose ring anyhow" I ask "Oh, is your name Doug?" He says yes and I take a gamble and say "Well I guess it's not working quite well enough, is it?" and hope he laughs. He laughs and says "Well I guess you can use it on your husband in bed tonight and ask for whatever you want." and I say "That's my plan" and he says goodbye and I say goodbye.

So, you know, no big deal really. I'm in the library so I didn't feel like I was in danger. I don't have an axe to grind about this sort of thing generally. But, depending on what sort of a day I'd been having and what sort of a location I was in, this sort of banter is somewhere along the continuum from "jokey old man flirty thing that sometimes happens" and you just sort of smile at, through to "goddamnit I can not believe I can not go out in public and have people have to make a bunch of inappropriate comments about me when I am trying to get some work done."

So, hey.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:48 PM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Damn. I'm a dude but I might just have to get me an anti-Doug nose ring installed if it'll mean I'll never have to sit next to an asshat like Doug.
posted by bondcliff at 12:52 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"jokey old man flirty thing that sometimes happens"

Stereotype much?
posted by timeistight at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2010


What are some every day physical gestures, common behaviors, and/or spoken phrases stereotypically favored by old people gay people?

Hmmm. I wonder how well that one would go over?

All those old finger waving, winking, price surprised technophobes are just driving in the slow lane of life according to that thread. Despite the general reek of the thread, taz's comma comment did make me laugh. It's not enough to save that thread though. Ditch it.
posted by caddis at 1:30 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I got a lot out of both of those threads.

In the second, now deleted thread, callmejay said:

I think a lot of women do not get male status issues. IF you don't want to trigger internal cringing in a man, even if that man "knows better", follow these don'ts:

Don't make fun of a man in front of other men* and don't question his ability about anything in front of other men. Don't give any instructions or make any requests to your male partner that seem like you are "in charge" of him in front of other men. Don't fight with him in front of other men. Don't insist that he say "I love you" in front of other men. Don't flatter another man too much in his presence. Don't put him in the position of having to go to another man for help. As Deborah Tannen explains, men are "afraid" to ask for directions because asking for directions is a submissive act.

My mate has pretty much delighted in doing all these things from the beginning of our relationship, often as she makes a show of intimidating me physically in mild ways such as hauling me around by the arm or poking me in the ribs.

It's an expression of the fierce intensity of her feelings for me as well as being an outlet for an amazing, wolverine-like, artesian force of personality and will that has to go somewhere, but it's also been her way of demonstrating to the world that I'm harmless and that there's nothing to worry about, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

callmejay's answer helps me understand what must have been so upsetting to those men over the years whose foreheads have started sweating, and whose hands were literally shaking as they witnessed us play this out. It's made for some comical scenes occasionally, as I'm looking some guy in the eye to let him know I'm ready, while she's twisting my arm up behind and bending my thumb back, oblivious.

But as I interpret what jessamyn says, we simply don't seem to be up to handling questions like this without placing an unbearable burden on our mods.

Too bad.
posted by jamjam at 1:32 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't like the "old people" thread. Probably because both of my parents are in their 80s. My mother is still sharp as a razor. My father had a stroke and is in a home. All of their friends are dead or sick. I guess it hit too close to home for me. Their quirks are not joke fodder, but things to cherish. I understand that the OP of the AARP thread didn't plan on it getting jokey or snarky. But threads here go that way. I FIAMO. I just wanted to apologize to Jessamyn because I didn't understand that this was the thread that the discussion was moved to and not the closed one above.

You kids have your fun. I'm off to eat Korean barbecue and drink a lot. Hopefully not too much.
posted by Splunge at 1:48 PM on September 17, 2010


What's the point of FIAMO when the young mods have obviously accepted and even embraced the thread in question?
posted by timeistight at 1:52 PM on September 17, 2010


At least we have a good "what's your favorite song" question to keep us distracted on Friday.
posted by smackfu at 1:53 PM on September 17, 2010


Jessamyn's jokey old man flirt made me smile in recognition. Yeah, it does happen regularly and sometimes it is more annoying than others, depending on your day.
And jokey old man flirt is definitely different to young man flirt.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:01 PM on September 17, 2010


>>"jokey old man flirty thing that sometimes happens"

>Stereotype much?


Huh? There are a ton of old dudes who see being old as a "get out of jail free" card for saying wildly inappropriate things, being ridiculously flirty with younger women, etc. I see it all the time, far more often than I see the very occasional older lady who has fun flirting with young guys. There's no stereotype; it's just basic observation.
posted by Forktine at 2:07 PM on September 17, 2010


What's the point of FIAMO when the young mods have obviously accepted and even embraced the thread in question?

Embraced is an odd description. We've been trying to keep that thread from imploding but neither of us thinks it's great, and we've been exchanging mail with a couple people already and explicitly made it clear that folks who want to talk about it can do so in this thread. FIAMO can involve moving on to Metatalk if you want, that's fine, but metacommentary in an askme is never gonna be okay.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on September 17, 2010


It's not just "move on" for now, it's "move on" forever.
posted by smackfu at 2:17 PM on September 17, 2010


Embraced is an odd description.

Participated in, then.

I see it all the time

Is that where we're setting the bar on broad statements about identifiable groups? Whether you've seen it be true "all the time"?
posted by timeistight at 2:35 PM on September 17, 2010


Jessamyn's jokey old man flirt made me smile in recognition. Yeah, it does happen regularly and sometimes it is more annoying than others, depending on your day.

Wow. I am more of a bitch than I realized. If that happened to me, I feel like if I were gonna be nice about it, I'd give him a look & conveniently spit the gum into the wrapper at that point. (In a more direct mood, I'd want to say something like "doesn't work that way, cupcake" but it would really depend on the situation...) But I don't think I'd be patient enough to put up with that for 3 or 4 exchanges... probably wiser, but - what an ass.
posted by mdn at 2:54 PM on September 17, 2010


>>"jokey old man flirty thing that sometimes happens"

>Stereotype much?


Should have been clearer "jokey old man flirty thing that sometimes happens TO ME"

Honestly, this is a situation where older men make jokes and flirt with me and talk about things that would get them smacked if they were my age. I see this as along the lines of "young retail cashier attitude thing that sometimes happens."

While it wasn't my intention to be dismissive, the joke, the gender, the age and the flirting aspect of this are all essential elements of this thing that happens to me in public spaces frequently. I'm not saying "old people are like this" I'm saying "older men sometimes talk to me in this way and it's weird" Most older men pay no attention to me whatsoever. At what point are you just being descriptive when you say that someone is older than you?

Participated in, then.

I prefer "tried valiantly to get the OP to come back to the thread and get them to say something that might re-rail it and at the same time make a good example of how to comment in the thread without being an asshole." Sometimes, as cortex says, move on means move on to MetaTalk sometimes it means just to keep on walking. Not every site dispute is going to go your way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:54 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not every site dispute is going to go your way.

Have either of you ever deleted a comment due to its agism? Agism isn't even listed in the flagging criteria.
posted by timeistight at 3:00 PM on September 17, 2010


And here is my "I never thought these stories were true" moment as it affects both the old people thread and the "how to not talk to women" thread.

I was annoyed with the "how not talk to men" thread because it seemed like whining and was highly subjective. Yet earlier today two women were talking at work about their periods and being pregnant and as they got in specific vaginal or uterus details, they said to several guys around them, me included, "close your ears, girls are talking about their parts". That irritated the crap out of me on so many levels, so hey, maybe there was something to that man thread.
posted by nomadicink at 3:00 PM on September 17, 2010


Agism isn't even listed in the flagging criteria.

Neither is "homophobia", but it fits just fine under "offensive/sexism/racism". The fact that something isn't listed by name doesn't mean that MeFi policy on it is "totally cool to do this, jump right in!"
posted by Lexica at 3:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. I am more of a bitch than I realized. If that happened to me

Nah, I think we all just pick our battles. You may have experiences that would drive me up the wall but they just make you shrug and go "eh".
This is just not something I rate highly enough to bother getting angry.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:06 PM on September 17, 2010


...or even ageism...
posted by timeistight at 3:06 PM on September 17, 2010


Have either of you ever deleted a comment due to its agism? Agism isn't even listed in the flagging criteria.

I can't say offhand. Definitely flag stuff you think is problematic; if there are other specific examples you have in mind that we didn't delete, it'd be totally fine to link them here. I hear you that this is something that frustrates you, and I'm not trying to be dismissive of that at all, but to the extent that there's a concern about us having a blind spot as insufficiently old persons, giving us a heads up about specific things that are happening, when they're happening, is probably the straightest route to helping us be more attentive to what's bugging you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:13 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quite frankly, Jessamyn, I didn't get what your point was in posting the old man anecdote in this thread. Was it supposed to be an example of how old men really behave or not? I was mystified by its inclusion, because it sounded to me like you were agreeing that indeed, some stereotypes are true because you had this particular experience. If this was just about this one man, this one time, why did you post it in this thread? (You can't hear my tone here, but it is gently inquisitive and not angry.)
posted by Wordwoman at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2010


I'm glad the poster in that elderly stereotypes thread clarified intent because I was really not happy about that one. Would people be free to make funny/annoying observations about some other demographic group? "What are some every day physical gestures, common behaviors, and/or spoken phrases stereotypically favored by black (teen/asians/gay/whatever) people?"

Followed by answers like: "Well I have an aunt who's black and she really likes watermelon."

These are basically a collection of mostly annoying anecdotal observations. There is really no common characteristic of group of people spanning 45 to 100 (based on assumptions of "elderly" evidenced by in-thread comment)

Taz and fivesavagepalms were very good natured. As a person in my 50s, my reaction is more along the lines of "Fuck y'all - why am I wasting my time with such a bunch of narrow minded idiots?" (Crotchety: check!) Geezers represent: we are smart, we are sexy, we are hip, and we are in your internets.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:51 PM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


because it sounded to me like you were agreeing that indeed, some stereotypes are true because you had this particular experience.

Sorry to have been unclear. My point which I was maybe not effectively making was that here was a situation involving both "what not to say to women" and also "a thing that old people do" that didn't have to be a shitty dehumanizing stereotype or a stupid generalization that paints old people as all exactly the same. And it didn't make me so angry I couldn't handle it and had to rant in either open AskMe thread.

And hey it was a perfect storm to me who has been basically been doing nothing but moderating all three of those threads for the past two days. Sorry, again, my internal monologue is very interesting and relevant to me and maybe doesn't come across to others. I'm sure this is true for a lot of us.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:55 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


"What are some every day physical gestures, common behaviors, and/or spoken phrases stereotypically favored by black (teen/asians/gay/whatever) people?"

To me the really big difference was that we'll all, with enough luck, be old people. Live long enough and you will be old, by definition. Maybe I'm being overly literal and we've definitely heard you that a lot of you had a problem with that thread. But that was my take on it, in case it matters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:57 PM on September 17, 2010


Madamjujujive, geezerdom doesn't really kick in until your 70's these days. So relax, you can still have kids on your lawn for another 20 years or so.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:24 PM on September 17, 2010


> Sorry, again, my internal monologue is very interesting and relevant to me and maybe doesn't come across to others.

I too thought it was interesting and relevant, more so than much of the commentary around these parts. Ignore the haters inquisitors.
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on September 17, 2010


"That's okay you're wearing that anti-Doug nose ring anyhow"

Thanks jessamyn! I can rest easy now knowing Doug will leave my daughter alone!
posted by The Deej at 6:00 PM on September 17, 2010


we'll all, with enough luck, be old people.

I want to get a public speaking gig where I basically go around to grade schools and explain things like this to kids.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuck you, Mr. Hat.
posted by timeistight at 6:54 PM on September 17, 2010


Did you just go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds on the hate-o-meter for some reason?
posted by Justinian at 7:08 PM on September 17, 2010


Pardon me for not being perfectly clear, but two or three cars parked under the stars is right. I was asking if a significant number of men are really so terrified of appearing "submissive" that they'll drive in circles or go home rather than ask someone for directions. I'm still inclined to doubt that this is true, but maybe I'm just an optimist. I'm not ashamed of calling someone who does do this sort of thing a dipshit; they're either merely a dipshit or deeply mentally ill.

(If they're mentally ill they have my sympathy; not so much if they're merely a dipshit.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 PM on September 17, 2010


The thing is, if some one stops and asks me and I can suss them out as dipshits, I'll give 'em wrong directions.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:18 PM on September 17, 2010


I hold up my left hand with convenient ring

When I have occasion to talk to women strangers (in public places asking directions or the time or do I pull the cord now to get where I'm going or commenting on something amusing that we both just witnessed or whatever) I scratch my face with my left hand so they won't think I'm hitting on them. Judging by the reception my innocuous questions or comments occasionally get I'm sure some go away thinking "I can't believe that married guy was hitting on me, what an asshole".
Most don't though and I'm not going to exclude myself from talking to half the population.

From June 2000 until summer of 2005 I was in a relationship where we - she, I and the kids (by another man) were a family. I present as a brute but when you go to the store or the park or any public space and you have kids in tow strangers smile at you, women initiate conversations, the police are expansive.

Nowadays you can be simultaneously among thousands and feel alone.

I'm married now. When I go around with my wife I can to talk to strangers without them being alarmed. It's nice. I can't do that when I'm alone. I hate that.

...

languagehat you suck sometimes. For some reason when issues regarding gender* come up you lose your ability to communicate i.e. "You are wrong. Sorry you had to find out this way."
Cite? Bullshit. &c. &c. &c. You are being just another dismissive asshole on the internet.

*I know I know, an oversimplification.
posted by vapidave at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, Mr. Tight, while I appreciate your... conciseness... you might ponder that if indeed time is actually tight, you might not want to waste it losing your cool on the internet. I mean, here we are in the world and we do all we can with the time we have, until we can't any more. Ultimately, is this what you want to do?
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:27 PM on September 17, 2010


Wow. Lots of calories burned here.
posted by Rafaelloello at 10:21 PM on September 17, 2010


it was interesting and relevant, more so than much of the commentary around these parts

Yeah, 'You are wrong. Sorry you had to find out this way,' was a real bar-raising gem. Thanks for doing your part.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:18 PM on September 17, 2010


Thank you for not deleting my thread (the "not-obvious things you can't say to women" one). I learned a tremendous amount of simple concrete, not-obvious things that I wouldn't have learned or imagined otherwise.

I am totally unacquainted with how it feels to:
  • be lumped into a group and therefore treated as a novelty ("'scuse me, can I get your quaint male opinion on this?")
  • be pestered so much about staying single and childless (if anything, people are envying my bachelordom)
  • have so much pressure on me about my looks or my weight
  • have society cry out for a 24/7 smile from me
  • be sexually harassed (not once have I ever been sexually harassed)
  • have my feelings invalidated or brushed off as silly, petty, or weak (actually, I have, but methinks women get it more)
  • be told to act unlike my gender ("you need to really put on your lipstick and miniskirt and woman-it-up")
I also learned a lot about myself as I did not intend to start a holy flame war.

First, let me emphasize that my intention was simply for learning etiquette and gender-sensitivity. Which is ultimately awkward, because many people interpreted my question in of itself as insensitive. Certainly that's not a good foot to start on.

However, in the few days since that thread, I already find myself getting along better with women.
posted by pauldonato at 10:08 AM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


> Cite? Bullshit. &c. &c. &c.

Oh, come on. It's just ludicrous to pretend there is no significant population of men who are reluctant to ask directions; it's like asking for cites that people like to masturbate. I too would get on my high horse if someone were to claim that all men are like that, but to object to an overgeneralization is not the same as to deny the phenomenon exists. That appears to be an easy leap here at MeFi, however.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on September 18, 2010


Besides, you're getting upset at me when some chucklehead is saying that such a man is "either merely a dipshit or deeply mentally ill"? Perspective, please.
posted by languagehat at 3:48 PM on September 18, 2010


I should've said "deeply neurotic" instead of "deeply mentally ill." A fear of appearing weak so troubling that a man won't ask for directions if necessary probably isn't actual "mental illness" by any useful definition of that concept, but it could be an exhibition of exceedingly neurotic behavior. Or maybe our Bro isn't actually afraid of asking for directions but thinks that it isn't cool for dudes to ask for directions, because, you know, manly dudes just don't ask for directions. This kind of behavior seems self-evidently foolish to me, but maybe "dipshit" is too harsh a description for the Bro. What would you call him? A chucklehead?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2010


Well, I know a lot of men and women who don't ask for directions because they just know they can find where they're going, who take pride in navigation and seeing an adventure through, and who consider asking strangers for help to be surrendering in the face of adversity. And this is indeed part, though not all, of the stereotype that I denied had any factual basis. You're right that lots of men are reluctant to ask for directions. But I suppose what I was really reacting to was the idea that men feel that way because of societal victimisation or whatever, and that they require, in their distress, a lot of special sensitivity and compassion. I'm not heartless; I care if men suffer. But I still think this behaviour comes from a place of ordinary stubbornness and daring, not manly shame and terror. So I continue to doubt that it is a problem for most people.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:54 PM on September 18, 2010


Manly Shame and Terror is going to be my next band name. Or body spray.
posted by taz at 11:05 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I learned a tremendous amount of simple concrete, not-obvious things that I wouldn't have learned or imagined otherwise.

That's pretty cool, thanks for mentioning that, as it points out the concerns of this MeTa are being over thought. I should go fly a kite.

Manly Shame and Terror is going to be my next band name.

Has to be all female though, with a cover art centered in a male bathroom with three urinals, one guy at the center urinal, another entering the bathroom and undecided about which urinal to use.
posted by nomadicink at 6:30 AM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


and I can use the same art for the packaging for the body spray!
posted by taz at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2010


> What would you call him? A chucklehead?

Yeah, that seems like a good term.

> You're right that lots of men are reluctant to ask for directions. But I suppose what I was really reacting to was the idea that men feel that way because of societal victimisation or whatever, and that they require, in their distress, a lot of special sensitivity and compassion. I'm not heartless; I care if men suffer. But I still think this behaviour comes from a place of ordinary stubbornness and daring, not manly shame and terror.

So, then... we agree. God damn it!

*puts away broadsword and set of printed-out MapQuest directions*
posted by languagehat at 10:44 AM on September 19, 2010


Yeah, I guess we can agree on this after all. Now, what's this rubbish about people liking to masturbate?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2010


Ooooo, it's recipe time!
posted by nomadicink at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2010


I totally wanted to tell a woman to smile more last night. Thanks to that thread, I just thought it really hard at her instead.
posted by smackfu at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2010


that seems like a good term.

Ok, then. "Chucklehead" it is. It's been a delight to watch Metafilter's foremost lexicographer parse for us the subtle distinctions between "dipshit" and "chucklehead."
posted by octobersurprise at 3:08 PM on September 19, 2010


I trust you're using lexicographer in Johnson's sense, "a harmless drudge."
posted by languagehat at 5:24 PM on September 19, 2010


Of course.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:13 PM on September 19, 2010


This should have stayed as a Twitter trending topic.

Women are half the population - none of this is going to be universal.
posted by mippy at 6:27 AM on September 20, 2010


While we're definitely keeping an eye open to the concerns of people who feel that there is a double standard, leaving up a heavily flagged and problematic question just so we won't be perceived as having a double-standard is not how we operate.

If people want to make a case for the site being moderated with bias, as I've said plenty of times in the past, make that case, don't point to decisions made on individual super edge case situations and decide that that's where you're going to start making your argument. Or you can, but it's not a great place to start. As mods, we need to not moderate the site out of fear that someone might perceive bias in our actions and thus we overcorrect to avoid fighting and backlash. We're available for explanation and discussion, but we're not going to not do our jobs because we're afraid it might look bad, even though that would actually make our jobs probably easier in the short run.


Perhaps the answer is that when something presents as an edge case, that the mods consider what they would/will do when the same-question-opposite-gender|race|nationality question comes up. If the opposite question would be deleted, then the edge case ought to be as well. Timing and workload really shouldn't be a part of it. Those are reasons, not excuses.

The perception of fairness is often rooted in consistency or the lack thereof.

And just for fairness, nobody really can make a case showing bias in moderation because we can't readily see deleted comments. How would we know unless we actually experienced it? And that case could be dismissed with a sour-grapes defense.
posted by gjc at 6:39 AM on September 20, 2010


Perhaps the answer is that when something presents as an edge case, that the mods consider what they would/will do when the same-question-opposite-gender|race|nationality question comes up. If the opposite question would be deleted, then the edge case ought to be as well.

We have done this. We've both said in this thread, unambiguously, that if it all else had been the same but the order of the questions had been reversed, we don't think it would have gone down any differently.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:43 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am totally unacquainted with how it feels to:

1 be lumped into a group and therefore treated as a novelty ("'scuse me, can I get your quaint male opinion on this?")
2 be pestered so much about staying single and childless (if anything, people are envying my bachelordom)
3 have so much pressure on me about my looks or my weight
4 have society cry out for a 24/7 smile from me
5 be sexually harassed (not once have I ever been sexually harassed)
6 have my feelings invalidated or brushed off as silly, petty, or weak (actually, I have, but methinks women get it more)
7 be told to act unlike my gender ("you need to really put on your lipstick and miniskirt and woman-it-up")

I also learned a lot about myself as I did not intend to start a holy flame war.


I'm sure you are being serious in your newfound knowledge, but your lack of experience in those is not universal of the male gender. Those things happen to men all the time. Maybe if we are keeping score, women get it more often, but if we have to keep score it surely isn't a universal truth.

Counter-Examples: (I numbered yours in the quote for clarity.)

1- Accusations of having Male Answer Syndrome. I mean, I think it shows up earlier in this thread- men's opinions aren't desired regarding "women's topics", and are dismissed and derided for sticking their noses where they don't belong.

2- "He must be afraid of women, afraid of commitment, a closet-case."

3- You've never heard people criticize men for these things? Seriously? Both men and women perceived as less attractive do not do as well in almost all lines of work. Maybe you are always the most attractive man in the room at all times, but believe me, it is dead obvious when you aren't and all the men, women and children flock to that person.

4- I guess you aren't as grumpy as me. I get it and see it all the time- the people who say those kinds of things say it to anyone whose mood they don't approve of.

5- You have never had a female employee/coworker be extra friendly to you, and then have their interest wane when you don't provide them with favoritism? A boss who gives promotions to employees whose lifestyles they approve of more? ("Bob has a family; he needs it more.") A boss who is extra touchy-feeley with you?

6- Have your feelings invalidated because men aren't supposed to be silly, petty or weak? That men should just "man up" and take what is being dished out, lest the fear being less of a man?

7- Try wearing a dress to work and see how that goes.

"The mob" is cruel to anyone who doesn't fit in with their perceptions of right and wrong, and some individuals are fearless with their criticism of "the other." We should all stop it, and until that happens, we need to recognize that it is more or less universal. We need to learn a lesson that we should have already learned from politics- sequestering ourselves into various groups of aggrieved and creating enemies to pin our grievances on might win some battles, but it is futile in the end. Banding together and shifting power away from "the enemy" almost always results in the same behavior, just with the roles reversed.
posted by gjc at 7:23 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still say that that the original question helped the poster (and possibly others), and the second question, even though it was short-lived, helped me (and possibly others). Neither were stunt posts or trolling, and they both addressed issues that are incredibly common and confusing. I entirely understand that the first was a completely ridiculous time-suck to moderate, and the second was deleted on the principle that it would turn into the same thing, but I still say that these are problems that have to do with bad users instead of bad questions.
posted by taz at 7:24 AM on September 20, 2010


Oh well. Forget it. I live in a dream world.
posted by taz at 7:32 AM on September 20, 2010


after seeing gjc's comment, that is. I thought intelligent people could put aside their own stuff to concentrate on the question at hand instead of being all oh-yeah?-you-don't-think-*I*-suffer? ME? me?me?me????.
posted by taz at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010


We have done this. We've both said in this thread, unambiguously, that if it all else had been the same but the order of the questions had been reversed, we don't think it would have gone down any differently.

Yes, that was unambiguous. But that's not what I was trying to say: that such a situation should never come up. If there is a question that is likely going to be a chatfilter shitstorm, and the mods are on the edge regarding whether to let it hang or delete it, part of the decision process should be what would happen to the next one.

If the second one would get deleted, then fairness dictates that the first one should get deleted too.

The timing or the order shouldn't matter. A topic or style of question has to be either allowed or not allowed. Anything else breeds resentment and wasting time in metatalk. I know you guys want to keep it casual, but more harm than good is being done when people get the impression that things are happening on a whim.

(Which is exactly what this was- you or one of the other mods said upthread that this would have been deleted if Jessamyn hadn't decided that she had the inclination to spend extra time moderating it. "Except if I'm in a good mood" isn't a policy.)
posted by gjc at 7:54 AM on September 20, 2010


If the second one would get deleted, then fairness dictates that the first one should get deleted too.

Why is that? Why is what's "fair" supposed to be absolutely symmetrical, no matter how contrived? Nothing is like that, because in real life things aren't absolutely symmetrical. Mind you, I wanted both questions to survive, but, seriously, fairness dictates nothing of the sort. Fairness, if it actually existed, would make every one of us shit our pants in absolute terror, and it would look nothing like what you imagine.
posted by taz at 8:12 AM on September 20, 2010


Actually, the reason I don't ask for directions is it stopped being an effective strategy about 20 years ago. When I was first driving you could stop at any gas station or convenience store and they could help you out, but that's just not true any more. It only takes a few times of getting that blank stare when you ask how to get to the freeway to make you give up on it.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:07 AM on September 20, 2010


If the second one would get deleted, then fairness dictates that the first one should get deleted too.

This is an attractively simple formulation, but it's also an angle toward robotic consistency in the service of like Kantian CI reasoning. We try to be flexible specifically because the fuzzy edge-case stuff makes for poor precedent on which to create strict yes/no codes about what can happen on the site.

There's a nice legal-beagle phrase I learned on mefi, "hard cases make bad law", that is pretty apt here. We have guidelines and policies based on what the site does, focusing on what things definitely are okay and what things definitely aren't okay. In between are a lot of one-off and outlier things that we treat on a case-by-case basis and try to combine personal judgement with community feedback to find good compromises for.

In a very few cases where it seems worth it for logistical/sanity reasons have fairly bright-line rules (no self-linking, no republishing private correspondence without permission, etc) but those are the exceptions to what is otherwise a general policy of looking carefully at anything that rather than clearly great or clearly not okay is in a muddy state of being.

If we chose to clamp down on anything borderline ever on the policy that someone might copycat that behavior otherwise, this place would get appreciably blander and stricter and less vital/interesting/weird than the Metafitler that we know and love. Doing that in service of not ever leaving someone feeling burnt about a decision going one way one time and another another is not remotely worth the tradeoff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:14 AM on September 20, 2010


If the second one would get deleted, then fairness dictates that the first one should get deleted too.

This is a non-sustainable site policy. There is no way to accurately measure what "the next one" would be. I try to think about it in terms of less-problematic posts. If a name my three-legged dog post stays, does the name my three-legged cat post three hours later stay? How about the "Mix CD to say fuck you to an ex-girlfriend" followed by "mix to say fuck you to an ex-boyfriend"? We're concerned about overall fairness, but we're not going to implement tit-for-tat policies to ensure fairness. People who do not agree that context and timing matter may have a difficult time with some of our mod decisions and we're okay with that generally.

this would have been deleted if Jessamyn hadn't decided that she had the inclination to spend extra time moderating it. "Except if I'm in a good mood" isn't a policy.

"Except if I'm in a good mood" isn't a policy. On that we agree. Trust me if it was, the site would look very very different. We'd all love to only work when we were in a good mood.

I see that as a pretty uncharitable reading of the many things we have said upthread. First of all moderating really problematic AskMe threads is everyone's job, not just mine. I don't get to just say "Oh I don't want to deal with this" and get to delete stuff. In fact, I didn't even delete the "things you shouldn't say to men" thread. I didn't even see it until I woke up by which point it was closed. I tried to explain how these sorts of decisions work, but this one was Not Mine. I'm not sure how you even arrived at that conclusion, actually.

So, I think there's a lot to paying attention to the perceptions of fairness generally which is why we have these totally-in-the-open MeTa discussions where we invite people to point out times they think we're making bad calls. That said, your view of what went down in this case doesn't jibe with what went down, which doesn't nullify your feelings on the matter certainly, but does make me wonder a little how you think other things work here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:30 AM on September 20, 2010


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